40% off ChessJournal Premium in our Summer Sale

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Just a quick one from me today to bring some exciting news in the normally quiet Chess month of August.  For the whole of August we will be offering ChessJournal Premium for a massively reduced 40%, down to just £2.99 / €3 / $4 a year.  If you are still uncertain then you can trial 3 months for just £1 / €1 / $1.5.

Longterm readers will remember that we ran a similar sale for the whole of August last year and it proved really popular with the community so myself and Matt thought we would make it an annual thing.

As I have previously blogged, we have a number of new features in the pipeline for ChessJournal that will expand our premium (and non-premium to be fair) offering.  However, the summer months are proving to be very busy times for both of us in terms of life (this weekend I am attending my third wedding in four weeks) so they will be a slight delay in bringing you these exciting changes.

Therefore, I suggest we all kick back, enjoy the sun (rain if you are UK based) and maybe take this opportunity to try ChessJournal Premium if its something you have been thinking about.

Thanks for reading and all your continued support.

Until next time.

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet. Set and track personal improvement goals, linking key games to them across the season. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

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Club Profile #4: Hammersmith Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal Fans,

Today we have another instalment in our popular club profiles feature, Hammersmith Chess Club.  Based in west London, the story of Hammersmith is encouraging to every chess club member nationwide.  As little as three years ago the club was in a very different state, with finances and membership numbers becoming a greater concern.  Fast forward to 2017 and we witness a club that has turned around its fortunes through a clever approach to both digital and how to handle its rent (although I personally think they are just being very Anglo Saxon and enjoying a beer too much in the Summer!).

This interview was conducted with Andy from Hammersmith CC over the last week, enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your club?

We are a very friendly and welcoming club based in the inner suburb of Hammersmith, West London. With a catchment area that includes Fulham, Kensington, and a few other suburbs, we now count over 50 active members, and growing!

We have 10 teams this year, catering for all levels of chess. The main League we play is the London League, where we field 5 teams ranging from League 6 up to League 3. We also play in the Thames Valley, and Middlesex Leagues, fielding 3 teams there. And most recently we were involved in launching a brand new Summer League involving 4 clubs, allowing us to field 2 teams there. On a busy night we’ll have upwards of 30 players involved in competitive chess, and with the launch of the Summer League we now offer members competitive games all year round.

We are based in a local community hall in the borough during the main season, de-camping to a nearby pub for the Summer months when the main chess season ends.

What kind of person plays for the Club?

In many ways the club is a microcosm of the city we’re based in. We have a very diverse set of players, ranging from our youngest who is barely 10 years old, up to the pensionable mainstays of the club in their 80’s! In addition, we can boast a large & growing foreign legion, featuring players from Italy, Kosovo, America, Turkey and beyond. We also count a handful of female players as members.

Our players range from the chippy amateurs, right up to a top group pushing ECF 200, with a sizeable rump of strong players in the 120-180 range. At present we don’t have any titled players, though recently we did count WIM Sue Maroroa amongst our membership.

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Whilst we don’t yet have a formal junior section, it is on the radar for the future. In the meantime, we have managed to linkup very successfully with a couple of local Junior clubs, playing multi-board Rapid games against them every year. A fun & exciting challenge for all involved!

Can you tell us about the history of the Club?

Our Club was formed in 1962, and there is a full and interesting history behind it located here:

http://hammerchess.co.uk/2016/03/18/a-brief-history-of-hammersmith-chess-club/

By far our most successful former player is four-times British champ Julian Hodgson. He played for us as a junior before going on to bigger & better things!

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?

We have a long-standing and very friendly rivalry with our South West London friends over at Battersea Chess Club. As a similarly well-run club with a lively online presence, we can often be found gently teasing each other over social media and our websites. We even went as far as having a two-legged dual over about 30 boards the other Summer, dubbed “El Chessico”, which we won, naturally!!

What is your favourite thing about the Club?

The best thing about Hammersmith is definitely the ethos – we are on a constant mission to improve what we offer our members, and create as many opportunities for playing & learning the game in a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, as possible.

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For instance, we now have a regular training rota whereby our stronger players teach theory, tactics and openings at the practice board. We introduced competitive games over the Summer (historically the London chess scene takes a break every Summer, but the demand is clearly there!), we frequently take on all-comers at a local cafe. We partnered with our local branch of MIND charity to take chess to the streets of Hammersmith earlier this year – a genuinely brilliant day! And in a nod to our recent past, this year we pioneered a linkup with a foreign club, with 15 of our members taking a trip to De Pion chess club in Amsterdam for a weekend of Chess, friendship and beers!!

Hopefully we offer something for everyone, and we are always looking to offer more.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your Club?

Like many clubs, rent is one of our biggest costs. We took the decision a couple of years ago to give up our community hall venue over the Summer and de-camp to a nearby pub (The Albion, Hammersmith Road). So we now use their function room in the warmer months as our “home venue” – hopefully paying our way in beer – and revert back to our community hall when the main league season re-starts.

Not only has it been a brilliant move for the balance sheet, it’s also actually quite nice playing chess in a pub! It provides a welcoming atmosphere for any first-timers, and generally makes for a more sociable and relaxed time! Highly recommended.

I have to admit to being a bit of a fan boy for Hammersmith’s approach to running a chess club for the past few months.  I particularly enjoyed their club organised trip to Holland to play a local Dutch club “over the board”.  They have also been active in running events to raise money for charity (see below for their support of Mind). A more apt charity for chess players I cannot think of! These kinds of social events are exactly what can unite a club as a community as well as a competitive entity.

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Thanks again for reading.  We are starting to get lots of requests coming in for club features so thank you for all your support and sharing of the blog. Hopefully we can inspire and make a positive difference to clubs around the UK and the world! Please do continue to spread the word about the ChessJournal Blog and if you fancy it, check out our App for club and tournament players.

Until next time

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

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Club Profile #1: Limewood & Scarcroft Chess Club, UK

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Today I would like to introduce you all to a new initiative that I have been thinking about for a few weeks, Club Profiles. The humble chess club is the home of many of our more fiercest ‘over the board’ battles.  Competitive engagements (no matter what your level) where we try out new ideas, old ideas and blunder our way to victory or defeat against long established rivals. If you live in the UK this probably also involves a log fire, pint of ale and a sleeping dog at your feet (perhaps I’m over romanticising this…)

As regular readers will know, the ChessJournal App is all about helping and supporting amateur woodpushers improve and learn from their ‘over the board’ games (as opposed to playing online which we believe is totally different – read this blog for our views on this). Therefore, here at the blog I have decided to start a regular feature showcasing the wealth, size  and general diversity of chess clubs around the world.

So without further ado let me introduce Limewood & Scarcroft Chess Club, near Leeds in the UK. I conducted this interview via email with Chris Tatham, Alan Riddle and club captain, Paul May. My thanks for their insightful and refreshing answers both about their club and wider chess in Britain today. Enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your club

We’re Limewood and Scarcroft Chess Club based at the Fox and Grapes, a pleasant pub on the A64 between Leeds and York. We were formed towards the end of 2014 and are the newest club in Leeds. We have around 20 active players of all strengths with 2 teams playing in the Leeds League (Divisions 2 and 3 next season). League and club nights are on a Wednesday at 7pm.

What kind of person plays for the club?

The vision for the club was to provide a good environment to encourage new players to the game without that initial pressure to win straight away and without the lack of interest shown in weaker players by many clubs. We demonstrate this aim in our ‘B’ Team which has been consistently made up of players with ECF grades under 100 and even as low as 23 but who are among our keenest members. Most had never been a member of a chess club before. Several had to be given a tutorial in chess notation before they could take part in a real match.


On the other hand our ‘A’ Team is now attracting stronger players – our strongest is graded around 160 – and this helped the team to gain promotion to Division 2 for the coming season. One of our strongest players is Bob Maltby. He achieved a success rate of 79% on his games for us this season and has just been declared our Player of the Year.

The result is that the club can now offer a chess-playing experience suitable for a wide range of players, from hardened veteran to novice.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

We have just completed our 3rd season. We were set up towards the end of 2014 At first we struggled to get a five person team together but since then we have gone from strength to strength with the creation of a second team last season and aiming for a 3rd team next season.

Our ‘A’ Team gained promotion this season into the 2nd division by finishing 2nd. And our ‘B’ team finished bottom of a very strong bottom division. Both teams met the targets we set at the beginning of the season!

Our greatest achievement to date was winning the Leeds Mini League this season which is a 3 man handicap competition. We fielded two teams. Our top team were clear winners and our second team (all graded under 90) came joint 2nd. We also made it through to the semi-final of the Arjay knockout competition, narrowly missing out by drawing the match, but losing on board count.


Who are your fiercest rivals and why?!

In recent years the Leeds league has been growing and currently has three divisions. Two of the biggest and oldest clubs in Leeds are Alwoodley and Rose Forgrove. However in recent years the strongest clubs have been Leeds City Centre and new club Moortown (also formed in 2014).

Great to hear and read about the establishment of a very young new club and how they are already seeing success both on and off the board.  I particularly liked their comments about how chess clubs support and encourage weaker players.  Its often all too easy for splinter groups to arise in clubs where they are separated along grading boundaries.  In my experience all the great clubs (my own included) offer a level of support and inclusivity no matter your ability.  You never know when you need someone to step off the sideline and in to the game!

So there we are, our first club profile.  I hope you have enjoyed reading it and if you have any suggestions on format then do please leave a comment in the section below.  Obviously it is a new feature and I’m sure we will refine it as we move forward.  Also If you would like your club to be featured in a club profile then do please get in touch via our Twitter or Facebook pages of email info@chessjournalapp.com. Especially if you are a club based outside the UK! We are always fascinated to hear how other chess clubs run around the world! I already have a few clubs lined up so Im hoping this will become a regular feature to the blog.

Until next time, thanks for reading and all your support.

Cheers

Jon


ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:

applestore

googleplay

The Great #chessjournal Challenge

Hello ChessJournal fans!

So the long summer break is finally over and we enter yet another season of cut and thrust ‘Over the board’ chess.  To coincide with the start of the new chess season we launched another update yesterday for everyone’s favourite self study chess app.

Version 1.4 of ChessJournal now contains two key new features.

Social Sharing

You can now create a unique URL for each of your games and share them with club mates through Twitter, Facebook, Whats app, email or what ever takes your fancy.  The keen eyed amongst you will have noticed me starting to test and tweet this functionality late last week but now it is available for all to enjoy, huzzah!

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Myself and Matt are really pleased to finally get this functionality into ChessJournal as it has always been on the roadmap.  We hope you find it useful for those evenings after the dust has settled on the league match from the night before (or on a Monday after that long hard weekend tournament).  Don’t lament that loss or rejoice in the win by yourself.  Its your club mates responsibility to tell you how you could have won that vital extra half point!

Analysis of variations

We have also added a “variations scratchpad” to the app to enable you to explore the key positions that you may have annotated.

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The scratchpad basically lets you open a new board position and shuffle some wood until you find the winning combination that you missed over the board (with a little help from the chess engine should you need it).

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We find the variations scratchpad fits nicely into the dynamic annotation timeline as it allows you to just double check some of your assumptions around the moves that were made (or missed).  You will find the variations scratchpad under “Options” in the dynamic annotations timeline of your games, titled “Analyse Position”.
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Whats next?

That just leaves us with moving ChessJournal onto the Android platform as the last part of our initial roadmap.  We have already begun to look into and test the app on Android and I aim to bring you news as soon as possible about when you will be able to get ChessJournal on the Play store.  What is definitely likely to happen is we will run another sales promotion to celebrate moving onto the new platform.  Probably free for 6 weeks at the time of writing, so please do standby to tell your friends.

The Great #chessjournal Challenge

Finally I wanted to mention an idea we have been floating around ChessJournal HQ for a while regarding measuring the success of keeping a journal.  ChessJournal is built around the premise that we believe amateur chess players can benefit more from analysing their own games and mistakes, than spending hours pouring over 2800 GM games pretending that we fully understand.  Whilst elite game analysis is also important, lets not pretend that the reason for most of our lost rating points is because we couldn’t remember the 16th move of the Berlin defence.

Therefore, I want to encourage all readers and owners of ChessJournal to start tweeting their games to #chessjournal throughout the coming season.  Perhaps even start be tweeting your personal goals for the season.  For example, I am aiming to add 75 rating points to break the 1900 barrier for the first time in my life.  A lofty goal but hey we all have to have ambition!

You can think of it as one giant experiment but I am really intrigued to see how an amateur chess players season wide performances are effected through the regular act of self study and maintenance of a chess journal.  When I have time I will write a full blog on The Great #chessjournal Challenge (maybe we can have prises?!)

Thank you reading and all your messages of support and feedback.  To all ChessJournal fans in the new season, Good Luck!

Cheers

Jon

Download ChessJournal here: http://itunes.com/apps/chessjournal

 

 

Improvements and summer sale!

Hello ChessJournal fans!

The blog has been quiet during July but the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a steady release of updates and new features for your favourite chess diary app! Today marks the release of version 1.3 of ChessJournal and inline with our roadmap (published here) we have thus far:

  • Optimised fully for iPad users
  • Added a PGN export feature at the request of many a wood pusher!
  • Added a Dynamic Annotations Timeline feature to radically overhaul the previous annotation option.

It is the launch of our Dynamic Annotation Timelines (DATs) that has got me and Matt really excited and we feel takes ChessJournal to the next level.  We previously acknowledged that the annotation feature felt basic in version 1.0 (a simple text field).  But as of today you can not only annotate individual moves but also immediately return to critical positions by pressing on the annotation number on the left hand side.  We really hope those of you who have already downloaded ChessJournal update soon and have a play with the DAT.  It packs the ‘Journal’ into ChessJournal.

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Unfortunately we were just a day too late for some people thou.  Sadly we received our first 1 star review yesterday with one customer lamenting the annotation feature of ChessJournal.  I really hope they upgrade today and are pleasantly surprised.  My only comment would be thank you very much for the feedback as it really helps validate the direction that me and Matt want to take ChessJournal.

One other piece of news from ChessJournal HQ is a decision around pricing.  I have been regularly (my wife would say religiously…) monitoring our analytics on the App Store and its fair to say that July and August have a noticeable dip during the off-peak chess season.  Therefore to get everybody geared up for the new competitive season we have taken the decision to offer a ‘summer sale’ by giving ChessJournal away for FREE in August!  If you have been admiring ChessJournal from afar then now would be a really good time to give it a try (and also tell your friends).  If you bought ChessJournal already then I’m sure you know how much me and Matt value your support and the early encouragement that you have given us. Thank you!

Speaking of support, in this release we have also added a quick link to leave a review on the app store (on the seasons list screen).  Anybody who works with apps will know how important customer reviews are so if you are enjoying what me and matt are doing with ChessJournal then please leave us some love!

Finally a quick social media update on the ChessJournal community.  We now number 472 likes or followers.  A tidy bunch if ever i saw one!

Thanks for reading and do please continue to spread the news of ChessJournal to your club mates, friends and coaches.  Together we can promote the power of ‘over the board’ chess whilst learning a little about ourselves in the process!

Until next time!

Jon

Download chessJournal here: http://itunes.com/apps/chessjournal

 

 

Reviewing the 2015/16 Chess Season

Hello ChessJournal fans!

Its been a little over a week since version 1.0 of ChessJournal launched and I thought it would be a good time to give a demonstration of how I use ChessJournal to aid my thinking for my summer training (in the UK the chess season typically runs September to May). But first a bit of context…

I am an average club player.  I have hovered around the 1800 mark for the last five seasons and began the 2015/16 season graded at 1750. I play for Horfield Chess Club in Bristol in the  UK and was selected for board 6 (bottom board) of the Horfield B team who compete in Division 1 of the Bristol and District league.  My captains remit to me for the season:

Try not to lose too much“.

A quick look at the opposition showed I was likely to be the lowest graded player in most matches by 150-200 ELO points.  The final point to bear in mind was that my wife was heavily pregnant and we were expecting exactly half way through the season. Lets just say my mind wasn’t 100% on the chessboard…

Fast forward to May 2016 and I managed to play in 18 matches (I lost most of the second half of the season when my son arrived in February).  I had some cracking games against strong opponents and even managed to win a few.  Who could forget my heroic win on time to save the match against Yate Chess Club? No-one? Just me then…

Ok back to ChessJournal.  I have downloaded the app and input the 18 games for the 2015/16 season.  As I input each game it is refreshing to revisit games that I haven’t looked at for 9 months and I immediately start to spot patterns in my play.

Black performance in Division 1

I like to think I’m a good defender, especially with my favourite Owens defence (1..b6).  Turns out I’m not.

Last season I played Owens defence and scored almost 60% in Division 2.  Its just not working in Division 1.  Where last seasons opponents were confused, the higher calibre opposition saw straight through my ruse and battered me with black across the season.  A miserly 36% (admittedly from only 7 games) shows a poor return with the black pieces.

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Its not just my overall performance with black but the manner of the defeats.  On three occasions I was absolutely smashed in the early middle game, particularly when my opponent adopted an early knight e2 structure. The game below lasted 18 moves after an early Qg4, ouch!

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Tactics involving pins

Reviewing my season reveals that on at least three occasions I lost games due to tactics involving pinned pieces.  Ive had a suspicion of this weakness in the past but seeing it on the board with the engine running drives home that I really don’t spot this type of tactic.  I mentally note to look at this further. The game below shows how rook to B8 lost instantly to the rather lovely rook C6!

calverley review

Im scared to push with White

In a complete counter to my performance with black, I score a respectable 55% with the white pieces against strong opposition. However, a deep dive into my 11 games with white reveals that of my 4 draws, 3 of them I was in a winning position either on the board, on the clock or both. Although objectively two of the games were level, there was a lot of play left in the position and my opponents had very little time left.

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I appear to be overawed with the stronger opposition when I have them in a nasty spot.  My finding is validated from my wins with white where I have played some unsound but positive moves (see my bishop sac below) and been rewarded with the win.

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Finally a look at Trends shows that I have scored highly (1900) when drawing.  How many of those could have been full points rather than half?

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Conclusions

Already I have identified three areas for me to focus on over the summer:

  • Review my black opening repertoire for Division 1;
  • Practice performing extra double checks for pinned pieces.  My structure is not always as solid as I would think!
  • Be more confident with white.  I am actually strong with white (averaging 1870 ELO) and could easily have scored even higher if I wasn’t intimidated by my opponents grade on the score sheet.

Thats it! At the conclusion of a tough season, full of mistakes, I’ve learnt a lot and I take some consolation when ChessJournal shows a grading performance of 1828 (78pts more than last year).

I hope this blog post gives you an indication of how ChessJournal can help you become a better chess player. Our goal has always been to provide an app that allows you to focus on your game and all of its nuances.  If I just address the three factors in this blog post I am confident that I will be a stronger player in Division 1 next season. Although I will definitely have to get more sleep…

Until next time!

Jon

Download ChessJournal here: http://itunes.com/apps/chessjournal

 

Feature Roadmap

Hello ChessJournal fans!

As promised, I wanted to write another blog post covering the high-level development roadmap for ChessJournal now that v1.0 has gone live.  Over the weekend we have received some fascinating feedback that we are still collating from all of you.

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However, me and Matt have always had a number of key strategic releases and updates for ChessJournal planned once it was on the App Store.  The timings and release schedule are to be determined but I wanted to give you early customers an idea of what is to come ahead.  In a loose but not necessarily correct order, here we go…

iPad Optimisation

Whilst v1.0 of ChessJournal works on iPad, we are well aware that it needs a level of optimisation to improve the “look and feel” when compared to its iPhone counterpart.  For example, typography and pop-up windows in particular. The iPad optimisation of ChessJournal is a “straight after launch” activity because we learned through our App Store application that iPad also had to be supported. If you have downloaded ChessJournal on the iPad then don’t worry, it will be improving soon.

PGN Export and Share functionality

As I stated in my last post, the addition of PGN export functionality has always been intended but following the v1.0 release we realise how valued this is.  The addition of PGN exports for games also ties in nicely with another missing piece of functionality that didn’t make it into the first version of ChessJournal: Sharing.

It has long been our goal that upon entering your chess games then ChessJournal should enable you to share them via email or social media (eventually we might move to the point of sharing between different ChessJournal’s but that is a way off yet).  Its obvious to see how the provision of PGN export and sharing go hand in hand, so it is likely that this feature combination will be added soon.

Annotation Design Improvements

ChessJournal is about storing, analysing and recording your thoughts about each individual game to identify where you went wrong.  Whilst we are pleased with the v1.0 implementation and the ability to edit and annotate games, we feel that a better, sexier solution could also exist.  Whilst I don’t want to say too much now, myself and Matt will be exploring how to improve the design of the game annotation feature of ChessJournal.  Basically we will be focusing some design effort on the “journal” part of ChessJournal.

Trends Expansion

The Trends tab of ChessJournal is intended to grow as we gather more feedback from ChessJournal users and fans.  At the moment we have launched with two Trends: “Opponent Grade” and “Length of Game”. Moving forward we have already identified three additional trends which are “Form”, “Days of the Week” and “Mistakes”.  If you have any suggestions for what kind of trends you would like us to track then please do let us know.

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Android Launch

Android, oh Android! Yes.  We will be launching on Android.  The app has been specifically designed to do so.  However, we want to make sure that we get ChessJournal right on one platform first before we launch it on a second one!  Its been really reassuring to get all your comments on Android as it shows a real desire for ChessJournal which is encouraging.

Languages

A final high-level feature we will be working towards is the provision of ChessJournal in multiple languages.  In a similar vein to the Android launch, we want to make sure that we get ChessJournal right first before we invest and create multiple language versions of it. However, we understand how critical launching a multi-language version of ChessJournal will be as chess is obviously a global game!  For example, our Twitter Analytics package shows us that 18% of our Twitter followers speak Spanish. Thats a big percentage of ChessJournal fans!

So thats our high-level feature roadmap for ChessJournal. Hopefully this post gives you an idea of what is come and where we aim to improve.  I know I always say it but we really are grateful for your feedback and suggestions and ChessJournal’s success is built upon that collaboration. Please do share news of ChessJournal with your friends, team mates and club officers.  Every piece of feedback helps.

Until next time.

Jon

Download ChessJournal here: http://itunes.com/apps/chessjournal

ChessJournal is LIVE!

app store

Hello ChessJournal fans,

By now I am sure that most regular readers are aware that ChessJournal v.1.0 went live on Saturday 28th May 2016.  Huzzah!

The response so far has been absolutely fantastic with a flurry of positive comments across social media.  Its been a pleasure to read everyones responses as well as start to gather valuable feedback on how we can improve ChessJournal. If you have contributed over the weekend then both myself and Matt would like to say a big thank you!

Its already fascinating to see the consensus from ChessJournal fans on things that can be improved as well as features that are missing.  For example, a PGN export feature has been requested on numerous occasions.  Such a request brought a wry smile to me and Matt as we have already (architecturally speaking) planned for the introduction of a PGN export feature. It just didn’t make it into v1.0 of ChessJournal. This is an excellent example of how real customer feedback affects the roadmap for ChessJournal.  Originally the PGN export feature was not so high a priority but we have listened to you, the customer, and are already planning how to move this desired feature forward. I will be blogging shortly with the high-level development for ChessJournal so please say tuned!

Back to the launch weekend and what fun it was! Special mention has to go to Terry Tyson who probably was not only the first ChessJournal customer (I Tweeted at 06:30 following my baby boy waking up at 05:00 and Terry instantly replied!!) but also demonstrated immediate learning from his chess match later in the day when he posted the following:

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Unlucky Terry!

A second highlight of the launch weekend was finding ChessJournal entering the Top 20 in the Top Charts for “Board games” in the UK.  Straight in at number 13!  A great result (quickly followed by an immediate plummet from the top 150, ah well).

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So we finally got there (only the 6 weeks late) and I feel its important to say that this is only the beginning as we work (with you hopefully) to push ChessJournal forward and create the best companion app for “over the board” chess players possible.

I will finish this post with an image that I feel sums up the weekend for myself and Matt.

Cheers!

cheers.JPG

Download ChessJournal here: http://itunes.com/apps/chessjournal

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.

 

 

 

How understanding chess players helps design decisions

Hello ChessJournal fans!

Welcome to another update on the development of the best companion app for over the board chess players (I know Im bias but what the heck). Last week I spoke about several ways ChessJournal can benefit the amateur chess fan. This week I thought I would discuss a major design decision for ChessJournal and why we have chosen that route.

Since the beginning I’ve wanted ChessJournal to be a product not a service.  Let me explain what I mean…

When I explain to friends, family and team mates what ChessJournal is many of them ask if it will be cloud based i.e. will you be able to remotely store your chess games and access them from any device.  In short the answer is no.  By choosing to make ChessJournal cloud based there are a number of factors that we need to consider, most importantly the storage of your data and all the factors that this entails (e.g. emails, usernames and passwords).

In essence, making ChessJournal cloud based means making it a service that would have a number of implications. These include:

  • 24 hour access and support (I know I’m a young father but even I have to sleep some time!);
  • A subscription payment model in order to cover mine and Matt’s time with servers and data storage etc;
  • Reliance on an internet connection!

This final point may initially sound moot but if you think about our principle of “carrying all your chess games in your pocket” then a reliance on an internet connection can be annoying.  From personal experience, many tournaments in the UK are limited in their wifi coverage and are often in cold dark halls but I have also been known to conduct analysis on trains, planes and even the bathroom (perhaps I’m sharing too much now…)!

So very early on in the development of ChessJournal we felt that it was a product and not a service.

We want chess players to access their games anytime, anywhere. No matter what.

We want to focus our efforts on making an exceptional application that  improves and meets the needs of over the board chess players with each new release.

We want the ChessJournal community to engage and tell us how they are using their individual ChessJournal’s and what features they need.

We want people to pay once and receive all the benefits that ChessJournal can provide for years without having to worry about monthly or annual subscription fees.

Perhaps most importantly we want a premium application that is not littered with adverts, or pushing people to constantly upgrade.

A final added benefit of us choosing to make ChessJournal a product and not a service is that all of your game data will naturally be stored in the cloud anyway as a natural consequence of backing up your iPhone.  Therefore, you the customer, have the best of both worlds. A quality premium app with your data backed up.  Happy days!

As always I will finish this post with an update on progress this week.  The big news from development land is that we have integrated the StockFish analysis engine (with a few wires still hanging out of the back) and are tweaking our game board interface.  Obviously the integration of StockFish enables a strong level of analysis but also allows some fun planning on the ChessJournal roadmap in the future. Keep your ears open for those updates.

Our social media presence continues to creep up with our little community now totalling 365 likes or follows.  Thank you for all your comments, shares and feedback.  Me and Matt genuinely take onboard every comment as we continue our journey towards launch day (what I have affectionately started calling “International ChessJournal Day”).

Keep reading and sharing!

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.