Sunday, December 17, 2006

Searching for Fritz

When I visited the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, Fritz was not to be found anywhere. One building down the road I met this strange fellow:

He told me his name: "Mein innerer Schweinehund".

Turns out he is from Chessbase, too. Long forgotten, but there he was.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How to run Fritz 9 on Windows Vista

Today I installed the Windows Vista RTM on my new machine. Here is how to get Fritz 9 running:

  • Install Fritz 9 as usual. At the end you do not have to reboot, even if the setup asks you to.
  • The installer does not install the chess fonts on Vista. You have to install them manually: on the Fritz 9 CD-ROM there is a folder "Fonts". Go inside the folder with explorer and select all the font files. Then right click and choose install.
  • When you go to the chess server for the first time, you will be asked to download the update. Download this update. When you start the updater it will fail.
  • Go to your old Windows XP machine and look inside the Fritz 9 directory. If you have run the update there, there is a file GUI9.iup. Copy that file to the Fritz 9 directory on your Vista machine.
  • Right-click the IUPgrade.exe in the Fritz 9 directory on your Vista machine and run it as administrator. The update will work now.

Thanks to Fritz developer Mathias Feist for his help.

Friday, October 20, 2006

ICCF congress in Dresden

This year I participated for the first time at the ICCF (international correspondence chess federation) congress.

I had always dreamed that I would one day be invited and get a nice IM title. Alas, this will have to wait for some time, as I have too much work with the server and not enough time to play correspondence chess on the level required for an IM title. But I was invited to the ICCF congress to make a presentation about the server.

On Saturday my wife and I visited Dresden. Here are some photos (you can click on the photos to see them bigger):

The photos show: (1) me in front of the Zwinger, (2) Semper opera, (3) Hofkirche and Residenzschloss , and (4) Frauenkirche.

It was impressive to see that many of the buildings which had been completely destroyed in the second world war have been rebuilt using the original plans. This includes the Semper opera and the Frauenkirche.

On Sunday there was the opening of the congress with several speeches and votes. Here you can see me sitting at the computer during congress.

This picture was published by Uwe Bekemann at the congress website.

I did the presentation of the server together with Alan Borwell and Gerhard Binder. I read on TCCMB that some people had problems with the internet access in the hotel. I did not have any problems. In fact, there was wireless access in the hotel, and it must have been broadband, too. I was able to make a backup of the server and run a report against it - I could then present the very latest server statistics.

In the evening there was the opening banquet. Six correspondence world champions were present:

 

(1) From left to right: Gert Jan Timmerman, Ivar Bern, Fritz Baumbach, Tunc Hamarat, Horst Rittner, and Grigorij Sanakojew, (2) Gert Jan Timmerman, Ivar Bern and myself discussing the gambit match between Timmerman and Umansky, (3) congress postcard with autographs of all six world champions present.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game twelve preview

In game ten Topalov played the Catalan again, and Kramnik again reached a better position. I won't do analysis of concrete moves today - there is an excellent analysis of the game at chesspro.ru, where Mikhail Golubev replaces Peter Svidler, who is now playing at the European Club Cup. I think Topalov is somehow playing the Catalan when he wants to draw, and the Slav when he wants to win with Black.

Game twelve is the last game in the match, and Kramnik has White. While I generally think Topalov should play for a draw and not risk too much, I can only recommend the Slav to him.

Out of Topalov's four games with Black so far (not counting the forfeit), he played the Slav once, and the Catalan three times. Topalov has scored one point out of the Slav game, and half a point ouf of the three Catalan games together. He also had a good position out of the opening in the Slav game, but three times a worse position in the Catalan games. Enough said.

I hope for an exciting game twelve and am not thinking about the tie breaks yet - after all we have seen already five decisive games in the match. We haven't seen so many decisive games in a world championship match for some time.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game eleven preview

Kramnik equalized in game ten. Game eleven is Topalov's last White game in the match. He has to create winning chances with White to avoid a Brissago-like last game situation: facing Kramnik in the last game with Black is tough, as Peter Leko can tell you. Topalov should be used to this situation by now, he was under pressure to generate good chances in practically every one of his White games.

Lets have a look at game nine, where Topalov managed to break through Kramnik's black wall for the first time in the match:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3

Topalov plays the same move order as in game seven. He does not seem to mind transposing to the same queens gambit accepted line we saw in game seven. Or maybe he wants to play another Meran?

4..Bf5

Kramnik deviates from game seven. As I said in my game ten preview, Kramnik had so far played like a wall, and a wall should stand still. I think Kramnik should have played 4..e6 just as in game seven.

5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4

I think this line is dangerous for Black. There are a lot of different ways to play this line for White.

6..Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.a3

The main lines here are 8.g3 and 8.Bd2. I think the idea of this move is to have the option of playing c5.

8..Nbd7 9.g3

This is the new move. Topalov said in the press conference:

I used a good novelty, but one cannot say it gives White a decisive advantage. The move 10.f4 is invented by my second Vallejo – he specializes on this variation and worked a lot in Elista. So, you see the fruits of our work!

9..Be7 10.f4

The problem for Kramnik after this novelty is not that he has to calculate many forced variations, but that he is faced with a completely new concept in this opening. He first has to find a good plan for Black, which is difficult over the board, especially when you know that your opponent and his team have probably spent a lot of time analyzing everything at home.

10..dxc4?!

I don't like this move. Susan Polgar writes

Why not to wait with this trade until White moves the Bishop from f1?

Actually, I am not sure if Black has to give up the center at all.

Mihail Marin proposes

Giving up the centre so easily is a risky decision. 10...a5 deserves attention, with the idea to answer 11.c5 with 11...b6.

If somebody plays f4 against me, and I have an open h-file available, I am always thinking about capturing the g3 pawn. But 10..g5? does not work, because after 11.fxg5 Nh5 12.g6 is strong, and after 10..Nh5 White can just defend with 11.Qf3.

Maybe Black can really just play the waiting game Susan suggests:

10..O-O and I think Black does not need to fear 11.c5 b6 12.b4 a5 13.Bd2 axb4 14.axb4 Rxa1 15.Qxa1 Qa8. If White moves his bishop, say 11.Bd3 Black can play 11..dxc4 and win a tempo upon the game. Maybe White will start rolling the pawns on the other side of the board though, 11.g4 or 11.h4.

Of course Black could even consider castling long in this position - you will have the rook h8 still on the open h-file. Or maybe Black should wait with castling, and decide wether to castle short or long only after White has revealed a bit more of his plan?

You can see Kramnik's dilemma - deciding between all these lines over the board is a difficult decision at home, and much more so over the board.

I also noticed, that the plan with attacking g3 may be not so bad if Black had put his Bishop on d6 on the ninth move instead of on e7, e.g.

9.g3 Bd6 10.f4 Nh5 11.Qf3 g5!? or

9.g3 Bd6 10.c5 Bc7 11.f4 g5 12.fxg5 Bxg3 13.hxg3 Rxh1 14.gxf6 Qxf6 15.Qe2 O-O-O 16.Bd2 Rdh8 17.O-O-O e5 with a complicated game.

The game continued

11.Bxc4 O-O 12.e4 b5?

After Black has given up the center, he should think about attacking White's center immediately - with 12..c5 or 12..Nb6 and 13..c5.

13.Be2 b4 14.axb4 Bxb4 15.Bf3

Here Kramnik had the last chance to play 15..c5, when he could at least have caused complications after 16.e5 cxd4. The game continued

15..Qb6 16.O-O

and Kramnik had a terrible position.

He had to say this in the press conference:

It is difficult to play well in positions such as the one I got today. Topalov’s novelty turned very strong – at least for one game. I didn’t manage to find adequate response to it. Already 12…b5 was played because I could not find anything satisfactory, especially bearing in mind that it was all opponent’s preparation. After the opening, I continued resisting because it was inconvenient for me to resign that early, but the game was basically decided by the move 17.

In game eleven, I think Topalov will try the same move order for the third time. Even if Kramnik or his seconds find a solid plan against Topalov's novelty at home, I think he should avoid the line after 4..Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4. Topalov may just have another new plan in that line and surprise Kramnik again.

It should be much safer for Kramnik to play 4..e6 like in game seven. I think the queens gambit accepted was not that dangerous, and Topalov would go for another Meran after that. As I said in some of the other previews, the sharp lines where White plays Qc2 and g4 are still left to be explored, and would certainly bring us another exciting game.

I think neither of the players will switch to 1.e4 at this point in the match - there are too many unexplored options. They will concentrate on trying to show an advantage for White in the setups that have already been played.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game ten preview

With Black Kramnik played like a wall so far in the match. The wall stood still, and when Topalov threw something at it, it came back to him. In game nine however, after

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3

Kramnik deviated from game seven (4..e6) and played

4..Bf5

allowing Topalov to play the line

5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4

where Topalov had prepared a new line and won in a very convincing way.

The wall had moved and collapsed. I don't understand why Kramnik did not continue to play like a wall and repeat the line from game seven. I think this was a bad idea, and he should have repeated the line from game seven. I will come back to this for the game eleven preview. If you have any idea why Kramnik played like this, please let me know - you can send me feedback at bennedik@gmx.net.

Now Kramnik faces a difficult situation. He is behind for the first time in the match, and there are only three games to go. It will be crucial to create winning chances with White in game ten.

But first lets have a look at game eight, and what this means for game ten:

In game eight Topalov abandoned the Catalan and switched to the Slav. While the Catalan had not been a desaster, Kramnik was able to steer the games away from complications and towards the technical positions he plays so well. Therefore I think Topalov made a wise decision by switching to the Slav.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6

Kramnik with Black played 4..dxc4 in this position in games two and six, here.

5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Be2

Topalov played 8.Bd3 in this position in game four.

8..Bb7 9.O-O b4 10.Na4 c5

Topalov has prepared a rare line. Now 11.Nxc5 Nxc5 12.dxc5 Bxc5 13.Qa4+ Ke7 is ok for Black.

11.dxc5 Nxc5

Now 12.Nxc5 Bxc5 would transpose to the last note.

12.Bb5+ Ncd7 13.Ne5 Qc7 14.Qd4 Rd8 15.Bd2

Hannes Langrock at chessgate.de proposes the greedy 15.Qxa7 Bd6 16.f4 O-O 17.Nxd7 Nxd7 18.Bd2 and asks if Black has enough compensation. I think yes, for example 18..Nf6 (Black has to make room for the queen) 19.Rfc1 (or Rac1) Qe7 and the White pieces on the queenside have gone astray. Black will make moves like Rd8-a8-a5, Rf8-d8 or a8, Nf6-d5 or e4.

15..Qa5

This is Topalov's new move.

16.Bc6 Be7 17.Rfc1

Here 17.b3 or 17.Rac1 are alternatives.

After 17.b3 O-O 18.Bxd7 Nxd7 19.Nxd7 Black can choose between 19..e5!? 20.Qxe5 Qxe5 21.Nxe5 Rxd2 with a very nice bishop pair for the pawn (Hannes Langrock) or 19..Bc6, which is also fine.

17..Bxc6 18.Nxc6 Qxa4

Now Kramnik played 19.Nxd8 and lost the endgame after 19..Bxd8 20.Qxb4 Qxb4 21.Bxb4 Nd5 22.Bd6 f5.

There are some interesting alternatives on move 19:

Stefan Löffler looks at 19.Bxb4 e5 20.Qh4 Bxb4 21.Nxd8 O-O 22.Nxf7, but after 22..Rxf7 23.a3 e4 24.axb4 Qxb4 25.Rxa7 Qxb2 I think Black's two knights may be better than White's rook.

But very interesting is the sharp

19.Nxe7 Kxe7 20.Bxb4+ Ke8 21.b3 Qb5 22.Rd1

Now Vladimir Below analyzes

a) 22..Qe5 23.Qxa7 Nd5 24.Ba5 Rc8 25.e4 Qxe4 26.Rd4 Qf5 27.Re1 "and it is difficult for Black to untie".

b) 22..Qb6 Peter Svidler thinks "sooner or later the extra piece will tell", but Belov gives 23.Qc3 "and it is not easy to find the way for Black to unpin, while White’s attack develops naturally".

c) I think maybe 22..a5 is the best try to untangle, e.g. 23.Ba3 Qe5 and now

c1) 24.Qc4 Nd5 25.e4 Nb4 or

c2) 24.Qa7 Nd5 25.Rac1 f5

but this is all very complicated. Black's problem is that he cannot castle, because the King has already moved, and that all his pieces are in various pins. But can White do something before Black manages to untangle?

I doubt that we will see this line again.

Interestingly, therefore Kramnik now faces the same situation that Topalov has faced a couple of times in the match: he is trailing in the match, and if he plays 1.d4 could face the mighty Slav again.

So maybe it will be Kramnik's turn to play something sharp after all? Another Meran, perhaps? What will happen if Kramnik decides to play 1.e4? Would Topalov play the Najdorf? But now for Topalov a draw with Black would be fine. As I briefly discussed in my game one preview, he usually plays the Berlin in these situations, however against Kramnik, who is a Berlin player himself, he may have prepared another line - maybe the Marshall.

Lets hope for three more interesting games.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game nine preview

In game eight Topalov switched to the Slav (as I predicted in all my previews :-)and scored his first win. Because of the defaulted game five the score is now equal at 4-4. There are only four games left and we can hope to see an exciting finish to the match.

But now lets have a look at game seven, and what conclusions we can draw for game nine:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3

In game two Topalov played 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 and in game four 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3.

Nf6 4.e3

In game six Topalov played 4.Nc3 here, transposing to game two. Kramnik could play 4..Bf5 here, but he would like to transpose to game four:

4..e6 5.Bd3

Topalov could have transposed to game four with 5.Nc3, but he plays a clever move order. If Kramnik now continues 5..Nbd7, White has the alternative 6.O-O Bd6 7.Nbd2, when Black cannot play dxc4, b7-b5-b4 with tempo. White will then be able to get in e4. Therefore Kramnik played

5..dxc4 6.Bxc4 c5

when a position from the Queens gambit accepted is reached (the usual move order to reach this position would be 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5, taking one move less).

7.O-O a6 8.Bb3

In the worlchampionship match between Kramnik and Kasparov, Kasparov had abandoned the Grünfeld, and this position was reached twice. Kramnik played 8.dxc5 in game four, while game six saw 8.a4 Nc6 9.Qe2 cxd4 10.Rd1.

Please note that the common line 8.a4 cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Re1 O-O would transpose to the game after 12.Bb3 - however White seems to have more useful moves in this position and almost never plays 12.Bb3.

Because of this observation I cannot believe that Topalov's novelty in the game can be that dangerous. I think the idea was more to get a playable position with fighting chances that Kramnik could not possibly have prepared.

8..cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Re1 O-O

We have reached a typical position with an isolated queen pawn. This position can also be reached from other openings by transposition.

It is interesting to note that positions with isolated queen pawns have been played in many, if not in all worldchampionship matches. Sometimes the handling of this type of position was even decisive. The first world champion Steinitz developed the strategy of playing against an isolated pawn and used it to good effect against Zukertort. Later Botvinnik developed attacking plans for the side with the isolated pawn.

12.a4

This move is new although the same position was reached in a game Gershon-Papatheodoru, Korinthos 1998 by transposition. The moves 12.a3, 12.Bf4 and 12.Bg5 are all more common.

12..Bd7 13.Ne5 Be8

I think the position of the bishop is a bit artificial here, because the rook on f8 has not moved yet. Furthermore the bishop moves again a few moves later. Maybe Kramnik could just play 13..Nb4 here. I think the loss of the pair of bishops after 14.Nxd7 would not pose Black real problems. In the game Black exchanges this bishop against a knight anyway, so 13..Be8 looks just like a move lost.

14.Be3 Rc8 15.Rc1

This rook moves to d1 a few moves later, maybe it could have gone there at once?

15..Nb4 16.Qf3 Bc6 17.Qh3 Bd5 18.Nxd5 Nbxd5 19.Rcd1 Rc7 20.Bg5 Qc8

Again the placement of Black's pieces looks artificial to me.

21.Qf3 Rd8 22.h4 h6 23.Bc1

As several commentators have shown, after 23.Bd2 White could have developed a nice initiative.

What does this mean for game nine? Topalov has a difficult decision - should he go for an all out attack but risk losing? On the other hand, if he plays too calm and makes a quick draw, Kramnik will have one more White game remaining. This can be very dangerous against Kramnik. In the last world championship match, Peter Leko was leading with one point before the last game - but Kramnik had White and won.

Topalov does not have so many options left for the remaining two White games. If he repeats the line from game seven I think Kramnik would handle the position better. After 1.d4, I think this just leaves the Meran as a good option - and then it seems time for the sharp lines where White plays Qc2 and g4.

Or is this to risky? Maybe Topalov should switch to 1.e4 now. Somehow after all these Slav games the Petroff may not look so bad any more.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game seven preview

Thanks to every reader who made me aware that they are actually changing the order of the games in the second half of the match (you can send me feedback at bennedik@gmx.net). Therefore game seven will see Topalov with White again - actually, because of the defaulted game, for the third time in a row.

So lets have a look at the opening of game six, and see what this means for game seven.

After

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5

Topalov played

6.Ne5.

In the second game he played 6.e3, but got nothing out of the opening - although he managed to conjure an attack later (see my game four preview). Now Kramnik did not go for 6..Nbd7, but after

6..e6 7.f3

he didn't go for the sharp 7..Bb4 8.e4 Bxe4 either. Instead he went for the side line

7..c5

and after

8.e4

he surprised Topalov and played the rare move

8..Bg6

I have some games from Smyslov with this move in my database, but it has not been played very often. There are more games with 8..cxd4 9.exf5 Bb4 with some unclear complications.

In the game, Topalov did get an endgame that looked a little bit better for White, but Kramnik never was in any real danger:

9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Ke2 Rg8

and so on.

Can Topalov improve White's play?

A) Susan Polgar shows that after

9.d5 exd5 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.e5 Nh5 12.Nxh5

Black can (instead of 12..Ng3 13.Bxc4 Nxh1? 14.Nf6+ Ke7 15.Ng8+) just play

12..Nd7

and White has only managed to weaken his own position.

B) Of course White could try to avoid the exchange of Queens with

10.Bxd4,

but is that really an improvement? I have one game Pelletier-Smyslov, Zürich 1998 in my database, which continued

11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bxc4 Qa5 13.Qe2

and a draw was already agreed. Indeed, an advantage for White is not in sight, and if Black plays

13..Bc5

maybe it is already White who should think about equalizing.

I think Kramnik did a fine homework here, this rare line seems to be safe enough for Black. I don't see any good way for White to improve. Maybe this will be played more often by Black in the future.

I think Topalov will have to return to 4.e3 and play another Meran, as I discussed in my game six preview.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game eight preview

Update: This is now game eight preview, because of the changed order of games in the second half of the match.

I am glad we have more chess. I already had nightmares of a certain match between Karpov and Timman.

Today Topalov played the Slav line with 6.Ne5 and 7.f3, but did not get real winning chances. I will come back to that line for the preview of game eight.

Thanks again to the readers who sent me feedback (you can send me feedback at bennedik@gmx.net).

Mark Bowen from Jamaica sent me the following question:

I'd also love to hear your thoughts on the whole design of one's opening repertoire and discussion of the player's overall styles and how their repertoires take advantage of this.

For your own opening repertoire of course it depends on how strong a player you are. If you are an average club player and you don't have a lot of time for studying openings, I would recommend to use some of the repertoire books that are out there, and spice it up with some lines that are either rare, for example from an SOS book from New In Chess, or some main lines that you are particularly interested in.

Of course I am interested in opening theory more than in my over the board results, so I am reading the hardcore books about the lines I am interested in, but I am regularly forgetting my own analysis, and have big holes in the openings I am not so interested in. So I cannot really recommend this, unless you are doing this like me just for fun, not for results.

With regards to the styles of Kramnik and Topalov, and how this affects their openings in this match, Kramnik excels in technical positions and middle games without queens, while Topalov plays his best in dynamic or even unclear positions that offer a lot of different ways for fighting.

But today's opening preparation at world class level goes so deep, that you cannot just choose your openings by style. For example, Topalov may in principle like the Petroff positions with White. While the Petroff has a drawish reputation, usually you keep enough pieces on the board for a full fight, and White often has several ways to anvance his center pawns (c3,d4). But the opening is analysed very far, and you have to come up with some strong new moves to actually get to a position where you can pose Black some problems and get to this fight. The same goes for the Sveshnikov - in principle this is a very interesting and dynamic position with a lot of different ways to fight for both sides. But there is so much analysis on this opening that you have to find something new to pose any problems.

That is why it is an advantage if you can play both 1.e4 and 1.d4, especially in a match where the openings can be repeated several times. If Topalov has not found enough strong moves against the Petroff, maybe he has some new ideas in the Slav. That is why Kramnik has learned to play 1.e4, too, even if it fits less to his style than 1.d4. That is why Leko prepared 1.d4 for his match against Kramnik, although he almost always played 1.e4. And he was glad he did, after banging his head against Kramnik's Petroff.

But one new move can make a difference. Actually I have to revise my so far unused preview of game five a little bit, because Peter Svidler showed a move that I did not consider. After

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Qa4 Bd7 7.Qxc4 Na5 8.Qd3 c5 9.O-O Bc6 10.Nc3 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.Rd1

the alternative mentioned by Topalov in the press conference

12..Qxd4 13.Qxd4 Bxd4 14.Rxd4 Bxg2 15.Kxg2 Nc6 16.Rd1

seems to be equalizing after all. I did only consider 16..Ke7, when White can play 17.b3, however Svidler just castles:

0-0 17.Bg5 Rfd8 "and it is hard to believe Black's problems are not temporary" (Svidler).

Svidler also has the following explanation why Topalov did not play this line, and why it looked as if Topalov did not prepare this game well:

My feeling, as I sat watching the game live, was that Veselin came to the board with the idea to trade as many pieces as possible as soon as possible and make a draw, but couldn't bring himself to do it - the whole concept is, as we've seen on numerous occasions, alien to him.

I think that makes a lot of sense. As you see, one move can make a difference.

It will be interesting to see if this line is repeated in game seven. Maybe this position is not enough even for Kramnik. Or Topalov, if this concept is so alien to him, will choose another line himself?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Common sense

My son Marcel is six years old. He is a little chess player, too. Today he asked me if he could watch the world championship game with me. I told him that they are not playing, because they are arguing about which toilet to use. He said matter-of-factly: "But it doesn't matter which toilet you use." I thought that makes sense. We are playing Fritz and Chester 3 now.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game six preview

Thank you to the readers who sent me feedback. It seems I am not the only one who is interested in the openings.

When I was a student at university I had sometimes training with a grandmaster. He told me if I wanted to improve my over the board play, I should play simpler openings. I decided that I enjoy analysing the openings, and that chess is just my hobby. I did what I enjoy, not what would help me to improve my results best. The grandmaster was right however - I never improved my over the board play. At the board I usually don't remember my own analysis anyway. However in correspondence chess I think it is more useful.

I got one interesting feedback from Pirkka Kärenlampi from Finland:

My own ELO 2000 opinion is that playing black Topalov must have something relatively unexpected (Kasparov/Dragon, Anand/Scandinavian etc.) up his sleeve, which he'll have to pull out preferably sooner than later. But maybe I like my speculation a bit too wild.

Unfortunately your speculation today became true in a most bizarre and disgusting way. Topalov played the toilet gambit, and Kramnik pulled a Fischer. I really hope future surprises in this match will be on the board, instead of in the toilet.

So lets have a look at game four and what this means for game six, shall we?

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3

In game one Topalov played 4.Nf3 but got nothing from the opening, see my game four preview.

4.. e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.a3 b4 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Bxe4 bxa3 12.O-O Bd6 13.b3 Nf6 14.Nd2

This was Topalov's novelty. Black could win a pawn here, but after 14..Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Bxh2 16.Kxh2 Qh4+ 17.Kg1 Qxe4 18.f3 Qh4 19.Bxa3 Black's King would have difficulties finding a safe haven. There is no easy way to break through, but White should be better.

14..Qc7 15.Bf3 Bxh2+ 16.Kh1 Bd6 17.Nc4 Be7 18.Bxa3 O-O 19.Bxe7 Qxe7 20.Ra5

I think this position is slightly better for White. Black is very passive, and if White manages to win both of Black's queenside pawns, he will have chances to win. If Black gets too passive in defending those pawns, White may even get an initiative on the other side of the board. Black wisely sacrificed his c-pawn to free his game, but still White was a little bit better. I think Topalov can actually be happy with the opening for the first time in the match.

However, in the press conference after the game, Kramnik said:

To be honest, I thought we’ll be able to finish in two hours today – there was almost nothing to play with. But Veselin wanted to continue, and so we did. Frankly, for the rest of the game I was more concerned about making it to the TV to see a Champions League match. I agree, this encounter was kind of boring, but this is the only such case. Although there was still some tension in it.

Vladimir, you must be kidding. You are playing a world championship, White is having some nice pressure, and you are thinking about watching TV? I think I won't even bother to read anymore what they are saying in the press conferences.

I think in game six we will see another Meran. Not the same line as in game four, but another one. There are many other lines to explore, for example 6.Qc2. Topalov has even played a game against Kramnik in that line before, a draw in Dos Hermanas 1997. There is one very exciting line, 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4. Topalov could play this, but it is not without risk.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Kramnik-Topalov game five opening preview

Before I look at the opening from game three and the preview for game five: I haven't got much feedback so far on my opening previews, and I have no idea if anybody else is actually interested in the openings from these games (apart from me and the players). So if you find my analysis below interesting, and would like to see it as a PGN file, drop me a note at bennedik@gmx.net and let me know.

In game three Topalov switched indeed to another line against Kramnik's Catalan. Lets have a look at the opening from game three, and possible improvements along the way to get a better idea what to expect in game five. After

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2

Topalov played

5..Nc6

In the first game he had played 5..Bb4+.  As I explained in my preview of game three, there were too many possible improvements for Kramnik, and Topalov was right to play a different line in game three.

6.Qa4 Bd7 7.Qxc4 Na5 8.Qd3 c5 9.O-O Bc6 10.Nc3 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.Rd1

Now Topalov continued

12..Bxg2 13.Qb5+ Nd7 14.Kxg2 a6 15.Qd3

A game Tkachiev-Solozhenkin now continued 15..Be7 16.Bf4 but Topalov played the new move

15..Rc8 16.Bg5 Be7

Here Kramnik chose the solid

17.Bxe7 Qxe7 18.Rac1

and had a slightly better position throughout the game.

Many commentators noted that Kramnik could have gone for the interesting 17.Ne4 instead. In the press conference after the game, Kramnik was asked:

Could you play 17.Nе4 instead of taking on e7?
V.K.: Yes, it was interesting! But how to proceed after 17…Nе5? It looks like Black solves his problems. I think I played a good game. At some point it looked pretty even, but then I started dancing with my rooks, and managed to create serious problems.

Malcolm Pein analyses this line:

17.Ne4 Ne5 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.Nf5! Nxd3 20.Ned6+ Kf8 21.Nxe7

as White being clearly better. Everything is up for grabbing in the final position of that analysis, so lets look a few moves further:

21..Rd8 22.Ndc8 Nc6 23.Nxc6 Rxc8 24.Na7 Ra8 25.Rxd3 g6 (or ..g5) 26.Rc1 Rxa7 27.Rc7 Kg7 28.Rdd7

Fritz gives Black's moves after 21.Nxe7 all as the only moves, so in few of White's domination after 28.Rdd7 I would like to think that White is very close to winning here.

Malcolm also gives 17..Nc4 as a better way for Black to defend against 17.Ne4.

This move is analysed by Susan Polgar:

17.Ne4 Nc4 18.Rac1 Nxb2 19.Nf5 Nxd3 20.Ned6+ Bxd6 21.Nxd6+ Kf8 22.Rxc8 Qxc8 23.Nxc8 N3c5

Susan stops her analysis here, without further comment. She probably implies that Black has solved the problems, however White can play

24.Nb6 Ke8 25.Nxd7 Nxd7 26.Rc1 Nf8 27.Rc7

here - when White has a lead in development that is worth more than the sacrificed pawn, despite only two pieces being left on the board. Again I think White is very close to winning.

After 17.Ne4 Nc4 18.Rac1 Black could also try

18..Nde5

This is analysed on chesspro.ru :

19.Qb1 Bxg5 20.Nxe6 fxe6 21.Rxd8+ Bxd8 22.b3 Na3 23.Qb2 Rxc1 24.Qxc1 Nb5 25.Qc8 O-O 26.Qxe6+ Nf7 27.Qc8 b6 28.Qxa6 Nbd6 29.Nxd6 Nxd6 30.Qd3

unfortunately I don't understand the Russian comments, but I think in this position Black will soon have great difficulties defending defending against White's queen and pawns.

To summarize, it looks as if after 17.Ne4! White will get very good chances to win the game. I think Topalov's novelty was not good, and he cannot repeat this line. In fact I think it is safe to assume that Topalov did not prepare this line, and played the novelty over the board.

How can Topalov improve this line?

In the press conference he said:

Veselin, you surprised the opponent in the opening, being first to deviate from that first game. Was your preparation inefficient? Which move was unexpected for you?
Veselin TOPALOV: I tried complicating the struggle, but did not succeed. In principle, I don’t think Black had serious problems. It looked like White had serious initiative, but this impression proved wrong, and I made a draw. I could trade queens by 12…Qxd4, but I wasn’t sure whether I should take on d4 or castle. I saw 13.Qb5, of course, but reckoned that the struggle is more complex with queens on board. There was also 15…Be7 instead of 15…Rc8, not allowing the bishop to g5, and Black has no reasons to be sad…

I think this comment also makes clear that Topalov did not prepare the line at home. Now lets have a look at the possible improvements he indicated:

a) 12..O-O 13.Nxc6 Qxd3

If Black does not exchange the Queens, White could try 14.Qb5 Qe7 15.Bg5 with a nice pin.

14.Rxd3 Nxc6 15.Bf4 Rfd8 16.Rad1 Rxd3 17.Rxd3

White is slightly better because of the bishop pair - not the kind of position you would like to play against Kramnik.

b) 12..Qxd4 13.Qxd4 Bxd4 14.Rxd4 Bxg2 15.Kxg2 Nc6

b1) 16.Rd3 Ke7 17.Bg5 Rhd8 18.Rad1 Rxd3 19.Rxd3 h6

and Black seems to be holding, however

b2) 16.Rd1 Ke7 17.b3 and if Nb4 18.a4!

with the idea of 19.Ba3 a5 20.Na2 seems to be fine for White, again. I don't like Topalov's ideas from the press conference. Actually I am not sure if these guys tell the truth there about any lines in the opening, after all their opponent is listening. Maybe they are just bluffing?

The main line against 6.Qa4 is

6..Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Nd5 8.Bxb4 Ndxb4 9.O-O Rb8 10.Nc3 a6 11.Ne5 O-O 12.Nxc6 Nxc6 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Qxc4

I think it is also not the position that Topalov would like to play in game five.

Therefore I repeat my recommendation for game 3:

Topalov should play 4..Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 or switch to the Slav.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik game four preview

In game three we saw another Catalan opening, with Kramnik having the slightly better position with White. Kramnik however avoided all complications and the game ended in a draw.

In game four Topalov has White, and of course he will have to try to get a good opening and get some winning chances. It will be very important for the players and their seconds to analyze the complicated game two, and draw the right conclusions.

I am not an expert on the Slav opening, nor do I want to become one tonight by analyzing all those complications, but my impression is as follows:

After

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.O-O Nbd7 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.e4 O-O 11.Bd3 Bh5 12.e5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 cxd5 14.Qe3 Bg6 15.Ng5 Re8 16.f4

Previously, in this position 16..Rc8 and 16..Be7 were tried. Kramnik played the novelty

16..Bxd3 17.Qxd3 f5

Now the game continued

18.Be3 Nf8 19.Kh1 Rc8 20.g4 Qd7 21.Rg1 Be7

Now Topalov retreated the knight with 22.Nf3 and later found a fantastic Queen sacrifice, which however does not seem to win, but rather seems to be the best way in trying to safe the game. However here he could have played 22.Nxe6 and get good attacking chances after, e.g. 22..Qxe6 23.gxf5 Qf7 24.Rg4 followed by 25.Rag1.

Black could have avoided this on move 20 with a lot of complications after 20..h6 or 20..fxg4, but Svidler analyses the solid 19..Be7 and comes too the conclusion that "Black has very little to fear".

So it seems like Kramnik's novelty was actually a good one, and Topalov needs to play a different line tomorrow.

I think the main alternative against the Slav would be 6.Ne5, which Topalov has played several times with White. Kramnik has seen this line with Black a couple of times and played the sharp 6..e6 7.f3 Bb4 8.e4 Bxe4, which seems to be out of fashion at the moment in favour of 6..Nbd7. Certainly, Kramnik being in the lead would prefer that line with less complications.

Or maybe Topalov will play 1.e4, which I have discussed in the preview of game two.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Kramnik - Topalov game three opening preview

In game two, like in game one, Topalov again found some excellent, very creative attacking moves but later played several inaccuracies and lost. So it is Kramnik two, Topalov nil.

What should Topalov do in game three? Should he play very risky attacking chess, and try the Benoni, Volga gambit, or King's Indian? I think rather not. Kramnik has shown time and time again that he is able to punish any opponent who dares to play these openings against him. Don't forget that Kasparov abandoned the King's Indian (and the Grünfeld) not the least because of his problems with these openings against Kramnik. If Topalov plays too risky with Black and loses game three... I think Topalov should play solid, and try to attack in game 4 with White. If he gets one win with White in game 4 or game 6 and does not lose game 3 nor game 5 with Black, he will still have all the chances in the match.

I think Kramnik will be happy with game one - not only with the result, of course, but also with the opening. He was prepared for Topalov's novelty 12..Ba6 and got exactly the queenless, technical position that he excels in. Kudos to Topalov for finding an excellent resource later in the game, when he was even able to press hard for a win. But I think the middle game was just very slightly better for White, and I am sure that Kramnik would not mind playing exactly the same line again and come up with an improvement somewhere. For example, Malcolm Pein suggested 19.Nbc4. Therefore I think Kramnik will play 1.d4 in game three again.

Topalov could go for another Catalan and play a different line. There are certainly many of them. Topalov has played the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O c6 8.Bf4 b6 several times, but it is rather passive, and he lost his last two games in this line against Ponomariov and Kramnik. Maybe he could try the line 4..Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 that Kramnik played himself against Kasparov in the last game of their world championship, and which Topalov's second Onischuk used last year to draw against Gelfand.

So what do I think will they play in the third game?

I think Kramnik will play 1.d4 again, but Topalov will switch to the Slav.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Topalov-Kramnik opening preview

Topalov was very unlucky to lose the first game with Black. In the opening he was slightly worse, and it looked as Kramnik had reached one of his trademark squeezing positions, but Topalov managed to sacrifice a pawn for very active counter play. He had a sure draw by a repitition of moves, but found some amazing resources to try to win - only to blunder and loose.

In earlier years Topalov was very upset after such a game, but my impression is that he is now much more able to get some positive energy out of his emotions. As he said in an interview in NIC magazine some time ago, he is not afraid to loose. And we have not forgotten his amazing come-backs in the tournaments in Sofia and Linares. So we should see another interesting game two.

What opening will Topalov play against Kramnik?

Topalov, like Kramnik, can play both 1.e4 and 1.d4.

Against 1.e4 Kramnik plays the Berlin or the Petroff, and if he wants some better chances to win with Black he plays the Sveshnikov. In a match, and especially with a lead, I would expect Kramnik to play the Berlin or the Petroff. Kramnik has been extremely solid with these openings, especially in matches. He unnerved Kasparov with the Berlin in their match. Kasparov never got anything from this opening, and he switched to 1.d4 very late in the match. Against Leko he played the Petroff, and Leko very quickly switched to 1.d4, although Leko never really had been a 1.d4 player before in his life.

Is this so scary that Topalov will play 1.d4 throughout the match? I think Topalov will consider his knowledge of both 1.e4 and 1.d4 with White a valuable asset, and will have prepared something against the Berlin and the Petroff, too. Kramnik may actually prefer the Petroff against Topalov, because Topalov plays the Berlin himself sometimes.

Which line could we see in a Petroff? After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 (Topalov even tried 4.Nxf7 once against Kramnik, but I am sure we won't see this ever again) Nxe4 White usually plays 5.d4, although in recent years 5.Nc3 has also become popular. After 5..Nxc3 6.dxc3 we often see positions with opposite castling, which lead to less symetric positions, and to much more dynamic attacking chess that Topalov may prefer. While practical results with this system have been good, the situation is much less clear theoretically, not the least because White's center has gone, which together with the open e-file should Black give good chances, too.

In the main line Petroff, after 5.d4 Kramnik usually plays the rock-solid system with 5..d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.O-O Be7. If Topalov goes into this line against Kramnik, he would better be prepared extremely well, or he will just waste one game with White.

Against 1.d4 Kramnik plays the Nimzo Indian. If White plays 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Kramnik usually plays the Queen's Indian, although he sometimes goes for the classical Queen's gambit. Topalov has had some fantastic games with White against the Queen's Indian in recent years, where he brought with his attacking ideas new life to an opening which was previously considered very drawish.

So what do I think will they play in the second game?

Unless Topalov has run out of ideas in the Queen's Indian, or found something impressive against the Petroff, I think we will see a Queen's Indian.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Kramnik - Topalov opening preview

Kramnik plays 1.e4, 1.d4 and 1.Nf3 with White. Many think that he played more convincingly with 1.d4 and 1.Nf3 then with 1.e4, however he has played 1.e4 most of the time in recent years, until his return from illness. At that point it was already clear (or at least very possible) that he would play the match against Topalov, so he could well have been “bluffing”.

Against 1.e4 Topalov defends with the Najdorf if he wants to play for a win with Black, sometimes he varies with the Sveshnikov. If he thinks a draw is enough, he plays the Berlin.

If Kramnik would play 1.e4, I think Topalov would go for the Najdorf, unless he has a big lead in the match. He beat Kramnik twice with this sharp line in 2005, and Kramnik did look very bad indeed in these two games. Also Kramnik plays the Berlin and the Sveshnikov himself, so even with a lead Topalov would maybe not venture these lines, and switch to another safe opening, maybe the Marshall.

Therefore I think Kramnik is going to avoid these sharp lines, unless he is behind and desperately needs to change.

Against 1.d4 and 1.Nf3 Topalov used to play sharp openings like the Benoni, the King’s Indian or even the Volga gambit, however in recent years he has switched to more solid systems like the Slav and the Nimzo Indian. I think Topalov would not risk the Benoni or the King’s Indian, unless he is behind in the match and thinks he has to win with Black by all means.

If White plays 1.Nf3 or 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Topalov usually does not go for the Queen’s Indian, but plays 3…d5 instead. Kramnik could then play some form of Queen’s gambit, or the Catalan.

Rublevsky is a second of Kramnik during this match. Rublevsky always plays 1.e4. Against the Najdorf, he likes to play 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+. This could mean that Kramnik has been training this variation with Rublevsky, and wants to avoid the sharp lines at move three instead of at move one. Topalov had to face this line a couple of times through his career, and played all the moves 3..Nc6, 3..Nd7, and 3..Bd7. In recent years he had to face this line twice against Kasimdzanov and Morozevich, and both times played the solid 3..Bd7. The game against Morozevich was at the San Luis world championship, Topalov won the game and the tournament.

Other seconds are Motylev (also always plays 1.e4, but the sharp Najdorf main lines that I think Kramnik is going to avoid) and Illescas (who plays many openings).

So what do I think will they play in the first game?

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7 Qxd7 and then White will try to establish a centre with c4 or c3 and d4, or

Topalov may anticipate this and prefer the Marshall, or

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3, or

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Atlas update panel

The technologies comprising AJAX have been around for several years, but their inherent complexity forestalled widespread adoption. AJAX frameworks are designed to make AJAX development easier. It is these frameworks that enable the whole Web 2.0 motion (and corresponding hype).

Still, even with a framework client-side development with Javascript and its ideosyncracies and limited tool support remains challenging when compared with the control centric, object-oriented approach made popular by ASP.NET.

Atlas is Microsoft's AJAX framework, based on ASP.NET 2.0. It comes with server-side controls that encapsulate the client-side functionality. Most useful is the UpdatePanel control, that allows the developer to convert any events raised from traditional ASP.NET server controls from full page postbacks into flicker-free AJAX-style partial page updating.

Using the UpdatePanel you can improve almost any ASP.NET page that does postbacks to update its contents. You don't have to be an AJAX insider nor a Javascript wizard to achieve this, any developer familiar with ASP.NET should be able to use the UpdatePanel. While Atlas is still in beta, or technology preview as these things are called nowadays, it comes with a go live license and is stable enough to be used in production sites now.

Bertrand LeRoy and Matt Gibs who are working on the UpdatePanel control at Microsoft have written an O'Reilly shortcut "Atlas UpdatePanel Control" that shows you how to apply the UpdatePanel. After some introductory explanations they show three well-chosen real-world examples, that are so close to common ASP.NET pages that you immediately understand how to apply the UpdatePanel in your own websites. The examples also include many tips and best practices on other aspects of ASP.NET and Atlas programming, with references for further study.

Shortcuts are short introductions to a brandnew topic that you can download as a PDF file. Until a book with a complete coverage of the Atlas framework and corresponding control toolkit comes along, this one shows you all you need to know to get going with the update panel, and is highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

RSS anywhere

One scenario the Windows RSS platform does not solve is accessing your feeds from anywhere. It allows you to subscribe to feeds on one Windows machine, and lets all applications on that machine access this feed store. However, if you are on another machine, you cannot access it.

I am using NewsGator to access my feeds from anywhere. I subscribed for free to a NewsGator online account, imported my OPML without problems, and can access my feeds now at home, at work, in an internet cafe.
I have a nice feed list in the browser, which just displays unread items, latest on the top, and I can open up the linked web pages in new tabs with IE7. If there are many news items, they put them in several pages, and you can mark all items on a page as read with one click. The read/unread status is also persisted online, so if you go to another machine, you will always see only the new items.

They even have a free news reader for Windows XP Media Center Edition. I don't like to read news items on the TV, but I created a second NewsGator online account and just subscribed to the Channel 9 video feed. I can watch the Channel 9 videos on my TV that way.

NewsGator has announced plans to integrate with the Windows RSS platform. Microsoft has similar ideas with Windows Live, but Niall Kennedy now announced he is leaving.

I still think the Windows RSS platform is a good idea, but for now I am reading my feeds with NewsGator.

Monday, August 07, 2006

How to localize the ReportViewer control in ASP.NET 2.0

The ReportViewer control in ASP.NET 2.0 allows you to display SQL server reporting services style reports. The reports can come from a SQL server reporting service (server mode), or from the website itself (local mode).

If you run the ReportViewer in local mode, you can also bind it to your business logic directly, instead of having to bind it to a database directly.

I found localizing the reports a bit tricky and not well documented, so here is a step by step guide:


  • When I installed Visual Studio 2005, only the English version of the report viewer itself was installed. The toolbar buttons for searching, exporting, etc. were displayed only in English. First you have to download and install the Microsoft Report Viewer Redistributable 2005. You will need to install this even if you have Visual Studio 2005 installed, as otherwise the installation of the following download will crash (at least it did that on my machine).

  • Now you can download the Microsoft Report Viewer 2005 Language Pack. Go here, choose the language from the dropdown, download and install for each language that you want to support.

  • If you run the report viewer now, you can see the localized toolbar.

  • In order for the report itself to display localized formats for currencies, dates, etc., make sure you have set the Language property of your report either to default, or to the desired language. This property is initialized to English if you use the English version of Visual Studio.

  • You also have to make sure that the thread is using the correct culture settings. This will default to the setting of your server. You can override it with the language the user has selected in his browser by doing something like

    Thread.CurrentThread.CurrentCulture = CultureInfo.CreateSpecificCulture(Request.UserLanguages[0]);
    Thread.CurrentThread.CurrentUICulture = CultureInfo.CreateSpecificCulture(Request.UserLanguages[0]);

    in a suitable place, like the page load or session start.

  • Finally, make sure you use culture aware formatting settings in your report, for example "C" for currencies.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Windows RSS platform and DTDs

I really like the idea of the Windows RSS platform. One central feed store on your machine, which each application can access.

What I don't like about the Windows RSS platform is, that it does not support feeds with DTDs. If you use IE7 to go to a feed that uses a DTD, you will get the following error displayed:

Internet Explorer does not support feeds with DTDs.

When I imported my OPML into the Windows RSS platform using IE7 (see my description here how to do that), several feeds would not display.

I did ask the Windows RSS team why these feeds are not supported. Here is the reply from Walter von Koch:

You are correct that the RSS Platform does not support feeds with DTDs. This is an unfortunate limitation based on the technology used for parsing feeds. Specifically, certain version of MSXML do not allow for DTDs being ignored. In later versions of MSXML it is possible to ignore DTDs. We are looking into possible using such flag. However, it would only work if that newer version of MSXML is installed on the machine.

With previous versions of IE, it was common to ship a new version of MSXML. See this knowledge base entry for a list of IE and MSXML versions.

However, apparently Microsoft customers got some problems with existing applications when a new version of MSXML was installed. Walter von Koch:

Redistributing new versions of MSXML is not a trivial undertaking. MSXML is the basis for many corporate applications and many enterprises tightly control which versions of MSXML are allowed on their machines. Hence, having IE7 require and install a new version MSXML can have significant impact on many customers.

Sounds like some DLL hell issues.

Why does the Windows RSS platform have to ignore the DTD? Turns out, parsing a DTD is a security issue. You can create a DTD that is so complex, that the computer parsing the DTD will use all its memory and CPU. So by creating a malicious DTD, you can run a denial of service attack against all parsers of this DTD.

My next idea was to strip the DTD reference from the feed's XML, as parsing the feed should be possible without a DTD. Turns out that this is easier said than done, too. Walter von Koch also replied to this idea:

Stripping out the reference to a DTD is not a simple task. Unfortunately it's not just applying a simple regex and strip the DTD. Parsing of xml is actually a non-trivial task given the number of encodings etc. Getting it right, and making sure it's done in a secure and safe way is challenging. Hence, the RSS Platform relies on MSXML for the xml parsing.

Recently, several of the sites I had problems with, now support an alternate feed without a DTD. In IE7, if you are on a site with multiple feed formats, the feed icon shows a drop down menu where you can choose between the different formats. So maybe by the time IE7 ships, this will be mostly a non-issue.

However, I still hope that IE7 will support feeds with DTDs, at least if an updated MSXML version is already installed on the system.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Name that game


Just returned from a great holyday. Can you name the game and the platform?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Snakes and ladders

Snakes and ladders is a very simple board game. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Snakes and ladders is a classic children's board game played between 2 or more players on a playing board with numbered grid squares. On certain squares on the grid are drawn a number of "ladders" connecting two squares together, and a number of "snakes" also connecting squares together. The size of the grid (most commonly 8×8, 10×10 or 12×12) varies from board to board, as does the exact arrangement of the snakes and the ladders: both of these may affect the duration of game play.

Snakes and ladders' simplicity and the see-sawing nature of the contest make it popular with younger children, but the lack of any skill component in the game generally makes it less appealing for older players.

Indeed my son enjoys the game very much, but for me it became boring very quickly. So we created some variations of the game to make it more enjoyable. The idea is to introduce a skill component to the game, while retaining the basic principles that appeal to children.

The simplest way we found so far is to use two dice instead of one. The player can choose to use the points from the one dice, from the other dice, or from both dice added together.

Monday, May 01, 2006

RSS support in IE7

I received the following official feedback from Microsoft about my concerns regarding RSS support in IE7:

This is not a bug. This capability is not offered in IE7. The support for feeds in IE7 is meant to be relatively basic and to work with the new RSS platform. Writing a fully featured RSS aggregator is not going to be part of the IE7 release. This will be considered for future versions but IE7 will not ship with this feature.
Others are also going to use the RSS Platform to build more fully featured RSS readers in addition to the basic support in IE.

Now that actually makes sense now. Instead of exporting and importing feeds via OPML files, the feeds will be stored by the platform, and the aggregators can be build on top of that. Then you will be able to use not one but several aggregators, and if you subscribe to a feed in IE (or any of the aggregators) all the aggregators will display the new feed.
So you could have IE, a gadget in the sidebar that just displays the most recent items, and a full blown aggregator side by side.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Importing OPML files into Internet Explorer 7

It took me very long to find out how to do it, and it does not seem to be mentioned on the web nor in IE7 help files, so I might as well post it:

To import an OPML file into IE7, press Alt. The menu appears. Now select File/Import and Export. The Import/Export wizard appears. Press Next. Select Import Feeds. Press Next. Browse to your OPML file. Press Next.

You will then have all your feeds in the favorites center in the Feeds tab. While the presentation of a single feed is very well done, it does not really scale to support a big number of feeds.

First, if you sort your feeds into folders, there does not seem to be a way to display all news items aggregated over a folder. Second, while you can set properties for an individual feed, you don't seem to be able to change settings for all feeds in a folder at once. For example, the default update interval for a feed in IE7 is once a day. You can change this for one feed by right clicking on the feed in favorites center, select Properties from the menu, and adjusting refresh frequency. Now I want all my feeds to update every 15 minutes, and I have got 60 feeds or so. The only way to do this seems to be to update the properties for each individual feed.

If anybody knows how to work around this, please let me know.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Manchester

I am currently working in Manchester again.


Yesterday I had a chance to see Manchester United in Old Trafford. It was a 5–0 white wash and a great show. Usually you cannot get the tickets, but Darren Hughes has a season ticket and could not go himself – thanks a lot Darren!



Last week I met with Austin Lockwood from SchemingMind.com. It was interesting to see that he ran into many of the same problems as I did. We also discussed possible future directions of Xfcc.