Club Profile #10: Castlehill Chess Club

Castlehill 2

Hello ChessJournal fans!

Its been quiet on the blog over August as the holiday season has kept everyone busy (plus I recently became the Publicity and Recruitment Officer for the Bristol & District Chess League which has also soaked up some of my blogging efforts).

Anyway, I have two instalments left in the Club Profiles series that I have been running on everyones favourite ChessJournal blog.  This week is the turn of Castlehill Chess Club based near Dundee, Scotland.  My apologies to the delay in publication to Keith Rose who actually sent me the interview about Castlehill at the start of August.  Anyway, lets see what Keith had to say:

Tell us a little bit about your club

Castlehill Chess Club is one of two clubs in Dundee and we meet every Thursday evening throughout the year at the Chaplaincy Centre of Dundee University. Currently there are about 35 adult members and 16 junior (aged 7 – 16) members. We enter five teams in the local Tayside and Fife League (winners of Division One 8 times, Division Two 8 times, Division Three 6 times), a team in the Scottish Spens Cup, (which we have won three times) and, jointly with Dundee CC, three teams in the Scottish National League.

collage-2017-08-13 (1)

What kind of person plays for the club?

All of us are amateurs and range in strength from beginner to experienced club-level players. Our current strongest player is still a junior at 16 and is graded over 2000 in both the Scottish system and FIDE. As for ages, the youngest is seven, the oldest is well into retirement. We don’t currently have any titled members but have had a FM and WFM as members in the recent past.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The club was formed in the early 70s, was based at the Kirkton Community Centre, Dundee and was called the ‘Self-programming Chess and Draughts Club’. This was later shortened(!) to the ‘Kirkton Community Centre Chess Club’. There five originating members. Soon after formation the members were fired with enthusiasm to form a team and enter the TAFCA League. The earliest written record is the minutes of the AGM of 1978 which had an unfortunate outcome. The election of team captains led to several members leaving. They formed another club, Dundee West End.

1979 was the first in a period of several years during which a number of changes of premises were made. In 1980-81 season the move was to the ‘1314 Club’ in Dundee City Centre, which were the premises of the SNP, and it was decided to change our club name to reflect the association.  In February 1981 we lost Z.K. (Konrad) Wierzbicki, who died at the board of a league match at Dundee University. A memorial tournament was instituted in his memory which runs to this day.

At the 1981 AGM Keith Rose was elected as Secretary and he has held this post until the current date, with the exception of three years in the late 1990s. In the Summer of ’82 the 1314 Club closed and we became somewhat nomadic. Dundee Chess Club was kind enough to allow us to use their premises for club nights whilst League matches were played in the living room of one of our members. After a short period we moved to the Labour Club in Roseangle.

In March 1984 we moved yet again, back to the 1314 Club which was renamed ‘Castlehill Club’ (after the area of Dundee where a castle was once located), where we were to remain for several years. Then began a growth which continued for a number of years. A junior club was started, a second club night added and a fourth team was entered in the TAFCA League. We moved again in about 1989 to the Taychreggan Hotel and here began our most successful period in terms of membership, adult numbers peaking at 64 and juniors at about 25. We have been at our current venue for 2 years.

Castlehill 1

Although lacking a bar (!) it has room to accommodate our busiest nights – during the October-May periods most nights see attendances over 25 and frequently over 30. During the summer attendances are still in the high teens most weeks. This venue is also suitable for youngsters, which some of our previous homes were not.

Back in the 1970s there were five clubs in Dundee but now only we and Dundee Chess Club remain. Despite sometimes fierce rivalry the two clubs co-operate very well, each helping the other at times of difficulty, but both enjoy getting one over the other. Dundee CC has several players who are stronger than Castlehill’s but we have a larger membership and more populated club nights.

The best thing about the club is its camaraderie and friendliness. One of our number styled us ‘The Friendliest Club in Dundee’ – this goes back to a time when there still several other clubs and there was at times some unpleasant interactions. Although this has thankfully disappeared we still use this epithet. We also make a point of welcoming and inducting new people. As a young man I once entered another club to play one of their members, found myself in a crowd of unknown faces and not one spoke to me. That will never happen at Castlehill. Having reintroduced youngsters and held on to them we would like to expand our junior membership. We know there are quite a number of children taking part in school chess clubs so the aim must be to tap into that. In addition, with having a venue which is part of Dundee University we would hope to pull in students too.

So there we have it! A rich history supplied by a very long standing servant of the club (36yrs!) who clearly knows the Dundee chess scene inside out. Its also great to see such a high percentage of juniors supported at the club, yet another common trend in successful clubs that we have noticed in this series of blogs. From conversations with friends, its interesting to note how often parents end up joining a club after their child has shown an interest in our ancient game.

In other news at ChessJournal HQ, we have had a quiet development summer but are starting to think again around next steps and additional features. I hope to blog with more news once we finalise our next steps.

As always thanks for reading. 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:

applestore

googleplay

Advertisements

ChessJournal 2.1 now available (eventually…)

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

I’m delighted to finally write a new blog post today on our latest update, ChessJournal 2.1.

“Wait a minute Jon, that came out last week?!” I hear you cry.

Well yes. Yes it did.

Android users have been enjoying v2.1 since June 3rd but unfortunately a bug in our iOS release meant we had to go through App Store approval again and that lasted longer than either myself or Matt would have liked.

Despite this short delay, I am delighted to introduce all the new features in v2.1 as follows:

  • ECF Rating: If you are based in the UK then you now have the ability to change your ChessJournal settings to ECF rather than ELO! This was a common request from all of our British based woodpusher fans and I’m glad to finally bring this feature to you.
  • Move Indicator: Another common request was to provide an indicator on the game screen of exactly what move in a game or variation a player is on. This move indicator can also be used now to highlight to a user when a variation is available to view without having to scroll.
  • Improved Game Controls UI: We have also cleaned up the main controls around games to make them easier to alternate between evaluating positions and variations. I think this change is my favourite update in this release.
  • Name a season: Many users also asked us to provide the ability to name a season so they can functionally group different types of games e.g. “Bristol League Games” or “Somerset New Year Tournament”. You asked for it, you got it!
  • Improved PGN Import: We also tweaked some of the usability and technical aspects of importing your games from PGN.
  • Minor bug fixes: As always we did some minor clean up on bugs reported by the ChessJournal community.

So there we are! You asked and we listened!


In total myself and Matt have spent about 30hrs updating to ChessJournal 2.1 in the last few weeks (including our various liaisons with the App Store). I hope you can see the value that our efforts bring to v2.1 of ChessJournal.
If you are pleased with the update and progress that we are making with ChessJournal then please please please leave us a review in the App Store or Google Play Store. Reviews are crucial to helping us reach more of our fellow woodpushers.

In other news, I have a number of other initiatives that I am planning for the blog so stay tuned!

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

googleplay

The Top 5 British Chess Club Websites

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 15.06.33

Hello ChessJournal fans,

Its been a little quiet on the blog as we have waited to see what the reaction to ChessJournal v2.0 would be but also because I’ve been busy running email campaigns out to as many chess clubs as I could find!

We don’t have a large marketing budget here at ChessJournal HQ (thats why you should tell all your friends about us and share this blog post everywhere) so I have manually contacted the club secretary of over 400 chess clubs in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Canada.  As a result I am becoming very well acquainted with the standard of digital design in the amateur chess club scene around the world…

Some chess club websites are great, some not so great.  When just looking at the British chess club scene it is obvious that many well established chess clubs obviously set up their websites in the mid 90’s and have not touched them since.  This is understandable given the pace of change in digital (for those that don’t know, working in digital is my day job) and that running a chess club is very much an amateur activity.  However, in my long slog through every British chess club website I was astounded by three common pitfalls that a lot of clubs are making:

  • Expired Domains: Kind of fundamental to running a chess club website is to actually have a working website in the first place.  I would argue that the number of broken links or expired domain names across all British chess club websites I visited was around the 10-20% mark.  Im pretty certain these clubs still exist but it must be very difficult for potential new members to contact them.
  • Missing or hidden contact details: Assuming the website was actually working, I was again astonished in 2017 how many chess clubs did not have clear and obvious contact details (telephone or email) for potential new members to get in touch.  I noticed how many clubs were obviously fearful of unwanted spam by either posting broken email addresses deliberately  (e.g. jon – at – chess journal.com) or using layers of CAPTCHAs that were unreadable to even the human eye.  Essentially  as a new visitor to (I’m afraid to say) the majority of British Chess Club websites, I often had to work very hard to get in touch.
  • Not suitable for mobile: In 2017 many modern websites receive over 50% of their traffic on mobile devices.  Again the lack of modern design skills or web templates in the British chess club scene meant that visitors to these websites on mobile phones had to work very hard to use them. Often having to view text very small or rely on pinching and zooming to find poorly designed links.

I realise my above points might sound overly negative but I trust by now that regular readers know that my heart is in the right place and I really want the amateur chess club scene in the UK to thrive.  The three points I make above would go a long way to helping potential new recruits join chess clubs across the country.  Right now , I suspect many clubs don’t realise what a difference a good website design could do to their membership.

It wasn’t all bad however! On occasion I would stumble across a club that had obviously invested in its web presence.  I thought I would pull out in my opinion the top 5 chess club websites in the UK:

  1. Jersey Chess Club: Well done Jersey! In my opinion the best chess club website I found in my long search to contact club secretaries. Clean, modern and responsive for mobile devices. Clear navigation and prominent contact details. I felt the design of Jersey’s website had a touch more class than other top five entrants who were more clean and simple. http://www.jerseychessclub.com
  2. Glasgow Polytechnic Chess Club: An absolute delight of a chess club website from this active club in Scotland.  Great layout, clear links, works fantastically on mobile and a nice nod to the Lewis Chessmen. It was very close between Glasgow Poly and Jersey but I think Jersey just nick it! A close run thing across the entire length of the British isles! http://glasgowpolychess.weebly.com/contacts.html
  3. Hammersmith Chess Club: A really nice designed site that is clean and clear with not just prominent contact details but also upcoming events which really made you want to visit the club. Links to a vibrant social media presence also helped raise Hammersmith into second spot for me. http://hammerchess.co.uk
  4. Battersea Chess Club: Again a nice clear web template with prominent navigation and contact details.  Uses a nice responsive template that adjusts to whatever device a new visitor is using and my favourite part was how new and fresh the content was on the site. http://www.batterseachessclub.org.uk
  5. Forest of Dean Chess Club: Gatecrashing into the top five, this website does exactly what a small chess club needs.  A simple one page website with contact details that reach through your phone screen and hit you in the face! Admittedly the webpage is not optimised for mobile but its such a simple site that this matters little as all the immediate information I need is right in front of me. For a small club this is exactly what you need. A pleasant surprise in my quest to visit every chess club website in the UK. http://www.fodcc.org.uk

A couple of honourable mentions must also go to Newport Chess Club in Shropshire (http://www.newportchessclub.com) who for a moment I thought would win until I realised that the website was so heavy that it took about five minutes for every luxurious page to load.  Looked great just very hard to use effectively, a shame. So close! Also Brighton & Hove Chess Club (http://www.brightonandhovechessclub.org) have made a great effort. Great looking site that captures the essence of Brighton and the beach.  Unfortunately its almost impossible to find the contact details which in my opinion is kind of fundamental. But a much stronger design effort than the lions share of British chess club websites.

So there we are folks.  Whilst I probably haven’t visited every single chess club website in the UK in the last 4 weeks, I certainly feel like I am a knowledgeable authority on the standard of digital design in the British chess club scene.

In other news, its been a month since v2.0 of ChessJournal launched so here is a massive thank you to the hundreds of wood pushers who have downloaded and registered with ChessJournal so far.  A special thank you to all the Facebook comments, emails and tweets we have received telling us how to make ChessJournal even better.  Myself and Matt have already scoped out a number of changes based on your feedback and we aim to deliver v2.1 to you all very soon. I will blog about all the new features being added in the next release as soon as I can.

If you haven’t downloaded and registered with ChessJournal yet then visit our main website here:

http://chessjournalapp.com

I hope you have enjoyed my rambling, tongue in cheek journey on today’s blog!

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

googleplay

The New ChessJournal: Feature List


Hello ChessJournal fans,

Hopefully most of you have noticed by now that ChessJournal v2.0 launched yesterday on both iOS and Android.  If this news is coming as a shock then please do visit our sister website chessjournalapp.com and download the app NOW.

Right then where were we? Oh yes, ChessJournal version 2.0.

When we first launched ChessJournal 1.0 last summer we were flooded with feedback from keen woodpushers who very quickly started requesting new features.  As I have blogged about previously, it became clear that we needed to expand on ChessJournal’s initial offering from 2016, which is why we have spent the first quarter of 2017 revamping your favourite chess players diary app.  In an effort to show you all how much has changed and how much we have listened to your requests I thought I would write a quick blog post listing the major changes and features.  Here we go:

  • Cloud Storage: The big one! You will notice that when you first download the new ChessJournal you will be required to create an account.  This way you can access your personal games collection from any device you chose and it also moves us away from some of the problems we previously had with local device storage e.g. changing phones or having to put the same game into both your iPad and your iPhone.  Moving to a cloud based solution has been a massive endeavour but I think you will agree it makes the ChessJournal proposition infinitely more appealing. Now wherever you are, with whatever device, you can start to evaluate your games.
  • Variations: Another big request from users.  You can now create, evaluate, annotate save and share key variations in your games.  Previously we only provided a “kibitzing scratch pad” to shuffle pieces around but now these important game variations can be saved and explored to your hearts content.  Importantly we have put this feature as part of our premium subscription offering. Whilst we endeavour to keep the bulk of ChessJournal free, we hope you can see both the immense value this feature brings but also our need to cover our costs. I will be blogging in more detail soon on our move to a subscription model.
  • Goals: You can now create and track personal improvement goals in your ChessJournal to help you achieve major chess milestones.  As you progress through the competitive chess season you can link important games that helped you (or hindered you, ouch!) achieve these goals. Both myself and Matt are really pleased to expand the “journal” aspect of ChessJournal.
  • Search Function: Now you can search all your games from the seasons listing page. No more remembering when and where you played that tricky arch nemesis!
  • Import PGN: As well as export you can now import PGN from either your existing chess games database or ChessJournal v1.0. You are welcome!
  • Flip Board: Possibly the simplest and most requested feature we received from you. Its flipping there ok?!
  • Android: Yes you heard me correctly! ChessJournal is now on Android also. Sorry to you patient folk who kept asking me over the last 10 months, but me and Matt wanted to be certain that what we launching on a second platform was right.  In hindsight we learnt a lot of valuable lessons with ChessJournal v1.0 and launching on Android at the same time would have been premature.  However, that situation has now changed!  Get yourself down to the Google Play store and start your ChessJournal today.

 

img_3885-1

We have also made a flurry of interface tweaks that you may or may not notice (for example orientation of the board depending on the colour you were playing) so whilst the look and feel of ChessJournal v2.0 seems familiar, under the hood it is a very different beast that has been carefully tuned in the last three months.

So there we are! We have lots of exciting plans in the pipeline over the coming months, particularly around our premium subscriptions so as always stay tuned.

Me and Matt are committed to bringing the best chess players diary to the market to help you all understand and improve your own games. Thank you for all your support thus far.  If you are enjoying ChessJournal then please do leave us a positive review on the App Store or Google Play.  Every review really helps us drive ChessJournal forward.

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

googleplay

Launching ChessJournal

Hello ChessJournal fans,
So we finally did it! The new ChessJournal app has launched on both iOS and Android and is free to download today!

Because of the all the new features and our switch to cloud-based data storage (cool huh?!), this version has launched as an entirely new app. With it comes the ability to import a games PGN, search for games across seasons, set yourself personal goals and a host of other improvements (yes, you can now even flip the board!).

Perhaps the biggest change to ChessJournal is that you can now better explore variations of key positions in your game. Upgrading to a premium account will unlock the ability to create, explore, annotate, save and share these variations. Becoming a premium subscriber will help support us and we hope to bring more features to our premium subscribers in the future (we will write a separate blog on the move to a subscription model).

Thank you!

We wouldn’t have made it to this point without the help from a number of people. In no particular order, a massive thank you to:

– Joe for the official ChessJournal soundtrack;
– Kate for the super spiffy icons;
– Robin for loaning us his Android phone;
– Gareth, John, Tim and Mike for helping us with testing.

We owe them all a beer for helping us launch ChessJournal.  It just goes to show that even a small team such as us still need to call on their friends now and again.

Stats

The latest version of ChessJournal has been rebuilt from the ground up. To give you an idea of the work involved in getting to this point:

– We worked through 81 Trello cards. This covered anything from user stories to bugs found during testing;
– With the help of others, we tested over 20 release candidates across a number of devices on both iOS and Android;
– We had to renew and purchase developer licenses for both Google Play and the App Store;
– We (well Matt did) wrote 2400 new lines of code and created or changed 294 files.

In total, we estimate it has taken around 126 hours to release ChessJournal (v2), spread across evening and weekends for the past 3 and a half months. We’ve learnt a lot about app development and release during this time, but also we’re reminded just how understanding our wives have been during those late nights and long weekends!

We’re really excited to release the new and improved ChessJournal and we’ve already starting thinking about other features we would like to bring in the future, especially to those that support us and become a premium subscriber! So let us know what you think of this release and what features you might like to see.

Thanks for supporting us – we are now off to the pub!

Matt & Jon

The ChessJournal Team


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

Introducing Goals in ChessJournal Pro

Hello ChessJournal fans!

It’s been a quiet start to the year on the blog but a busy one behind the scenes. Myself and Matt have been busy pulling together ChessJournal Pro ready for launch in the near future. I am not going to say too much on this exciting new direction for the app but I thought I would write a quick update on one new feature we are calling “Goals”.

When ChessJournal Pro launches you will find that the “Trends” tab has been amalgamated into “Stats” and been replaced with “Goals”. The “Goals” area really plays to the journal aspect of ChessJournal Pro. Whilst the rest of the app allows detailed analysis and study, “Goals” is much closer to a diary where the determined self improver can set their own challenges and track their progress.

Players will be able to set themselves personal improvement goals for an entire season. “Goals” can take many forms and are as personal to each chess players objectives based on their current ability. Some example “Goals” could include:

  •  With Black I want to learn the Ruy Lopez
  • Before I move I will analyse atleast two candidate moves
  • I want to beat someone above 1900 ELO
  • I want to draw less games
  • Win the grading prize in the Bristol Summer Congress: Open section

As you compete across a season the “Goals” area allows you to link and tag ‘over the board’ games that you have played that provide an example of you achieving that goal. You can link as many games as you want to a particular goal.

To help you get started, each season will come with a number of default goals that you can edit or delete. Me and Matt have been discussing what should be a default goal for a chess player at the start of a new season and it’s stimulated some facinating discussion down the pub! As always we welcome feedback from our dedicated ChessJournal blog readers on what kinds of goals you set yourselves.

So that’s it for this week! A quick sneek peek of just one new feature coming your way when the new and improved Chessjournal Pro launches. When we are closer to announcing a launch date, I’ll write another update.

Until then I hope everyone’s season is going well. My personal season is currently on a knife-edge as a great start has been undermined by a poor run in January dropping my stats to below 1800 and at 42%. The next league match is make or break…

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!

cjshare

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.

cj_annotate_options

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).

cj_scratchpad

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”.
cj_analyse_position

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

 

 

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.

black review

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!

dpk review

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.

domonic review

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.

dimond review

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?

trends review blog

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.

review

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.

trends

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:

terry

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).

top 20.PNG

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