Chess engine fun & games…

Hello ChessJournal fans!

Its been a month since my last update and despite outside impressions to the contrary, we are very very close! Tomorrow myself and Matt intend to meet for a couple of hours to finalise the App store submission which means, all being well, ChessJournal v1.0 should be available within a week!

The end of May launch would put us about 6 weeks behind our original intended launch date of mid-April. As regular readers will know its been a learning curve and perhaps the biggest lesson materialised since my last post when we realised we had issues with the Stockfish chess engine…

Myself and Matt thought we had done all our homework on the licence for Stockfish but thankfully a new friend on Twitter (Acid App Chess – check them out here) pointed out some complications and our misinterpretations with the Stockfish licence (specifically around open source code) that meant we would be unable to use it. Integrating Stockfish had taken the best part of 10 days so you can imagine we were not happy with this effectively lost time. Whilst the chess engine is not the sole key to ChessJournal we do consider some analytical support on your games an important feature so you can evaluate key moments in your games. Therefore we set about looking for a new chess engine built on JavaScript with a suitable licence. As it turns out, not such an easy task!

Perseverance was the order of the day and eventually we found Garbo-JS.  A lovely example of a chess engine with a playing strength of around 2600 ELO, more than strong enough to evaluate any given position that your average club player will find themselves in.  Unfortunately Garbo-JS hadn’t been updated for about three or four years (a lifetime in development circles), so Matt found himself scratching around in the dark whilst I desperately tried to figure out the strange outputs that Garbo-JS was showing. Our situation was analogous to finding an old sports car engine covered in dust.  Somewhere inside was a powerful engine, it just needed a hell of a good mechanic and a couple dozen oil changes!

Fast forward three weeks and we are proud to say that the our chess engine is now purring nicely and giving good clean honest evaluations of any given chess position. With some minor amendments to the user interface (UI) the app is now feeling really nice to use.  Nicely done Matt!

new_chess_engine_interface

So that explains the delay in launch and the fun shenanigans that we have been enjoying in the ChessJournal camp in recent weeks. Our final bug sweeps have thrown up some fascinating issues, most notably the one below which neither me or Matt can really explain (don’t worry its fixed now)!

weird_bug

As always I will finish this blog post with a social update.  Our little community now numbers 402 followers / likes.  Its reassuring to see the steady growth and interest in our project. Thanks for all your patience, we really are very close and I can’t wait for you all to get your own ChessJournal’s on your phones.

I have been playing with the v1.0 of ChessJournal for the last week and on my next blog post I will write about using it to analyse my personal chess season from 2015/16.  Its surprising what findings it throws up!

Until next time!

Jon

UPDATE: We are delighted to say that since this blog post was written, ChessJournal is now available on the App Store. You can download it here: 

http://itunes.com/apps/chessjournal

Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

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