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Once More into the Breach

January 18, 2011

I have successfully navigated my way through the New Zealand Championships without completely embarrassing myself (4.5 out of 11, that’s 40% and above my expectation). This time fortunately there were some other players of around my standard that I competed with reasonably well. I was worried about losing games from the start and entering a death spiral (I’ve done that before), but fortunately not this time.

Rather than preparing for the Rotorua Zonal next week, which is what a real chess player would be doing, I’ve been Tarrasching away.

Previously I’ve written that all the main features for an Alpha level release were complete, implying that only cleanup and testing were required. Unfortunately, closer scrutiny reveals that I wasn’t quite right about that, there are some neglected things I’d conveniently forgotten.

Firstly there is kibitz capture. This is a really cool feature, simply press the kibitz capture button and the kibitz lines are pasted into the document. I don’t know if Chessbase has a feature like this. If it does it’s buried in a menu somewhere and I have never found it even though I’ve always wanted it. Anyway, this took me a day or so to implement but is now working well.

Although I’ve previously claimed that promote comment to variation worked well, until yesterday a document comprising nothing more than a comment couldn’t actually be promoted the way I wanted it. I’ve finally sorted that out. For example, fire up Tarrasch, simply start typing, say “e4 e5 nf3 nc6 bb5”. Of course this appears simply as a comment for the initial position. But then execute Edit>Promote comment to variation and the comment disappears and the characteristic moves and position of the Ruy Lopez appear exactly as if you entered them by making moves. Is this valuable? I don’t really know, but it feels good, in my bones I feel that you should be able to do things like this with a chess program.

Next there is copy,cut, paste. I’ve blogged about clipboard operations before in the context of game management, where the clipboard holds games from a .pgn file. But now I am talking about them in the context of the main Tarrasch activity of creating and editing individual games. In that case the clipboard functions should work much like the equivalent actions in a text editor. This is hardly rocket surgery and yesterday I got paste working well and today hopefully copy and cut will follow. The danger is that I spend to much time on this trying to recreate all the features of a text editor. I must remember that the user just needs basic facilities so that editing comments is painless and natural. Further refinements can wait.

I’ve written the other things that still remain before an alpha release down in my notebook and I will list them here without further elaboration;

  • Support games that start from an arbitrary position
  • Add a credits screen
  • Restore clock visibility and time when leaving human v computer situations
  • Renumber games should be a radio button not a regular button
  • Hook up session and log functionality
  • Making the same move shouldn’t (usually) create a new variation
  • Allow a .pgn file to be submitted on the command line so that Tarrasch can be associated with the .pgn filetype by Windows
  • Fix the status line and freshen the tired “Start game or play moves” status panel
  • Make sure every button and menu option is hooked up, even if only to say “not implemented yet (undo,redo,help).
  • Maybe create a rudimentary help page.
  • Put in some rudimentary undo/takeback functionality, at least for playing games, rather than simply leaving it completely unimplemented.
  • Start using the T shaped chess icon created by Pawel Koziol.
  • Create an “alpha version only, don’t use for serious work” warning panel.
  • More testing and tidying up.

As you can see I have lots to do, so I’ll get right back to it. I’m really motivated to get at least an alpha version out as soon as possible to prove to the world that I’m not just a hot air and vapourware generating machine!

Thank you for your patience, be assured it’s a real monkey on my back and I want it off!


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