Franklin Campbell


ICCF Server Tutorial


The ICCF Tutorial is a guide to using the ICCF Chess Webserver. Since I posted this tutorial
it has been by far the most popular feature at my web site The Campbell Report with approximately 1500 people visiting already. Why did I create this tutorial, and why is it
popular? Here is a description of what the tutorial is and how it came into existence.

Why was the tutorial created?

Some of the readers may not be familiar with the ICCF server. It is a fantastic way
to play correspondence chess. When you play cc via the ICCF server you simply
go to the webserver web site, log in with your ICCF ID# and password, and you can
check all your server games with a few clicks of the mouse. The server tells you which
games are waiting for moves, keeps track of the time used, automatically generates
crosstables for the events, registers wins/losses/draws immediately (no need to report to the TD), and does all your bookkeeping. You don't need to send your opponent an email or postcard
(no writing required), you don't need to be concerned with notation errors, you won't mistakenly make a move in one game meant to be made in another, etc., etc. There are all
sorts of attractions to playing on the server. Personally, I believe in the very near future
that email chess will practically disappear as people with Internet connections will
use the webserver instead of using the much more cumbersome email.

I have been active working with the ICCF-U.S. office. First I started keeping crosstables
of USA events at my personal web site. Then I was appointed webmaster for the ICCF-U.S.
web site
and later as the archivist for the USA and NAPZ events. Due to my enthusiasm
for the server and my work for the USA office I started getting emails from the USA players, sometimes referred to me by the ICCF-U.S. office, asking questions about the ICCF webserver.
I responded to these emails, one by one. After a while I set up some screen shots of the webserver pages to illustrate what the players could expect to see if they signed up for
server events. You can see my first efforts at Server Screenshots. This reference was a
precursor to the tutorial and proved useful in my descriptions to the players about
what they could expect to see if they signed up for a webserver event.

As the webmaster for the ICCF Champions League I was quite disappointed by
the limited number of players who opted to play in a server section. I believe this
was due to lack of knowledge ... players didn't know what the server was and preferred
to play with a familiar form of the game. I also believe many players didn't have
confidence in their ability to quickly adjust to this new form of chess competition.
Lack of understanding and lack of confidence in an unknown method of cc competition
meant that many players would miss out on the opportunity to play on the server.
Clearly there was a need for an educational tool to encourage players to try the server.
I hoped the tutuorial would help popularize the server and encourage players
to move to this remarkable ICCF facility.

I have also been a big advocate of "live" coverage of cc games on the Internet.
By "live" I mean that the positions of on-going games would be displayed on
web pages. In practice this usually requires some restrictions, such as a delay of a
few moves from the actual current positions. The issue of "live" coverage can best
be covered by a separate article, but because I wished to encourage it I decided it
was important to explain how it works with the server. Most people would find
it confusing, perhaps even impossible to understand, without a detailed explanation.
Just how can you view a game "live" at the server? This information was an essential
ingredient for the tutorial and provided some of the incentive.

Many people with good knowledge of how to use the server also have good knowledge
 of using computers in general. In my computer programming career I have discovered
how easy it can be for the "experts" to not understand the needs of those less familiar
with computers. I worked for over a year on the help desk for a Ford Motor Company
web site with a large variety of users, and this was a good learning experience for me.
I learned the importance of clear instructions to the users. Step by step instructions
can help the novice user to gain understanding and experience using a new computer tool.
 I felt there was a real need for such "step by step instructions" for the new ICCF chess webserver. I knew enough about the official plans for the development of the ICCF server to believe there was no intention to create a tool like this. So ... I decided to do the job myself!

What is the tutorial?

Hopefully the tutorial fulfills the objectives listed above by publicizing the
ICCF server and educating users on how to use it. My approach was to provide
"screen shots" of all important functions. I.e., each feature is explained in words with
a picture of the feature on the server web page to illustrate the feature very clearly.
For example, in explaining how to move a piece on the board (on the chess diagram
displayed on the web page) I show the following snapshot of a portion of the screen showing the board, the piece being moved, and the cursor operated by the computer's mouse:



In the following illustration I wanted to show how to obtain a complete listing of the
moves in a game showing each move's "timestamp" (date/time the move was made).
I showed the "get PGN" checkbox with a checkmark and showed the mouse cursor
on the "slider" at the right. Since many users probably aren't aware of the terminology
"slider" and don't know how to use it, I show the placement of the cursor and supply
text explaining its use (the text from the tutorial is shown below the illustration).



"Only a limited number of moves can be shown in this format without scrolling,
but you can use your mouse to move the "slider" up and down at the right.
Just left click on the slider, hold down the mouse button, and slide it up and down
to display all the moves. Following each move is the "timestamp" showing the date/time the move was made. This is "server time", not your local time.

The format is year.month.day hour:minute. It should be noted that this page
displays the amount of time you and your opponent have remaining.
It does not display how much time has been used per move. It is easy
to avoid overstepping the time limit with this information, but it is not obvious
when you or your opponent is nearing the 40 days used for a move.
If you overstep the 40 days for one move limit without TD permission,
you'll be forfeited as soon as your opponent makes a claim (unless there
are very unusual circumstances). The time of the player overstepping the time
limit or the 40 days/move limit are apparently shown in red, alerting the players
after the fact about the overstep. When your opponent's time turns red you'll have to request a win from the TD ... the result is not automatically registered by the server."


For some people, particularly experienced computer users or people who have used
other chess servers, my explanations may seem overly detailed or too wordy. However,
I decided I preferred to provide too much detail as opposed to possibly too little detail.
Those who don't need the detail can skip over it (and possible don't really need the tutorial anyway). If I left out the detail some users probably wouldn't find the information they needed.

Of course, it is possible that I have overlooked some important features or left
out some important details. I have already added a number of additional screenshots
and description, and I will continue to update the tutorial as I become aware of
missing or incomplete descriptions. The server will undoubtedly change in the future
as new features are added and old features are refined. It's clear that work will continue
on the server for some time making it more useful, user-friendly and attractive.
ICCF is committed to the server. It is the future of ICCF. Already features are being
added to do things like document email/postal events and include calculation of the
rating lists. The server will become the primary tool for administrators to handle
all sorts of ICCF tasks. These features will certainly be documented in the on-line help
files but will not be part of this tutorial. The tutorial is aimed at regular users of the
server for playing their games, not at tournament directors or other administrators. However,
if this tutorial proves successful, perhaps a tutorial for administrators may be in the future.

So if you have questions about the ICCF server, are curious about how it works,
or just have one specific question, I invite you to drop by and take a look.
The material is currently divided into seven sections listed on the main tutorial page,
so you should be able to locate what you are looking for. The final page has a lot of miscenaneous information. Eventually, the server will have material in different
languages, not just in English. First there will be translations of the on-line help files,
then the server pages themselves will probably be provided in different languages.
Till that happens non-English speakers will be able to read translations of
(or descriptions inspired by) this tutorial in German, Dutch, Spanish,
Czech and French. Hopefully the tutorials will help people all over the world to
learn more about the ICCF server and to enjoy correspondence chess via the server.
It's a great way to play chess and is a tremendous step forward by ICCF.
If you haven't tried the server yet, I suggest you sign up for a tournament
as soon as possible. Take my word for it ... you'll love competing this way.
Personally, I found the switch from postal to email very difficult. My results
suffered and my rating plunged. I just never felt comfortable with email chess.
However, I instantly took to server chess and have started to improve my results.
Your results may vary, but I strongly suggest giving it a try. You can review the
tutorial to get a flavor of the server. If you have questions about server play, hopefully
they will be answered in the tutorial. The tutorial reflects my enthusiam for the server.


Here are links to all the current versions of the ICCF Server Tutorial
with the name of the person who translated or used the original
English version as a model:

In English - J. Franklin Campbell:  Tutorial for using the ICCF Server
In Nederlands (Dutch) - Marc Smet:   Handleiding ICCF webserver
In Czech - Josef Mrkvička:   Pruvodce u×ÝvßnÝm webserveru ICCF
En espa˝ol (Spanish) - Ra˙l Polo Molina:   Traducido el Tutorial del Webserver
auf Deutsch (German) - Uwe Bekemann:   Benutzungshilfe fŘr den ICCF-Webserver
En franšais (French) - Marc Smet & Charles Moeykens:   
Manuel d'emploi pour le serveur ICCF





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