Live Chess Mini Stories 2 - Arrakis

Live Chess Mini Stories 2 - Arrakis

piotr
piotr
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Interest in the game of chess has been growing over last 10 years even though there are tons of different types of entertainment available so easily and so many different online games people can play. Chess.com is now around 500th page on the Internet according to Alexa. Imagine how crazy it is. And it's just chess, which in many of your friend groups is not really popular, is it? (unless you mainly friend with chess players!)
So how did we get to 500?! It seems that by reaching so high spot we affected the history of the game indeed (or vice versa) and while it's probably hard to measure how much OTB chess has grown over last 10 years, I believe online chess has let people discover chess again without fear of being seen as a nerd. Chess is no longer seen as an old-fashioned activity. Old-fashioned stuff doesn't show up on Twitch front page. Never.
In 1999, I installed my chess server ("Kafejka szachowa" - Chess Cafe) on a university machine called Arrakis (see picture below for Arrakis-like desert). It was available under an URL anyone could barely remember and even type! - ending with /~piotrd which was my Unix username on the machine. It was a process running in a screen session and I thought I don't need to ask for permission of admin, because they gave us those accounts for our experiments and pretty much free usage (and I wasn't hacking anything!).

Image from Pixabay

It was nice to get some experience with stability. My university friends "helped me out" right away and tested it well. And killed a few times sending garbage messages with telnet and some tools and it helped me make it more robust :]. As it was C++, it was not so easy to protect from overflows and memory corruption. At some point (pretty early), which I no longer recall, I decided to rewrite server in Java for even more practice. Client was always a Java applet since the inception until 2005 (more about that in some of next blog posts).
For next two years (until amazing Kurnik appeared), I was running the only Polish chess server for real-time chess. But it only had a small group of enthusiasts, so one had to be lucky to meet more than a dozen people connected. I remember one day, some of my university friends came shouting that a young talented player (like number #6 in Poland that time) joined the server winning everything she played. It was really so exciting!
In 2000, I moved the server to 64pola domain which means 64 squares, and put on a server in a different city in a company where one of my chess friends (made over internet) worked. Thanks SÅ‚awek! It was still (and forever) a hobby project, it peaked 30 users online at best hours, but there were people who visited regularly to play with each other in small groups. From a screenshot below from 2000/2001, I can read 500 games per day.

Note: One could say chess has been going down in google trends, but check "book" for example (are books getting less popular!?) or if you want to check something closer to chess, check https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=chess%20tournament,chess%20clock,chessboard (I think chess is fine!).

/To be continued/