Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Follow Chess - From floating board to China mode

New update to Follow Chess Android and iOS apps is now available.

WHATS NEW

Floating Board (Android 8.0+ only)

Imagine you are following an interesting game and wish to keep an eye on it while you use other apps [well you just don't know when the players are going to make a move! ;-) ]
Now with the Floating Board feature, just press the Home button in the Analysis Board screen!



So whichever LIVE game you have in front of you in the Analysis Board screen, will be displayed in a small board window! How magical!

  • This feature is only on Android OS running 8.0 or above
  • The board will appear on top of any apps that you use
  • The live moves will automatically update inside the floating board!
  • To quickly dismiss the board, just swipe/flick down the bottom edge of your screen

Team Results (Android & iOS)

For quite some time, we had received your feedback, on how difficult it is to understand the Team composition during a Team event. Especially for events like the Bundesliga or Turkish Super League, where it is not easy to know which player is part of which team. If Vishy is playing in Bundesliga, which team is he part of? Who are his team-mates?
Not anymore!


Now, you will be able to view the Team Results for the current round from the Multi-board screen, see their head to head score for the current round, and tap on any of the game to analyze it! (At the moment, this only works for the current active round which you have in the Multi-board screen. In the future, we can extend this feature for previous rounds too. But hey, please drop us an email (App - Menu - About - Feedback) to let us know if you think its useful, so we can prioritize it!)

China Mode (Android & iOS)

No doubt, China is one of the world's Chess super-power! But when it comes to Apps, social networks etc, they have their own ecosystem and restrictions. Because of the Great Chinese Firewall, the Follow Chess app doesnt work if you were based out of China.
Several Follow Chess users told us how difficult it is, to use essential Apps and resorting to a VPN can be a headache.

What should I do if I am accessing Follow Chess from China?
1. By default, no change is required. The App has a bit of smartness and it should just work. However, if you are in China, and the app is unable to show you the list of recent events, or does not show you the round schedule or multi-board games, then just enable the China mode option from the App settings!

NOTE:

  • Some features like the WatchList and Live moves in Analysis Board screen may not work.
  • Please let us know your feedback and if there is demand for it, we will surely work on it.


Other improvements (Android & iOS)

There are also some other improvements under the hood.


  

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Analyze games or play vs Leela Chess Engine in Analyze This app


Computer Chess has made a tremendous amount of progress in recent months. And especially, Leela Chess! Earlier, Leela Chess ala lc0 only worked on special hardware.

But recently, its been made to work on Android too! This is fantastic news for so many Android users, which means the Engine can run natively on the phone (without connecting to any cloud service to run the engine)

NOTE

  • This only works for Analyze This on Android. Not in the Analyze This iOS app.
  • Its still a work in progress and these are not official builds. Means there could be some problems that you may encounter
  • Thought lc0 did beat Stockfish earlier, but we cannot currently expect that kind of performance on our smartphones, since lc0 really is powerful when running on a GPU. For the most powerful analysis need, Stockfish would still be a better option for your phone. If you need variety or more human like moves, then go ahead and try lc0.
  • So lc0 will still be quite weak, but it can very well perform at a GM level, depending on your device.
  • The below download links have a built-in "weights file". In the near future, via an app update, we will provide an option such that you can specify a different weights file for varied strength.
STEPS
To run lc0 engine in Analyze This app (both Free and Pro version):

DOWNLOAD OPTION A (Download on PC. Unzip. Copy to phone)
  1. Download the engine with built-in weights. Either this one (if 32bit armv7 device) or this one (64bit architecture). If not sure, you can very well download both the zips
  2. Unzip the file. Copy the content which is inside (lc0) onto your phone's sdcard
DOWNLOAD OPTION B (Directly on phone)
  1. You can download the file directly on your phone. Link 1 (32bit armv7) or Link 2 (64bit)
STEPS IN ANALYZE THIS APP
  1. Now fire up your Analyze This app
  2. Tap Board Actions Menu  -> Manage Engines
  3. Tap INSTALL ENGINE option at the top
  4. Locate the lc0 engine file which you unzipped and copied in Option A OR the one that you downloaded in Option B.
Thats it! If the engine file is supported on your device, you now have Leela Chess working on your Analyze This app. You can analyze your games with a more human touch.
Or you can also play a few games using the Play This Side option!

HOW TO PLAY
Tap the name of the Engine and choose Play This Side. Engine will play the currently selected side, while you can make moves for the other side!





Wednesday, 13 March 2019

What's new in MyChessApps!!?

Its been a while we posted a new blog, but new App updates kept rolling.
Recently we released new updates to Follow Chess & iChess apps on both iOS and Android.

1. Backup and Restore (Scorecard, Bird View)

We had many requests in the past to allow backing up puzzle details, or atleast the scorecard, so that you don't lose what you have achieved, in case you switch over to a new device.

Now, happy to say, that just login, and your Scorecard and the Bird View (puzzle progress) will be backed up everytime you solve. So when you get a new device, or reinstall the App, your last progress will be restored back!



Likewise, on Follow Chess, your favorite games are now synced across devices and Android/iOS, so you never have to lose track of games that you have carefully added to your favorite collection!

2. Sync your purchases

Similarly, because there were two different versions of iChess app on Android (Free and Pro), sometimes users would get confused and they would not be able to see their purchases from one app to another. Likewise, if you had purchased some puzzle from our Store on Android, you wouldn't be able to use it on iOS and would need to re-purchase it.

Worry not, we have got your covered! Now you buy once, and the puzzle can be re-downloaded for free on the other OS! So no worry if you need to switch between Android <-> iOS

Please note, you need to sign-in to the App for these features to work.

3. Accessibility improvements

One thing that makes chess unique is that anybody can play chess, even without a board (or in some unfortunate cases, without a sight). So over the past few months, we took up the challenge to make all our Apps blind-friendly.
Soundarya Pradhan, member of Indian chess team (blind) using Follow Chess app on his way to Europe.
The fruit of the work is that, ALL our important apps (Follow Chess, iChess, Analyze This  , Chess Moves   ) are now blind friendly (and on both Android as well as iOS!!! Yup that calls for a 👏👏). So EVERYBODY can now play chess, train and analyze with the engines, save games, solve puzzles, and follow live games!


4. Miscellaneous

As always, we take your feedback seriously. So with the last few versions, we have fixed some puzzles, made slight tweaks to how the scoring works and improved things under the hood! (Apologies to the iChess Pro users on Android who had to face constant crashes in our last app update. Just one line of code did that! :/)

More things to come! :-)

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Goodbye Chess, Hello Future!

It started in 2007/8 when I started working on simple Chess apps. Back then, apart from a couple of Apps, there was nothing much. So for my personal amusement and training, I started developing Apps! These personal projects because a passion, and passion my business! Fast forward, 2018, and there are so many Chess Apps out there.

When I started this journey, I didn't know what to expect. But one by one, we ended up building some amazing products! From the World Champion to newcomers, everybody loves and uses the Apps we have built with so much passion and dedication. It feels good!

From being awestruck with my first face to face meeting with a Chess world champion, to receiving emails and talking to popular Grandmasters; it was any chess player's dream. Along the way I got a chance to meet so many amazing people and experience life in a very different way, than a regular salaried IT guy!

But now, Chess no longer interests me. I hardly play OTB events. I don't follow much of live games of my favorite players or events. And me playing online or studying Chess with a book has become as rare as a blood moon. Its usually a sign that its probably time to look for something different, something more exciting, something that solves a bigger problem! And really, there is so much that mankind needs!

So I am looking to the future, looking to solve bigger problems. Looking to use these God-given gifts and abilities for something better! You will continue to hear from me. Thanks for all your support!

Hello Future!

Friday, 26 May 2017

'Chess Moves' App updated. One player, Two Player & Online game play modes!

Chess Moves App on Android was already very unique! When two friends needed to play a game of chess, they would simply launch the App and play, with each player getting his own chess board to make moves! The board would automatically resize based on the side to play!



Then over the past few weeks, we added some cool things!

One Player

You can now test your skills against the mobile and have fun playing against it.

If you are a beginner at Chess, then you will love the initial difficulty levels! We have made some very interesting changes under the hood, to make the experience better (and give you a chance to win and bolster your ego!).

Play Online

Play with your childhood friends online and re-live the memories.

We made it simple for you to start a game. No login required*. Just create a link to the game and share it with your friend on WhatsApp/Facebook etc. Once your friend accepts the invite, the two of you can play (supports realtime moves as well as slow).

In Hindi, Marathi & Tamil

The App is translated into Hindi, Marathi and Tamil (Note: Tamil is currently only in the Android app).
We will be adding support for more Indian languages in the future. If you would like to help us translate it into your local language, please do email us!

अब पूरा इन्दिआ चेस्स खेलेगा!

Available on iOS

The App is also available on iOS (iPad and iPhone!)

Two player mode on iPhone
Online game play


So what are you waiting for? Download now and make your moves!





* - Currently the iOS App needs the user to be signed-in, but in a future update, we will relax this requirement.

Special thanks to Anil & Sathish for helping with the translations!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Follow Chess v3.0 for Android released on its 3rd birthday!!

Its a memorable day for Follow Chess. 3 years back this day we rolled out the first version to the Android Play Store! And today, on its 3rd birthday, we are releasing a BIG update, v3.0! (Nice coincidence!). The update will be rolling out in a staged manner, so some will receive the update sooner than others.

In fact, even before the 1st official version of Follow Chess released, a simple version ONLY to follow the Candidates 2014 was released in March 2014.

Basic single-screen App to follow Candidates 2014!

Ha, look how v1.0 looked back then! Dubai Open 2014-2017!


Follow Chess has come a long way since then, and used by World Champions, top GMs, rated players and chess fans world-wide! After weeks of Beta testing, we feel the time has come for v3.0 to be released publicly!





v3.0 with the new sliding drawer menu (Events | WatchList | Favorites | Recently Viewed etc)

WHATS NEWS IN v3.0


Faster Move Updates


We have changed the underlying technology, which means move updates in Multi board and Analysis board screens will be super-fast & real-time

Mark Favorite


So many chess games get played every day. And some of them are truly beautiful and worth keeping for future reference. With this in mind, you can now add games to your Favorites list. You can even tag the game ex: "Attack" "Upset" "Repertoire" etc. There is no limit on the number of games that can be added to favorites (even for Free users). 
Add Favorite + add tags to the game for future reference

The games can later be accessed from the drawer menu -> Favorites
All your favorites in one screen!

Recent Games


Sometimes you view a game and later a need arises to show the game to your friend or quickly reference it. With "Recently Viewed", your 10 most recent games are available for quick access (from the left sliding drawer).

Login


We are slowly rolling out the ability of account-based access. This means your purchases can be shared between Android & iOS devices (already functional. Just login with your Google account!). Your existing purchases will automatically get synced and convert to Pro. In the future, we will also add the ability to sync your favorites, preferences etc.
For now, Login only works with Google accounts.

Upcoming Events


You can now also view details of upcoming events, so you know when your favorite player plays next. Tapping on the event will show the list of registered players and the schedule of the event.


Interviews


From time to time, we publish interviews of Players, Tournament Organizers & people who matter to the chess worls. Now all these interviews published on Follow Chess blog are now at your finger tips! They are worth reading and very inspiring!


Gift a Friend


You can now gift Follow Chess app (for 1 month, 1 year or lifetime) to your friend and family! Let it be a nice chess surprise to them! Just login to your Google account, if not already, then enter your friend's email address. Complete the payment and thats all! Just share the details with your friend. Once your friend logs-in with his/her Google account, he/she will have access to all the awesome Pro features.
Or next time you see somebody with no credit card to purchase the App, you can purchase on their behalf and let him take you out for a cup of coffee!

New Board Themes


In this release, we have added 12 new board themes! Not just that, you can also now choose how the piece movement is highlighted on the board, either with the rectangular frame or an arrow!
NOTE: Only the default wood theme is available to non-pro users. Rest of the board themes are exclusively for Pro users!

Fan of Ironman!? So are we!


and more...

♞ Overall the UI and Animation is different. Some screens load faster than before
♞ You can directly open the Events/Favorites/Recents screens from anywhere, even if you are in the Analysis Board Screen (just slide the menu out)
♞ Add current game from Analysis board directly to WatchList (menu - Add to Watchlist)

Many people helped in testing this App (Sathish, Srinath, Shijith, Hardik, Follow Chess team and many others). And we are thankful to all of them for reporting the bugs and making suggestions.

We have tested the App to the best of our ability. But as always, a change of this magnitude could inadvertently introduce some bugs or crashes. If you face any of them, please send an email (pereira.asim (a) gmail.com)!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Indian Chess - The change starts with...

India's 54th National Premier Championship (formerly National 'A') is in shambles. It started with a delay in start of the 1st round due to unavailability of a venue!


The championship did indeed start the next day and we thought the worst was behind us. But yesterday (Nov 19) another bomb fell when the organizer called the players and mentioned that they no longer have the venue for round 4!

Consequentially, 5 players (Abhishek Kelkar, Vidit Gujrathi, Abhijit Kunte, Tejas Bakre, Neeraj Mishra) withdrew from the tournament citing lack of a definite venue and hence the "intolerable playing conditions".

Don't shoot the messenger!

It was mentioned that it was the 1st time for the organizers and this chaos can be attributed to their lack of experience. But is it really that simple?

When the App developer working on my team makes a serious mistake and pushes an App update which breaks an important functionality, should I just fire him? Shouldn't I own it up and put processes in place to make sure such errors don't happen again? (In fact we have done such mistakes in the past, and now before every release we go through Test cases and a Checklist to make sure important things are in place)

If a kid is given a weapon which he does not quite understand how to use, and injures others, should we blame the kids or the parents?

I believe, a crisis like this could be averted with proper processes in place and inspections ahead of time to ensure things are as expected and meet a minimum quality criteria. Just like the FIDE members who visit the proposed World Championship venues in advance and check out the preparation and carry out other checks (along with members representing each players), a pre-event checklist and inspection for top Indian events would be helpful. 

But then, this is not just about one event or events which would be held in the future.

A bigger malaise

On numerous occasions, we hear and read on how our sports personalities are some times ill-treated or don't get the respect they deserve. As recent as Sep 2016, we read about the ordeal faced by our Olympic chess team: (in words of the Team Captain GM Ramesh on Facebook)

"Should really appreciate the gentleman/woman who made the booking for Indian chess team to Chess Olympiad at Baku. Chennai to Delhi three hour flight. Eight hour halt in Delhi. Delhi to Dubai by Fly Dubai airlines, food, water not included in fare. Flight delayed by two hours after boarding. Three and a half hours halt at Dubai airport. Three hour flight to Baku. Almost 24 hours for travel time with no provision for food or water."

Ofcourse, AICF distanced itself from the matter, saying it was an agency which booked on instructions of the government. 

The following month (Oct), the Indian team for the World Youth also had a not-so-pleasant experience, as narrated by the Coach Mrunalini Kunte on her facebook page (later deleted).

Accountability
Shouldn't the people in-charge of the game be accountable, even if things that happen may not be directly under their influence? I am given to understand that they are, and I know of atleast one person in the Indian Chess federation who goes out of his ways to ensure things go smoothly for the players. But clearly, this is not enough.

Something fundamental has to change.  Government/officials tend to take the easy way out. Banning tinted glasses on vehicles and stuff like that are the "easy" things to do, but that may not be attacking the root cause of the problem. You cannot wash your hands off like that and say I am done. Sometimes, its the fundamental things that need to be done right; like proper street lighting to make people safe, proper footpaths so people can walk, stricter laws etc and then everything else pretty much should fall in place.

Quality
Somewhere we take things for granted... In the things that we do for us, and for others. Since the past 2+ years that I have been broadcasting live events in Follow Chess, I have come across numerous organizers, federations and websites. Some go really out of their way to ensure their event is broadcast live and have dedicated websites and commentary etc.

In India, I don't remember the last time we even had a Round robin event with top players (barring the National championships). How many of our events even get their own dedicated web page (one page), let alone a complete website!?
Somewhere we lack, when its time to show case to the world, what we are doing and what we are capable of doing. The jugaad mentality needs to give way for more professionalism.

Quality cannot be compromised. Unfortunately, looking at the type of tournaments that get organized and lack of chances for 2400+ players, it looks like our focus is quantity than quality.

We say chess is getting younger (with the World Champ near 26 and many others at that age point), but why does India not have any 26 year old in the world top 10 (or 25, or 50)? (Harikrishna is 30 and ranked #11. The youngest top player is 22 year old Vidit, ranked #53)
But we are indeed breaking records for the highest number of FIDE rated players (India is currently the 2nd highest nation in terms of FIDE rated players)!

The below table shows the number of FIDE rated players (as of Nov 2016) vs Titled players (GM/IM/FM/WGM...)


RankFedTitledRatedTitled/Rated (TPR) %
1Russia2443608934.01
2USA724136775.29
3China14720727.09
4Ukraine53988036.12
5India302590880.51
6France405447970.90
7Azerbaijan12827104.72
8Armenia11313538.35
9Poland377185292.03
10Hungary45896194.76
Table1 : Top 10 nations with total Titled + Rated players and their ratio
India has the lowest of all the Top 10 nations! (mere 0.51 Titled players for every 100 rated). It could be said that this could be expected for such a huge nation with large number of rated players. Maybe Russia is an anomaly with 4 titled for every 100 rated, inspite of having the highest number of FIDE rated players. But even France with equally high rated players has double TPR (Titled per Rated) ratio.
This should be a red flag!

But things start to look promising if you look at the below table:

RankFedGMsTitledGMs/Titled (GPT) %
1Russia23624439.66
2USA9072412.43
3China3914726.53
4Ukraine8753916.14
5India4430214.57
6France4940512.10
7Azerbaijan2412818.75
8Armenia3711332.74
9Poland4137710.88
10Hungary5445811.79
Table1 : Top 10 nations with total GMs + Titled players and their ratio

The GPT ratio (GMs per Titled players) is quite good and better than many other federations. What does this mean? Doesn't it look like our Titled players really beat the odds and do better inspite of what the system throws in their way and go on to becomes Grandmasters!?
So if we develop a system, a framework to generate more Titled players, they would probably rise up in the world rankings by their own merit (and ofcourse with help and sponsors) and really dense up the Top 100 rating list for India.

Some things that can be done...

Coach Ramesh had mentioned some amazing points on his Facebook page after the near successful Olympic triumph. He has re-iterated those points in our interview with him (especially the Q: 'How do you look at the current Indian and Global Chess scenario').
However, some things that I would like to add:
  • Put promising young players on a fast track to growth and provide more opportunities even if it means NOT having to play in their under-age category events
  • Focus on getting more titled players
  • Have a professional chess body to represent the Indian player's interest (akin to the ACP, although frankly I am not sure what exact role ACP plays apart from some FB posts from the president condemning an bad occurrence or stuff like that. Or maybe they aren't doing sufficient enough to promote/advertise what they are doing to help players and how it has been effective. Either way its atleast assuring that players have support when they need it the most)
  • Form a body of passionate like-minded volunteers/coaches/organizers/players & officials and work towards the important priorities
  • Focus on implicit branding by having proper pages for state/national events etc. No more jugaad. Sponsors need to be able to see the things that they are buying into. Else it becomes a vicious cycle of 'no good branding = no sponsors = no money to focus on branding'. A complete re-brand/overhaul will do amazing things!
  • Focus on quality, in everything we do. From organizing tourneys, communication, web sites, player interests, things need to be uplifted
  • Put players interest before everything else, as long as it does not compromise the integrity of the sport or the country
  • A team league system. (France for example has a league system even for kids and youth!)

The change starts with ... myself!

In the aforementioned interview with GM Ramesh, he gave a startling answer when we asked him about that one thing that he would like to change in this world. His answer was "Myself"!!

We cannot expect others to change, if we ourselves dont. Some say the venue crisis was a political conspiracy and sabotage. Maybe it is, maybe it is not. But who are all these people. Aren't they one of us? Our future self!?

Its very easy for us, arm-chair generals, to get on Twitter/FB and preach/criticize/suggest, but very difficult to actually go out and make the change or help the game. (Didn't the 'mahan atma' who said 'be the change you want to see' come from India!?)

So I should focus on improving the quality of what I put out there for chess players to use (Apps & Web)... No jugaad.. Focus on doing more for Chess (tournaments & administrative)!

What change are YOU going to make?

- Asim Pereira