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Aquarium’s Hidden Treasures 17 November 2009

Rybka 3 Aquarium logotype Part One
Graphical Annotations
Visual annotations are an effective tool to recall your thoughts about a position and quickly remind you of its most important features. They are also essential for creating video lectures and very useful for live commentary. Open (or create) a game and click “Color Marks” on the “Comments” tab.

The graphical annotation palette is displayed as a floating window that you can drag anywhere on the screen and it stays open until you close it. It gives you quick access to a variety of graphics for annotating a position as shown in the image below.
The graphical annotation palette.

You can move back and forth in the notation and annotate a full game without closing the palette. You can even keep it open while adding other types of annotations or new variations to the notation.
If you want to use the mouse to make a move on the board, make sure that the leftmost icon (the mouse pointer) is selected. The graphic below shows the shapes that can be drawn on the chessboard.
Each shape is available in four different colors: red, green, blue, and yellow. Three of the shapes (the ‘X’, the rectangle and the circle) can be drawn on a single square; the arrows (straight and curved) can be drawn between any two squares and the filled rectangle can be drawn over any rectangular area on the board.
The graphical annotation shapes.

The currently selected shape is highlighted in the palette. In the example shown in the image, the straight blue arrow is selected.
The blue arrow is selected.

If you want to draw a particular shape and color, start by selecting it from the palette. If it is an ‘X,’ a rectangle or a circle, click the square where you want to draw the shape. An arrow is drawn by pressing and holding the left mouse button while dragging the mouse from one square to another. Holding the Shift key down while drawing a straight arrow draws a dashed arrow. For a filled rectangle shape, hold down the left mouse button while dragging the mouse across the board between opposite corners of the rectangle you want to draw.
You will notice that at the bottom of the drop-down list for each shape, there is an eraser icon. Clicking it erases all shapes of that type from the board. There are also two other options for deleting shapes.
Delete shapes.

The eraser icon on the palette allows you to delete shapes by clicking their endpoints and the broom removes all visual annotations from the current position.
“More options…” offers further options for graphical annotations.

“Copy to Clipboard” copies the graphical annotations to the clipboard. We discussed in last month’s column how they can be used in iBooks. “Paste from Clipboard” displays the graphical annotations on the chessboard.
The graphical annotations we have looked at so far can be used on the fly, e.g., for a live annotation of a game. “Additional Markers” offer even more options, such as displaying text on the board, but are more suitable for preparing annotations beforehand. The following diagram illustrates some of the features available in the “Additional markers”.
“Additional markers” annotations.

If you want to see further examples of graphical annotations in Aquarium, I recommend that you have a look at the excellent chess videos made by jrobichess.

Copy Board Image
Besides copying games in PGN format and positions in EPD format, Aquarium let’s you copy a graphic image of the board with all visual annotations.
Copy board image with graphics.

Clicking “Board Image” on the “Home –View” tab copies the current board image. After that you can paste it into a word processor, a graphics program or any other program that accepts graphics. This allows you to prepare diagrams for your documents, your website, etc. The diagram below was copied using this method and pasted into Microsoft Word.
The image is a copy of what you see on your Aquarium screen, including the board and piece themes, graphical annotations, etc.
Copied board image with graphics.

Aquarium allows you to set the exact size of the captured image – a feature welcomed by many authors. The advantage is that it will fit exactly into your design or that required by the publisher. In other words, the captured image is ready for publishing.

To display the “Save Board Image Options” right-click over the board and select “Board Image Options” as shown in the screenshot above.
When copying board images the “Size” parameter is the only one that matters. In this case it has been set to 242, which means that Aquarium will automatically create board images that are 242 x 242 pixels, regardless of the size of the board as displayed in Aquarium itself.
Set the size of the copied image.

Animations for the Web

You may have noticed the “Create Animation” button in the image above. Well, Aquarium can create animations based on captured board images. You can publish these animations on your blog, just like normal images.

Start by opening up the “Save Board Image Options” as shown above. Here you can select where your images will be saved (“Path”) and the size of the images. You should save your images to an empty directory, since “Create Animation” will include all images in the specified directory to create the animation.
Now that everything is set up, you can start saving board images that you want to include in the animation. Note that also here the board images are saved with visual annotations. When you are ready to save the first position, right click over the board and select “Save board image” from the menu as shown in the following screenshot.

Do the same for every board image you want to save. When you are done, you can create the animation; right-click over the board and select “Board Image Options.” The “Save Board Image Options” dialog we saw above will be displayed. This time click “Create Animations” to bring up the “Create GIF Animation” dialog box.
Create an animation.

Here you must make sure that “Source folder” points to the directory where you saved the board images. The resulting animation will be stored in the file specified in the “Destination file.” That is also the file you would display in your blog.
The “Delay time” decides how fast the animation runs. The unit is milliseconds, so a delay time of 1500 as shown in this example will display each image in the animation for 1.5 seconds. Note that if you want to display some of the positions longer than the default, you can save the same position more than once. For instance, some users like to display the initial image for a longer duration.
The following animation was created using this method.

To see examples of some very interesting animations created with the help of Aquarium, have a look at The Chunky Rook.

Online Tablebases
Collecting all multi-piece Nalimov tablebases requires a lot of disk space; therefore, most players either skip the tablebases altogether or only store a fraction of them on their hard disk. Even if you don’t have any tablebases at all, Aquarium can evaluate any position with six or fewer pieces accurately by doing a remote lookup on the ChessOK tablebase server. Here is an example rook endgame with six pieces on the board.
This position is from the game Shirov – Leko, Linares 2000. Leko just played 60…Ra1. The game ended in a draw, and many commentators agreed that the rook endgame was drawn. Let’s have Aquarium’s online tablebase evaluate this position.
Is it a draw?.

All I need to do is click the “TB6 Online” button on the “Analysis” tab and Aquarium returns an optimal variation that is added to the notation as shown below.
Online endgame lookup.

The variation inserted by Aquarium shows that Shirov could have won with 61.Rg3! instead of 61.Kf4, which leads to a draw as a second “TB6 Online” lookup would confirm. The exclamation mark (!) after a move in the tablebase variation means that this move is the only one that preserves the win. There are five such moves in the variation that ends with a checkmate after forty-three moves, so it is by no means trivial.
The online tablebases can be of great help when you are analyzing endgames.
Shirov missed a win!.


Bookmarks are one of those little known, but very useful features of Aquarium. They allow you to bookmark one or more positions within a game and quickly jump between the marked positions. Aquarium actually gives you a choice of two types of bookmarks and they are switched on/off with the ‘M’ and ‘P’ keyboard shortcuts (or the right-click menu):

  • M allows you to define one bookmark and colors the corresponding move red in the notation (so it is different from coloring a tree move red). If you press ‘M’ again in another position in the game, that move becomes bookmarked and the bookmark is removed from the previous move. If you accidentally bookmark a move, you can remove the bookmark by pressing ‘M’ again (without moving the cursor).
  • P allows you to define multiple bookmarks and the bookmarked moves are colored blue. If you bookmark a move and move to a different position and press ‘P’ again, you will have two bookmarked moves. If the current move is bookmarked, you can press ‘P’ to remove the bookmark.
Here is an example showing four bookmarked moves, three blue (10.a4, 10…b6, and 13.e4) and one red (11.Bd3).
You can cycle between the blue bookmarked moves by using the Shift+P keyboard shortcut (or the right-click menu), making it easy to locate them even in long, heavily annotated games. Pressing Shift+M jumps to the red bookmark.
Two types of bookmarks.

Open Game at Bookmarked Position
Once you start using bookmarks you will probably want to know whether a game that you open has any bookmarked positions or not; I will show how you can change the red bookmark, so that Aquarium opens games at the bookmarked position if there is one.
Open a game and bookmark one of the moves by pressing “M.” Open the “Managing styles” dialog box with the Shift+S keyboard shortcut.
Make sure that “Temporary bookmark” is highlighted in the “Styles for current move” list, as shown is this example, and then click the “Edit styles” button. The “Edit special styles” dialog box will be shown.

All you need to do here is select “Set position” and then click OK to close the dialog boxes. You have changed the “Temporary bookmark,” so that Aquarium will open games at the bookmarked move. You can follow the same procedure for the blue bookmarks.

Move Classes and Styles
As you may have guessed when looking at the dialog boxes above, bookmarks are a special case of a more general concept supported by Aquarium: Move classes. Move classes can be used for a variety of purposes. They can be assigned both by users (such as the bookmarks described above) and by Aquarium itself (e.g., when inserting analyzed variations). There are thirty-two move classes available and you can apply different styles to them, such as foreground and background color, different fonts, font properties, etc. The classes come with preset styles, but you can change them in the “Edit special styles” dialog box shown above.
If you want to assign a class to a move, open the “Managing styles” dialog box with the Shift+S keyboard shortcut and select one or more classes for the move. The image below shows a partial list of the available classes.
Move classes.

In this example we have assigned two classes to the current move: “Temporary bookmark” and “Novelty.” The “Current style” pane shows what the currently highlighted class looks like and the “Final style” shows what the move will actually look like in the notation with all the assigned classes.

Game Classes
You can also assign classes to whole games. Game classes have no connection with move classes (unlike in Chess Assistant). Game classes are assigned in the game list and are displayed in the “Flags” column.
Each of the eight small squares represents one class. They are “My own game”, “Historic game”, “Model game”, “Annotated game from a book”, “Computer game”, “Opening theory/plans”, “Middlegame”, and “Endgame”.
Game classes.

As shown in the image above, the name of a class is displayed when you hover over it with the mouse pointer. Clicking the class assigns it to the game. Clicking again turns it off. If you have been examining an interesting game and want to find all games belonging to the same game classes, click in the “Flags” column of the game to the right of the classes and then click “Current Cell” in the “Search” group as shown below.
In this example we will search for all games belonging to the same classes as game number two; i.e., games belonging to the “Endgame” class.

Copying Game Fragments and Positions
Every Aquarium user probably knows that he can copy and paste games with Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. Fewer users know that you can also copy the current position in EPD format, the moves up to the current position and the moves following the current position in PGN format. You will see all these options when you right-click over the notation and look at the “Copy” sub-menu.
Flexible copying of moves and positions.

As you can see, you can even copy all positions in the game as a set of EPD records. What you should notice here are the keyboard shortcuts listed after the options. Using a keyboard is often faster than using the mouse, so it is worth memorizing the shortcuts for these commands. Note that some of these shortcuts may differ depending on your keyboard layout, but you can always see the correct shortcuts by opening this menu.

Copy first moves copies the game up to the current position in PGN format.
Copy rest of moves copies the moves following the current position in PGN format.
In addition to these options you can actually copy an interval of moves, say moves ten to fifteen, although it is a hidden option that is not available as a menu selection. On a U.S. English keyboard you can use the square brackets to delimit the moves that you want to copy.
Copy a game fragment as PGN.

Here I pressed ‘[‘ before White’s tenth move and ‘]’ after Black’s fifteenth move. I have highlighted the selected moves, but the symbols preceding and following the selection are Aquarium’s way of showing the range of selected moves.

When I press Ctrl+C, Aquarium asks if I want to copy the whole game or just the selected moves.
Here I click “Selection” for copying only the selected moves from the game.

Dadi Jonsson.

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