Category Archives: SpecterChess

Emerald Specter 118: The Great Chess Experiments Are Over

What, you say? How can this be, you ask?

I’m fooling myself if I believe anyone out there really had a hard investment in what I was trying to accomplish… but it’s time to talk about what worked, what didn’t, and why I’m ending the “Great Chess Experiments” on this website.

Just over a year ago, I launched the Emerald Specter Chess Club with the hopes of expanding the Chess Basho system I developed into something that people would be interested in playing in. There were no rating limits, “titles” for those who earned them, and only a minimal commitment to make to the system in order for that to succeed.

Well, it was a big, fat failure.

At first, there was interest in competing in the tournaments. I had the first two tournaments fill up faster than I could possibly have hoped and was very happy with the results. I have talked about this before, so I won’t go back over it. There was hope early on but the longer the series runs, the less hope there is that exists.

When I launched Chess Basho VII, I made the trophies customized (and very pretty, if I do say so myself), gave everyone enough time to jump in, and ended up starting the tournament almost a full month after the designed start time because there was no one joining. Since this is something that has happened more than once, I’m calling this basho the last basho…

I had a simple goal: engage lower rated people in tournaments and competition to award them titles in a fun little amalgam of chess and sumo. Hell, the only sumo tie at the moment is the naming system and the means of awarding the titles. Results? Dead on the vine.

The other thing I’ve recently attempted to create was SpecterChess. The “TL;DR” version is that I wanted to amalgamate chess and the UFC, awarding championships to players who wanted to be featured in events. If you visit that link, I even created a championship belt for the whole thing.

What happened to SpecterChess? Well, I had a podcast set up and the intention to review my games in my specific “rate class” (which is Straw Rate) to eventually work towards winning a championship. I recorded my first event and have had nothing but problems since that recording was made. I’ve recovered some of the audio, some of the video, but overall, I’m giving up on trying to do what I was going to do and am looking at alternatives.

Currently, as I write this, there is a 32 man StrawRate tournament to crown the first SpecterChess StrawRate Champion of the World. It’s a KO style tournament and it’s being run on Chess.com (where else would I run it?), and whoever wins the championship (if it be someone other than myself, which is likely), I’ll challenge them to a match for the belt. The idea being that if I can get some activity for a championship going, there might be some hope of salvaging a little bit of the SpecterChess experiment.

Let me explain, in a perfect world, what the plan for SpecterChess would be if money were no object…

There are 10 Rate Classes (Heavy, Cruiser, Light Heavy, Middle, Welter, Light, Feather, Bantam, Fly, and Straw) to compete in, each having a rating (Elo) limit. I’ve come up with a lower number of Rate Classes with more of a “digital” feel to them (ExaRate limited to 2200, PetaRate limited to 2000, TeraRate limited to 1800, GigaRate limited to 1600, MegaRate limited to 1400, and KiloRate limited to 1200) to refine what I was hoping to accomplish. Since the experiment is essentially over, I’ll explain using the new Rate Classes.

A tournament in each Rate Class would be held (KO style) between 16 players to determine an initial Rate Class Champion. The 15 players in each Division who failed to become champion would be ranked 1 through 15 as the top contenders for the championship. Each month after the initial tournament would allow for the introduction of new players playing the established ranked players for a chance to play the champion.

This is basically a speed set up to establish a UFC-like ranking system. Since there would be six Rate Classes, there would be six champions. If the interest above a 2200 rating would be sufficient to create a stronger Rate Class, an expansion could be held to establish Divisions higher than ExaRate… but I digress.

Instead of relying on tournament play, like is almost exclusively what “real world” chess uses, SpecterChess is all about match play. The basic idea was that two players agree to play a four game match at a 15 minute per side time control to determine a winner and loser. The only time there would be a tournament would be if a championship becomes vacant and needs to be refilled (which would be used if there weren’t two clear contenders who deserved a shot).

This is all well and good, but why would anyone want to compete in this manner? Money. Again, I am setting this up as if money were no object, so bear with me.

Each signed SpecterChess player would receive a base annual salary of $2,000. Players would be matched by a Competition Board overseeing SpecterChess. A minimum of six match offers would be made per year, with players being required to compete a minimum of twice (or be fined $1,000 per match declined… meaning if you don’t play at all, you lose your basic annual salary).

Winning a game provides $500 (per game) to the player, as well as a possible “best game,” or “most exciting game” style bonus of $1,000 for exceptional play possible to earn (one bonus of each type per event). Losing a game would be worth $200 per game, meaning that if you either win or lose, you earn money. There is no bonus for a draw, period.

All championship related bonuses are doubled. Champions earn a pro-rated $4,000 annually (if they serve a full year, they get the full amount), $1,000 bonus per win, and $400 bonus for each loss… special bonuses are also doubled. This also applies to the challenger, since they are also competing in a championship match.

With a minimum of 16 players per Division, and six initial Divisions, the base annual salary of the entire SpecterChess organization would be $204,000. That’s only for the basic annual salaries of the champions and 15 ranked contenders. Just like the UFC, SpecterChess would have more players than ranked spots in each division to keep things interesting.

The incentive of money is where things would create an interesting scenario. Players who will never be vying for the World Chess Championship have a place to play (SpecterChess) under contract (lengths varying from 1 to 5 years) to create monthly (and eventually weekly) events just like the UFC to promote chess to players who aren’t top rated.

Who better to learn from than players within your own reach? (Strong teachers will tell you to review GM games, but if you aren’t able to understand some basic concepts of the “weaker” game, then how the hell are you supposed to grasp GM concepts?)

Salaries would increase with sponsorships, there would be physical locations for the events (so there would be attendance possibilities… more on this in a paragraph or two), and vendors could jump in to make it more of a convention rather than just a “sit and watch to two players play four games” at a time.

That’s if money were no object. I had hoped to get some sort of footing to use as a “proof of concept” to sell the idea to sponsors.

The physical locations bit might have scared you a bit… fear not, the idea could be to have multiple venues for a single event world wide, not necessarily all players in one spot. I’d like to have all players in one spot for the early events but the Internet is the only means of building this proof of concept, so I have considered many options. The fact that being paid, guaranteed, is involved should at least make this idea as popular as the PRO Chess League.

With the exception of trying to do what I planned on doing with the podcast feed, I think that both of these experiments are officially over. If the SpecterChess StrawRate Championship works out, maybe I let that one hang on a little longer, but the whole idea is on its last leg as I write these words.

I won’t be completing the SpecterChess events as I’ve numbered them out, but I will be reviewing games… I need to go back to what I’m good at: audio production rather than video. Video may come, but I need to start where I know I can do positive things.

Thanks for reading.

A SpecterChess Update

This is a tale of epic failure… but all hope is not lost.

When I recorded the first SpecterChess, I did so with the intention of only having audio to distribute. I used screen recording software and thought I might also get away with putting out video.

That was a problem.

The video / audio quality got corrupted somehow and I was trying to salvage as much as I could, obviously making me VERY behind. At one point, I even lost the file entirely (totally unusable, not “couldn’t find it”). I had a backup on a different hard drive and stopped futzing with the video and just tried getting the audio. Another failure.

Going back to the original backup, I’m going to be pulling off the audio without any attempt at restoring any issues. I’m not going to edit in the music or other sound effects, either. There was going to be a big production. I WILL be releasing SpecterChess 1 in as rough a form as it is because I’ve spent months fighting this issue.

I’m going to set expectations, too… this might be the only SpecterChess to be released. I have more time to work with stuff but there’s been so much that has gone into this that I’m sapped (even so much as I’ve timed out on no less than 20 games of chess because I was so focused on getting this thing up and running). I’m not totally set to give up on it but I’m also realistic enough to understand that it probably isn’t going to be what I wanted it to be…

Hang in there, the audio is coming.

Emerald Specter 112: Back to Podcasting

I’ve written something like this before and I’ll likely write something like this again in the future. The point of everything is really planning out what will happen when and being ahead of the curve.

Podcasting is coming back and I need to change my philosophy on accomplishing what I’d like to get accomplished in 2019… sorry, STARTING in 2019.

The Specter Show stopped coming out on September 3 ,2018 and has really not gotten started back up yet, despite me talking about it like it was right around the corner again. I’ve had lots of plans to make things move forward but when I haven’t done anything due to holiday issues, the fact remains that I’m woefully behind on producing podcasts again.

The Greatest Show hasn’t put out an episode since June 25, 2018. That is the longest break in shows since Bob and I had a little over a year break way back in the early days. Technically, this was when the “season” was supposed to end but, honestly, another season should have started and be at least a few episodes in.

There is an impending SpecterChess podcast coming, too, but let’s start at the beginning with my longest running podcast: The Greatest Show.

I was attempting to build a live viewership with the season format, since we occasionally got a few viewers live to the show. Gifts were sent out to the only viewer interesting in participating in the free gifts and while I have more free gifts to give, I am giving up on the live podcasting model in favor of just producing more quality content.

I’m basically giving up on a release schedule to make sure we have the content without forcing everyone to get together to just talk about 2 weeks of news or so. The other issue with forcing the Saturday night broadcasts was that some hopeful guests couldn’t get on the show due to the time it was on, leaving me scrambling for interesting people who could fit into the previously rigid mold.

People I’d like to get back onto the show who have already been on (linked to their episodes): Eddy Webb, Dan from Fear the Boot, Quinny, Jason Brick, Miss Miniver, and co-founder Bob. These are just the recent ones (recent is relative) and I would love to have them all swing back by for another go at a time of THEIR convenience.

New guests I’m hoping for in the future (also at THEIR convenience): Dirk f’n Manning, Dan Berry, Brandi from GamersTable, Eric from GamersTable, Derek Russell, Money Flippin’ Matt Richards, and Daniel O’Brien. There are others I’d like to have on the show but I’m not going to make some sort of exhaustive list for you to look at…

If nothing else, I’m looking at getting back together with Bob more regularly to go back to the roots of the show and get things rolling forward again.

Moving on…

The Specter Show started as a place for me to just talk. Yep, no real direction and that ended up showing that was more true than not when I wouldn’t have anything super important to talk about on the show. I want to give the Specter Show more direction but I don’t necessarily want to give the show a reboot because I’m okay with the sketchy past and I’d like to keep the numbering.

That leaves me in a predicament. BuJoRPG talk will be getting it’s own platform in 2019, I’m fairly sure this is going to be a YouTube thing but I’m waiting for the voting results to come in, so I don’t want to concentrate on BuJoRPG development in two places when one is more than sufficient. I don’t want to talk about nothing every time, or a roundup, when I can be talking about something specific because I really need to focus on a topic to bring in the listeners.

Since I play both Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes and the newly released Assassin’s Creed Rebellion, I was thinking of putting out some content on the “gaming” side of things in their own podcast… but I can just make these the Specter Show instead, put out a YouTube feed (also pulling off the audio for the audio feed) and there’s my built in content. I do play UFC 3, too, as well as a few other things here and there, but I do both of the first mentioned two on a daily basis.

Sound good? I think it does… at least it gives me a little to work on for the future few episodes.

SpecterChess is the former PRO Chess League Podcast feed that I am trying to bring attention to my own chess improvement, making chess more about the excitement and matches, and moving towards getting others involved in a UFC-style presentation for the sport.

The big plan was to have grand “events” weekly that would be presented as if they were all PPVs. Initially, I was the only one on every event and after Christmas struck me, the grand format is being paired down to something a little more manageable so that I can produce what I’ve promised and run a little more free form after that… because I bit off more than I could chew and didn’t get a chance to preproduce what I wanted to have done by now.

As I write this, you should have a few episodes of that out by now but as I write this, I still haven’t produced a single episode of the series despite having done the prep work for the first 9 events.

Christmas really sucks.

Finally, there’s the coming Dev Blog for BuJoRPG. There should be lots of poll numbers in by now and I should have been working or at least planning the first episode whether that is in YouTube or on this site. I think I’d rather do YouTube so that I can show while I talk but I’m okay with typing, too.

If this does turn into a YouTube thing, I’ll put out an audio version, too, and then I can have content coming out regularly for multiple things on this site while I work on more content in the background.

Podcasting is coming back. Now that I’ve typed this all up, I’m hoping that I can get to work on at least one of these so I can get back into the habit of doing stuff. I’m digitally bullet journaling and that will help organize my life back towards what I want to do rather than just limping along lazily towards some incoherent goals loosely laid out in the future.

SpecterChess 1 Promo

SpecterChess 1: Allen vs Duaz on January 4, 2019

Emerald Specter 107: The ESCC and Chess Basho

I like chess. I know other people like chess, too. I’ve attempted to combine chess with a couple other aspects of sports or presentation to make them more appealing to an audience. That all actually begins with getting players involved, regular players, and making sure that there are firm ground rules for how to do things in these scenarios.

One of those is the Chess Basho experiment. 

I was originally going to write about how this is mostly a failure but things have perked up a bit and I wanted to begin looking back, then coming forward, to see where we’re at and perhaps drum up some consistency that has been sorely lacking.

I am going to go all the way back and look at Chess Basho I (for ease of explanation, I’m just going to use the numbering rather than try to parse out what each event was actually called). Who played, who won, and where did we end up?

Without running down all the particulars, the four Sapphire Adepts were the winner Alexin2, Nikbasketball12, Sim_zama, and dukenukem123. None of them returned for the following tournament and I did invite them.

The tournament was well received, filled up very quickly, and play was fun. I participated in the tournament and finished a dismal 11th out of 12.

The next tournament was Chess Basho II, with almost an entirely new crew of players who joined the system (me being the only returning player from Chess Basho I). With no returning players, the aforementioned Sapphire Adepts were changed being “kyujo” (or absent) in this tournament. The new SAs were winner ArturFaust, homozzapien, anujvaniya78692, and biraandrada. This was also the first tournament I established being a member of the club to be technically promoted. I finished 9th.

In Chess Basho III, I returned again as well as King_of_Not. Mmuse would also first appear here and become part of the returning membership. The SAs were once again brand new as none of the Adepts returned for this basho. The new ones were winner FlashyFerrari, syibil, Pauliow1967, and mapru. I finished 10th.

Chess Basho IV had none of the Sapphire Adepts returning again, so we had a whole new slate of them for this one. They were winner miki1701, PRIMAT_RU, King_of_Not, and EmeraldSpecter (me). This tournament is also a catastrophic failure as the tournament started abruptly, while not being full (there were only 4 players), and was generally thrown out. Technically, though, I am including it as we did have a definitive ending.

Chess Basho V saw myself and Mmuse return but no King_of_Not. None of the Sapphire Adepts returned and that left yet another new slate: winner mrstasky, DarrylAG, DalkyiAK, and Goridulich_Evgeniy. I finished 10th… I also decided that this was going to be my last Basho as a participant because of my other project, SpecterChess, being my focus for the future. (Side Note: SpecterChess will be getting some alterations in the very near future due to my writing of a story that had things going in interesting directions)

Chess Basho VI is the one currently running as I write these words (though it should be over by the time this column is released). Currently, both Mmuse and King_of_Not are participating, and though Mmuse has currently attained the Sapphire Adept threshold, they’ll be too far down the rankings to actually be granted the title. 

This leads me to why I’m writing this big column.

As of about 45 minutes ago (as I write this), I announced and posted on Chess.com the new Chess Basho VII event. This will introduce a few changes to the basho system in the hopes that things start moving forward and people start coming back into the fold… here’s the nifty new logo, too, which will be part of the trophies on the website (and hopefully entire players to keep coming back to earn more of them):

Unlike the logo I had been using, this one is more compact. The trophies simply have a “1st, 2nd, and 3rd” in the bottom right corner of the logo.

What are the changes, though? 

First and foremost, the membership requirement for the ESCC is out the window. No one is joining and the only real reason to have the ESCC as part of chess basho now is to alert those players when another tournament is announced. Players can come and go as they please but the new trophies I’m hoping will start drawing in more returning players (enough to launch a second, invite only, division).

Second, there will be expanded numbers of titled players to allow for those who return to actually achieve what they came to achieve without always being pushed down by much higher rated players that pop in and never return. The new number of combined Sapphire and Ruby Adepts will now be six and that applies to the new Chess Basho VII event forward.

Third, players will be able to earn points based on their returning statuses. So, for example, since Mmuse and King_of_Not keep coming back AND they seem to achieve the Sapphire Adept title thresholds, they won’t lose their titles to players who haven’t returned to other tournaments. Using King_of_Not as my primary example, they have participated in 3 tournaments and will have 3 points over players who have not returned in the past. Mmuse also has 3 for returning. If they both achieve the Sapphire Adept threshold in Chess Basho VI then they’ll both be given the Sapphire Adept title, which they will continue to hold as long as they return for Chess Basho IX.

But what if they don’t place in the top 6? Not placing in the top 6 would be unfortunate, but will not disqualify them. Players in the top 6 who haven’t participated in more than one tournament will not earn the Sapphire Adept title. If more players start returning more often, this point system will be reevaluated.

Finally, the tournaments will no longer begin on the same days as actual sumo tournaments. The tournaments (starting with Chess Basho VII) will begin on the first non-holiday day of the month. If participation starts ramping up, there will be a consideration for 12 tournaments a year rather than just the 6.

This is still an experiment and I’m hoping that something comes of it sooner rather than later. I’m willing to run this tournament schedule for up to three years (we’re already done with year one) to see if this is worth continuing afterwards. The concept is solid, the participation just needs to be ramped up.

Emerald Specter 104: SpecterChess Revisited

If you want to know why columns aren’t coming out like they used to then you should be aware that November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I have decided to participate this year… that basically eats up the extra spare time I had to write a column.

So where is this one coming from? Well, the subject of my NaNoWriMo novel this year is basically SpecterChess. I started writing and came up with some wonderful ideas that I’d like to revisit on this site, and perhaps alter SpecterChess with… so, let’s not waste anymore time.

I have an issue finishing writing projects. No, really, I do.

Yes, I know that isn’t a surprise… that was sarcasm.

Anyway, I was challenged by my friend (and author) Jason Brick (of BrickCommaJason.com) to write something I “wasn’t married to as an idea.” I chose to write about someone who wants to set up a chess league and that basically meant I was writing about SpecterChess, in a nutshell. Along the way, though, something happened.

Some writers will tell you that they aren’t necessarily in control of their characters. Non-writers will be baffled by this statement but writers understand that sometimes the characters are really the ones who are in charge of the dialog, meaning they can sometimes start talking about stuff that you hadn’t expected them to talk about at all. Sometimes, even, they bring up subjects that are completely out of left field, and in my case they can actually unveil things you weren’t sure that you wanted to do.

My characters have done that very thing.

The character who came up with the idea for SpecterChess (it’s called ICE for International Chess Experience in the novel) pitched the whole idea to his friend and unbeknownst to me came up with some formatting changes that I didn’t really take into consideration when I launched SpecterChess. The biggest one is the “divisional breaks” I used for SpecterChess: my character broke them up more evenly and with a better overall vision for them.

As I write this, SpecterChess has 10 rate divisions that are between 100 and 200 Elo points apart (with no room for being at the top of the rating maximum and going over). I initially just named them after the weight classes that the UFC uses with the addition of the unified rules of MMA inclusion of Cruiserweight. Using the names and weights, I literally just added a “0” on the end of the weight to create an Elo maximum for each division.

Sounded good at the time.

My character, though, broke them up differently and excluded anyone above 2200. Why 2200? Well, the reasoning is that anyone above that rating will be focused on “traditional chess improvement” and wouldn’t really be interested in playing in ICE at all. These players would be the ones attending all kinds of tournaments and winning prize money.

The new “Rate Classes” are as follows (with the maximum Elo in parentheses): Kilo Rate (1200), Mega Rate (1400), Giga Rate (1600), Tera Rate (1800), Peta Rate (2000), and Exa Rate (2200). If someone won their division’s championship, and they were already at the maximum rating (or very close to going over), they are given a 50 Elo buffer to defend said championship. ONLY 50 Elo points and ONLY for championships. If you’re a non-champion player and you stray over the rating limit, you’re in the higher division.

Another caveat that I came up with, which I do not personally have the funding to do, was being paid a salary for playing in ICE. The salary varied based on rate division and would only apply to those who were “ranked” contenders. That means that the champion and the top 15 players under the champion are under salary, while the rest of the competitors are not salaried players. This gives anyone a reason to try to get ranked in their divisions and gives a reason for ICE, or in my case SpecterChess, a reason to be a draw to players.

On top of a salary, every win you achieve under the ICE (or in my case SpecterChess) banner would be a bonus of a flat fee (let’s use $25 for this example). Regardless of salary, you could earn an additional $25 per win (meaning the win over the opponent and not the win of individual games). There would also be bonuses for outstanding game/match and other possible bonuses.

The characters in the novel started by forming a single division first and expanding out from there. Now, I’ve only written into the beginning of their first event, so Tera Rate is the one they started with and they established a KO tournament in order to determine a champion and 15 ranked contenders. After another event of only Tera Rate competitors, they will be starting in on another rate division (I’m thinking “down” would be smarter to go with initially, so they’d be introducing the Giga Rate division next using that line of thinking).

When I use the word “tournament,” I am speaking specifically about KO tournaments. Chess is rife with round robins (it is THE norm) and the whole point of SpecterChess is to go back to match play.

Why match play?

Well, there is no scarcity in chess anymore. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana (the two World Chess Championship 2018 players) have played each other more than 50 times already… where’s the mystery in that? Also, with only tournament play in chess, they haven’t gotten a chance at a long run of match play like they are about to enter. There isn’t really any match play other than the WCC.

Sure, that allows all kinds of kibitzers to download all their games and overanalyze things. I also agree that tournament play isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My concern is that with ONLY tournament play, chess is becoming more an endurance product than a player v player game. Players are more concerned with their overall tournament performance and less about “that one game they drew” early on.

My goal with SpecterChess isn’t to eliminate “normal” chess tournaments, it’s to add a feature for those who aren’t in some sort of contention for the WCC. I’m creating “chess competition for the rest of us.”

I’d like to play in tournaments, sure, but I’d rather concentrate more on a single opponent at a time with a focus on seeing if I can outmatch them rather than endure an entire tournament.

The last thing that ICE is doing that I hadn’t really considered before is game time. Each game is 15 minutes per player, meaning we don’t need to worry about achieving that “perfect game” in a traditional time control. It also eliminates the stress of needing to be spectacular at blitz chess, which in my estimation can be overrated as the alternative. With 30 minute games, players have their entire set of four games (per match) in a single day, leaving the multiple day event format in the dust.

SpecterChess would literally be like the UFC in that they’d only be happening on single days. 

I would like to thank my characters for coming up with most of this and though I’ll be altering SpecterChess’s format/rules in the near future, I wanted to point out that sometimes writing takes you in weird directions.