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Tarrasch V3.12a

March 12, 2019

I have entered a kind of “pruning the roses” phase of Tarrasch maintenance. By this I mean I am pretty happy with Tarrasch, I am not planning massive changes, but I will continue to tweak and refine as limitations and flaws catch my notice and irritate me sufficiently to spark action.

In the last couple of days I’ve put out a release that fits with this theme. The new V3.12a release fixes one interoperability issue with other chess programs, and refines a couple of behaviours that have arisen since the fairly significant V3.10a update.

SInce V3.10a, Tarrasch responds to Windows Explorer requests to open a new file more sanely in the case that Tarrasch is already running. Previously, it would start a new instance of Tarrasch (not good). Now it loads the file in the existing instance of Tarrasch (good). A problem arises if the user is doing something that makes it inadvisable or wrong to just open the new file, for example browsing games in a game dialog (either a file, clipboard, database or session game dialog). I must admit that in the original V3.10a I didn’t check for this and just opened the file over the top. This seemed to work (ish) but wasn’t a proper solution. Later on I refined things and ignored such file open requests in those circumstances. With V3.12a I introduce what I hope is the ultimate refinement – Tarrasch waits for the user to finish what they are doing, then respectfully asks “Do you still want to open file x.pgn?”

Also since V3.10a, Tarrasch doesn’t completely cancel a file open if the user cancels the game dialog after opening a file. This policy is generally less confusing, you don’t have to pick a particular game when you open the file, you can cancel and you get the first game by default. But I’ve found that there is a tendency for Tarrasch to open too many tabs if you really just want to quickly look into a file this way without following on and doing anything with it. With V3.12a I detect that behaviour (opening file after file – cancelling the game dialog instead of selecting a game) and I don’t open a new tab for the new file if that’s what the user is doing.

The final significant change in V3.12a is that Tarrasch now handles a UTF-8 BOM at the start of PGN files (from other chess programs) without causing any issues. It still seems weird to me as an old school programmer that these days it is considered reasonable to start text files with 3 bytes of apparent binary gibberish, but “it is what it is” as the kids say. For the non-technical, this means that Tarrasch will be able to process files from programs like Chessbase without causing subtle downstream issues in the PGN files it creates (specifically orphaned header lines – Tarrasch itself copes with them okay, but not all chess programs do). You probably expected and deserved this to be the case before V3.12a, my apologies that this wasn’t always the case.

I have never blogged here about some quite large changes to Tarrasch since V3.03a which was a stable release for a year or so. Basically V3.10a brought some pretty significant changes, and the smaller changes since have largely been about smoothing off some rough edges that emerged.

The News page of triplehappy.com does cover all the recent changes pretty well. As I look through the itemised changes the following improvements jump out at me as being really significant;

  • The games dialogs, so important to Tarrasch, are now much more usefully resizable, and the size and position of these dialogs persist across sessions. Apart from anything else this makes Tarrasch usable on a wider variety of machines.
  • The Windows Explorer shell open file behaviour is dramatically improved, in particular since only a single instance of Tarrasch is now opened. It is now much more sensible to associate Tarrasch to the .pgn file type and in fact the installation program has been changed to make that option available.
  • There are a couple of new status fields as the bottom of the screen, filling important holes. The db: field shows you which database you are using. The other new field shows draw counts. Both three fold repetition and 50 move rule counts will appear when it makes sense (and only then). You don’t have to ask for them.
  • When you make a move by clicking on the destination square, the popup menu now has the “Cancel” option at the end instead of the default position at the beginning. This means if Tarrasch guesses right (it often does) you can make the move with just a long click, not a click-move-release.
  • You can now select a Tarrasch database by opening it as a file – together with the db: status field, this will hopefully make using the database a lot more intuitive.

There’s also some bug fixes of course. One that particularly irks me is that in Tarrasch V3.03a the result of a Human-Engine game was not announced. How did I miss that? Actually I think I know, when I started Tarrasch the Engine v Human feature was front and centre of everything. Now that’s not the case, I am much more interested in Tarrasch as a general purpose chess workbench and tool for studying, working on, and documenting chess. I hardly ever use Engine v Human.

Unfortunately Tarrasch is still pretty much a niche program. The audience has not reached the critical threshold where large and embarrassing bugs like this are immediately noticed and reported. And since Tarrasch does include a lot of functionality, and is largely the work of one programmer who can’t realistically regression test everything on every release – there’s probably at least one embarrassing bug like this in every Tarrasch release. I wonder what’s hidden away somewhere in Tarrasch V3.12a? I don’t and can’t know for sure, and I’m not sure that ignorance really is bliss unfortunately.

 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Pablo permalink
    March 13, 2019 7:41 pm

    First of all congratulations for the excellent work of refining Tarrasch, it is my favorite chess program. What I like most about Tarrasch is that it is small, fast and easy to use but at the same time powerful to edit pgn files and lately a chess database tool.
    However, I have some suggestions for the future.
    – Chess engines can be updated
    – Would it be possible to allow the translation of the graphic interface to other languages?
    – Could Tarrasch be compatible with Winboard engines?
    – Play / analyze games of Chess960
    – Analyze endings with the help of tablebases
    – Color themes for the board and different model pieces
    – A specific graphical interface to configure the Stockfish parameters
    – An option for automatic analysis of a whole game given x seconds per move and to mark the errors according to their severity and suggest alternatives; similar to what has lichess.org

    • June 15, 2019 6:14 am

      I am very sorry I didn’t answer this post soon after it was made. All your suggestions are excellent ones and I’d love to do (almost) all of them. But I don’t have the time or energy I’m afraid. I might make some of these improvements, and who knows maybe Tarrasch will take off one day on Github and benefit from some new and more ambitious developers.

  2. Larry Smith permalink
    June 13, 2019 3:26 pm

    Hello,

    Just a quick note to say I saw your heartfelt postings from yesterday on WEIT, and that’s what brought me here! Always both a bit unusual, and reassuring, to see a fellow chessplayer at another, unrelated venue. It’s like running into a friend from your home town while on vacation in Paris, or some such…

    I have a chess blog, at http://www.chessmasterlarry.com, and so I’m wondering if your Tarrasch is anything I could use for that purpose, or on my own instead of (or in addition to) using ChessBase.

    That’s really pretty much it! I had read a few more of your posts/comments about “not sure how people find me,” so I thought you might like to know what brought me here.

    LS

    • June 15, 2019 5:58 am

      Sorry for the slow response. Thanks for your interest. Only you can tell whether Tarrasch is for you. It’s a much lighter weight program than ChessBase, and some people prefer it for that reason – but of course ChessBase is overall more capable. I can’t compete with a serious team of full time programmers with occasional one man amateur effort. I have ChessBase myself, I just upgraded to CB15 so I can continue to maintain the New Zealand Chess Database in ChessBase format (my old CB9 was causing problems). About a year of Tarrasch donations bought one license 🙂 Oh well I don’t do it for money. I continue to prefer Tarrasch for all my everyday chess activities, including now using Tarrasch for publishing interactive content on the Web (eg http://newzealandchess.co.nz/nzchessmag/interactive/2019-06.html).

      I had a look at your blog, it looks interesting. I have the Smullyan book on retrograde analysis. The other day on Twitter (just getting into Twitter) my feed suddenly filled up with a nice positional Queen for two minor pieces sac in the Asian champs. I enjoyed the way that you could basically work out the game just from the position before 9…Qxc3!!? Kind of retrograde analysis I suppose. I am going off on tangents, I’ll stop now.

      • Larry Smith permalink
        June 18, 2019 2:05 pm

        Thanks very much for your reply! As it happened, your response went into the Social bucket of gmail, and I just chanced upon it this morning…

        Thanks for your info about Tarrasch. I’ll definitely keep it mind when (if?) I decided I want/need to upgrade from the version of Chessbase I am using (V8!). I’ll also pass along info about it to my chess buddies.

        Thanks for having a look at http://www.chessmasterlarry.com. Most of my followers are friends/students from the local chess club (I live northwest of Los Angeles), and are of average club strength. As a result, I’m trying to thread the needle between accessible posts for the weaker players, and more interesting/advanced content. As such, sometimes I feel like a news service (“Carlsen won!”), but with some extra bit of info to turn it into a teaching opportunity, which makes it fun for me, as well.

        Take care and good luck with your endeavors! As someone may have said, “Tarrasch, like love, like music, has the power to make men and women happy!”

  3. October 28, 2020 8:14 pm

    Hello Sir! I love the Tarrasch chess GUI and I use it frequently to analyze games. It´s simply superb!
    I have a question considering taps and board flipping: When I have multiple tabs opened and I have about half of the games analyzed as black and half as white, would it be possible for the tabs to remember their “flip status”?
    Currently Im unable to make this happen. Should it be possible already? Or could this possibly be implemented in future releases?

    • October 28, 2020 10:00 pm

      Thanks for your kind words. I really like these kind of feature requests; Implementing the suggestion improves Tarrasch (just a little!) with no possible downsides that I can see, and (very importantly!) isn’t a large amount of work. I think someone asked me for this once before but I didn’t track the request properly and basically forgot it. Sorry, I really need a decent roadmap system, especially if I intend working seriously on Tarrasch again (which seems likely at the moment).

      Anyway, the timing is good this time, as I am trying to get an update out before the end of the month. I spent no more than half an hour making this change, and I will test it with the other modest changes in the update. Other things being equal it should be available to you within the next few days.

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