Monday, 21 April 2014

Update on changes to format of openings articles at my Gambiteers Guild site


After posting previously about an expected "trimming down" of the format, focusing just on providing verbal introductions rather than providing illustrative games, I got some feedback, notably from Mark Nieuweboer, warning that it could lead to a decline in quality.  It is an important point, as there is no point in producing these articles if their quality is not high enough to make them valuable to fellow chess players.

I had been generating the databases/PGN files using ChessBase 11 and could not find a way to output them to HTML in a "readable" format without having to do significant editing of the HTML, which, while not as time-consuming as producing the analysis, is harder to motivate myself to keep doing, especially as I do it as a hobby rather than as a profession.  The free PGN/HTML editor Palview, and its associated interface, PalMate, is pretty good for the amount of control that it gives over the formatting, but it still requires a fair amount of work to get it looking as I want it.

This also contains the problem that if I want to update the analysis, I have to edit the HTML formatting all over again.  However, ChessBase 12 has largely solved that problem by providing facilities to export the whole lot (including formatting, diagrams, labelling of key squares etc.) and host the games on my Gambiteers Guild website, using a replayable java board from ChessBase's own servers, so my (admittedly not inexpensive) solution has involved upgrading to ChessBase 12.


As a result, I don't expect the format of the openings coverage to change as significantly as suggested in my previous post.  The main change is that instead of the "games and analysis" sections being provided at an external site, they will be hosted at the main site, and if anything, the coverage may well end up more, rather than less, detailed, for it will be easier to provide captioned diagrams and illustrations of key squares and ideas for both sides, for example.

I also plan to carry this across to the openings coverage that I already have on the site, which shouldn't be too time-consuming as the main articles are stored in PGN/database files.

I am currently testing this method out, on what will soon become a new section on the Morra Gambit (or Smith-Morra Gambit, as it is more commonly known in the USA, after Ken Smith who used and promoted the gambit regularly, but had little success with it against grandmasters- I remember reading about Bent Larsen attaching a "?" to his opponent's 1.e4 e6, saying that "stronger is 1...c5 which wins a pawn").  The work-in-progress site is at for those who are interested to see how the annotated games may look.  I purchased a copy of Marc Esserman's book Mayhem in the Morra a while ago, which has helped to revive my enthusiasm for the opening (although I still quite often play the Open Sicilian too).

The downside of this format is that it is dependent on the availability of ChessBase's servers (the same problem as we get with the likes of pgn4web, another good free way of posting games to a website or blog, as I have done on several occasions with this blog), but I am relying on the probability of this happening in the near future being low.


  1. The format of the Esserman game looks good too; better than the Scandinavian format. I intended to write a comment on the latter as well, but had problems with formulating exactly what I disliked.
    The big danger of the Chessbase format is that it invites reeeaaallly long notes, which can makes stuff unreadable. But a little practice should be sufficient. For you it should be easy to split off the Hedke-Tiviakov game for instance, something I recommend.
    Dennis Monokroussos also uses Chessbase. He is generally satisfied with it, though several months ago it didn't work properly. The problems are solved though. So even if CB-servers becoming unavailable in the future it's safe to assume that those problems will be temporary until the company goes bankrupt or something.

  2. If by Scandinavian format you mean this:
    I think, upon reflection, that format suffered from a similar problem to the "really long notes" issue that you describe with ChessBase. I tried to address this problem by providing links/anchors between the sub-variations, but it didn't work as well as I had hoped. For this reason, I've replaced those articles with ChessBase format ones:
    I am still yet to add the third piece relating to 3.Nf3, 3.Bb5+ etc. which I think is pretty important, so I hope to put one up pretty soon.

    I agree re. splitting up the Esserman/Triviakov games- I suspect that the ChessBase format, more than the others that I've tried so far, calls for a more "split" coverage with a larger number of games/lines, to address the "long notes" problem, but since it is quite easy to split games up within ChessBase itself that shouldn't be much of an issue.

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  4. Looking over Dennis Monokroussos's "Chess Mind" blog, I see that he prefers to link to his ChessBase-generated articles externally, rather than embedding them into his blog. On my machine, the external articles come out more clear and readable (larger font size in particular) but I'm not sure if that is the case for others. I've tried out ChessBase's "One click publishing" option for the 3.c4 e6 article as well:
    I'm wondering at present whether it is more "readable" for viewers to embed the articles directly into my website or would I be better off linking externally as Dennis does in his blog.

  5. Apologies for the frequent deliberation on what to do!
    I've had some more feedback on this and for now have decided to stick with the "embedding games into the page" format, but try to re-arrange the distribution of openings articles so that there is one set of replayable games per page (as I was concerned that it could become tricky to navigate if there were, say, three sets of replayable java games on one page). The Scandinavian gambits page now reflects this, with its introductory page and then separate pages for the Icelandic and Portuguese variations and third-move alternatives.

    1. As far as readability goes I don't have a preference for embedding or external articles.