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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....




Chess And Your Macintosh
January 12th, 2000

This week we show how your Macintosh can help you explore the world of chess. Since Richard Fowell suggested this topic, I asked him to write this section. Richard is a former tournament chess player who has used Macintoshes for over 12 years. Spurred by disparaging comments about Macintosh chess in popular chess books, Richard has made it his hobby to improve and promote Macintosh chess software.

Whether you are interested in teaching chess to your grand kids, learning it as a hobby, or simply find the time to further your interest in chess, this column should help you. We'll mention several free programs you can download to your Mac. Downloading is usually fully automatic once you click a download link in your Web browser. You should see a file or folder in addition to files ending in .hqx or .sit. If you only see the latter, you need to manually use Stuffit on these files - see the column from Dec 16, 1998.


Learning Chess with your Macintosh

There are several wonderful chess tutorials on the Web that require only your Web browser. One of the nicest is Chess Corner (click on the "Learn" button once you get there). Chess Corner was created by Janet, a full time primary school teacher at a London girls' school. Janet runs a chess club for the children during lunch time break. Several similar sites are linked at Chess Beginner's Guides. The full, official rules of chess are also available on the Web. These rules may be viewed at, or downloaded from: FIDE Laws of Chess. Articles 1-6 are all you usually need.

The "Chess Mates" CD-ROM (US$15) is a very entertaining and engrossing commercial chess tutorial. It runs on Macs and PCs, and teaches chess to absolute beginners, ages 9 and up. It uses animated characters and digitized voice. You learn the rules, elementary tactics, and win printable certificates when you beat the computer. You can see screen shots and system requirements at Mac Game Database: Chess Mates. Chess Mates is available from the United States Chess Federation (USCF) at (800) 388-5464. I've recommended it to several parents, and they have all reported that their kids were happy with it. For those who want to go further, there is a similar Mac/Windows hybrid CD-ROM aimed at teens and up called "Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess" - see Mac Game Database: MATCH. Early versions of this program were PC-only, so make sure you get the Mac-capable version. I saw it at "Your Move Chess & Games" (US$25, 1-800-645-4710). Other places listed it for less (US$16-US$20), but were out of stock.

Chessmaster 6000 ($40) is an "all-in-one" package with tutorials going from absolute novice to intermediate play combined with dozens of computer opponents from beginner to senior master. If you buy only one commercial package, this is the one for most people.

Playing other People over the Internet

You can play chess with your friends across town, or even on another continent, using the Internet, whether they have PCs or Macs. There are many ways to do so. The most popular are the "Server" sites like the Internet Chess Club (ICC) and the "Java" sites like Excite. At the ICC, you can go to ICC Newcomers and play an anonymous game right away, or download the free "Fixation" interface software and sign up for a free trial membership. At Excite, you can open a free account at Excite Games and play chess. See A Review of Excite Chess and Yahoo! Chess vs. the Chess Servers to learn more about these options.

A Superb Free Macintosh Chess Program

Any Macintosh owner interested in chess should download Sigma Chess Lite 4.02. This is the nicest and most generally useful free chess program for the Macintosh, with tasteful graphics and sound. Sigma Chess was written by Ole Kjaer Christensen with help from Kaare Danielsen. The Sigma Chess Home Page includes download links, an online manual, screen shots, and links to other Macintosh chess sites. The symbol in front of "Chess" at the top of this page is the Greek letter, "Sigma".

You can download Sigma Chess to your Mac simply by clicking on Sigma Chess Download Link. Sigma Chess Lite runs on any Mac sold since 1992 ( details: requires 68020 or higher CPU, System 7 or higher, 640x480 monitor resolution with at least 16 colors/grays, 4Mb free RAM and 10 MB free hard drive space).

The download should produce a folder whose title contains "Chess 4.0.2 Lite". In the folder is a file called "Rules of Chess" and one called "Online Manual". If you double-click on "Rules of Chess", then select "Collection: Print Collection" from the menu bar at the top of your screen, you can print an 18 page chess tutorial to your printer (if you have one). You may also view it on screen in any case. The diagrams promised in the tutorial are not actually displayed - you may want to begin with the Web tutorials mentioned above, and just use the printed Sigma "Rules of Chess" as a reference.

The "Online Manual" file can also be printed, viewed on your screen, or read using your Web browser online by clicking the link titled "View Manual Online" on the Sigma Chess Home Page. The manual is about 42 pages long. Don't let this intimidate you - if you already know how to play chess, you can simply double-click on the "Sigma Chess 4.02 Lite" application icon, go to the "Level" menu, and, under Novice, pick "Absolute Beginner", "Beginner" or "Apprentice". (If you think you are good, then just pick "Leisure"). You can start the game as White by dragging a piece forward with your mouse.

You can toggle between the flat "diagram" set and the perspective "three dimensional" set by holding down the cloverleaf key (or Command Key, also called the Pretzel Key) on your keyboard and pressing "W". Sigma provides realistic sounds of the pieces moving. If this is annoying, turn it off using the menu item "Analyze: Sound Effects". Similarly, the little menu icons can be disabled with the "File:Preferences:Menu Icons".

Sigma Chess lets you: save your game for later review, replay your game using the keyboard arrow keys, have Sigma Chess analyze the game, type in your own notes and commentary using the "Annotation Editor", and print out your game for later review in two-column format with diagrams at points you select.

Other Macintosh Chess Software

There are dozens of other Macintosh chess programs. The Macintosh Chess Software Index is a comprehensive index to Macintosh chess sites on the Web, and Free Macintosh Chess Sites is a good list of downloadable Macintosh chess software.


Richard Fowell may be reached at fowell@netcom.com. Since Richard sent me this column by e-mail I am reminded once again of what a great little application textSOAP is. It took only seconds to line up Richard's e-mail so that it fit nicely into my AppleWorks document. For information on using textSOAP you can refer to the December 29, 1999 column.

Have you been following the Mac Observer's coverage of the MACWORLD convention and trade show? It has been very interesting to me to see how they can send us back instant information that even includes movies. This was my first opportunity to actually view a QuickTime movie and I really do like it. Think how much fun it would be to make a movie of a new grandchild and send it to grandparents living far away. See, this would work because the grandparents don't have to know all the technical stuff necessary to make a movie, they just have to know how to view it. If it is always as easy to do as what is currently in The Mac Observer, then even novices could participate. I realize that thousands of people have probably already done this, but I think it is important to mention it so that recipients will not be afraid to try.

I received a letter this week from Patrick Clark who works for Light & Sound Design, Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee as an ICON Electronics Supervisor (http://www.lsdicon.com). Patrick was responding to my offer for introductory guides for brand new Mac users from last week's column because he teaches new company employees how to use Macs. I asked Patrick for more information and he told me that his company's entire moving light system is based on the Macintosh 68k processor, and that most of the moving lights you see at concerts, on television, etc. are run by a Mac!! Why am I not surprised? For those of you who may be into the technical side of using Macs, Patrick noted that: "Our moving lights, the ICON(Registered), the Washlight(Trademark) and the new M-Series(Trademark) all use the Motorola 68000 Microprocessor for its onboard logic. Our control console uses either the 68020 or the 68040 processor for its logic. We also send out PowerBooks (145, 160, 180 and 190 series) as well as 7200 Macintosh computers for Tech/Backup."

Next week's column is going to discuss ways to encourage computer usage among those who did not grow up with computers and who are tentative in their approach to using them. I have some ideas from readers, but would love to include more and encourage you to e-mail me your thoughts.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.


Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.


Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.


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