Wednesday, August 10, 2011

EScorebooks? - Thoughts From an Aspiring Woodpusher

We all know that the Laws of Chess require you to record your games as you play them. How many of us keep those records?

I'm pretty proud at having, still, after more than 30 years, probably 90% of my tournament game records, and even some of my very early games before I became a tournament player in my teens. Its interesting to see these hand-written scores. You see not only my small progress as a teen, but almost as interestingly, historically in my mind, you see the change I made, early in my tournament career, when I switched from Descriptive Notation which I'd started out with in '78, to Algebreic Notation that I (and most people, I understand) use today.

But I'm contemplating a larger evolution today. All these games, about 200 of them now, are recorded, handwritten, in two notebooks. Historically I would take my game scores from the tournament, and reinscribe them into my notebook. They usually didn't look any better, really, but if I'd screwed up the score during the game at least this was cleaned up in my notebook. Of course sometimes I was lazy and didn't quite get around to it. So, this month as I got back into the game, I found (I knew I had them) about three tournaments worth of game scores I'd not put in the notebook. I set about inscribing them in so I could get ready to inscribe the games I'm playing now - my "modern" games. So, I was working at that point to get my notebook up to 1999. Then we'd be ready for the games of 2011!

I've been taking a look at chess database programs, specifically Scid, in order to keep track of things. I'd been handwriting my games for thirty years, but I saw that keeping games electronically, in databases, would enable me to do some very interesting queries and filtering. How many games had I won with 1. d4? 1.e4? In as much as I play recognized openings, what is my most played? My most successful? Additionally, keeping game scores electronically enables easy playback, right on the computer screen. No toting around even an analysis set. And, of course, the database can be coupled with a chess engine for analysis.

It sounds like its a great winning situation, doesn't? Well, if you talk to any Librarian or Archivist these days they're worried, I think, that future Librarians and Archivists will find a vast amount of records lost or unreadable starting from the last half of the last century. Computers of future eras may not be able to read old formats, etc. In some cases this has already happened! Archvists that I know tell me that no one knows what to do about this! I'm thinking hard if I want to put my records in a format that sometime in the future I may not be able to read. Eleven years ago when I last played I had the option to put my games in a Mac program called ExaChess. I didn't end up putting my games in this program. I still have it, but its an open question as I sit here if I have a computer capable of running the program!

As with anything else, perhaps, its your backup strategy that becomes important. In this case including a backup strategy that would print out the games I have in the database and put them in a file along with my handwritten games.

Do members of the club keep their scores for any reason, and if you do, how do you folks do it?

This is yet another thing that I didn't have to think about 30 years ago. :-)

-Doc Kinne
BCC Member, USCF #12186200


Anonymous said...

I record my games by hand (algebraic notation), and then when I get home I play the moves out on WinBoard, which then generates the PGN in text format, which I then paste into the text/pgn file that holds all my tournament games (159 so far). I don't think there will ever be an issue with readability since it's simply a text file with simple characters that just happens to have a .pgn extension. I don't usually keep the hand-written scoresheets.

Ken Ho said...

I think I have only misplaced a single scoresheet from the >600 rated ones I've played. I keep the scoresheets in opening-specific folders (unfortunately not always properly filed), from which I have occasionally noted success or failure rates in particular openings.

I eventually started keeping basic information (opening, color, result, etc.) about all my games in a spreadsheet. If I wanted to, I could calculate how I'm doing with different openings, but over time I discovered that that's not particularly important to me (AFTER I found openings I liked, that is).

I have entered a small number of my games into the tChess Pro app, wherein I can go over them on my iPod. tChess Pro can export PGN files; I'm with Anonymous about such text files for long term use/storage.

The scoresheets may be my only record of such things as times used, declined draw offers, etc., which are sometimes of interest. Time scrambles have also caused me to have a number of incomplete scores, which are perhaps most easily used from a scoresheet. For instance, you might have complete moves up to move 39, but lack detail up to move 50. Then, since you reached the time control at move 50, you had time to record the position on the board, and have an accurate move record from then till the end of the game. That would have to be two separate PGN game records, unless I'm mistaken.

Rihel said...

I think I have almost every score sheet since I started playing in 1993, with one exception. In my first and only scholastic event, in the last round, I was tied for 1st with a 1300 rated kid who didn't know how to keep score. After he beat me,I tore up my score sheet, threw it in the trash, and asked him to prove that he actually won.

Needless to say, this was not a winning plan.

Nowadays, I annotate all of my games in detail in chessbase. Since my scoresheet locker is now full, I throw away the sheets after annotation. Someday I want to pay some high schooler $10 an hour to put all my old scoresheets into chessbase, but that must wait.

Rihel said...

Wait! There is another interesting game score I am missing. I played a G30 in May where my opponent didn't show up until he had only 2 minutes left! He was so adept at blitzing out good moves that I feared falling too short on time recording my moves, so at the end of the game my sheet was blank.

Unknown said...

The problem of format is two fold, you have the physical medium and the file format.

The concern over files has to do with proprietary formats -- which SCID can use -- not open formats that anyone can code too. So it's not a problem to use your database if you keep your files in plaintext pgn format. You can even print out the games if you want to have a hard copy. I know some people who do this once a year and simply get their games bound up at Kinkos and stick them on a book shelf.

The other problem, that of hardware format, is familiar to anyone who still has an audio cassette tape laying around, even though they likely don't have an audio cassette player. This isn't nearly the problem that proprietary file formats is for small users as you are capable of transferring data from one storage medium to another as your home hardware changes.

In both cases there are ways of addressing the archival issues without sacrificing the capabilties that modern chess databases bring.

Doc_Kinne said...

Wonderful comments from everyone. I'm still thinking this through. Last week, during some downtime, I entered in my new games into SCID. It worked, but I'm not entirely convinced of its utility. Perhaps I need to learn the program more. But I may be printing them out in a folder as well.

Jason, a 1300 player who didn't know how to keep score? How the heck old was he? I don't blame you for your reaction.

Anonymous said...

The only handwritten scorebooks I'm missing are the ones with my two best tournaments in them. I must have put them in some box I haven't opened in years.

I like looking at my games that way. I realize the value of making a statistical analysis - I recently did one the old-fashioned way, and it upended one of the things I'd always "known" about my play - but the chronology is more entertaining to me these days.

Keeping score is actually one of my favorite things about the game. It would take a long time to explain why, assuming I even understand it fully myself. I wonder sometimes how I would play if there was no scorekeeping - very differently, I would guess, and mostly worse though occasionally better.

Rick Massimo