FPAWN CHESS

ICC Tutorial for Chess Students

Michael Aigner
fpawn on ICC
Version: 2005

The purpose of this document is to introduce a chess student to many of the basic commands of the Internet Chess Club. There is no way to detail all the features of this chess site in merely a few pages, but this tutorial will focus on a few important ones, specifically commands that are useful for communicating, playing, and taking online chess lessons. While you are reading, you might find it convenient to be sitting at your computer and logged into ICC. The major topics of each paragraph are in bold face for easier reference. Commands which must be typed into ICCís software are underlined. The goal is to provide the student with a passing knowledge of the commands and features of the Internet Chess Club, so that he may have more fun and less frustration while playing and learning chess.

By now, you should have registered for your ICC account at http://www.chessclub.com/register, have downloaded the BlitzIn software at http://www.chessclub.com/download, and have run the extraction process which sets up BlitzIn on your computer. When you start up BlitzIn for the first time, you need to enter your username (more commonly called your "handle") and your password. Make sure that you remember your ICC password, especially if you ever decide to log in from a friend's house or a public computer (such as at a chess club). However, do not share your password with other people, because this is your personal account. Your password should not be a dictionary word, but rather something more complex. A common trick is to take the first letter of every word of a common sentence or a song that you like. For example, ďI pledge allegiance to the United StatesĒ might be ďipa2tusĒ.

When you log in, three windows appear. One is a game board, another is a text window called Main Console, and sometimes a third window with colorful dots comes up. If you ever can't find a window, go to the top of BlitzIn and click on Window. At the bottom of this menu, you can switch between the various BlitzIn windows. Experienced ICC users will have many more than three windows open, each with a specific purpose.

Now go to the Main Console window. This is a rather important window, both for entering commands and for communicating with other people (such as your chess teacher). At the bottom of this window is a text bar where you can enter commands for ICC. The Internet Chess Club is basically one large computer program, and each user that logs in has to enter commands to do anything. If you type in a command incorrectly, or even accidentally misspell it, ICC will not do what you want it to do.

Right now, you want to add friends to the buddy list, which on ICC is called the notify list. You can do this by typing the following command in the Main Console: +notify fpawn. You have now added fpawn to your notify list, and whenever you are on ICC and fpawn arrives or leaves, then you hear a beep and a message to that effect in the Main Console. Also, you can add my other account "f5" to your notify list. Just change the handle from fpawn to f5 in the above command. If you know the ICC handles of other friends, you may add them in the same manner. You can see your notify list and who is currently online by selecting it under the Window menu. Alternatively, you can type the letter z (and hit enter) in the Main Console, which is a shortcut for the command znotlist.

You can check out the statistics of a friend by executing a finger command. For example, type finger f5 in the Main Console for my playing account. You will see a lot text output. The first section shows my rating statistics. For example, I have played Bughouse, Bullet, Blitz, Standard, 5-minute, and 1-minute on ICC. These are all different categories for rated games. Bughouse is the well-known four-player chess variant. The rest are all normal chess, but at different speeds. Bullet is fast chess, such as the entire game in a minute. Blitz is speed chess, but not as fast as Bullet. Three, five, and ten-minute games are common time controls that qualify as Blitz. Standard is ICC's version of slow chess, meaning games that are 15 minutes long and slower. 5-minute and 1-minute are special rating categories that are discussed later on. The second half of the finger command output are public notes. Every ICC user has up to 10 of these. For another example, do finger fpawn. You will notice that I don't play rated chess on fpawn, in part because I work as a server administrator. To see your own statistics, type finger without anyone's name. You can also set your own notes. For example, you may type set 1 Hi! then set 2 I love to play chess. then set 3 Try to beat me if you can! (these are three separate commands, meaning that you need to press enter after each one). Now type finger again to see what you wrote. Be creative with your finger notes, but don't be rude, offensive, or harass someone else.

You might also wish to talk to your friend and tell him hello. The ICC command for this is called tell. You type tell, the person's handle, and then the text you wish to share with them. For example, tell fpawn hello! will send a greeting to fpawn. If I am online, I might reply to you, and you would see the following text in the Main Console: "fpawn tells you: hello!" This is the primary way of communicating with someone on ICC. Hint: once the conversation has begun, pressing the F9 key will eliminate the need to repeat typing the tell command. Just click F9 and type what you want to say. If you're talking to two or more people at once, click F9 several times to select whom you want to say something to.

You can also leave an ICC message for someone who is not currently logged in, assuming that you know the personís handle. For example, typing message fpawn hello, I just learned the message command! in the Main Console will send that text to me, so that I can read it the next time when I log in. As with many of the commands in this tutorial, you may substitute any of your friends for my handle. You can read your own messages simply by typing (as usual, in the Main Console) message without anything else. To delete a message, enter clearmessage 4 where the number 4 in this example signifies the fourth message in your list. If you have a message when you log into ICC, you will see a text in the Main Console to that effect. You should make a habit to check your messages each time you log in, since this is a useful way of communicating without having to resort to email.

A word of caution is required here. While most people on ICC are friendly and simply want to relax and play chess, ICC also has a few rude players. A general advice is to never give out your name, address, and phone number to anyone except your close friends. You may feel free to discuss your recent games with your opponents, but do not respond to personal questions. As a measure against inappropriate language, ICC automatically filters some common profanities, but that can't block everything. However, you can block someone who talks rudely to you. The command is censor and it works just like notify works. For example, type + censor fpawn to add to your censor list, or - censor fpawn to remove. You can also report the rude person to the administrators by using the complain command. Simply type complain fpawn (substitute the rude person's handle) and when prompted to confirm your complaint, type yes.

Now you are ready to play some chess games on ICC. There are four ways to get a game on ICC, and you will learn each one. First, you will seek a game. A seek is basically a wanted advertisement which goes out to other players. Go to the BlitzIn menu and select Game, then select Seek a Game. Now you can fill in the details of the game you want. The "initial time" is the time at the start of the game, while the "increment" is the number of seconds added after each move. Popular time controls are 5 0 (initial time = 5 minutes with 0 seconds increment per move), 3 0, 1 0 (yes, one-minute chess), and for a slower pace, 15 0. Set the time to 10 and the increment to 0 (or choose a different time control). You can leave the other numbers, such as the rating range for your opponent, as they are. Now click OK and wait. Hopefully pretty soon, you will get a game with someone. You can click on that and start playing. Good luck!

The second way to get a game on ICC is to accept someone else's seek. Go to the Window menu and click on Seek Graph. You should see a white screen with lots of colorful dots. Each dot represents a game that another person offers to play. Hold your mouse over a dot to see the exact details of the offer at the bottom of the window. For example, you might see: "fpawn 2500 seeks Blitz 3 0 rated 2000-9999 m f". That means the ICC player "fpawn", who is rated 2500, wants to play a rated 3 0 game against opponents rated over 2000. Don't worry about the m and f characters at the end for now. You will mostly be interested in solid green dots and solid blue dots. The solid green dots are rated chess games versus human opponents. The solid blue dots are rated chess games against one of ICC's many computer opponents (designated by a (C) after their handle). Hollow dots are unrated games, and other colors represent some of the roughly 30 wild variants that are available. Games to the left are fast, while games toward the right are slower. Games at the top are high rated opponents, while easier players appear further down. Click on a dot somewhere in the middle of the screen, which will give you roughly a 10 minute game against a 1600 rated opponent.

Another word of caution is needed here. ICC takes cheating very seriously. There are two common ways to cheat. One is to intentionally play bad moves in order to deflate your rating (commonly called "sandbagging"). The other is to use a computer program (such as Fritz, Chessmaster, or Crafty) to help you make moves. You may not use a chess program while playing on ICC unless you registered as a computer account. ICC has several administrators whose main duties include finding and sanctioning people who cheat. You can be prevented from playing games, or suffer a worse fate. My advice to you is simple: don't even think about cheating! It is dishonest, won't help you get better at chess, and will get you in trouble on ICC. If you know that someone else is cheating, please contact an ICC administrator.

A third way of starting a game is to directly challenge someone, usually a friend. Go to the Game menu and select Match. This window is similar to the Seek a Game window, except that there is an option to fill in your opponentís handle. If a friend is online, then you can challenge him with this option by simply entering his ICC handle and the time control you want to play.

The final way to start a game is to enter a rated play pool. The pool is restricted to human players, and you donít know in advance whom you will play. ICC pairs you with someone as close to your rating as possible. Everyone starts at 1600, and the rating will quickly rise or drop to whatever your true playing strength is. Another convenient feature of these pools is that whoever disconnects from a game will automatically lose. ICC currently has two such pools: 5-minute (5 0) and 1-minute (1 0). These have separate ratings from the normal Blitz and Bullet ratings. To enter a pool, simply type in the Main Console 5 (or 1) and hit enter. Then wait a few moments (it may take a minute or two at night) and a game will start automatically. Good luck!

You have learned a lot about ICC already. You have learned how to contact your friends, how to check your own statistics and those of other people, and four different ways to start a game. Many ICC members don't even know all of this, or they get to this point and merely are happy to play chess. But you are reading this tutorial because you hope to take online lessons. You will need to become familiar with a few more commands before you are ready for chess lessons.

Perhaps the most important command for a lesson is follow. By typing follow fpawn in the Main Console, you will be able to watch your teacher analyze a game or set up a position. Moreover, when he closes one board and moves onto something else, you will automatically start watching the new game as soon as he brings it up. The follow command is actually an extension of the observe command. You can observe any other player that is online and playing, for example, one of your friends or a Grandmaster. To try out this feature, type observe * in the Main Console now. You will see a game between two high rated players (possibly one or more GMs). Enjoy, and maybe also learn a trick or two!

While watching another game, you may see people kibitzing or whispering comments about the game. These two commands allow you to communicate with other people watching the game. For example, you might type whisper white will win! Now all observers will see your comment that white is winning. The difference between the whisper and kibitz commands is that kibitzes go to everyone watching, including the players. Of course, it is rude to disturb the players with comments during a game, which explains the use of whisper in the previous example. However, during a lesson, you will need to use kibitz so that your teacher can see what you wrote. To summarize: whisper while watching others play, but kibitz with your teacher in a lesson.

While taking a lesson, you are technically examining a game with your teacher. As you might have guessed already, the ICC command for this is examine. You, too, can examine a game on your own. For example, you might want to go over a game that you played. Your last 20 games are stored in your ICC history, which you can access simply by typing history in the Main Console, or by looking for your recent games under the Actions menu. You should right click on your latest game and select to examine it. Use the arrow buttons on the board to play through the game, or move the pieces to analyze a new variation. You can also look at another personís games. To see my recent games, just type history f5 and right click on the top game.

Suppose that you play a great game and want to save this game to share with your friends or teacher. Unfortunately, after 20 additional games, the brilliancy will disappear from your history. However, ICC has a library feature that allows you to store up to 100 games. You can access your library under the Actions menu, but alas, you have not saved any games yet. Several commands will manipulate your library. You can copy a game from your (or another personís) history into the next available slot of your library by simply opening the history window as in the previous paragraph, then right clicking on the game and selecting Libappend. Once you have done this, check out the contents of your library from the Actions menu, or by typing the liblist command. You can also check out someone elseís library by adding their handle after liblist. Try liblist fpawn now and look at the Aigner-Bhat game. Just like with history, you can examine a game in a library on ICC merely by right clicking on the appropriate line of the list. Finally, to delete a game from your library, use the Libdelete option from the right click menu.

For chess lessons, your teacher may not only want to see your ICC games, but also your over-the-board tournament games. In order to facilitate this, you will need to enter the game online before the lesson using the libkeepexam command. This is a three-step process. Step 1: Type examine to open a blank board with the starting position. Step 2: Enter the moves to a game. For this example, enter the moves for the four-move Scholarís Mate. Step 3: Now you need to save the game to your ICC library. To do this, type libkeepexam White Black * %nn into the Main Console. You should substitute the names for the white and black players (no spaces allowed). For the character *, enter + if white won, - if black won, = if the game was drawn, or leave the * if no result is known. The two-digit number nn refers to the empty library slot you wish to save the game to, ranging from 00 to 99. You may need to check your library (using the Actions menu) to see which slots are open. For the Scholarís Mate example, type libkeepexam Aigner Patzer + %04. To verify that you properly saved the game, open your library and examine the game by right clicking.

If you already entered a game into ChessBase or Fritz, you can upload the moves with minimal hassle. However, ICC only allows you to upload games saved as a PGN (short for Portable Game Notation) file. A PGN file is merely a text file containing the moves and information for a chess game. To transfer your games to a PGN file, first create a new blank database in ChessBase or Fritz and change the file name extension (database type) from CBH to PGN. Now you can simply open your old database (CBH), highlight the desired game(s), select copy, then go to the new database (PGN) and select paste. Once you have transferred the games, close ChessBase or Fritz and open ICCís BlitzIn software. After logging into your account, select Open PGN under the Game menu and locate the file containing your game(s). Just like with the history window, you can now right click on an individual game and select Upload to library in order to save into your library.

After reading this tutorial, you have a basic understanding of various methods to communicate, find a game, and most importantly, how to take a chess lesson on the Internet Chess Club. Although you might feel overwhelmed by the many different commands for ICC, it will all seem natural to you with a little bit of experience. If you are curious, you should explore other menu options and user buttons of BlitzIn. For example, I would recommend the Event list under the Window menu. In addition, like most software these days, BlitzIn has access to a large array of help files. You can select the Help menu of BlitzIn, or type in the Main Console. For example, to learn more about libraries, you might type help library. Finally, if you donít understand something about ICC, you can ask for help by clicking on the blue question mark on the right side of your screen. Your question will be transmitted to ICCís team of volunteer helpers and administrators. Watch for a response soon in the Main Console. Or better yet, ask your favorite administrator for help: the author of this tutorial. Please do not hesitate to send a tell or a message to fpawn if you have any questions or need help!


© 2015 Michael Aigner