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