Email 1: "C.O.A. Beta v1.0 - Feedback" from Ken Wilsdon

Date: April 19, 2011

First Name: Ken
Last Name: Wilsdon
Country: Canada
Feedback Topic: Review of C.O.A. Beta v1.0
Your Feedback: Wow, what a great web site!

First, let me say that I think your web site is great for the new chess player, teaching them a lot of the basics of play. I myself have played chess for over 45 years, and was happy to see so many basics in one spot.

Now more specifically about the Chess Openings Analyzer. I like it so much that I have made it the home page of Google Chrome!.

Any product that has that kind of name and already includes what you include, I would instantly assume it would help me to see most of what I would need to know to move from the opening to the middlegame. I would not be as concerned about other middlegame elements or ending considerations. I would also expect that this software would integrate with the web site. Perhaps a (?) next to a category would enable a new window/tab to open with the relevant section from your web site for further information.

Yours does that splendidly in several different areas: 1) material balance (point count); 2) Relative king safety (Castling - one of the signs that a game is moving from the opening into the middlegame); 3) Connected rooks (again, another sign that the middlegame is upon us); and 4) space (center domination, control, space count and territorial domination).

I think it is in this last point that the software really shines for a new player. Space in the opening can be a relatively transient element for strategic analysis, but it definitely should be part of any plan to move from the opening to a successful middlegame. The fact that you can play an entire game going through the position only, or buttons 1-5 under the chessboard, allows anyone to see the struggle that is happening move by move (say in center domination or control).

[NOTE: At this point, Ken listed suggestions to improve the COA software, which I won't publish here - for obvious, competitive reasons!]

I believe the individual elements of your points system is more important than the final net point count. Others have tried a similar system. A couple of books that do this that you may or may not be aware of is Horowitz and Mott-Smith, Point Count Chess (an excellent book on just what you are trying to accomplish, and an excellent book describing how to capitalize on each advantage.

Another book is by Hans Berliner - The System - A World Champion's Approach to Chess (also available on the net). He is 5 time world correspondence chess champion, and has his doctorate in computer science, and developed the Hitech program in the 90's. His book gives a point value for each pawn based on how close to the center it is, and how advanced it is, and for every piece based on its mobility. This might give your program a closer feel to a Fritz. It may or may not be what you are looking for, but certainly informative on many levels.

While there are more books along this genre, I think these would be enough for this critique.

As I indicated at the outset, this has been written to give specific constructive suggestions on how your beta software could be improved into a real useful tool for both analysis, and planning for the middlegame to come. I will be definitely interested in any improvements to the software, and if you want further advice or if I could be a beta tester of the next release, I would be happy to do so, and will provide comments as time allows. I apologize for the delay in getting this to you, but I have been thinking long and hard on my response. Hopefully you have found this useful and thought provoking.

Best wishes,