Back in the mailbag

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10/5/2005 – Most of our News items receive many reader comments, and the weekly ChessBase Workshop is certainly no exception. You can read a potpurri of reader responses in the latest edition. Workshop...

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Back in the mailbag

by Steve Lopez

In the last few ChessBase Workshops we've had a look at some reader correspondence. This time around we're going to examine a few that didn't fit in with the themes of those previous columns.

The first one we'll look at is another from longtime correspondent Bob Durrett:

I'll make this one short and sweet:

It should be evident to all serious chessplayers that someone should fund a study to evaluate, in complete and gory depth, all lines in ECO including all opening lines discussed in the literature. Exhaustively! A big job? So be it! Let the fun begin!

The proper way to do this is to automate the process. [the process itself is complex.] A computer like Hydra should be used to evaluate all positions to a search depth of at least 28 ply.

Obvious? Of course it is! I would love to have the product. This product would be in the form of an ECO style opening book, showing lines with numerical evaluations after each move, where each side played the very best moves in positions not already in "book." Leaf nodes could be quantitatively evaluated and the ________'s [1] of the world could go bananas.

Anyway, I won't get into the details. I leave them to you as an exercise.

Bob Durrett

[1] Bob mentioned a certain individual by name here; I thought it might be legally prudent to omit that part.

And, in case three or four people don't get it: Bob's just kidding here. He's riffing on the ideas that a) computers might someday "solve" chess and b) that computers are the answer to our chess problems, that human intelligence and creativity play no real part. There's fodder for a whole column here and I might get back around to the topic one day.

In the meantime, though, thanks for the chuckle, Bob!

Sometimes I get questions:

When I'm annotating games, sometimes I'd like the variations to be listed in an outline form (e.g. a) Qb7; b) Nd7; c) Whatever). But Fritz keeps putting stuff into parentheses [Like this (and this (and then italics))]. How can I force variations into a list form rather than nested variations?

Daniel Pi
New York City, USA

You can't; sorry Daniel. In Fritz, you can change the priority of variations by right-clicking on a variation and using the "Promote variation" command to bump it up "higher" in the tree (for example, you could bump a variation up to make it the main line). But you can't re-sort Variations A, B, and C to put them in a different order or turn all variations and subvariations into a list. The ChessBase program allows a bit more flexibility here, but Fritz just does it the way it does it.

I swore that I wouldn't print any more responses on the column "The Future of Internet Chess?", but this one's just so danged good that I couldn't pass it by. I've added some footnote comments of my own at the end of the letter.

Ok i imagine that you don't want to discuss anymore about column "future of internet chess?" and you will say "oh please stop!"... i just want to speak about my experience about "internet chess" and give a new point of view. for some reasons i couldn't write before, i am sorry. i totally agree with you, Mr. Lopez, about your opinions on computer cheaters and idiots who insult during a game...i don't know if a player has ever used a computer against me during a game, (well...i am so weak that the most opponents i meet dont need it!!) but many times i have met people having a bad behaviour..the thing that i hate the most is when i am winning a game and the opponent leaves the board hoping that i will click on "draw" botton option! i clapped hands when i read your statement: "The distance and anonymity of the online environment, which should have been two of its great strengths, have mutated into its greatest weaknesses".

I got my first internet connection 5 years ago, i entered the world of internet just like a child in disneyland, having tons of fun with all entertainment the web offer: chat, forums, playing games, trading pics with pretty girls...[2] after 2/3 years I started to think about playing chess games on internet! (I must have seen someone doing it before...). I learned to play chess when i was a child, before starting to play on internet my chess activity was only playing chess games with friends in a bar when we had nothing better to do...[3] so I started to look for servers where I could play and I found a lot...after some weeks, I noticed that some chess sites offered not only a server for playing, but also other stuff like software, forums, lessons.....before starting to play chess on internet my knowledges about chess (and chess world) was very little... I knew about the existence of some chess player named kasparov, karpov and capablanca and I knew that some openings have a "name"...nothing more! i had never heard about "strategy and tactics", "pawn structure" "openings repertoires" "FIDE" "ELO"... i remember i was shocked when i noticed that i could "send and recieve chess games" by email!(pgn files). so i began, between a game and another, to get an interest about chess software and database of chess games, in order to improve my skills on the chessboard...and i must say that has been my "lighthouse".

and that's not all! in internet i have also found a national master who gives me private lessons (on line!). after 2 years of being part of internet chess world i must admit i am still a low level chess player,and i dont know if i will ever be a rated player in future... but i don't care so much, playing chess was a thing i used to do rarely during winter nights and now it is my primary hobby. the meaning of my email is this: internet chess include cheaters and stupid people...(just like every human environment) but it is also an opportunity for people to meet the world of chess. I think that internet is the only structure, the only "place", where a sport like chess can increase in popularity. In the end, i want to congratulate with you for your beautiful work at chessbase, i envy you...bye!
PS: sorry for my awful english writing![4]

Alberto Signorini
brescia, italy

[2] Yeah, I remember doing that too. Playing games with pretty girls is also pretty cool. Whoops...
[3] There are few things in life quite so fine as playing chess with friends in a bar. It helps a lot if the friend is also a pretty girl. Whoops again...
[4] You're kidding, right? Your English is pretty danged good. In fact, after a ton of e-mails from people who think that "u" is a proper form of "you" and that "ur" is a contraction for "you are" (it's not. "Ur" is an ancient city and everytime I see someone type "ur" I think I'm back in Sunday school), your English is like a breath of fresh air.

And I totally agree with your last paragraph. Some of my best chess pals are people I've never met in real life (and you know who you are, fellow miscreants).

The Interrant definitely has the ability to bring people together, for both good and ill. My column about online chess' future was just one side of the coin, a dissertation (i.e. rant) about a trend I'm seeing in which more than a few folks are being driven back into real-life chess clubs because of bad online experiences. But it's certainly not the whole story, and I'm glad you've found your online experiences to be overwhelmingly positive.

Alberto, thank you for writing!

All right, it's not all about chess. I made an offhand smartaleck remark about Anjelina Jolie in a previous column. For those coming in late, here's what I said:

Every day's a reminder of how much I don't know. I don't know Anjelina Jolie's bra size (and that really troubles me).

When I wrote that, I'd just finished watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (which is a pretty cool movie; check it out). What really troubled me was that they got an actress who has arguably the most beautiful eyes in Hollywood and then made her wear an eyepatch; I was ready to ask for 50% of my money back on that DVD purchase (then I remembered that the DVD was a gift, so that idea went a-flyin'). I expected one of my aforementioned Internet cronies to send me some sarcastic e-mail in reply. Instead I received this:

I thought you might find the following resource helpful: Go to, [5] and under the column titled "More Free Stuff", hit the link for Celebrity Bra Size Chart. (***Warning*** Adult Content***). I regret I cannot offer first hand confirmation of the data presented there, but assuming it is reliable, it might put many of your deep philosophical questions to rest. Having said that, I see that Angelina Jolie is not among the celebrities listed. Well, nobody said that the search for truth would be easy. [6]

Ray Cheng
Virginia Beach, Virginia U.S.A.

[5] QUASI-LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I've not visited that site, make no claims about it, and will tell you to visit it at your own risk. That having been said, I'm dead certain that the Prince of Hamburg has already bookmarked it.
[6] If I ever get in a poker game with Brad Pitt, you know what I'll be asking him (just to throw him off his game, if nothing else).
[7] You live in Virginia Beach and you're doing bra size research online??? Brother, get away from that monitor and go outdoors! (I'll omit any comment about "hands-on" research; we've already pushed the "tastelessness" envelope way too far already).

Ray, I laughed my head off when I read your message -- it was way cool. Thanks for writing!

I won't quote the next e-mail, but I'll mention it instead -- it made me think a lot and I wasn't sure how to reply until now. I made a comment in a prior column about my being a "very laspsed Presbyterian" and received a great personal e-mail from England's Richard Maclannan in which he discussed matters of faith and offered to send me a Bible. Richard, thank you sincerely for your very gracious offer. I own several versions of the Good Book and I am a believer, after a fashion, though not a churchgoer. My close friends know what I'm talking about and I even wrote about it recently in a web log post.

I won't beat this topic over the head, but there are a lot of levels of "belief" (and I'm not referring exclusively to Christianity here). You've got your sincere believers, those who are hypocrites, those who are unbelievers, and all ranges in between. You've got the screwed up (like guys who fly airplanes into skyscrapers or people who see the New Orleans tragedy as a "righteous act of God") and the mixed up (like the guy in Ray Wylie Hubbard's great song "Dust of the Chase", a gambler/gunfighter who thinks his life's OK because he "quotes scripture in my mind" while he does what he does and "When the time's at hand and I kill a man, I say a little prayer"). And you've got your really well-centered people that know who and where they are and somehow manage to keep their sincere faith in an increasingly messed up world.

Faith takes a lot of forms. You and I both have it, Richard -- the forms just differ a bit. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I could elaborate, but this ain't the time or place.

Thanks for caring enough to take the time to write. I mean that.

Next time around we'll turn our attention from philosophy back to chess with some more from the mailbag. Until then, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.

© 2005, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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