In the long history of computer-based chess games, one of the earliest open source applications was Shane’s Chess Information Database, better known as Scid. Last year Steven Atkinson, a Unix graduate and hobby programmer from Brisbane, Australia, used the Scid code to create a usability and bug-fix fork called Scid Vs. PC. With it you can play chess online or against numerous chess engines, browse tournaments downloaded in PGN format, and create chess databases.
“Mainline Scid is, for all its power as a chess database, badly implemented on many levels,” Atkinson says. “The user interface is ugly and often broken (even more so on Windows, where Tcl is not as mature). I love Tcl, and enjoy chess, so when I found Scid I knew I had to make it better. Unfortunately, after some work with the current maintainer, it was obvious we didn’t get on personally and that he wasn’t terribly interested in the polish of the program, but rather its power as an elite database, at which it is very successful. So around a year ago I forked the project.
“The tools I use are standard issue for Linux hackers: The powerful Vim and bash, and KDE’s multipaned Konsole, which allows for easy browsing of multiple Tcl/Tk man pages.”
Atkinson says it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the program’s scope, so he offers a tip for getting started. “For first use I recommend browsing the first help pages, then have a quick game against Phalanx with the Play -> Tactical Game feature. Playing online with Fics is also great fun; it requires a little more effort to begin, but I’ve tried to improve the documentation to help out.” The developer also advises there’s easy access to common game options and windows via right-clicking on the main board, and that the F2 key gives you a quick computer analysis of the current position.
Atkinson says that in honor of the next release, his tenth, he hopes to implement a computer vs. computer tournament feature. “It sounds ambitious, but it should just be a matter of inventing and implementing a good design, as Tk has some powerful features that will help out. I also have to bring the Game List widget up to speed with large databases, as it is a rewrite using new Tk features and hasn’t been finished.”
Want to help with the coding? Atkinson says Scid recently moved to a new database format that Scid vs. PC does not currently support. “This will get done sometime, but help with it would be welcome.” Make your move.