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ChessOps - FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Feb.2003: Here are some answers to a few popular questions from friends and site-users, about chess in general and ChessOps in particular. [Updated Jun.2004]


How many openings and defences exist in chess?
Answer - how long is a piece of string! The study of "Openings Theory" and its consequent classification of lines is a relatively modern-day pursuit, and although most named openings and defences are widely accepted no universal body or organisation exists to oversee their classification. The naming of openings is a practice that falls somewhere between art and artificial, and sometimes there's a very grey area between what's a "defence" and what's a "variation".
What's the best opening to learn, and the best defence, for a beginner?
Not a simple question! There are various types of opening and defence, each with their own characteristics of play, so that in effect each different type may or may not suit different people according to their own individual attitudes. First, decide whether you're more comfortable attacking or defending, and concentrate on learning some basic open or close play accordingly. Attacking beginners might consider (for White) the KP Evans Gambit, the QP Four Pawns Attack and the Staunton Gambit against the Dutch, and (for Black) the French Defence. Positional beginners might try the universal Robatsch/Modern Defence to begin with. Of course all players should study some lines of the popular KP Ruy Lopez and QP Queen's Gambit (particularly as the QGD can be transposed from the English Opening and Franco-Indian Defence quite easily). Finally, consider asking an opponent if he will agree to play a particular opening or defence for practice. Most will happily agree, but if your opponent refuses then ask yourself why. Perhaps he doesn't know what it is - in which case definitely try to play it!
Who is (or was) the greatest chess player ever?
Great players are no different to great sportsmen, great guitarists, great painters etc. Firstly each new era brings about new players with greater technical skills and supporting resources, so that the "legends" of old cannot be realistically compared to the "giants" of today. Secondly, as in all fields of expertise each of the great players has their own style of play (usually matching their temperament), so that any such "greatest" judgement would only be subjective - that's why ratings (a system measuring a player's current ability) were invented. Before the 20th Century, World Champions were even allowed to demand financial stakes (at a level of their own choosing) from prospective opponents, making it impossible for some of the "greatest" players to ever challenge for the title.
How do chess ratings work?
A rating is an estimate of playing strength. The accepted FIDE method is the ELO rating system, but because a player can only score 100%, 50% or 0% from one game, many games - 20 to 30 - have to be played before a change in each player's ELO rating can be properly estimated. The system starts at 900 and enables divisions of player in bands of 200 at a time: Grandmasters (GMs) are typically 2300-2500 points, and IGMs are 2500-2700. A player of any division can realistically expect to beat an opponent from the next division down in 3 games out of 4.
How can I find out my own chess rating?
The simple answer is to join any local chess club, play a few games with opponents who have a basic rating, and then ask the club organiser to work out a rating for you, based on the ELO calculation-tables.


What does "ChessOps" stand for?
It's a combination: (1) Chess Openings (the original subject of the site), and (2) Chess Operations (the long-term goal for online chess playing, ratings evaluation, chat rooms etc., to be reached if/when the site author ever gets funding).
Can I buy a copy of the site's "Openings Guide" section?
Not at present, but copies may soon be made available. Originally the ongoing work on the guide (to expand and improve the info) made it impracticable to sell copies until the guide was sufficiently complete. The target of becoming fully comprehensive was reached in January 2003 however, and the author is now reviewing the entire contents before researching ways to make individual copies available. Review was generally completed in Spring 2004, and the author burned a first copy onto CD in March. But time-constraints prevent the CD-project from being driven forward yet. Watch this space however - a sign will go up on the website when copies do become available.
Who funds or sponsors the site?
Nobody (except for yours truly, of course). It's a pure bloody labour of love. I get occasional requests from advertisers, but so far I just can't bring myself to slow down the site pages with ad-blurb. A National Lottery grant would be nice though...
Why doesn't the site use modern Algeraic notation throughout?
Two reasons. (1) One, the author didn't hardly know no notation at all when he started the project in 1996, and anything Algebraic seemed a trifle reminiscent of "cold fish". Plus the only three chess sources he had at the time used Descriptive. (2) Two, the Descriptive Notation is just what it says - descriptive. On reflection it might have been better to list moves in Algebraic, but for basic reading there are still some advantages in referring to White's QP and Black's Kt rather than White's d-pawn and Black's N. Ultimately however this has led the author to the adoption of a unique hybrid P-Q5(d5) style for maximum clarity, which could be the most useful of all (if it weren't so tedious to type!).
Why is the site "male" oriented, stating only "he" this and "he" that?
Any implied sexism is completely unintentional. The descriptive style is driven entirely by practicality and convention. Masculine references are shorter to type, and as stated in Rule 1 of the FIDE rules of chess - and here I quote approximately - all anonymous masculine gender references (eg. "he/him/his") should be understood to refer equally to feminine persons (ie. as if "she/her/hers").
How reliable is the chess information?
The technical page-info is about 99.6% accurate (in other words 1 in 250 pages might have a keying error - do please report any errors you find). The real difficulty comes in accurately describing things like "best move" or "strategic plans", where conclusions are always more subjective. The site information has been researched from many sources, where there are occasional differences of opinion about moves and strategies, and the site tries to synthesise these into "majority practice" with further remarks about alternatives. Opinions in the chess world can also change radically over time. Therefore the reliability of analysis is probably only 99% (ie. 1 in 100 pages), but that's about as good as any book!
Just how popular is the site?
Apparently very popular! According to server statistics the site now gets an average of 1,050 users per day (Jun 2004), pulling about 12,000 page requests (25,000 hits) daily - so you're not alone!
Why are scores for the Sight Tests only held for a short period?
The Score facility for the Sight Tests went live in June 2004. It is meant to give site-users some idea of their level of understanding of Openings, but has also been designed to help the process of further study. At the same time as the Score facility, the tests introduced a "Tell Me" button for users to obtain the answer to any difficult or completely unfamiliar positions, to assist further immediate study. But using the "Tell Me" facility necessarily means a score must be excluded for that question. Yet exclusion should only be for a short period (ie. the particular session), and so the best solution for holding the score (including any wrong answers and exclusions) is to keep it for just a half-day or so. A further update enabling users to compare "latest" and "best-ever" scores may be developed in the Autumn.

Peter Hobbs - Feb.2003
Last updated Jun.2004

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