17 March 2012

Chess King: not quite the full package

As part of my efforts to train with useful computer tools - see the previous post on chess software - I recently purchased the Chess King program.  The advertisements and tutorials looked promising, so I was eager to try it.  I noted in my earlier post that I hadn't found a single software package that could do everything that I wanted.  I don't need a lot of fancy features, just the solid basics.  Chess King looked like it could deliver on that.

Unfortunately, I've found that not to be the case, for my needs.  In chess training, I would ideally want software to be able to:
  • Provide a database of quality games that I can use to review my own games against, including the most recent games.  The Gigaking database that comes with Chess King is current through October 2011, but cannot be updated.  This contradicts what has been publicly advertised as a feature; see the tutorials link above for the part about users being able to "combine" (i.e. merge and update) the database.  This feature does not in fact exist in the current version, meaning there is no way to manually update the database (there is no auto-download feature).  There also is no position search feature for the database, although the tree display in the interface essentially fulfills the same function.
  • Manage multiple games databases.  The software can import PGN and Chess Assistant (CA) format databases, but the user cannot manage them easily.  It is impossible to delete a game from a database and saving new games into a defined database works only infrequently.
  • Analyze games with a strong engine.  Houdini 2.0c is included in the package in a dedicated version (i.e. it's not the UCI version that you can then use with other programs as well).  While the engine works well in the software interface, for game analysis my method is to look at the game until out of database, then start with the engine, which is standard practice.  If the database can't be made current, then it's not nearly as useful.  I would therefore have to do that portion of the game analysis with another program.
  • Play training games.  I wasn't looking for Chess King to do this, since I prefer using the Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition board and opponents.  Chess King has an interesting odds-based training game system which would probably be most useful for beginners or players who are not focused on playing tournaments.
  • Publish games to this blog.  I was disappointed with the Aquarium 2011 publishing feature, which for some unknown reason blanks out all previous posts on the main blog page.  If it weren't for that, I'd use it instead of ChessFlash.  As can be seen here, Chess King's game publishing feature doesn't have a scroll box, so can't in practical terms be used for annotated games, because the board scrolls out of sight when going through the game.
Perhaps future updates to Chess King (the above describes the features in version 1.0) will make the purchase worthwhile for me.  As it stands, at least it makes me feel a lot better about continuing to use ChessBase 10 for my game analysis and database management.  For other suggestions and comments on software, see the first link in this post.

2 comments:

  1. Hey ChessAdmin!

    As I have mentioned in my blog one diversionary path I have taken in my chessic pursuits was a odd little obsession with chess engines and software.

    After a few years of checking almost ALL options available here are my opinions (for whatever they are worth):

    1) Best all around GUI for analysis (i use interactive infinite analysis..I never just do an automated entire game analysis with an engine) and commenting is the Shredder Classic GUI available at Shredderchess.com. This is also my favorite GUI to play training games with and to do opening study and endgame practice. Engine management is by far the easiest of ANY GUI! PLUS when doing interactive analysis you can hide the engine's move choice and ONLY see its evaluation so you (ME!) the user still has to try and pick the right move! I have only seen that feature with Shredder Classic.

    2) Best Database handling-Scid Vs PC (chesbase is a little better but finicky AND expensive...Scid vs. PC does all the same things and is less finicky!)

    3) For a complete up to date database just download from This Week in Chess OR pay 10 bucks a year at 365Chess.com OR pay 30 bucks a year for the ChessTempo database.

    4) One recent addition for a great GUI is the free Tarrasch GUI. Not too sophisticated BUT it is hands down the best GUI for making verbal notes and variations of your own! I often enter a game into Tarrasch GUI and do my own analysis and then transfer it to the Shredder GUI for interactive analysis.

    5) Engine choice! They are all ridiculously good so whichever works best for a person is best.


    So those are my thoughts. I like practicality over bells and whistles. I want to get to work not figure out how the software works!

    I never really dug on Aquarium. Chessbase stuff is cool but finicky and the Shredder Classic gui is better in my opinion.

    Have a great weekend!

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  2. Thanks for the comments, Tommyg. There's a lot of different software out there and I'm sure I'll never try it all, so it's especially good to hear from experienced users like yourself what you've found to be useful.

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