ELECTRONIC T-NOTES


CHESSBASE USA'S WEEKLY ON-LINE NEWSLETTER


FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 18, 1998


OPENING LINES

by Steve Lopez

After 18 months of writing Electronic T-Notes, no one is more surprised than I at the relatively few errors that manage to creep in. However, I do occasionally screw up and last week was one of those times. I erroneously reported that Junior displays its search depth in 1/3 ply increments. That was incorrect -- Junior displays its search depth in 1/2 ply increments. It is Doctor? that displays its search in 1/3 ply increments. I'm sorry for the error. Thanks to Mathias Feist and Heikki-Pekka Innala for setting me straight.


CHESSBASE AND WEB PUBLISHING

by Steve Lopez

I get a lot of questions in my mailbox each week and many of them have to do with chess publishing on the Internet. ChessBase 7 provides users with a lot of useful tools for chess publishing, both online and off.

This week, we'll look at some quick guidelines and tips for generating some slick Web output using ChessBase 7.

First, enter the game you want to annotate (or open it if it's already part of an existing database). Use CRTL-A to annotate it to your heart's content. If you'd like to start a new paragraph, hit ENTER in the annotation window and the cursor will jump to the next line. Hit SPACEBAR and then hit ENTER again. This will create a blank line between the paragraphs. Then start your new paragraph.

If you want a diagram to be inserted into the gamescore, hit CTRL-D at the point in the text where you want the diagram to appear. You can also insert diagrams in the middle of a text block.

Don't go nuts with diagrams. Putting in too many diagrams actually makes the gamescore harder to follow, not easier. Three or four diagrams are plenty for many games and too many for most. On my own home page (which contains some introductory theoreticals on gambits), I insert a diagram at the defining point of the opening (to show the reader the typical setup for the gambit) and a diagram at the end (to show the tabia that is reached at the end of the variation that's being discussed). I sometimes will insert another diagram at a critical branching point.

If you're using ChessBase 7's automatic HTML output, you'll need to make some changes to the output files if you're using Windows 95. Each diagram ChessBase creates will actually consist of 64 separate IMG tags, one for each square on the chessboard. This requires the use of 26 small GIF files (for every combination of piece and square colors, plus empty light and dark squares). These must be placed on your web server in a directory called gif (which must be in lower-case letters -- see below). These files are actually quite small; the entire directory will only use 23.8 KB of space.

The problem arises when you upload the files onto a Unix server. Unix is case-sensitive (it recognizes capital and lower-case letters). As stated previously, a diagram in a ChessBase-generated HTML file is actually a set of 64 separate IMG tags arranged in an 8x8 HTML table; the name of each GIF is given in lower-case letters in the IMG tags. However, when the GIFs are created on a Windows 95 machine, the first letter of each file name is capitalized. Before you can use these GIFs, you must rename them so that all the filenames are in lower-case letters; otherwise they will not be recognized on a Unix server and you'll see an 8x8 grid of broken links where a diagram should appear.

Also note that the directory in which the GIF files reside needs to be called gif (in lower-case letters) and needs to be a subdirectory of the directory in which you place the gamescore's HTML file. In other words, if the HTML files containing your games are in a directory called \games, the GIF files need to be in a directory called \games\gif. If you have games in multiple directories on your server, you should create a gif subdirectory for each of those directories. If you don't, you'll have to edit 64 HTML tags for every diagram so that the reader's browser can find the GIF files (what a grind!). Since the entire gif directory is less than 24 KB in size, this shouldn't be a big deal on most servers (as far as storage space goes).

ChessBase's HTML output is fine on it's own, but I prefer making some changes to it. All of the diagrams are centered on the Web page in the original output, but I prefer to have the diagrams against one of the margins, with the gamescore text wrapped around it. To do this, change the TABLE ALIGN value from CENTER to either LEFT or RIGHT. Make sure the next tag following the diagram table is BR (for a line break) instead of P (for a new paragraph). The text will then wrap around the diagram for a really nice look.

Make sure the HTML code for the entire diagram table is on the same line in your HTML editor. Most editors insert a blank space at the end of each line. If you break up your table of diagram GIFS onto different lines, you'll end up with a chessboard with white spaces between some of the squares.

If you don't like the color of the chessboard squares in the GIFs that ChessBase generates, you can use a graphic display and editing program to change the colors. You'll need to edit each of the 26 GIFs individually to accomplish this. The same thing applies to size. You can resize the individual GIF files; just make sure you do so uniformly -- if you don't, the squares in your chessboard diagram won't all be the same size.

To create the HTML file, go to the Printing menu in ChessBase 7 and click "Create textfile". Name the file and make sure you save it as an HTML file. If this is the first HTML file you're saving to a particular directory, ChessBase will also create a subdirectory for the 26 gif files it will create. In the next diagog box to appear, click "HTML" under "Format", "HTML Table" in the box to the right of that, and then click "OK". If you click "Diagrams flipped", a diagram table will be created with Black starting at the bottom.

All of the main line moves are automatically tagged to appear in bold type when the page is viewed through a browser. Annotations are in normal type, interspersed through the game. I prefer the annotations on a separate line, so I drop in a BR tag at the start of each annotation. I follow each annotation block with a P tag so that the next move of the game is actually the start of a new paragraph. Bracketed subvariations are also separate paragraphs on my home page. This is all a matter of taste, of course. You might easily prefer the page the way ChessBase generates it.

I'm very frequently asked about the graphics seen in Electronic T-Notes. I get an e-mail nearly every week asking how I create the screen captures. It's actually ridiculously easy, but something you wouldn't know about unless you've read a book on Windows. To do a screen capture in a Windows program, just hit PRINT SCREEN. If you want a screen dump of just the active window, hit ALT-PRINT SCREEN.

This will send a shot of the screen to the Windows Clipboard. The procedure will now vary according to the graphics program that you're using. Typically, you'll fire up your graphics program, go to the Edit menu and click "Paste". This will create a new image of the screen dump within your graphics program. You can then crop and edit this to your heart's content.

If you want just the chessboard diagram as a screen capture, go to the Printing menu in ChessBase 7 and click "Diagram -> Clipboard". Then use Edit/Paste in your graphics program to get a nice chessboard diagram. It will even appear in the same colors that you use for your board and pieces in ChessBase 7. (This is the technique I typically use for diagrams in ETN, rather than having ChessBase generate the HTML. This is because I'm typically using diagrams that are not part of complete gamescores, so the screen capture procedure is actually easier and quicker for me. Your mileage may vary.)

Save your file in GIF format. Files in JPG format are for photographs with bazillions of slight color variations (which rarely, if ever, are seen in computer GUIs). GIFs are smaller in size and will load in the reader's browser much more quickly than JPGs.

Some nuts and bolts about Web publishing:

If you're serious about doing some publishing on the Web, don't be intimidated by the supposed "complexity" of HTML formatting. Get a basic book (of the for Dummies or Complete Idiot's Guide variety) to get you started. If you find you enjoy it, you can step up to a more comprehensive book later. I started out with two books on HTML: one was an Idiot's Guide, the other was a step-by-step tutorial. I've since increased my library to include an intermediate quick reference guide, a thick comprehensive manual, and a book on graphics design and editing, plus two books on a specific editing application (that I rarely use). But I learned the basics of Web publishing with HTML in a single afternoon.

Some people ask why ETN isn't a bit jazzier. It's because I'm a firm believer in the utilitarian approach to Web design. I'm here to impart some (hopefully) useful information. All the bells and whistles in the world won't help me if I have nothing to say. I've added a few special effects to my personal web pages, but ETN and Battle Royale will stay fairly simple. I'd rather spend my time telling you about ChessBase and Fritz than figuring out how to animate a cartoon of Kasparov and Rentero punching each other's lights out. The most complicated thing I've done with my home page was the creation of the "Chess Kamikaze Battle Flag" -- a Japanese flag with a black pawn superimposed over the rising sun. There are a few animated GIFs, too, but I didn't animate them -- they came from a CD I bought.

If you want to have a lot of stuff on your home page (graphics and downloads in particular), shop around to see what Internet provider will give you the best deal. My regular ISP offers a measly two megs of server space (without payment of additional fees), so I just use it for storage. I have a photo of myself playing chess stored there. My Yahoo user profile contains a link to this pic, so that you see my picture when you visit my user profile page. However, there are a number of services that offer free home pages as long as you agree to run their ad banners at the top of your main page. Geocities offers eleven megs of space (plenty of room for lots of graphics and downloads) so that's where my Chess Kamikaze Home Page wound up. Keep in mind, too, that some ISPs are very strict about commercial use of their server. Almost all of them will want to charge you extra if you're trying to sell something on your home page. My regular ISP is so strict about this that they wouldn't even allow me to have links to ETN, Battle Royale, and SmartChess Online since I'm paid to write for these Web sites. Consequently, they were even concerned about my having any chess content at all. I guess they figured that I'd corrupt some kid by getting him interested in chess through my Web page and he might turn around and buy a copy of Fritz in five or ten years (the sale of which might net me a buck or two, tops). They did, however, graciously consent to allowing me to put my resume on my site. Gee, thanks. I don't want my resume on the site...

Don't break the bank buying a professional-quality Web page editor. There are plenty of shareware and freeware products available that will do the trick for a basic or intermediate Web page. In fact, HTML tagging is so easy that you don't even need an editing program. I do much of my formatting and tagging by hand as I write. The only money I've spent on Web design so far was for a handful of books and a cheap package of modifiable graphics.

Why am I talking about HTML and Web pages instead of about ChessBase? Because there are some excellent pages about chess clubs out there on the Web and I'd love to see more of them. Go ahead and start a page about yuor club. Use ChessBase to create good-looking HTML gamescores from events your club has hosted. Heck, just put up some skittles games from last Thursday night's meeting! Put the URL for the club in your e-mail and Usenet sig. See if your state chess association will add a link to you on their home page. "Trade" links with established pages ("I'll add your link if you'll add mine"). You'll be surprised at the response you'll get. I've received e-mail from around the world in response to the Chess Kamikaze pages. The club page on the Yahoo site (a club that exists only on-line, as we have members from around the globe) has received almost a thousand visits in just two-and-a-half weeks, while the home page (which is still under major construction) has had over three hundred hits since the last time I reset the counter.

I really do encourage you to start a page for your chess club. Put in some valuable information for those of us who might be travelling through the area. Let us know where and when you meet. Give directions on how to get there (a map graphic might be nice). Is smoking allowed? Are there weekly dues? Bring munchies? When's your next tournament? How about a rating list of your members? Photos of club members. A few snapshots from the last tournament. Games from recent events (be sure to include annotations -- raw gamescores are boring). How about some reviews of chess books your members have read? Tell us about your adventures at your regional USCF Amateur Teams event, where all of you wore rubber hog noses and called your team "Pigs on the Seventh".

Web publishing is easy and a lot of fun! I encourage you to take a swing at it, especially if you're a member of an active chess club. It's a great way to publicize your club and it allows you to join a greater global chess community.

Next week, some more tips, rants, jokes, and a really big announcement. OK, I lied -- it's just a medium-sized announcement. Until then, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes. Stop by the Yahoo Chess Kamikazes Club and the Chess Kamikaze Home Page.