by Steve Lopez

After you've logged on to the Playchess server, you'll see a new display containing four panes:

The pane on the lower right is the "Rooms" pane. This lets you choose between special areas of the Playchess site:

The default room when you log on to the server is the Beginners room, but you can change to any other room just by clicking on its name in the list. The Main Playing Hall is where all the action is -- most of the players on the server can be found here. However, there are additional rooms you can visit on the Playchess server:

When you want to log on to the server and play a few games, you'll enter the Main Playing Hall and then check out the Information pane to the upper left of your screen:

You'll notice four tabs in this pane. Clicking these tabs will provide different types of information. The "Info" tab displays the general greeting for the room that you're in. Clicking on the "Players" tab will show something like this:

This gives you a list of the players who are currently in the same room as you. It shows each player's name, his rating, his title (if any), his status (whether or not he's playing), his nationality (if he's provided it), his "rank" (a social standing on the server -- the more frequently you play on the server, the higher your rank), his distance from you (in kilometers), and his social standing (you assign this -- you can put people on your Friend list or on an Ignore list, and the "social" column displays this status).

The "Games" tab will display a list of games in progress or recently completed:

You can click on a game in this list and then click the "Watch" button to see the game.

The "World" tab brings up a display of the globe, with each player's position marked on it with a red square:

When you roll your mouse cursor over a square, the corresponding player name will appear as a popup. You can rotate the globe, zoom in and out, and choose to display the location of the moon and whether an area is presently experiencing day or night.

In the lower left of the screen is the Challenges pane. This displays any challenges that are being issued by players on the server:

This pane displays the players who are currently looking for a game. It shows the "conditions" (i.e. whether or not the game will be rated), the rating of the challenger, the time control he's selected, what color you will play ("Automatic" means that the server will determine the color for each player), and the type of challenge (for example, whether you're being personally challenged or whether the challenge is a general one that any player can accept).

To accept a challenge, click the "Accept" button. "Delete" removes a challenge from this display. "Modify" shows a dialogue that allows you to propose different terms than the ones the player is offering (for example, changing the rating status or the time controls). "Seek" allows you to issue your own general challenges to other players on the server. "Formula" allows you to set your own conditions for challenges that you issue:

You can set a variety of parameters in this dialogue. You can specify whether or not the game will be rated. You can choose to exclude computer programs or centaurs. You can set an Elo rating range for acceptible opponents. You can set the time control for the game, as well as a Fischer increment. You can also choose to exclude anyone below a certain social rank from accepting your challenge. "Activate" sets your current selections as your defaults, so that you won't have to keep resetting your parameters each time.

Going back to the Challenges pane, you'll also see a box marked "Pause". Checking this box means that other players can't personally challenge you -- this is a useful tool for when you want to view games being played on the server but not play any yourself. "Pause" keeps you from being disturbed by other players' challenges.

Finally, you can yack it up in the Chat pane:

To send a message to a specific player, click his name in the player list. Then type your message in the lower box in this pane and whack ENTER to send the message. You can also "broadcast" messages to many players at once (even everyone in the room) by holding down the CTRL key while choosing names from the list. There are a whole lot of other chat options, which are described in the Help files. It suffices to say that anyone familiar with IRC or various "Instant Messenger" programs will have no trouble figuring out the Chat pane.

Next week, we'll see how to start playing. Until then, have fun!

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