by Steve Lopez

As briefly mentioned in a previous ETN (December 9, 2001), a major new feature of Fritz7 is the ability to play online real-time chess on the Playchess server, run by ChessBase GmbH. In this issue, we'll look at how to set up an account on this server.

When you fire up Fritz7, you'll see the following "splash panel" appear on your screen:

You have two choices in this panel. If you want to use the regular Fritz7 features, click "Play Fritz". But if you want to log on to the Playchess server, click the "Playchess.com" link.

Once you've clicked this link, you'll see the following dialogue appear:

If this is your first time using the server, you basically have two choices in this dialogue. You can click the "Enter as Guest" button if you'd like to access the server without setting up an account. You'd primarily do this to download the Fritz7 service pack, but you do have access to some of the Playchess features when entering as a guest.

If you want to go ahead and set up your free Playchess account (allowing you full access to the server's features), click the "Create New Account" button. You'll then see the User Data dialogue appear:

This gives you a lot of options for entering your user data. The only required information fields are the first and last name fields, a nickname, and your e-mail address. ChessBase GmbH will send you confirmation of your Playchess account via e-mail, so a valid e-mail address is required for your registration.

You have the option of providing additional information: your gender, your birthdate, any FIDE titles you hold, a photo (which will be displayed next to the board in any games you play on the server, in a manner similar to the Players Encyclopedia in ChessBase 8), and a paragraph or so about yourself (such as your hobbies and interests; you access a text entry box for this by clicking the "Personal information" button). Click "OK" when you've finished entering this information, and within a few minutes you'll receive an e-mail from ChessBase confirming your new Playchess account.

Note that the server won't allow you to use a nickname that's already taken, so try to be a little creative when dreaming up your nickname. Using the name of a famous chessplayer isn't such a hot idea -- it's a pretty good bet that someone else is already using it. If the nickname's already in use, you'll be notified -- you can then try registering again with a different nickname.

Note that your personal information isn't etched in granite -- there's a pulldown menu item in the Playchess screen that allows you to re-edit your user data at any time.

An additional field (not available when you log on as a guest) is the "Geographic position" field. Though not required, this is a neat feature to fill in. When you enter the Playchess server, you can access a world globe that shows the location of every player who is presently in the same server "room" as you. Moving the mouse cursor over one of these locations displays a popup with that player's nickname. Your position will also be displayed on the globe when you're playing on the server (and we'll look at this feature in further detail in a future ETN).

When you set up your account, you'll be prompted for a password in addition to a nickname. This is what the server uses to determine that you are really you. I won't go into a long rant about password security, but it's best to pick a password that isn't easily hackable by the various "dictionary" programs available to hacker wannabes. Pick something that you can remember, but that isn't necessarily a standard word. One idea is to pick your favorite book, movie, or TV show and leave out every third letter (or only use every third letter) from the title. That's easy enough to remember and dang near impossible to crack.

In case you do forget your password, you're covered there, too. You're also prompted for a password question -- a memory jogger in case you've forgotten your password. We'll look at this again in a minute.

Let's say that you've successfully set up your account and you want to log on to the server. Click "Playchess.com" in the splash screen and you'll again see the Login dialogue:

Here's what all the fields mean to you after you've set up your Playchess account:

Once you have your account established, it's time to check out the server. We'll have a look at the user interface in next week's ETN. Until then, have fun!

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