About

Welcome to the Chunky Rook.

The original intent of this blog was to make animated gifs of “chess chunks”, i.e. useful move patterns, and memorize them by repeated viewing. When I came up with the idea, I explained it as follows:

Although there’s little controversy about the importance of pattern recognition in chess, the jury’s still out on the question as to how we best learn and absorb these patterns. The approach I attempt here is just that — an attempt; but I’ve figured nobody has yet made use of animated patterns, so why not give it a shot? From a didactic viewpoint, bear in mind that looking at these patterns repeatedly makes sense only once you’ve grasped the idea behind them. Sometimes, I’ll explain the positions in the post, but more often than not, I’ll simply post the animation. This animation, after all, represents the result of what I’ve studied and thought about, and might be useless to you unless you already have some sort of understanding about the position in question. Your thoughts and comments on the matter are, of course, much appreciated.

Unfortunately, making these gifs requires time and effort, and as the years went by, I couldn’t muster the commitment to produce more gifs on a regular basis. I believe there’s something to be said for this approach, though, and I try to keep posting new gifs occasionally.

Thanks to richd.com for designing the chunkquisite rook icon, and to the Rybka 3 Aquarium team for the excellent annotation features of their chess software.

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18 Responses to About

  1. I like your diagrams and look forward to being able to spend some time here when I’m done with work for the day. I’ve played with a few web based PGN viewers and some offline tools to generate diagrams, but still have to hit on something I really love. There’s a couple WordPress plugins for chess, though I doubt they’d be good for what you’re doing.

    What’s your workflow for creating the diagrams? (If you don’t mind sharing…)

  2. chunkyrook says:

    Not at all. I use Photoshop and ImageReady. I load the board as background and insert the pieces and text as layers, then animate them stop-motion style in ImageReady.

    Of course, some kind of “recorder” software would be neat, but I wouldn’t even know where to start looking. I experimented once with PGN viewers on another blog, and it was a pain in the ass. And you can’t produce infinite clean loops with the viewers, either. Of course it remains to be seen whether the learning and recall experience of the gifs justify the the 5-20 minutes spent on animating them, but so far I’m enjoying myself and feel it’s time well spent.

  3. Drat! I was hoping you knew of some swift little tool to automate the process. ;-) Have you looked at Aquarium at all? It’s a new UCI interface from ChessOK (formerly Convekta). One of it’s nifty features is the ability to copy the board image to the Windows clipboard. If you set up a PGN with the moves you wanted to animate, you could have the collection of images to combine into an animated gif in short order. If you get the basic version that comes with the freeware version of Rybka it’s only $25. With Rybka 3 it goes up to $59 and with Deep Rybka 3 it goes up to $109. They’ve also got a demo on their site. (Just to note: that last link is a direct link to the exe. I copied it from their website, but beware of viruses as usual, etc., etc.)

  4. chunkyrook says:

    I downloaded the Aquarium Demo a couple of weeks ago. It looked good (especially those fancy arrows!) and I hear the support community is excellent, but I abandonded it because it slowed down my CPU too much. I shall check out the feature you mention and see if I can improve my gifing that way. Thanks for all the input, much appreciated!

  5. What time I’ve spent with Aquarium I hadn’t noticed it being all that sluggish, and that’s in XP running in a virtual machine on top of OS X. Granted my MacBook Pro has 4GB of RAM and I was able to dedicate 1.5-2GB of ram to XP. Any chance you are low on RAM or just have an older CPU? Apologies if that’s just a bunch of foreign tech babble.

  6. chunkyrook says:

    I have 512MB of RAM on my vintage ThinkPad ;) So there. I’ve tried Aquarium just now, though, and it seems to be doing fine. I’ve discovered the board image feature and it’s splendiferous. Now I need to find myself an easy gif animator and I’m all set. Great stuff, thanks again!

  7. If you are okay using a command line utility all you need is ImageMagick and a series of images named board01.gif board02.gif board03.gif, etc. and you can do:

    convert -delay 20 -loop 1 board*.gif animatedboard.gif

    Of course you can change the delay between frames, among other things.

    ImageMagick is a cross-platform tool and works on Windows. It’s also open-source, free software.

    Let me know if I can help.

  8. chunkyrook says:

    Aquarium’s image grab in combination with Photoshop might turn out to be the Holy Grail!

  9. chunkyrook says:

    It’s … beautiful! Needless to say, I am ridiculously excited about how well this worked out. You have most likely just made my week, sir!

  10. Glad it worked out for you!

  11. Koji says:

    Hi,

    Great stuff here, keep it up. I want to teach my kids about endgames and your animations fit their attention span of 10 seconds perfectly!

  12. blunderprone says:

    Does wordpress allow people to follow with RSS feed subscriptions? ( With Blogger.com we have to enable this feature). I’d like to subscribe this way as an easier way to track new activity.

  13. chunkyrook says:

    My RSS feed is https://thechunkyrook.wordpress.com/wp-rss.php if that helps. I know next to nothing about RSS I’m afraid.

  14. David Lemper says:

    Chunky ,
    Your animated gifs are outstanding. But they go a little
    fast for my 70 yo mind. Is an option to slow them down
    available ?

  15. chunkyrook says:

    Thank you very much, David. I’m afraid there’s no way I know of to slow down the gifs, but I’ll keep your comment in mind and experiment with the display speed for future gifs!

  16. Brilliant blog.

    I just started up a chess blog myself but I am in the early stages and making it for beginners to start somewhere.

    Yours is fantastic with some great tips. I love the gifs too. I hope it is okay I added a link to your blog from my own.

  17. Matt Horwitz says:

    Hi Chunky,

    My name is Matt and I really enjoyed reading your blog. I find your ideas very interesting and unique, especially the notion of “Areas of Influence” and how to use them to dictate what your natural development should look like. Anyway, I recently started working on a my own chess site, ShindigChess.com (it’s a free chess site with 3D boards and built-in video chat) and I was wondering if you would be interested in giving it a shot and maybe writing about it on your blog if you like it? It’s currently being used for instructional videos by IM Kopec and I was thinking that you could make cool new 3D chess videos for your blog with it if you like it. Let me know!

    Matt

  18. kaiherbertz says:

    Dear Chunkyrook,

    nice blog, even though it’s far too advanced for a chess-rook(ie) like me :P

    When I scroll down, the animated gifs are already in motion. I have to watch them a bit to see what the original position of the board is.

    Perhaps it would be worthwhile to have an opening screen, like an empty chessboard with “Chunk!” written on it or something of that sort.

    Having such a defined start point would clear things up. Also, if someone grabs a chunk, they’d have this opening screen, possibly with the URL of your blog, to remind them where they got it from.

    All the best,

    Kai

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