Some tools for newby/casual players (like me)


First of all, i want to warn you that it's likely this post won't be useful for you. Despite all it's just my first test post in a new blog, I'll write some lines to introduce me and, just in case it can be useful for you, some free tools I'm using to organize and analyze my own games.

I discovered a few months ago, looking for an Android App to play chess with a colleage. And, then, I started playing chess.

Accordangly to player attends final GM norm at age 81!? I'm too old (I'm 44 yo right now) to achieve any decent level in chess, but I'm not worried about that. My only goal is to enjoy the game and, maybe, improve a bit my game. I have also no time to do any serious try, anyway.

I'll be posting here my progress and what I'm learning in the process: if you're a casual player like me, maybe you'll find it useful or maybe I'll make you smile when you recognize yourself in the post.

That's enough, let's go to the...


When I first played chess (it was 1989) we had no strong computers at home, chess clocks were windup ones and opening theory was stored in heavy volumes named Yugoslav Encyclopaedia (at least in Spain) I did never dare to open. As computers weren't so much extended ELO was only computed for very strong players, and most chess players had no ELO at all.

As you can see, things has changed a lot. Now there're plenty of tools for even casual players like me... and many of them are Open Source!. Here are the ones I use to organize and analyze my games

- SCID (Shane's Chess Information Database, LGPL), the main tool I'll present today. With this tool you'll be able to:

  • Organize your own games in a database.
  • Navigate a games database in a similar way you can do at game explorer (but you'll need a games database, of course).
  • Analyze and annotate your own games.

Having a games database is always useful, you can find some of them in internet, and download games from places like TWIC

- Stockfish (GPL), the strongest chess engine according to CCRL. Of course I don't need the strongest chess engine but, if the strongest one is also an open source one, why not?

Once you've installed these tools you can start a new database. I've named my own database "Correspondence", as most of my games are online ones, not live. The database is empty, but when I finish a game I can download the game PGN and add it to my database.

This is done by opening my own database and the new downloaded PGN game. Then, with ctrl+D, open the Database switcher

and drag the PGN game into my database. Once I've done that I switch to my database to work with the game there, and close (right-click and close) the PGN game.

As I have 48 games, I must go the the last one by clicking "Load Last Game" in "Game" menu. Now it's time to analyze.

If it's the first time you use Scid, you'll have to add your engine. Do that by click on "Tools|Analysis Engine" and then click on New...

(You'll have this list empty) Then you've to fill the engine name and the path to engine executable and you'll have your engine added to Scid.

Now, let's go to your game. Select the menu option "Tools|Start engine 1" and you'll see how Stockfish analyze current position (in fact, the starting position). You can advance into the game to see what Stockfish suggest as best move using the arrows above the board.

You'll see a set of useful buttons in the Analysis window:

You can investigate by playing a bit with them. I'll talk you about two of them today.

The number "1" is the number of lines you want the analyzer to show. I usually increment this number to 3-4. That way at every position Stockfish won't only show you the best move, but the best 3-4 moves so you can check which options you had and if your move was really bad or just one of the best ones.

(this is how you see the analysis window when showing 4 lines)

The other one is an important one, like a notebook with a pencil. When you click on the button the engine will analyze the game for you! Click on it and this window will open

Click OK and you'll see your game analyzed and annotated. Then you can review your game with engine annotations.

With the settings above the engine will add an annotation when the chosen move is 0.2 points away from the best moves (a blunder). Sometimes these annotations won't be useful at all, but most times they'll help you to find bad moves and/or available tactics you missed during the game.

I usually do that as soon as possible after the game has ended so it is still fresh in my brain, stop in the critical moves and analyze the different lines with the help of the engine (now in analyze mode, not annotation one).

Well, that's too much for a first post. I hope it is useful for anyone :)