Category: Chess Websites Page 1 of 2 Is Lost

I’ve been openly critical of major chess websites before. ChessBase and regularly receive praise here on Campfire Chess when they do things that further the development and promotion of the game, but they also get flamed when I believe that its necessary. This week, went far beyond the necessity for a simple commentary. They’ve crossed into territory that should be unsettling for anyone who values our game. In fact, it’s my opinion that has become so lost and has moved so far away from actual chess that I’ve made the unfortunate decision to stop playing and contributing to it for the foreseeable future.

Wasted Opportunities

Over the years, I’ve watched as focused its attention on hideous endeavors like POG Champs and promotions that were designed to drive Twitch views more than actually promote the game in way that focused on longevity. Short-term exploitation of the Queen’s Gambit boom has led to negligible increase in the game’s long term interest. Then, they spent extraordinary amounts of money to house the Botez sisters in a Big Brother-like mansion in the name of (somehow) promoting the game. Yet, we haven’t really heard anything about it since. Why? Most likely because it doesn’t appeal to the wider chess audience and it’s a ridiculous waste of funds generated by site memberships.

And what did they learn from the fizzling of these activities? Absolutely nothing…

Selling Their Souls for NFTs

I have to admit that I was beyond furious when announced its new NFT website, Treasure Chess. Now YOU TOO can mint your special 300 ELO Scholar’s Mate and charge $3000 on for people to “own” it. No other technology available today infuriates me more than the peddling of cryptocurrency garbage like Non Fungible Tokens (NTFs). Or, as I prefer to call them, No F**king Thanks. This could be the first foul language moment in this blog’s history, but that’s okay. It’s time.

NFTs are one of the greatest pyramid schemes to emerge (so far) in the 21st Century. It’s a technology that prays on people’s lack of understanding of blockchain and cryptologic technology to get them to buy art, music, and now…chess games. These sites promise ownership of the purchased item, but all you own is a digital receipt or hyperlink to a receipt identifying you as the owner. Nothing stops other users from screenshotting the art, downloading the music, or retrieving a chess game from a database and posting it in another place. In essence, you own nothing.

On top of the fact that NFTs promise the future but deliver nothing, the power required to generate the crypto receipts for NFTs is enormous. It’s contributed to the insane price of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) these days and the increased energy consumption is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our planet.

Done for Now

I realize that is not an airport and there is no reason for my to announce my departure. However, I have been blogging about chess for 8 years now and a majority of the games, analysis, and stories have come from I’ve watched the site evolve from a competent and inviting community for people to grow, learn, and connect through chess…into a monstrosity. I have hope that one day will find its away again, but until then, I simply cannot continue to support the site through a premium membership or paid verification. Until the insanity is reigned in at, you’ll find all of my future content here on the blog and at

Game on, campers!

Game Analysis: Rolling a Troll?

Have you ever set down to play a game against an opponent who seems hell bent on driving you completely insane with irrational moves? Maybe you’ve played against someone who insists on moving every single pawn forward before activating any of their back pieces. Sometimes, we meet an opponent who defies all traditional logic of the game but can be just as deadly as a precision player. I recently played against an opponent who embodied some of those traits. The first few moves of the game were infuriating and it led to a wild game where the balance tipped many times, but I managed to come out on top.

I doubt that the player himself was trolling me, but it certainly felt like it at times, especially in the opening. Of course, this is a very low rated game and sloppy as hell, but I am pleased with the result given the frustration that played out on the board. This was a daily chess rated game with a time control of one move per 24 hours.

Major Changes Underway at Chess Informant

Without a doubt, Chess Informant is my favorite regular chess publication and has been since I picked up my first issue several years ago. It has some of the most comprehensive game analysis and its databases are beyond reproach. Earlier today, Chess Informant’s CEO issued a heartfelt memorandum to its subscribers announcing his departure from the company after 11 years. Josip Asik is leaving to focus his creative efforts on American Chess Magazine. There is no word on an apparent successor or what this means for the future of Chess Informant itself, but I am confident that someone with a passion for maintaining the periodical’s legacy will press on.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

> I want to reach out to all of you with the news that I will soon be stepping down from the position of CEO of Chess Informant. This will give me time to fully focus on the further development of the American Chess Magazine, which has just completed its first full year of production. It will also mean that these two publications will continue their presence in the chess market place entirely separately.

> Over the last seven years I have been responsible for all Chess Informant activities. This covered the period in which Informants 109-133 were published. What I am mostly proud of here is the editorial work I carried out on all the magazine sections of Informants 110 to 130 and also, partly, 131 and 133. Moreover this included my introduction of English language articles and annotations.

> Most of you I consider as true chess friends, even if we have never met in real life. This has come about as a direct result of starting a new subscription management in 2010 – after which, step by step, we have got to know every subscriber’s name. Together, we have become one big chess family and so now it’s quite an emotional moment for me to have to say goodbye to you all. I am so grateful for the support you have given to the new-style Informants which I initiated and indeed experimented with – always in the hope that it would be as successful as it in fact turned out to be.

> At this moment in time I cannot predict what will be the style of future Informants, starting with 134. However, bearing in mind the venerability of this house, I have no doubt that Informant will continue to flourish as it carries on its long and bright journey through the world of chess publishing.

> For my part, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to check out and hopefully join the American Chess Magazine. Essentially, this new publication brings you all the good things you have been enjoying in the first half of Informant, only bigger, richer and colorful. The ambition of the ACM is to develop into a superb international chess magazine.

> So thank you all once again and rather than bid you a final farewell, let me sign off instead with the words – “So long!”

> With best regards,

> Josip Asik

As a loyal Chess Informant reader, I wish Josip the best on his new endeavors with American Chess Magazine, which has proved immensely popular with chess readers since its debut! Godspeed, Josip!

Advanced Reviews of Chessbase 14 and Mega Base 2017

My copy of Chessbase Magazine 174 arrived a few days ago and included an exciting voucher for Mega Base 2017 that instructed me to head over to the Chessbase Shop to buy the new database. Curiously, it is not available at this time, so that voucher is tucked away safely until it is.

In addition, Chessbase has included a brief summary and review of Chessbase 14 in the back of CBM 174’s booklet, but CB14 is also unavailable for purchase on the Chessbase Shop.

I like the product previews, but it feels strange being encouraged to go out and buy products that are not available yet… Maybe next time a simple Coming Soon notice instead?

Carlsen’s Amazing Hamburg Simul

You really have to hand it to Magnus Carlsen. As one of the youngest chess champions in history, he has transformed the professional chess world with major brand endorsements, his own clothing line, his own brand/chess app, and is noteworthy as the first World Champion to develop his chess abilities in the age of prevalent chess computers. In the 2014 World Chess Championship, Carlsen effectively destroyed former champion Viswanathan Anand where there were no shortage of comments and questions about him being past his prime and Carlsen being the young wave of the future.

Earlier this week on February 21 in Hamburg, Play Magnus hosted a simul exhibition with 70 players. The German paper Die Zeit organized the event to commemorate its 70th birthday, which puts its first publication right after the end of World War II. In this competition sat one person for every year that Die Zeit has faithfully published to its readers.


70 boards ready to take on Magnus Carlsen. (Credit: Play Magnus)

As you can see, the setup for the event was stunning with each player receiving a Play Magnus chess set which was autographed by the World Champion after the event. Some of the competitors were invited to the event while others were chosen from a pool of over 1,000 applicants.


Carlsen’s six-hour battle. (Credit:

At the halfway point of the event, Carlsen had shut his opponents out with an amazing 30 wins and 0 losses or draws. At the conclusion of the event, which lasted around six hours, the World Champion emerged with an exceptional record of 67 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss. It is easy to lose sight of the wins in this situation because of the startling number of losses. This defeat came at the hands of Jens-Erik Rudolph, who is identified by Chessbase as a City League chess player with an 1981 ELO.

Magnus Carlsen’s single loss in the simul.

After struggling somewhat last year, it is refreshing to see Magnus playing such good chess recently. Additionally, it was nice to see that there was an eclectic mix of people participating in the simul including a nine-year old chess player and a famous futbol coach among others. Although I have to consider variables such as the number of people Carlsen played in this simul it is nice to know that the World Champion himself is not impervious to defeat at the hands of players < 2000 ELO. Rudolph’s 1981 ELO gives me hope, I tell ya.

Additional Credit: Featured Image by IM Anna Rudolf


Help the Max Euwe Center

Earlier this week, Chessbase co-founder Frederic Friedel appealed to his chess news audience to lend support for the Max Euwe Center in Amsterdam. The center was founded shortly after his death in 1981 and has since grown from a small museum and collection of books to an enormous collection of chess sets, books, and memorabilia from tournaments throughout history. As with any program that promotes cultural influences like chess, the museum has long relied on the financial contributions of private and corporate donors along with a subsidy from the city of Amsterdam. Although the article does not explain why it is happening, it appears that Amsterdam has chosen to stop providing the Max Euwe Center with the subsidy, which would put its future in doubt.

Max Euwe is known for being the only amateur chess player to ever win the World Championship. He defeated Alexander Alekhine in 1935, but only held the title for 2 years before the title was recaptured by Alekhine in 1937.

This kind of thing happens in the United States almost on a daily basis. Programs and organizations that promote culture and history through subsidies from local and national governments are seeing those subsidies slowly stripped away through budget cuts and poor financial planning. The niche nature of chess makes maintaining a museum like the Max Euwe Center a challenge in itself and without the proper support from a wealthy proprietor or government subsidy these kinds of places simply cannot exist. In the event that the Max Euwe Center cannot find the appropriate funding and ceases to exist, it is likely that the museum’s inventory will go to private collectors like the World Chess Hall of Fame and others around the world. This would ensure that the items stored in the museum are well kept, but limiting the material access to the public would be a loss for the chess world.

How You Can Help

Corporate Sponsors: Contact Eddy Sibbing, manager of the Max Euwe Center or call +31-20-625-7017.

Private Donations: Donate to IBAN: NL91 INGB 0005 4016 70 Stichting Max Euwe Center in Amsterdam. When donating to the center, indicate New Donor MEC plus your name and address.

The Big Deal About Berlin

In the recent World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand, it became apparent early on that Anand was not willing to allow Carlsen the chance to dominate the contest like he had done in 2013. Instead, Anand employed a complicated opening system against the World Champion called the Berlin Defense (ECO C65-C67). This defense is a variation of the immensely popular Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5…) opening made popular by Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura. My serious study of chess has been ongoing for less than a year and it is apparent that there is more chess knowledge and application to be learned than there are hours in a person’s lifetime. Until the 2014 World Championship I had never heard of the Berlin and was intrigued by the way that chess commentators and even amateur players talked about the opening. Was it really as complex and devastating as people were making it out to be? I decided to take a look at the the feared Berlin Wall to get a better understanding of the opening and what makes it such a fearsome response to 3.Bb5.

The Beginnings: A Ruy Lopez Primer

The Ruy Lopez (ECO C60-C99) is the first opening that I learned when I began paying attention to opening theory and chose to focus on improving my chess. I did not realize until later in my chess studies that this opening was preferred by Bobby Fischer in his tournament games. The basic opening moves of the Ruy Lopez are: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5….

Fig 1: A typical Ruy Lopez game after 3.Bb5.

As you can see, White has immediate tactical control of the board and the Bishop’s position forces Black to respond to the 3.Bb5 threat or risk losing tempo to his opponent. This is where the concept of the defense comes into play. Until this point, each of these moves in the Ruy Lopez are standard and any deviation from the moves in this order moves it out of the Ruy Lopez ECO category and into another opening line. According to the Chessbase Fritz Powerbook, in most typical grandmaster games, the Berlin defense results in a 30% win rate for White, 22% for black, and a 48% draw rating. If this is the case, why would a player with the Black pieces even consider playing 3…Nf6? The answer seems to be as complicated as the Berlin Defense itself, but it seems clear that Black’s intention with 3…Nf6 is just to tell his opponent that victory will not be easy, nor will it be assured.

Berlin Defense in WC 2014

Vishy Anand used the Berlin Defense extensively throughout the World Championship match in response to Magnus Carlsen’s Ruy Lopez. For the purposes of this exercise, I have chosen to look at Game #11 of the match where I first noticed the intensity in which commentators were referring to the Berlin Defense.

Fig 2: The Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez.

As you can see from the diagram above, the Berlin Defense puts immediate pressure on Carlsen’s e4 pawn and challenges him for control of the d5 square. Magnus Carlsen played 4.O-O in response to 3…Nf6, which activated his Rook and put the White King to safety. At first, I recognized that this is not the move that I would have chosen and I am confident that is why I will never get to play Magnus for the title. :) On the surface, it can seem like 4.O-O is not a developing move, but it places White in an exceptional position to defend against Black’s coming assault.

Next, Anand played the Open Variation of the Berlin Defense with 4…Nxe4. In the Berlin Defense, there are three primary options that a player can respond with after 4.O-O:

  • The Open Variation (4…Nxe4).

  • The Classical Variation (4…Bc5).

  • The Rio De Janeiro Variation (4…Be7).

Another option is 4…d6 although the percentage of wins for Black drops considerably in the Powerbook to only 18% out of 78 games recorded. Each of these lines has advantages and disadvantages. Much of the theoretical research on the Berlin defense has focused on finding advantage after the e4 pawn is captured in the Open Variation. In my opinion, the capture of the e4 pawn looks much like a typical aggressive move from an online blitz game; not a world-class tournament. In any case, this was the move that Anand chose and Carlsen responded with the typical 5.d4, which attacks Anand’s e5 pawn and balances the attack on the e5 square with his Knight. Anand gained a slight material advantage by capturing the pawn, but finding the benefit of that material seems to be the challenge that many openings experts continue to debate.

The next move, 5…Nd6 is where things become overtly aggressive. The e5 pawn is left hanging in the center of the board as bait for Carlsen while the Knight on d6 attacks the waiting Bishop. In this case, the Bishop must make some kind of move, whether he chooses to launch an assault on Anand’s Queenside or to retreat back to safety. The most popular move in this position is for White to eliminate one of the Knights by playing 6.Bxc6. The Bishop is lost, but Carlsen gets one of the Knights in return. This also forces Anand to break his Queenside defense to capture the Bishop before it does any more damage.

Fig 3: The Berlin Defense Open Variation after 6.Bxc6.

Anand immediately recaptures with 6…dxc6, but the capture also enables Carlsen to regain the one pawn material advantage from the earlier 4…Nxe4. By playing 7.dxe5, Carlsen creates a dangerous passed pawn and aims straight for Anand’s territory. Anand has several options to choose from, but 7…Nf5 makes the most sense as it takes control of squares in Carlsen’s territory and opens up his Queen for attack. However, this move is one of three accepted variations in which two result in a Queen sacrifice. Either 7…Nf4 or 7…Ne4 result in a sacrifice with 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8. Carlsen responded to the move with 8.Qxd8 and Anand recaptured with his King 8…Kxd8. At this point in the game, Carlsen’s pieces are much more active than Anand’s and his King remains safely castled while Vishy has lost the ability to castle due to the forced 8…Kxd8. I have read in many chess books and heard from instructors that one of the priorities of an opening is to force the opponent to move his or her King before they are able to castle. This ensures that the King remains in the center of the board and is far more vulnerable.

9.h3 comes next although the Powerbook prefers 9.Nc3 as it gives White a slightly smaller chance of forcing a win. At this point in the Berlin Defense, it is worth noting that the Powerbook indicates that only 15% of grandmasters playing with the Black pieces have successfully forced a win from this position. However, in contrast, only 21% of grandmasters have managed a win with the White pieces. Therefore, the position is none too pleasant for either side given that the remaining 66% of games in this position have ended in a draw.

Fig 4: The most perilous position of the Berlin Defense?

The main line in this situation is 9…Ke8, but Anand deviates and plays 9…Bd7, which restores some sense of balance to the game. Carlsen and Nakamura seem to be among the top grandmasters that prefer 10.Nc3 in this position while most others play 10.Rd1 to pin the Bishop to Black’s King. Carlsen plays 10.Nc3 to which Anand follows up by developing his h-file pawn with 10…h6. This prevents Carlsen from attacking Black’s vulnerable King with 11.Bg5+ and also gives Black a little breathing room to advance his f and g pawns if necessary.

11.b3 Kc8 gets Black’s King out of danger. 12.Bb2 builds a tremendous fortress on White’s Queenside and gives additional protection to the powerful e5 pawn by moving the Knight on c3. Although White has strong counter-play against almost anything that Black can come up with, the Powerbook shows the game as already drawn with Anand’s reply of 12…c5??. As the most amateur of amateur chess players, it is difficult for me to see the real intention behind this move. There appears to be no strategic value to White’s advance of the c3 Knight to any of the squares now controlled by the c5 pawn although maybe there is some secret grandmaster handshake that must be known before this particular move can be fully understood. With the follow-on 13.Rd1, Carlsen targets the lonely Bishop guarding the Black King. 13…b6 develops another pawn on the Queenside, but it is too little too late. Carlsen played 14.Re1 and the game effectively left the book. The remaining moves were 14…Be6 15. Nd5 g5 16. c4 Kb7 17. Kh2 a5 18. a4 Ne7 19. g4 Ng6 20. Kg3 Be7 21. Nd2 Rhd8 22. Ne4 Bf8 23. Nef6 b5 24. Bc3 bxa4 25. bxa4 Kc6 26. Kf3 Rdb8 27. Ke4 Rb4 28. Bxb4 cxb4 29. Nh5 Kb7 30. f4 gxf4 31. Nhxf4 Nxf4 32. Nxf4 Bxc4 33. Rd7 Ra6 34. Nd5 Rc6 35. Rxf7 Bc5 36. Rxc7+ Rxc7 37. Nxc7 Kc6 38. Nb5 Bxb5 39. axb5+ Kxb5 40. e6 b3 41. Kd3 Be7 42. h4 a4 43. g5 hxg5 44. hxg5 a3 45. Kc3 1-0

Peering Over the Wall

The conclusion of game 11 solidified Carlsen’s win and he retained his title as World Chess Champion. Even now, chess periodicals and magazines are being published that analyze the psychology, strategy, tactics, and political overtones of the match. My February edition of Chess Life arrived yesterday and the Carlsen-Anand match is the issue’s highlighted event. I am normally fascinated with the sociological and psychological aspects of the game, but this was the first match that ever turned my attention to the nuances of a particular opening. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy playing the Ruy Lopez and after careful analysis of the Berlin Defense I can honestly say that it is a complicated position to play. There is little to no room for error in order for one side to find a way over the Berlin Wall. As I continue struggle through online blitz games and gaze endlessly at configurations from magazines and periodicals, I take solace in knowing that Vishy and Magnus are out there winning the big ones for me.

Play through the entire game below:

Exploring the Master Class – Bobby Fischer

Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen hold much higher ELO ratings and have won more World Championships than he ever did, but Bobby Fischer is still considered one of the greatest chess players in history. This is due in large part to his absolute domination of the chess world and his single-handed defeat of the Soviet chess machine in 1972. Some of us, who grew up hearing the stories of Bobby and watching the world as the Cold War came to an end attribute the fall of the Soviet Union to cultural icons such as Bobby Fischer and Rocky Balboa to winning the war more than politics or diplomacy. Bobby’s victory that year in Iceland was as much a Cold War event as the Cuban Missile Crisis because the honor and intellectual supremacy of each nation. These days, you would be hard-pressed to find a hobby or club-level chess player that has not studied Bobby’s games and game theory. His depth of knowledge on openings and his talent in the endgame remain legendary among the world’s top players. His book My 60 Memorable Games (download games: PGN | ChessBase) is a staple in most chess player’s libraries.

To take things to the next level, ChessBase has a special DVD called Master Class: Bobby Fischer. Featuring five hours of video instruction from world-class chess players such as GM Dorian Rogozenco, GM Mihail Marin, IM Oliver Reeh, and GM Karsten Mueller. The DVD covers almost ever aspect of Fischer’s games including extensive insight on opening preparations, tactics, strategy, and deep analysis of his endgame. As with all ChessBase DVDs, the course is interactive with a responsive chessboard and notation to keep the viewer engrossed in the world of Bobby Fischer’s chess. The tactics on the DVD are presented as interactive puzzles that provide responsive feedback to help sharpen your game and bring Fischer’s games to life.

The Good

There is a lot to love about this DVD. ChessBase has long been a pioneer in developing interactive software and the integration with the ChessBase database software or the reader software is excellent. I use ChessBase 12 for my analysis and DVD play, but the free ChessBase Reader software will allow anyone with a windows computer to use Master Class: Bobby Fischer without having to own the full ChessBase Software.

The instruction on the DVD is first-rate. There is a wealth of information ranging from the cross tables and tournament information to a full biographical history on Bobby Fischer. All of this comes together to bring the user a comprehensive picture of Bobby Fischer as a man and as a chess player. In addition to the training, there is an exclusive database included with the software that holds all of Bobby Fischer’s games along with many additional cross tables and annotations. Perhaps one of my favorite features in the software are the trees. Fischer’s games as black and white have been divided into two book trees that can be reviewed and analyzed using the ChessBase software. This is a valuable resource for someone wanting to explore the themes in Bobby’s games.

The Bad

Because of the diverse nature of the chess world, I try to give as much leeway as possible when reviewing a product. Therefore, many things that others may call annoyances or problems with a piece of software, book, or DVD, can often be attributed to a simple cultural, language, or other variation. In Master Class: Bobby Fischer, the only drawback I could find comes in the form of the opening analysis with GM Dorian Rogozenco. Although that part of the DVD is supposed to be an in-depth look at Bobby Fischer’s openings, GM Rogozenco skips most of the moves and proceeds directly to where the opening transitions more into the middle game. He does comment on the fast moves in these game reviews by stating that these are easy moves and that they have been made hundreds of times, but dismissing many of these opening moves, regardless of how mundane it may seem, does devalue the lesson in some respects. Bobby Fischer was a master of chess openings and I believe that more attention should have been paid to why he chose to play certain openings and opening variations.

Back to Class

Master Class: Bobby Fischer is an excellent product for anyone interested in chess history, the story of Bobby Fischer’s games and his life, or a person looking to expand their knowledge and skill at chess. This five hour DVD includes some invaluable knowledge and insight into Bobby’s thinking that could possibly change the way that you view and play the game of kings.

The Sad State of Chess on Mac

Prior to 2009, I was a die-hard Windows user. Once a year I would order a collection of parts from NewEgg and Tiger Direct to build myself a custom PC or upgrade an older system with new memory or storage space. In addition to my custom desktop machine, I would carry around a Toshiba Windows laptop and I also had an early edition Acer AspireOne 10″ netbook with a keyboard almost too small for my hands. In the Spring of 2009, I began experimenting with Apple products thanks to my new obsession with my iPod Touch. It was not long before every computer in my home sported the i-prefix: an iMac desktop machine, a Macbook, and countless iPods and iPads. It was at that time when my chess studies waned significantly and I refocused myself to studying the Bible and working on my Masters of Divinity. This type of study lent itself well to the Apple ecosystem with Logos Bible Software running with lightning-fast precision on my MacBook Air.

However, my interest in chess took center stage in 2014 when I started and began a serious and regimented focus on my chess studies. I soon realized that the Apple ecosystem, as beautiful as it is, remains a wasteland of broken chess interfaces and is devoid of any true competitor to ChessBase, the king of chess databases. Unfortunately, ChessBase runs only on Windows PCs and I learned the hard way that it is not compatible with Windows emulation software such as CrossOver. I was able to successfully install ChessBase Reader 2013 on my MacBook Air under OS X Mavericks, but the full edition of ChessBase 12 and Deep Fritz 14 simply would not install on the system without resorting to extreme measures. At the end of this post, I will examine two ways that I have learned to use ChessBase in combination with the Apple ecosystem and offer tips on how it is possible to run full-edition ChessBase and all ChessBase products within OS X itself.

OS X Chess

In my opinion, there is very little to say about this program. It is a visual and cognitive disgrace that I am surprised has consistently passed the rigorous quality assurance processes in Cupertino. The Apple computer line has long prided itself as the preference of intellectuals and artists, which are two categories that encompass a significant portion of the chess community. Chess is the most popular mind sport in the world1, it is difficult to imagine why Apple did not dedicate a little more time and effort to refining the appearance and function of this program. Even Winboard and its derivatives are more useful for even the moderately responsible chess player than this program. There are no portable game notation (PGN) options in this program, which is pretty much a necessity when playing to improve. If a simple game of chess with basic functions and below-average playing skill and strength, then let the default chess program in OS X answer your prayers.

Shredder for OS X

Shredder is an immensely strong chess engine that has user interfaces available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. I used Shredder on iOS to practice my tactics for years before migrating to chess on the desktop. However, the OS X chess user interface and overall implementation of Shredder on the Mac is truly horrific. The program itself is split into multiple windows, which is an old-school way of creating OS X applications. The lack of a unified interface makes it difficult to work with games and in trial runs with OS X Mavericks and Yosemite, there seemed to be a myriad of stability issues that made the entire user experience less than stellar.

A ChessBase-like Database?

Apple’s reputation for creating first-class operating systems and computer hardware does not extend to most of its applications. Utilities available to manage files and hardware in OS X are among the best out there, but Apple’s applications are often lacking key features and dependent on specific hardware configurations to work. This has left the open source community to pick up the pieces that are often lacking in OS X. The curiously titled Shane’s Chess Information Database (SCID) is perhaps as close as a person can get to having a native version of ChessBase running under OS X. The program is incredibly stable, has excellent support from its community contributors over at SourceForge and contains many useful features necessary for serious chess study. SCID also features an interface for using the Free Internet Chess Server. If there was simply no way to access ChessBase resources on a Mac, then SCID or a combination of SCID and HiARCS Chess Explorer would be the way to go.

HiARCS Chess Explorer

In the world of computer chess, there remains a dispute over the title of the reigning chess engine champion. In the not too distance past, Rybka, which boasted that it was the strongest engine ever created, had its World Computer Chess Championship title stripped when it was revealed that some of the code lines were plagiarized from another engine. These days, the HiARCS chess engine is the reigning computer chess World Champion, and its authors have created native user interfaces for both Microsoft Windows and OS X. These interfaces are identical on both operating systems, which makes HiARCS Chess Explorer the best native OS X chess interface out there. This program utilizes the HiARCS chess engine by default, but easily allows for the installation of 3rd-party universal chess interface (UCI) engines such as Stockfish, Shredder, Rybka, and older versions of Fritz. The database options in the program are basic, but highly functional for collecting and analyzing different games. I also found great use of the engine match function where the user can program two chess engines to compete against each other. HiARCS Chess Explorer is a light in the dark chasm of OS X chess, and it is probably the best bang for your buck if the user seeks something strictly native to OS X.

ChessBase Under OS X

The only way to access ChessBase or its myriad of DVDs and resources is to install a program that allows crossover applications from Microsoft Windows to function on OS X. The most popular (and stable) of these options are CrossOver and Oracle VM VirtualBox. However, each of them have some limitations that must be considered when installing and operating ChessBase:

  • CrossOver

    • This application installs on OS X and allows native integration for Windows-based programs with OS X. The major limitation to this program is that it creates virtual bottles where individual operating system settings are stored and virtual drives are created to install Windows-based programs. I made several attempts to install ChessBase 12 and Deep Fritz 14 on OS X using CrossOver, but the installer failed on each attempt. Fortunately, I was successful at installing ChessBase Reader, which is included with every edition of ChessBase Magazine. However, this is the extent to which ChessBase is available as a natively integrated OS X application.
  • Oracle VM VirtualBox

    • By far, this is the most effective way that I have found to install and use Windows-based software on OS X. Using VirtualBox, the end user can create a virtual computer to install a myriad of operating systems including multiple Windows and Unix flavors. The program itself contains multiple control options that allow the user to determine the amount of RAM, hard drive space, and processor resources used to run the software. There are some limitations that must be considered before taking this route:
      • The user must own a legal copy of a compatible Windows operating system.
      • If installing on a MacBook Air, the user should be mindful of hard drive space requirements to install a Windows operating system, ChessBase, and its database extensions. To alleviate this problem, I recommend installing the operating system on the Air’s SSD and using a 128 GB SD card as an external hard drive to install ChessBase databases, DVDs, and ChessBase Magazines.
    • Running Windows on OS X will have a significant impact on a MacBook’s battery life, so close attention should be paid to the amount of power being utilized for analysis and game annotation.

Without a doubt, the best chess experience on an Apple computer comes in the form of the Windows environment. If the user owns a MacBook or MacBook Air and does not want to run Windows in a virtual environment under OS X, then the option to install Windows under BootCamp is available. This allows the user to install Windows on a separate hard drive partition and run the operating system without running OS X. As with the limitations of running Windows in VirtualBox under OS X, the user must own a legal copy of Windows and install it on the BootCamp partition for this to work properly.

Wrapping This Up

The OS X chess experience is less than stellar, which was a huge disappointment for me when I transitioned from Microsoft Windows to exclusively using Mac products. Much of the chess software available on the Mac will perform basic functions, but do not come close to the depth of function and resources that ChessBase and similar applications offer on the Windows platform. Hopefully ChessBase, ChessOK, and other companies will realize the growing OS X audience and offer alternatives to running this programs exclusively on the Microsoft platform. Until then, those of us in the Apple ecosystem will have to step outside of the walled garden to find our slice of heaven on the board.

  1. Raymond Keene, Chess Secrets (The Times Little Books) (London, UK: HarperCollins, 2013), 1. 

The Best of ChessBase Magazine #163

I have to admit that I have become somewhat of a ChessBase fanboy over the past few months. The first time I can remember using a ChessBase product was a copy of Fritz 8 that I purchased at Hastings Entertainment in Clovis, New Mexico. I was just starting to grow my interest in chess and decided to head out to the store and pick up a program to help me learn. Fritz 8, although long superseded by Fritz 9 to Deep Fritz 14, was a powerful engine that readily defeated me in every game I played. Suffice to say that I was not impressed with it because I was unfamiliar with chess engines, chess interfaces, UCI, PGN, and the full lexicon of digital chess language that I utilize today. I took note that Fritz was created by ChessBase and decided to steer clear for awhile.

My Growing Love for ChessBase

As time has moved on, I have come to recognize the wonderful contributions to preparation and exhibition that ChessBase has brought to the world of digital chess. One night, I intended to purchase a copy of Deep Fritz 14 to assist with analyzing my games, but accidentally added a copy of ChessBase 12 to my order as well. When I sought a refund for the other, the friendly folks at ChessBase contacted me to discuss my concerns with the program and ask if there was anything they could do help. I explained that it was a mistaken purchase, but they encouraged me to try it out first before I decided if I wanted to return it. Since then, ChessBase has been critical to my growth as a player and as a blogger. As I became more reliant on ChessBase for game storage and analysis, I decided to give ChessBase Magazine and try. What I found was a digital utopia of analysis and reporting that caused me to cancel my subscription to New in Chess.

It is no secret that I was ecstatic when I arrived home on Friday evening and found ChessBase Magazine #163 waiting in my mailbox. Each magazine comes in a distinctive color, with #163 (December 2014 to January 2015) being green and featuring Fabiano Caruana, who dominated in several Grand Prix tournaments and at the Sinquefield Cup earlier this year. The booklet that accompanies each edition of ChessBase Magazine is nice and has summaries and cross tables for each tournament, but the real meat of the publication is on the enclosed DVD. On a side note, there is a download only subscription option that includes all of the DVD content and a PDF file of the booklet.

ChessBase Magazine #163

As I said, the meat of ChessBase Magazine is on the DVD that comes with each issue. In CBM 163, there are 1,463 games included in ChessBase databases with many of them being presented with video commentary by grandmasters such as Karsten Müller, Daniel King, and others. In this day and age, it is easy to find commentary on top games by grandmasters on YouTube or other chess websites, but rarely will you find these games annotated and analyzed by grandmasters and provided with commentary and analysis for further study. In this edition, several tournaments from the FIDE Grand Prix are covered including Grand Prix Tashkent and Grand Prix Baku. Daniel King gives four video commentaries on games from Grand Prix Baku and many other games are annotated and included in the database. Here is an example of what comes in CBM 163:

Of course, the video lectures are my favorite part of ChessBase Magazine, but each edition includes a number of tactics and strategy puzzles for the reader to solve. These puzzles come straight from the grandmaster games reviewed in the magazine articles and the reader engages in responsive feedback with the video system within ChessBase. For example, in CBM 163, author Oliver Reeh focuses on exchanges in a series of tactical puzzles designed to fine-tune the reader’s interpretation of appropriate piece exchanges to gain advantage over their opponent.

Finally, there is an excellent collection of “tele-chess” correspondence games presented by Juan Morgado and Roberto Alvarez. The correspondence database contains over 10,000 games with 32 of them annotated for greater emphasis and study. ChessBase Magazine #163 continues a tradition of chess journalism excellence and I highly recommend it for chess players of all levels.

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