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Friday, November 30, 2012

My Excel "FEN to Diagram" Tool

Every Chess blogger and publisher must at one time grapple with the same issue: how to create and display diagrams and games. I have explored and tried a few options, including the pgn4web and tools (at time of writing server is down). A more detailed list is provided by Michael Goeller's Kenilworthian, among others. Here, I will recount how I came to develop my own, offline solution, an Excel file that converts FEN to chess diagrams.

For a time, I thought I had settled upon using the server, in which I could simply put a FEN string into the URL for the image, and viola, I would have chess diagrams on my site. However, it was unsettling to realized that when their servers went down, so did all the diagrams on my site. I should have saved each image and uploaded them. Even if I had done this, however, the failure of their service would mean that I would need to change the style of diagrams on my blog.

I value consistency when it comes to the appearance of these blog posts. Thus, I began to search for a more reliable, offline solution. However, since I use a Mac. I was found wanting for programs to quickly turn FEN strings into diagrams. My solution: make my own tool to accomplish the same end. I'm a bit of an excel guru, if you might have guessed from my Mutual Information articles (part 1 and 2). Naturally, I chose this program to craft my solution.

Here, I will make available the excel workbook that I have setup to generate all the new diagrams on the site. In order for this tool to work, you must have the Chess Cases font. I will provide the workbook in two different Excel formats: .xlsx, and .xls

Feel free to use this tool as you see fit. I would appreciate a mention if you use it for your site. If you do use it, experience problems, or have suggestions for improvement, I'd love to hear from you. Just drop a comment below!

Read on for more detailed instructions on how to use the Excel Chess Diagram tool. If you are trying to accomplish something special, or need some additional help, I may be able to give you a hand; simply post your inquiry as a comment.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mutual information in Chess

In a previous post, I introduced the topic of mutual information. This is a statistical analysis technique that can be used to determine if there are a connection between two variables.

Mutual information finds many applications, including analysis of biological sequences (this is the use I am most familiar with). Last time, I questioned whiter or not this technique can be applied to chess in any meaningful way. I think the answer is a partial yes, and here I will share with you my initial exploration of this idea.

Happy Thanksgiving

I'd like to wish all of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving! 

Stay well, trade the lab work for family time, eat Turkey, and play chess!

Also, I should take this moment to apologize to you, dear reader. I had been relying on for creating the diagrams for this site. Unfortunately, the server for that site is down, hence the disappearance of all the diagrams from this site! I will work this weekend to resolve this problem.

Time for some Turkey,
And a Thanksgiving Haiku.
Happy Holiday!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Introduction to Mutual Information

Despite the vague sounding term, the concept behind Mutual Information is a rather simple one. It is essentially a measurement of the dependence between two random variables. Huh? Put simply, it describes a sort of correlation between the outcomes for two different varying quantities.

Below, I try to introduce the concept and some uses of Mutual information. Since my experience in using this statistical technique has been one focused on bio-informatic analysis, most of the examples and uses I describe relate to biology and sequence analysis. There are a multitude of other uses! To read the rest of this article, select the 'Read More' Link below.

What ways have you used mutual information, or what problems do you think it can be applied to? Please share below by leaving a comment.

The image above (and some below) is from Wikipedia (I claim no rights to them)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Opening Lanes looks at the ...e5 Anti-Anti-Sicilian

International Master Gary Lane runs a very informative, interesting, and entertaining column at called Opening Lanes, in which he answers reader questions about various chess opening variations. 

In this month's column, he answered a question I posed, about the variations 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e5 and 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5. I was excited to see a titled player look at these variations, especially a Bishop Opening's specialist like IM Lane (Since 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 c5 transposes).

You can read his analysis in PDF format.

I have been posting analysis on meeting Anti-Sicilians with ..e5. There were not many games to be found featuring this move, and very little freely available analysis. I already have surveyed 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e5, and will return to this line in more depth in the future. I am also going into more depth with 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5 (which could also arise from the Bishops Opening).

I may eventually pen a larger response to IM Lane's analysis, although I doubt there is much to be critical of (after all, he's hundreds of rating points stronger than I, and probably has more time and resources to boot!). That being said, after 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5 3.f4, the only third move he analyzed for White, I would prefer 3…exf4 over either 3…d6 or 3…Nc6 (the options he covered in his article).

My analysis on 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5 3.f4 will be posted in the near future, since it is anyway the next option in my series of 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5 (It will be line D).

Please check out IM Lane's column, and let me know what you think!

(The pictures above are from; I claim no right on them, providing them only for aesthetic pleasure.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Combating Anti-Sicilians with ...e5: Anti-Bc4 (Line C)

This post is concerned with the line 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5 3.Nc3, or Line C in the series. See the introductory post for this series for Line A, as well as an explanation of the entire variation and some database statistics. 

This is part of a larger series on meeting anti-Sicilian lines with …e5. In a previous post, I covered how this move can successfully be employed against the Rossolimo Siclian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5).

In the introduction to this series on ..e5 against the anti-sicilians, I point out that Black needs to take care of d5, anticipating moves from White such as Nc3-d5, Na3-c4, and c3 followed quickly by d4. The move Bc4 also introduces pressure against f7. Black should be on guard for moves like Ng5 (which in the initial position is not possible due to Qxg5).

1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e5
C) 3.Nc3
D) 3.f4
E) 3.b4
F) 3.Nf3 (Followed by c3, O-O, d3, or b4)

Click 'Read More' below to see the analysis. Stay tuned for continued analysis of this variation, from Lines D through F (Links will be activated once the posts are up.) 

I try to provide as comprehensive and accurate analysis as I can, but as a class player with limited time and computer resources, I've probably missed quite a bit. 

Please let me know what you think, and add any of your analysis in the comments section!