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The Chess Assistant ICC Interface
keywords: ICC, Blitzin, ICS, analysis, automatic
Last Updated
Saturday, February 18, 2006

Chess Assistant 6.X users should note that the online commenting feature works a little differently (it's not a two step procedure), like it is in Chess Assistant 7.X. CA 6.X uses the settings of the blunder check function for game analysis and commenting.

Version 6.X also does not support the various recording options discussed in this article.

I haven't really said too much in the past about Chess Assistant's ICC interface, and have usually referred to this excellent introductory article by Albert Silver. Essentially, anything that can be done in Blitzin (the free ICC interface) can be done within CA. You can even make CA appear like Blitzin, using the same color scheme.

The ICC interface is organized using several tabs. When you first sign on, you'll see a list of them arranged at the top of the console window:

Clicking on the messages tab allows you so see most of the commands, and text information that is going to and from the server. By default, game moves are suppressed, so you don't see them. The seek list shows you a list of players looking for games (along with the time control). The seek diagram shows this same information in graphical form. The players tab allows you to see everyone that is logged at the current moment. Stored games allows you to see games that others have played. And events gives you a list of special events that are planned or ongoing. All these functions are pretty much duplicated within the Blitzin interface, so I won't dwell on them. The purpose of my little discussion is to show that all the functions you'd expect to be there, are present. If you need a basic introduction to internet chess server commands and etiquette, then I would suggest you look at my book.

Now, here are a few neat tricks that you can do with CA that you can't do with Blitzin:

  1. Automatically have your games commented by the computer while they are being played.
  2. Automatically send all the moves of all games played on ICC to background analysis, for later offline review.
  3. Automatically record the comments of a particular player, or all players while observing a game.
  4. Automatically record game analysis as variations. Automatically record all board annotations (colored arrows, squares, etc that are used by annotators when going over games).
  5. Automatically run an analysis engine while observing (but not playing) games. The engine output can automatically be whispered or kibitzed to other observers of the same game.
  6. Automatically run a chess engine with seek ads, and automatic game play.

Automatic Game Commenting and Post-Mortem Analysis

The above is a short list, and I think you'll agree that CA does offer a few very important functions that can enhance your ICC experience. Even though some of the above functions are pretty obvious, I will explain some of the ones that are less than intuitive. One of the more useful functions is the automatic game annotation that takes place while you are playing. To enable this, you must go into the ICC options dialog box (this is found in "ICC Options" under the "Internet" menu.

You'll notice that there are a few things that look pretty obvious in this dialog. Auto send line allows you to automatically kibitz or whisper engine analysis. If you are annotating games for others, you can also chose to enable graphical elements with the settings called "Text comments" and "Arrows and circles". You can also record other engine search output if you so desire. You'll also see from the above dialog that I've chosen to record all comments made by "Diesen" in the games. Like I said, most of this is pretty intuitive. However, the one function that bears additional explaining is the "Online comment" setting. Enable this, and you'll have instantaneous post-mortems of all your games.

Once this setting is enabled, you play a game as you normally would. As you play, you'll notice that your CPU utilization your computer goes up,. This is CA commenting your game as you play it! Once you're finished with the game, you need to do one additional step. You need to go to the local menu of the game you've just played, and select "Comment game". You get to this menu by right-clicking over the game moves. Once you've done this, you'll be rewarded with a nicely commented game.

Automatically Running an Engine on ICC

Running an engine in automated fashion on ICC is child's play with Chess Assistant. To do so, you must first tell CA to use a specific engine to play online. You do this by setting it on the "Account" tab in the "ICC options" dialog. There is a setting called "Start game with Human/Engine". Simply select the name of the engine you want to use:

This is all quite intuitive. Now, the next step is to set up an automatic seek ad for the engine. To do this, click on the "Seek" tab of the main button bar. You'll see an icon that looks like a man at a desk. Click on this, and you'll see the following:


You'll first want to set up the time controls for the games you want the engine to play. You do this by clicking on "Edit" in the above menu. The resulting dialog is pretty self explanatory, so I won't discuss it any further. Then click on "Auto..." entry. Here, you can enable a time interval between the end of a game, and the issuance of a new seek ad. You can sometimes avoid playing the same opponents over and over again in this fashion.

After you've got these settings made, just click "Send", and sit back. The engine will automatically start playing games without further intervention (assuming someone wants to play at your chose time controls).

Getting Real-time Engine Analysis

At any time that you want to get analysis of a game you are observing, simply hit the space bar (for the last infinite analysis settings that were used), or hit ctrl-space. You'll then see the engine box displayed just as you would when using infinite analysis offline.

Automatic Background Analysis Function (Advanced users only)

One other interesting function that is somewhat hidden is the ability to send moves from games that are being played to the background analysis functions. To enable this feature, you need to go to the BGA analysis properties dialog. This is accessible from the "Engines" menu. You'll see the following dialog box. You simply enable the setting labeled "On entering a move". Note that moves can only be analyzed after they have been played. This is to avoid people using this function to cheat.

After you've played the game, you can see the analysis results by first running the BGA script under the "Tree" menu. You then need to close and re-open the game in the ICC database. These measures are necessary due to implementation specific issues for the BGA functions, and to avoid nefarious use. But generally speaking, you'll want to use the procedure I outlined for automatic post mortem analysis instead of the background analysis mode. The background mode is more of an advanced tool that facilitates tree construction after a game has been played. The background analysis modes are discussed in more detail here and here.


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