Monday, 20 October 2014

Oh the horror!

I had a quick look at the chess-db website, and it seems that they have added some new features. Chess-db is basically a huge online chess database with some bells and whistles thrown in. One such whistle is an 'Explore Blunder' option where you can be shown some of the worst blunders in a players career. I clicked on the link for my own games, and while the list is restricted to 4, it is a pretty horrible 4. In fact a couple of them are so bad that I am struggling to remember where they happened, but I'm pretty sure a few cam from some sub standard Olympiad performances.
The other feature I am going to test is the 'Play Chess against X' where a computer engine is supposed to play in the style of Player X, as determined by the analysis of their games. If it truly emulates the style of my game I expect to be hacked for a bit, and if the attack fails, hang on to win after a series of mistakes.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Chess and chess-like games

The trend for computer games is for them to be purchased online. While this is convenient to the user (except for those with limited download capacity) it is making the traditional game store obsolete.
The biggest online store is probably Steam, and purchase a lot of games from there (including a number I have never actually played). While they have lots of first person shooters etc, they don'y have a lot of chess programs. Of course dedicated chess programs are a bit of a niche product, but the number one chess program on there is Fritz 14. This is followed by some familiar titles like Battlechess, while the chess variant Chess 2, features prominently.
Below that are what I would either call chess-like or chess-inspired games. Khet 2.0 is one example, while the venerable Archon still seems to be around. After that it is a bit of a mixed bag, where the game may be inspired by chess (eg it is a turned based strategy game) but after that it is anything goes.
As a source for games Steam is usually a little cheaper than the non-downloaded versions so if you are looking to stretch your dollar, it may be a sensible place to shop.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Is chess a puzzle?

From the 'Lawyers will argue anything if paid enough' file comes a court case from India concerning duty paid on games. In this specific case Funskool India is trying to avoid paying 17% duty on miniature chess sets by having chess classified as a puzzle, rather than a competitive game. A previous determination stated that a product is only a puzzle if the outcome is predetermined. Clearly this does not apply to chess (as yet), although they may try and get away with this argument in regards to draughts, which is at least a draw with best play.
I doubt they will succeed in their appeal, although in a lot of cases of this sort, I am never sure whether it is the facts, or the law as written which is the most important factor.

Friday, 17 October 2014

2014 ICCF Congress - Wrap

Having attended the start of the 2014 ICCF Congress, I made the trip back to Sydney to attend the closing banquet. A quick discussion with various ICCF delegates indicates that International Correspondence Chess is doing OK, and the ICCF is doing quite well as an organisation. The congress itself was both constructive and without rancor, although the fact it was a non election year may have helped.
At the closing dinner there were a few speeches, but what really pleased me were the number of delegates who congratulated the CCLA on how we organised the congress. Thanks for this must mainly go to Brian Jones, and the extended Jones family, for putting in an enormous amount of work.
Apart from the congress there were some chess activities as well. IM Gary Lane won the traditional blitz event with 8/9, while the ICCF team defeated a Western Sydney team 6.5-2.5 in an over the board match.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Short and Sharp

Sometimes I am happy to play short, sharp games, even if they end in a draw. Of course I am happier to play them when my opponent is rated higher than me, as in the following game. As with my recent games there were things I played on a whim (12.f5), things I just did not see (17. ... Ne5) and things I had to find out of desperation (18.Qa4). In the final position I was probably a little better, but having avoided the worst of it on move 18 I decided half a point was a decent reward.


Press,Shaun - Bliznyuk,Andrey [B23]
Belconnen Spring Swiss, 15.10.2014



Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Good at maths == Good at chess?

The title of this post popped up in an article  I stumbled across this evening (NB I have rephrased the original comment). The article concerns game theory, which I enjoy, and is about why mathematicians play games. The statement was presented without any real supporting evidence (well, none really), but is one of those things that non chessplayers may believe is true.
While I do know some mathematicians who are good at chess (to the IM level), I know a whole lot more who aren't. In my experience, I am much more confident in stating that being good at chess helps you to be good at maths, rather than the other way round.
But the point of this post isn't to rip into the article and the writer. The article itself is quite interesting, and is the website I found it on. It came from an online magazine called +Plus, which presents interesting articles about mathematics. Apart for the above article there are plenty of other topics covered, and if you are interested in 'recreational' maths, then I recommend it highly.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The best chess painting

It is a bit of a surprise to me that the question of the 'best' chess painting is a topic that does not come up to often. Having a look around the net I saw the odd discussion, but no one offering a definitive list.
Of course one of the issues is how you define a 'chess' painting. My general definition would be any picture with a chess board, game or even a piece in it, but a stricter definition might require chess to be a central theme or motif in the picture.
One picture I cam across which meets the latter definition is "Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare playing chess" by Karel van Mander.  There appears to be a degree of academic debate about what the painting represents, with the consensus being it is symbolic of the rivalry between the two playwrights.
So while this picture may not be the 'best' in terms of ascetics or fame , both the style (which I like), and the subject matter still make it a standout for me.