Workshop: Into the mailbag again 2

by ChessBase
7/8/2005 – He *definitely* thinks too much. In another trip to the ChessBase Workshop mailbag, columnist Steve Lopez looks at a short, insulting e-mail and somehow spins it into a philosophical discussion on life, love, learning, and the pursuit of twelve-ounce frosties...

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by Steve Lopez

More from the e-mail box...

I had a letter forwarded to me recently, written by a fellow in Canada:

First, let say I want to practice rook endgames against Fritz using positions from Rubinstein's won rook endgames. Not a bad idea. I want somehow to "extract" rook endgames positions from this list.

I first look for Rubinstein games with a heading and a material search. This gives me a list of a hundred somewhat games. Using F10 shortcut, I go to the first rook ending position from the list and cut previous and following moves. Then it Ctrl-R to replace the game (the game list was before hand saved in a new training database) This keeps the heading but it is a long process. Another way is to use the "s" shortcut to bring the set position dialog box and then save the position, but then you loose the heading.

I was wandering if there is a way of saving the positions AND keep the heading without spending hours in the process?

For starters, I want to compliment you on using your software for a really good method of endgame training; in fact, one of our CDs (Fritz Endgame Trainer) is based on the same idea.

Unfortunately, I don't see a (much) quicker way to accomplish what you're doing in regards to truncating and saving the positions; it's going to entail some work no matter what. I've done this kind of work myself (for some electronic books I've edited and a couple of websites I've contributed to) and it can be a real grind. I think I can save you just a wee bit of effort, though, by suggesting a slightly different procedure you might want to try.

First create a new database in Fritz (File/New/Database from the game list window or else just CTRL-X as a shortcut) into which you'll save the positions once you've edited/extracted them. It might be a good idea to create it in \MyDocuments\ChessBase since this is the folder Fritz will default to in a later step. Then open the game list for the database containing the Rubinstein games you're working with. Open up a game. Go to the position you want, then right-click and use the "Delete previous/remaining moves" to edit the game. Then go to the File menu and select "Save Game as..."; this will present you with a dialogue asking what database you want to save the game into. This is where the default folder is key -- if you use the folder I suggested you should see the database you want straight away without having to drill through other folders to find the one you want. Select the new database you created and click "OK".

The next dialogue you'll see will be the standard "Save game" one in which you'd type the header info for the game. But in this case you'll see the header info already filled out; i.e. it'll be the same info as your "source" game, so you won't need to retype it. Just click "OK" and the game will be saved into your new database. Then you just hit F10 to open the next game in your source database and repeat the process (Fritz will still have the source database loaded -- it didn't load the database you just saved a game into).

I know this procedure is only marginally shorter than the first procedure you mentioned. But, if I read your e-mail right, I think my suggestion will save you a couple of steps and make the process a fair bit less laborious.

The e-mail went on to present another question:

Since CB9, the F10 (bring the following game) function is somewhat different from what is used to be (CB7). I did not yet find a way to look at a list of game from move no 1. If I scroll through a game and then hit F10, it brings me the next game at current move number (or at the end of the next game if current move number is higher) What if I want to look at a list of games from move 1 without having to go back at the beginning of the game I am currently looking at before doing F10???

I wish I could help you with this one, but if there's a toggle for this I'm not aware of it. I can't speak directly for the programmers, but I'll tell you about some tech support experiences I've had. It's a sort of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. Back in the days of CB7, I got frequent calls from users who wished that F10 would take you to the same move number as the game you were leaving (as you know, CB7 used to take you to the start of the next game no matter what); I'm guessing that this was because the users were using the feature to quickly flip through games featuring a particular opening variation. Apparently the programmers decided to alter the F10 feature accordingly. These days we get queries like yours in which the user wants to start each game from the beginning after hitting F10.

So I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't. I'm sorry.

As I've said before, my column entitled "The Future of Internet Chess?" generated a whopping great avalanche of e-mail. I responded to some of them in a followup column and moved on. But the e-mails keep on coming in. I'd promised myself that I'd not address any more of them in future columns. But I break promises to myself all the time (I made two New Years' resolutions this year and neither of them made it past April), so what the heck -- let's look at a couple more...

The first was a really thoughtful (in multiple senses of the word) message from an Arizona chessplayer who, judging from his e-mail address, is a man of the cloth. After reading his message I'm not surprised by this; I've seldom been as floored by an e-mail as I was by this one:

I found it very interesting to read the comments in response to your article regarding the future of Internet chess. I wanted to drop you a line addressing the original article as well as the responses.

I was frankly surprised to know how many people voiced disapproval of the original article. I found it a shame that people could not see the trees for the forest (or more accurately, the forest for the trees.) As for me, I was greatly benefited by the article. I certainly have experienced both the joys and the sorrows of internet chess. I have been called every name in the book, and I have been accused of being a cheater. I never have been able to figure out why it takes a computer to capture a hung piece or how a computer can force an opponent to hang his pieces. Perhaps I should take the accusations as a compliment. I must be a gifted programmer indeed to write a program that can cause an opponent to make bad moves.

Regarding the benefit that I enjoyed by the article, I was forced to evaluate my own online behaviour. Though I have never used bad words or lashed out with ridiculous accusations, I have never been considerate either. Since reading your article I always offer my best wishes to my opponent at the beginning of the game and I always thank him for playing at the end. The server I use provides the ability to create aliases so it is very easy to do this with only two keystrokes. Thank you for your articles and God bless you.

I'm not terribly religious these days (I'm literally a very lapsed Presbyterian) but I find myself wishing I was so that I could wish you His blessings in return without feeling a bit odd about it. Yet I do you wish you those blessings and thank you sincerely for taking time to write that incredible message. I truly hope that many more online players follow your example at the beginning and end of their own games.

The last e-mail we'll look at made me laugh out loud right from the start. The subject line read "Steve Lopez is stupid"; I cracked up right away, expecting a rant of monumental proportions. I mean, I already know I'm stupid but I was looking forward to another take on the matter.

You need to know that the e-mail was forwarded to me. My friend at ChessBase who sent it along to me (a pal of long standing) couldn't resist adding to the message:

You have to get one of these, my boy. Otherwise you will assume your canonisation is going to be automatic.

Nah, I never anticipated sainthood. I did toy with the idea of running for Pope recently, but realized that my non-Catholicity (see my reply to the previous e-mail) was going to severely hinder my chances of success, so I gave the notion up.

On to the e-mail itself. Instead of a huge frothing rant, I was disappointed to see this simple message (reproduced here verbatim):

Steve Lopez is stupid
he thinks he is the first and best at everything
and that things dont happen until he realizes them

My first reaction, of course, was to think that the writer missed the point of the article's title (not to mention that of the column itself): "The Future of Internet Chess?" -- emphasis here on the question mark at the end: the title is a question, not a statement.

After further reflection, though, I realized that there was really a lot here, related in just a very short missive. I'll confess, though, that the last phrase "things dont happen until he realizes them" baffled me; I'm not sure what the writer is suggesting. Maybe that's just more evidence of my stupidity, so I'll concede the point there.

But the phrase "he thinks he is the first and best at everything" is just plain false, and I'm reminded of it every single day. Just a few days ago I was playing marbles with my eleven year old twin sons; I'm glad we weren't playing "keepsies" or else I'd now be marbleless. My son Sam is a phenom at it -- the danged kid doesn't even aim before he fires. In a twinkling of an eye it's "knuckles down, shoot, wham!" and there goes another marble or three out of the ring.

I'm a blues harp player. A few years ago I was invited to sit in for a set with the Micheal "Blues" Baker Band. Micheal had an absolutely incredible sideman in the form of Baltimore harp player Steve Levine (who was generous enough to let me use his mike and amp while he sat out a set and enjoyed a frosty one at the bar). Steve was a tough act to follow -- he left a hole in the stage big enough for me and any ten other harp players to fall right into. I did the best I could (which wasn't all that hot), then sat down to enjoy one of the most thrilling performances I've ever seen -- in the third set Steve imitated legendary harp player Little Walter Jacobs perfectly. I mean you could close your eyes and think it was Little Walter come back to life. I've heard only two other guys do that ever (Mark Wenner and Charlie McCoy, for those keeping score), and I was screaming like a girl at the Beatles' Shea Stadium concert. I bought Steve a pitcher of beer for that one -- it was one of the most amazing things I've ever heard. In thinking about it I'm reminded of a line from a Buddy Guy song: "Just be the best 'til the best come around". The best damn sure came around that night, lemmie tell ya -- Steve Levine's not only a great musician but he's a helluva good guy; we shared a lot of laughs and more than a few cold ones that evening. Here's to ya, man.

And in the virtual combat robotics league I play in, I finished last season in eighth place (out of eleven players). In fact, the best I've managed in five seasons of play is third place.

So, no, I'm a far cry from either "first" or "best" at anything. Every day's a reminder of how much I don't know. I don't know Angelina Jolie's bra size (and that really troubles me). Earlier today I couldn't remember the name of the actress who played Helen Ramirez in the original version of "High Noon" (but I knew that Maria Conchita Alonzo played the role in the TV remake, so I got half credit). I don't know why do fools fall in love, who wrote the book of love, or who put the "bomp" in the "bomp-shoo-bomp-shoo-bomp" and who put the "ram" in the "rama-lama-ding-dong". I don't know why there's a "33" on every Rolling Rock beer bottle. I don't know why people complain about paying $2 for a gallon of gas but will cop off $3.75 for 12 ounces of beer with no questions asked. I don't know why I crab about walking three blocks to a grocery store on a humid afternoon but once hiked eight miles on a Civil War battlefield on a much more humid day three years ago and had one of the best days of my life. I don't know why love dies, why romantic relationships always stink the second time around, or why you really can't go home again. I don't know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (it ain't three -- I don't care what that owl says). I don't know why cars with fins are so danged cool -- they just are. I don't know why they say blondes have more fun; all the really fun gals I ever knew were brunettes (well, there was this one blonde about twenty years ago...never mind). I don't know why gals with southern accents or who wear tight jeans and cowboy hats "send me flyin' like a wheel that come off a car" (in the words of Monty Byrom). I don't know why Terri Clark sounds better in mono than in stereo (but looks great in either). I don't know why I'm good at blackjack but stink at poker. And I don't know why I keep screwing up my Rook and pawn endgames. There's a whole world of stuff that I don't know and that I'm not good at.

But I do know why I keep trying to figure all this stuff out: it's just plain fun.

And I wish you a whole lot of that until we get together again next week!

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

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