chess

Book Review: Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics from the Games of Everyday Chess Players

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1001tacticsI’ve been subscribed to Tim Brennan’s newsletter (sent out every week) for quite some time now, so when he wrote this cool book on chess tactics, I was really delighted.  I was even more delighted when I saw that it is written in collaboration with Anthea Carson. All my kids know her for her animal chess book and specifically for her penguin opening that makes them laugh every time they see it.

Tactics Time is a nicely formatted Kindle book (but you don’t need to have a Kindle tablet, you can use the android app which works really well), where you will find the exercises and the answers on each next page, which makes it really practical for reviewing the answer (no need to go to the end of the book to find the answer, if you didn’t figure it out :-) For each solution, an explanation is given to help remember which tactics it relates to.

What I also liked was that the exercises were not invented, but from real tournaments, so these positions are possible in real life, which is really a plus.

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New version of chess PGN to TeX to PDF converter

OK, I’m shameful. After fighting with Scid’s exporter, and then correcting bugs in pgn2ltx’s source, I finally decided to take a look at that PGN file format. And guess what? It’s already composed of FEN notation. And guess what? that super-über cool new skaknew module for LaTeX gets its input as FEN!!

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Updated mate-in-one document, now includes chess coordinates

Update: A new updated version of the PDF is available, which includes which side to play.

After a request to have coordinates on the board, to be able to write answers (a really nice idea, especially that Ido begins writing), I noticed I couldn’t do it so easily, because the LaTeX module (chess12) didn’t support that. What a disappointment!

And the only way I had for converting from PGN to TeX was through Scid (still cool, still being developed), but supporting only exports to TeX with chess12 module. Fortunately, Dirk Baechle wrote a tool to convert directly from PGN format to TeX, using his tool pgn2ltx. That tool, written in C++ hasn’t been updated since 2003, so after a small patch to the source, it worked!

And the best part, is that it generates TeX files for the skak module, the best alternative to the old, dead chess12 module.

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New chess website for Chess education/promotion

Chess setBNPParibas in association with the FIDE created a new nicely done website (in french only). The goal of this website is to show the usefulness of chess to parents/teachers or schools. Children will also be happy to consult this website, there are cool games, and even a quiz, where one can win a sort of printable “diploma”. A really nice initiative.

Easy chess games for kids (mate in one)

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UPDATE: You can get a much better revised version of the PDF now, with coordinates, in this newer post.

In my journey to teach chess to Ido, an easy (I thought) job was to generate diagrams where he has to find mate in a fixed number of turns. Starting with mate in one.
It appeared that making diagrams is an easy task, as there are many programs (Linux and Windows) that permit this.
On Linux, the best I could find is scid. That’s cool as I use it to maintain my databases of games. Even cooler, is that scid development has just restarted (stopped around 2004!), with the help of Pascal Georges. Using scid (I’m using the 3.7devel2009 version) I can export games to HTML or even to LaTeX files.

At first I thought I’d create the endings myself, for example, using online diagrams generators or using Wikipedia/MediaWiki’s templates, but it was not so easy, so I thought about making a program to generate them.
Generating one from scratch would take me time I really don’t have, and there are just two python modules that give high-level functions to chess.
So I started looking for projects similar to mine, that include games with mate in one. I found a small database of mate in one on my favorite chess website, in the download section: a Chessbase datafile with 1171 mate in one studies! So cool.

Well, It was really a pain to convert that Chessbase (.cbv) file, as the only program able to convert to PGN is running on Windows (at least it’s free). You just have to follow the instructions from this thread.
After getting a nice PGN file, just open it with scid, go to “Tools”, then select “Write the filter”, and choose LaTeX. You’ll get a TeX file. Use you favorite TeX generator (Live TeX seems to be the one today), like this for example, to generate directly a PDF file:

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cat mat_temp.tex |grep -v "\\\\$" > mate_in_one.tex
latex --output-format=pdf mate_in_one.tex

(Yes I had to cleanup a bit the file before generating the .pdf)

The result is here, 196 pages of tests (6 one each page) if you don’t want to fight with the missing TeX modules (you’ll need chess12.sty) and get a nice result.

I’m sure many people search for this kind of file, so I’m pretty happy to help other parents/coaches.

White mate in one

White mate in one

Edit: I added a PDF version without the solution included.

Ido’s chess Journey: How to teach chess to a 3 year old kid

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How to teach chess to a 3 year old kid? That’s a good question. I wanted to teach Ido chess for a long time, but each time I tried, he lost focus after 2 minutes, even just for teaching him just rook movements.
I decided I needed to plan it a little more, make it much more fun, and “embed” it in mini-games. It seems to work much better now, but that’s maybe because he matured a lot.

Here are some ideas (some not yet implemented):

  • Using a DIY plastified chess board, allows me to show/play different positions really fast, anywhere.
  • Colorize squares where a piece is allowed to go :

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  • Pawn race games (no en-passant rule yet).
  • Really small games (must not go over 5 minutes) with reduced chess set (for example Queen and 3 pawns vs Knight, bishop and 3 pawns).
  • Checkmate in one, using DiagTransfer program to draw series of chess diagrams. This program works only on Windows, but it works fine with Wine.

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    For quick single diagrams, I found wbeditor, an online javascript diagram generator.

There’s a thread (french) about experience from different teachers, giving really good advices.
Most notably, Véronique Houck who has 15 years of experience of teaching chess to kindergarten/maternelle children. She wrote two books (in french). One is named Bibou & le monde des échecs, and the other one Le jeu d’échecs au cycle2. It’s not so easy to find, but using Google, you can find shows many links.

I’ve not yet read them. I’ll make a review when I get them.

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