picochess v0.76 – the ponder mode

Picochess v0.76 introduces a new interaction mode “Ponder” which can be also activated with wQf5. This ponder mode combining the “analysis” & “kibitz” mode showing each part for 2 secs in rotation. The kibitz mode is also updated. Before it shows the value only but now its a combined display for brute-force depth together with the current value. Based on limited chars on XL clocks only (and therefore also for a Revelation II) the maximum shown value is +/- 9.99. Anyway, such games should be ended anyway, its unlikely that the worser side can catchup with this.

This is my favourite mode for doing Analysis. Last sunday (2016.10.23) i played a tournament game and i shortly show you how to use this ponder mode to get better insides in what you did well and where you can improve your game.

I take my record paper. I play in “Verbandsliga”; 4th highest class in germany – and we have to give out our game record to the german chess federation (which i hate – my moves&errors are (c) by me – okay that’s another story). Now i prepare the hardware (DGT eBoard, DGT 3000 plus picochess running on a RaspberryPi3) place the wQ on F5 (new ponder mode), and begin to play the moves on the board.

During i’m doing so, i can see how stockfish (or any other engine you like) would judge the position. The big advantage over “analysis” or “kibitz” modes is that i can concentrate on the game and don’t need to press the “<” or “-” button to see the other info like i had to do before.

My opponent just moved 30..Rc7-c1.

That is a blunder. That time i was already in time trouble and couldn’t find the best way to win (easily). But after move 40 (time control over) i finally get my win. Can you find out what the best move for black instead of Rc1 would have been or how to punish this blunder as white? You can also setup any position with the position menu and try out yourself (perhaps with ponder mode on). Or give it a try with your own game. It’s really fun and during the game replaying you can learn very easily what other possibilities you have missed.

Picochess history Part 3

Picochess History Part 3 – From v0.70 until v0.75 (DGT Pi Version)

This is the final part of the history. From now on i gonna write detailed articles about each version. These versions mainly deal with making the DGTPi clock ready for sale.

picochess v0.70 – Codename “Level”

This version allows the user to fine adjust the engines level. Before if the engine provided an ELO range, that was not directly supported and internally switched to levels 0 to 20. This version now let the user directly select what the engines supports. For the provided engine “Rodent II” that has some new functions: You can select the “personalities”. All this is shown on your DGT clock.

picochess v0.71 – Codename “Setting”

DGT came up with the wish that user settings (like favourite time, book, engine) should be safed to the SDCard and reloaded when the user turns the clock on again. Well, that is a great feature and therefore it is implemented in this version. Also, i worked on not connected eBoards & clocks to make it even more user friendly.

picochess v0.72 – Codename “Engine”

8 new/updated engines (Stockfish, Texel, Arasan, RodentII, Zurichess, Floyd, Cinnamon, Claudia) installed. These 8 engines provides a big range in playing strength & style. Basically these engines are now also on the DGTPI clock. I gonna write a more detailed article about the picochess engines lateron.

picochess v0.73 – Codename “Webserver UI”

picochess also has a webserver interface from almost the beginning. But this interface was no longer modern. It was for example lacking of responsive design. So, i took several weeks to update that to a new User Interface (UI). What you can do with this webserver, i will also tell you in a detailed article lateron. Here is an example of the new UI style:

webserver v0.73

Despite this i also implemented an update to the UCI960 mode (Fischer Random Chess). Before you had to use the “Position” menu to enter an uci960 game. Now, you can just place the pieces in one of the 960 start positions and picochess will answer that with “new game” plus its standard game number. Find more about Chess960 at wikipedia

picochess v0.74 – Codename “Engine 2”

Updated engines Arasan, Texel, Claudia – also engine “zurichess fribourg” as fallback for RaspberryPi1. Digital Game Technology asked me to rename the time modes “Blitz” & “Fixed” to “Game Time” & “Move Time”. So from this point on the old named times modes are history 🙂

picochess v0.75 – Codename “Rodent”

Since we released picochess together with the rodent II engine there were a bug preventing it to make this “Personalities” to work correctly. That is now fixed. Its really fun to play with it. For test, i create one personality where a queens value is abit more as a pawn. It really plays weired then. But for serious playing, you should keep with the provided personalities.

This version is also the version running on the sold DGTPi’s available since Okt 2016. Even we further develop new features you can still update your buyed clocks. You never need to have an old version. But if you not experienced with linux, its perhaps a good idea to wait for DGT to send out new SDCards with a proved picochess version.

Picochess history Part 2

Picochess History Part 2 – From v0.60 until v0.69

This is the second part of the history. Since v0.60 i also have a github release page which you can find here. In first part of development alot of new functions were implemented (mainly to make picochess like a chess computer for example “analysis”, “stop_search”, “alternative move” and many more).

From v0.60 onwards, we focus more on a good user interface and fixing some obstacles there.

Some key points in picochess v0.6x

  • new menu system
  • more books & improved engines
  • update fischer time. Now following the FIDE rules
  • picochess now provides 5 languages for display messages (english, german, french, dutch, spanish)
  • introduce the “lever” clock function. That is esp needed for the Relevation II users cause it allows them to switch the side.
  • sliding pieces over the dgt board is finally solved (that was a problem on “book moves” below v0.68)

Updated documentation for picochess

Together with v0.60 and the provided new menu system we also updated the picochess documentation. If you new to picochess and want to get an overview first perhaps you should jump directly to “usage”.

Picochess history Part 1

Picochess History Part 1 – From v0.33 until v0.59

This is the first part of the history. I decided to use the v0.60 Release as the breakpoint cause before the menu was complete different. The older states were using a quick but hard to remember menu system. You had to learn alot of button codes or use a paper to write down what menu button is doing what in a special situation like “position setup” as an example.

In 2015 DGT get in contact with us developers and told us, they want to build a new DGT clock with a Raspberry PI inside using the picochess program. This new clock addresses people with few computer knowledge and therefore the usage should be as easy as possible. That was the reason we changed the menu system in v0.60 completely. And this is my reason now to break the history in “before v0.60”.

Since i’m part of the developer team since 01.Apr 2015, i begin with v0.33 which was the current version at that time. Maybe i post something lateron with even older versions, lets see. This list is not complete  – it only list a few main parts during the development.

Versions 0.33 to 0.39

  • various bug fixes and small improvements allover the UI (user interface)
  • Chesstalker – picochess speaks the moves and actions
  • “Game end” is now with the FIDE rules of “5 times repetition & 75 moves”
  • new opening books
  • “Switch Sides”

Versions 0.40 to 0.49 (v0.40 was released 2015/06/03)

  • analysis mode – Displays the best move but don’t play itself – pondering
  • kibitz mode – Displays the best value but don’t play itself – pondering
  • short notation speaking of chesstalker – before chesstalker saying for example “N g1 f3” now “Nf3”
  • “Stop Search” – pressing the middle button stops picochess from calculation and the best move is done
  • “Halt/Start the clock”

Versions 0.50 to 0.59 (v0.50 was released 2015/08/12)

  • Switch engine/book/time during the game – Esp the engine switch incl. the level setup was a big improvement
  • Resign/draw with kings similar to the dgt system
  • Alternative Move – You can ask picochess to calculate the next best move
  • chess960 (also known as “Fischer Random Chess”) Implementation
  • Remote play – you can play against someone else over internet
  • Tablebases support
  • DGTPi coding starts (first working version is from Nov 13th. 2015).

Versions 0.60 onwards (v0.60 was released in 2016/03/22)

  • as i said, i will write about this history in another post. Stay tuned.

 

DGTPi Advantages (Part 1)

As i already said, I’m now speaking in greater detail about the DGTPi Clock which is released this month. Here I’m especially focus on the advantages and disadvantages of this clock (in combination with the picochess software).

First the disadvantages (cause small list :-))

  • Its relative “expensive”. The sell price is 275€

If you count a RaspPi3 incl. a SDCard and a case for it plus a DGT3000 clock you can buy that for around 130€ (at cheapest for example at eBay). But don’t forget that for example the DGT3000 is now alot cheaper as in the beginning. If you can wait, i expect the DGTPi also reduce in price after several months (but who wants to wait?). Also DGT had alot of work to do to make this product on market (i know some cause i was actively working on the software). And even its a fine product the selling counts aren’t as big as for example for a TV. You get the known best quality from the DGT company they famous for.

Next the advantages

  • Its ALOT faster in response times! Thats mainly cause the clock is directly connected to the RaspPI instead of using the board as a transmitter. See this video from DJ Dekker
  • It has 11 digits instead of 8 (DGT3000) to use. The messages are easier to read. Well, the DGT3000 also has 11 but based on the inside hardware, picochess can’t use all digits.
  • You may even run two clocks at same time (for example a DGTPi + DGT3000). I tried that and if you do, you can see that the DGTPi is really faster – as i said on point 1. The software will right now display the same info on both (with different style cause of display length – see above). But future versions of picochess will allow to display different info. I already prepared the software for that.
  • Not so much cables laying around. Just connect the DGTPi with the board, and you ready to play. If you have BT e-Board (like i have) you don’t even have one cable (despite the power). That’s really great.
  • If you own a Rev II computer, you can use the DGTPi together with it. This is the only clock who supports that. It allows you to use a wider display, and finally have buttons!

Finally

The DGTPi clock – as sold now – is running picochess in version 0.75. There is no (main) difference to the version you can download from us. The DGTPi will also be able to update picochess (if you want), you can update the engines or books and much more. You can connect keyboard, mouse, and all other hardware – in short words: DGTPi clock is fully open no matter in software or hardware.

If you don’t have a DGT clock already (or a working picochess system) and thinking about to buy a clock my advice is: Go and buy this one. The jump is huge. You gonna like it! If you have an old DGT Clock and thinking about to also buy this one that is also great (you might use the older clock as second). Decide yourself if the big list of advantages (more to come) is worth a one-time investment of 275€ 😉

DGTPi arrived at DGT Company

DGTPi Chess Clocks arrived at DGT

DGT informed me today that the first batch of new chess clocks DGTPi are ready for selling! I would expect them to deliver to the local sellers very soon. DGT announced this new product some months ago and finally they almost in the players houses.

Alot of chess lovers already preordered them at their local sellers. Despite the fantastic user interface this clock provides, there is also one more reason to buy it if you already have a Revelation 2 chess computer.

Only this clock allows you to link together (over bluetooth) the Rev2. You can use the picochess features (including have working buttons) on your DGTPi and also enjoy the Revelation II advantages like the square lights.

I personally have a bluetooth eBoard. And dont have so much cables laying around is just wonderful. Inside the dgtpi clock is a RaspPi3 running (therefore the name “DGTPi”) which has onboard bluetooth & wlan so you dont even need to buy more hardware.

Revelation II chess computer

Revelation II

Despite the DGT eBoard you can also use picochess with this RevelationII chess computer. I personally don’t have such Rev2 – honestly out of 2 reasons:

  • its too expensive
  • it only simulates an XL clock and the buttons (despite the lever) aren’t supported. I hope this two issues will be fixed soon 🙂

The positive things about it:

  • It has square LEDs. This allows picochess to display the move on the board. I really like this feature!
  • Rev2 simulates alot of famous old chess computers. My favourites Mephisto included.

For the moment thats all…I’ll write more about this Rev2 lateron. Last but not least, i want to show you a picture Al shot from his Rev2 at home. Its really cool..and running the picochess v0.75. Btw. the pieces are from best-men-ever. They make this Rev2 even better…but judge yourself:

revelation 2 chess computer

The DGT electronic boards

Jean-Francois Romang’s project to bring together an ARM computer with a DGT eBoard wouldn’t be possible without the passion of him and for sure on DGT side to build such nice chess boards. These boards btw. are used everywhere on GM-tournaments. Its alot of fun to play with a wooden chess board infront of you. I don’t like to play on a computer (maybe im too old fashioned), but feeling the DGT piece set is something different as playing with a mouse, ha. Here are some pictures for you:

dgt e-board wengedgt e-board rosewood

The DGT clocks (for picochess)

The DGT Clocks

DGT produces alot of different clocks. But i show you only the three types of clocks we can use together with picochess. This are DGT XL, DGT3000 and the DGT-Pi.

The XL is the oldest and provides 6 chars for display (plus some icons). Since the text is simulated on a 8 digit LCD, it can’t be read very well. It was my first electronic chess clock (bundled together with an electronic e-Board)

DGT XL-Clock (red)

Next, DGT released their DGT 3000 clock. This clock as 8 digits and most important it can display ASCII-Text, which makes it ideal for our picochess program (DGT XL is also working, but as said, the text is harder to read).

DGT 3000

In Oktober 2016 DGT will release their chess clock “flag-ship”. This is a DGTPi and that’s a big jump ahead…believe me. The response times are alot better, and it allows us to use the full 11 digits from the display. Inside the PI is a standard DGT3000 together with a RaspberryPI3 running picochess software. I’m gonna write a detailed article about this great product lateron…but see its picture here:

DGT PI

About Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a series of credit card-sized single-board computers developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Several generations of Raspberry Pis have been released.The first generation (retrospectively known as the Raspberry Pi 1) was released in February 2012 in basic Model A and a higher specification Model B. Improved A+ and B+ models were released a year later. The Raspberry Pi 2 was released in February 2015 and Raspberry Pi 3 in February 2016.

Here a picture of the Raspberry 3:

pi3

The Foundation provides Raspbian, a Debian-based Linux distribution for download. This Raspbian is the base system for the images we picochess developers provide on http://dl.picochess.org. The images are btw. based on Jessie.