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 chessup.net tools (at time of writing chessup.net 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 Chessup.net 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.
How to use the Excel Chess Board tool
1. Download the Chess Cases font. The preceding link is to download just that font; for more, see the parent website of the download.
2. Place the Chess Cases font into your Fonts folder so other programs can recognize it.
3. Download the Excel Chess Board tool ( .xlsx workbook file). Alternatively, get the same file in the old excel format ( .xls )
4. The workbook consists of two sheets: FEN2EXCEL and BOARD. Select the FEN2EXCEL sheet (this should be default)
5. Paste the FEN of your desired position in column B. For more information on FEN, please check out Wikipedia. For each FEN, paste in a different row, from row 4-255
6. In column C, for the same row that you just input the FEN, you can add a title or comments for the diagram.
7. Select the BOARD sheet. Change the value in cell B1 to specify which position (from 1-252) you would like displayed.
8. Screenshot, copy, print, print to PDF, or otherwise capture the diagram. Enjoy!
A Feeding FEN-zy
By deconstructing a FEN string into a format that I can work with in Excel, I potentially have the ability to do more than create chess diagrams. The formulas in excel can be combined in powerful ways. Given a large set of positions in FEN format, I could extend the chess mutual information analysis I have done, as well as undertake other 'experiments' of a similar nature.
Therefore, I am putting out a call to help my start my FEN-zy! If you have a large collection of FENs, or know where I can get them, please give me a hand! You can provide this information through email camenareschess_#at#_gmail or leave a comment below.