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Solitaire chess with Chess Assistant
keywords: chess assistant, solitaire, study, guess the move, quiz, test, timed, demonstration, Blokh
Robert Pawlak
Thursday, May 22, 2003

Both test and demonstration mode make it easy to test yourself based on annotated games. They work very well in conjunction with the Famous players collection, since you can open the player databases directly from within CA.

Test mode was collaboratively designed by Maxim Blokh (of CT-ART) fame, and the Convekta developers.

Chess Assistant has a couple of neat features for fans of so-called "Solitaire Chess". This form of studying usually involves examining a master game, and attempting to guess the moves of one or both players. The problem with using CA in its default mode of operation, is that you can see the moves on screen, so it can be difficult not to see what is coming next.

If you want to hide the next move in CA, you need to enable something called "Demonstration mode". You can do this by right-clicking over the moves in the game, and selecting this mode. You can then use the arrow keys and playback buttons (located below the board). to step through the game one move at a time. Incidentally, those of you that do computer-based chess instruction will find this mode particularly useful.

In addition to demonstration mode, there is also something called "Test Mode", which is accessible on the same right-click context menu. Test mode places you in demonstration mode, but will also prompt you for a move at particular points in the game by placing a small message underneath the board. Where it stops is conditional on the criteria that you set in the test mode dialog box.

What is convenient about Test mode is that it enables you to easily test yourself using the surprising or strong moves that have been found by the game annotator (it is of little use in unannotated games). If used in conjunction with the automatic game analysis features, you can have CA automatically find those moves for you. I will have more on this a bit later in the article.

Since demonstration mode is pretty self explanatory, I will not do more than mention it. However, the dialog box for Test mode has a few features that might not be evident to the casual user. Let's take a look at how you can customize test mode using this dialog box.

[Test_mode]

To bring up the test mode dialog, hit the ctrl-enter key combination, or use the right-click context menu while in a game view. The dialog box shown above will open up, and you will have the opportunity to control when CA will stop and prompt you for a move. On the left hand side, you can select if you want to stop for black or white moves, or only for the moves of a particular player (for instance, you can examine all of Capablanca's games, and only test yourself based on his moves). You can also set a timer, and control when a hint will be given - most of these settings are quite self-explanatory.

Those of you that are software developers probably have noticed the settings for using regular expressions. 99.9% of CA's user base should never need to use this setting at all, and explaining it would be quite time consuming. But for those of you that are curious, there is a link in the sidebar for more information on the topic.

The settings under the "Test conditions" section of the dialog box allow you to tell CA how it should tell which move is correct. Normally, you would use the settings I have shown above, and this will cover 90% of your needs. If you want also to allow questionable or risky moves, you can click on those criteria as well.

[advanced_button_test_mode]

Clicking on the advanced button brings up something like the annotation palette (shown above) - this allows you to add some additional criteria for telling if a move should be included or not. One setting that I like in particular is somewhat hidden on the tab labeled "Additional". It allows you to specify, for instance, that CA should stop after every diagram. This is a handy feature to have; one of the things I like to do is add diagrams before moves that I find difficult to see, so that I can easily create a small test sheet for myself if I print the game out. When I go back to review these games, CA will stop before each important continuation, and ask me to pick the best move.

Other tabs of this dialog box enable you to have the program stop when certain annotations are present. For example, if you put the "better is" symbol (small symbols that looks like a half-circle), in the "short before" tab, CA will then stop whenever a variation containing that symbol in the "short before" comment field is present.

For the Motivationally Challenged

As I alluded to earlier, there is a lazy way to construct review exercises; simply have CA annotate games for you. The analysis modes that work best with the test/demonstration feature are the analysis by time and level modes. The reason for this is that in these modes, CA will automatically insert annotations like !?,!!, when it annotates the game. Like most functions in CA, you can also modify how the program decides to use each type of annotation symbol. This may be the subject of a future article.

Conclusion

This article discussed the use of Chess Assistant 7's demonstration and test modes for solitaire chess and automatic quizzes. One of the beauties of CA's approach is that you do not have to manually construct test positions. You simply annotate the game as you normally would, and then the program takes care of the rest. And if you are really in a rush, by using the new game annotation features, you can have CA automatically annotate the game as well.







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