Just what the doctor ordered

by ChessBase
5/10/2003 – What is the appropriate birthday present for a grandmaster who loves exotic presents? A book on helpmates? A large tub of ice-cream? A new line in the Najdorf? John Nunn solved the problem all on his own and got himself a Pocket PC. We sent him a copy of Pocket Fritz 2. Thankfully John does not intend to use the device to produce weapons of mass destruction. What are we talking about? Find out here.

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Just what the doctor ordered

Each year, when April arrives, my mind starts to turn to a very important matter – my birthday present. I generally buy my own birthday presents, since that way I at least have a chance of getting what I want. However, choosing a suitable present is by no means an easy task. It should be something of practical value, but at the same time slightly frivolous so that one wouldn't buy it in the normal course of events (so a new toner cartridge for the laser printer doesn't qualify).
This year I finally settled on my present after looking at the scene in my office:

Working from home has many attractions: the lack of commuting, the cosy atmosphere, the fact that there is no boss peering over your shoulder. However, there is one major defect, which the photograph makes clear. Despite having two 'office' computers, it is amazing how often I can't get to use one because other people are using them for Very Important Things. Indeed, my office is the focus of the whole house. In the evenings, the rest of the Nunn house often stays cold and dark, while everyone crowds into my office where all the fun things are (computers, broadband internet, gadgets, etc.). Sometimes, if I want to do some chess analysis, I have to go back to using a manual board, just like in the prehistoric days BC (Before Computer).

In view of this, I decided to get a Pocket PC for my birthday; ChessBase kindly agreed to provide a Pocket Fritz to run on it. I was looking forward to being able to play and analyse whenever I wanted, even when my office was occupied. I could even analyse in the garden, where there is fresh air (someone had told me this was healthy).

I looked over the various models available and decided on the Dell Axim. Off I went to the Dell website to order it on-line. After filling in all the usual stuff, I was asked some fairly innocuous questions about whether I was the end-user for the product and whether I intended to export it. Then came the following question (see screen shot):

Gulp! It hadn't occurred to me that Pocket Fritz might be used in connection with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). I wondered if those cunning people at Dell had included a special WMD detection chip which would cause the device to self-destruct if it detected any WMD-related activity. I could easily see how this might lead me into trouble. Analysis of the Poisoned Pawn might be interpreted as chemical weapons research, while playing over a Shirov game could easily be mistaken for a simulation of a nuclear strike. Manfully resisting the strong temptation to click on 'Yes' (just to see what would happen) I decided to be honest and click on 'No'. I hope that ChessBase readers will accept that I honestly have no intention of using my Pocket Fritz for WMD research.

The Axim arrived without any mishap. I installed Pocket Fritz (something of a misnomer, as the engine is actually a version of Shredder) on it without difficulty. Pocket Fritz is basically a severely cut-down version of the full Fritz. It does play a reasonable game, especially on the Axim with its 400MHz processor. It can read and write PGN files, but cannot directly handle any other format. The Axim is a neat gadget, and Pocket Fritz is a fun program so long as you don't expect too much from it. Here's what it looks like:

and here's the correct attitude for using it:

I've had quite a lot of fun using it since it arrived. Now the only problem is what should I get for Christmas...

Some suggestions by the ChessBase team

John Nunn has a unique taste in presents to himself. They must be high-tech gizmos, preferrably digital (like the handheld GPS system that guides him around his suburban village); or they must involve top-level chess; or they must simply fire the imagination. Of course anything involving ice-cream is always appropriate.

For his Christmas gift we explored the Internet for a while. Unfortunately there were no digitally controlled ice-cream machines, at least none with proper USB 2 ports. Time machines also seem to have been sold out. We did find a Russian Mig-21 pursuit plane, which would have been appropriate, but unfortunately it has been snapped up on Ebay. What about your own little town? Pricy but nice. Unfortunately the best one has already been sold on Ebay (for $1.8 million).

Maybe John would be happy with some real estate on the Moon, Mars and Venus? There are also some balmy spreads coming up on Io, Jupiter's most exciting moon. If anyone has better suggestions please send them to us.

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