11 June 2013

Publishing chess games in 2013 (updated)

When starting this blog in 2011 I looked around at the various options for publishing chess games on it.  Having recently acquired some new software (Houdini 3 Aquarium) with publishing features, I thought I'd do another look at what's available now in 2013.  In truth, there doesn't seem to be much difference, although now the Aquarium publishing feature seems to work better with Blogger, although with a still very annoying bug (see below). (UPDATED - see Chess.com entry below #4 and also a new link to an Aquarium 2014 publishing example.)

For demonstration purposes I use the same game (Annotated Game #1, a simul against GM Walter Browne) in several different publishing formats for comparison.  While this isn't a comprehensive list of publishing resources, it includes several different options that I think are worth considering.  For my own purposes, I want the following features from any publishing program:
  • View full annotations (symbols and text)
  • See variations in annotations displayed on the board
  • Board and annotations must be visible together (i.e. not having the board scroll off the page)
  • Board should be flippable (White or Black can be displayed at the bottom)
  • Can use mouse or arrow keys to go through the moves
  • Can publish a full game as part of a self-contained blog post (no separate files or web hosting required)
Personal preferences will vary as will people's taste for aesthetics, but below are some reasonably objective observations on each option that might help those interested in publishing their own game.  If anyone has a favorite method not on the list that works in Blogger, point me to it and I'll add a sample.

1. ChessFlash PGN Viewer Quick Publisher / Knight Vision PGN Publisher (its new name) - this was what I ended up with as my primary publishing tool.  It had all of the features I wanted and is very easy to use.  It is not the most aesthetically pleasing, but the functionality is more important for me.
  • Copy & paste of PGN all on one webpage
  • Variety of options for pre-publication display, including color and width/height adjustment
  • All annotations are visible in the scrolling textbox and variations are displayed on the board
  • Requires Shockwave Flash

2. Aquarium 2012 - I seriously considered using Aquarium for my publishing purposes and did the work to track down how to use it with Blogger (as you can see in my tutorial for Aquarium 2011, which aside from the patch update is still valid).  I think it looks good aesthetically and has the desired functionality for the display.  I originally rejected it in 2011 for use with this blog, since there was a bug in its code that made all of the subsequent posts on the main Blogger page disappear.  With the 2012 version, this is no longer the case every time, but it still appears to cause problems with the main page.  Publishing this post caused all other posts on the main page to disappear below it for me, while publishing the Aquarium game in a post by itself resulted in the last post on the main page being cut off, so this is not a Blogger bug.  If the software publisher made Aquarium easier to use for publishing, got rid of its bug for use with Blogger, and did things like include full instructions in the manual/help file, I think they could create a lot more visibility for it via user-published content.  (EDIT: see this new example of Aquarium 2014 publishing on the Chess Expert Challenge blog.)
  • Commercial product (not free to use)
  • Need outside instructions for use (instructions not included)
  • Not all parameters adjustable
  • Pleasing design aesthetic, including presentation of the annotation text and variations
  • Does not automatically scroll text when advancing through the game with arrow keys

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Browne, Walter - ChessAdmin
1/2-1/2, ?.
[#] 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nf6 This sub-variation is relatively rare in practice, with Nd7 being played most often. I evaluate it as just as sound and less famiiliar for most White players, making it good for Black. 8.Ne5 Bh7 9.Bc4 e6 10.Qe2 Nd5 This last sequence is essentially forced after Ne5, which is White's all-out attacking attempt. 11.Bb3 Nd7 12.Bd2 Qc7

[My personal opening book is 12...a5 13.a4 Nxe5 14.dxe5 Qb6 15.O-O-O O-O-O as the a5/a4 moves give the Nd5 an outpost on b4 if needed. In general, the idea is to exchange the e5 knight and castle queenside, with the queen deployed to either b6 or occasionally c7, depending on white's play. In the actual game, this is the point where I did not remember the book continuation, although I did remember the idea behind it.]
13.O-O Nxe5 14.dxe5 O-O-O 15.h5 Bc5 16.Rad1 Rd7 17.Rfe1 Rhd8 18.Bc1 Qb6 This illustrates why the normal move earlier is Qb6 rather than Qc7, that would have saved a tempo on the position. 19.c3 Ne7 20.Rxd7 Rxd7 21.Bc4 Nd5 This rook exchange sequence gains Black the d-file and reduces the number of heavy pieces available for White to attack with. 22.Qf3 Qd8 Both Fritz and Houdini at this point prefer Qc7, which in words means the queen pressures e5 and also helps cover the 7th rank on defense. While doubling up on the d-file looks good, the points of potential rook invasion are at this point well covered by White. 23.Ne4 Bxe4 24.Qxe4 Be7 Not the best. Houdini recommends f5 first, which would prevent a future queen invasion on h7. 25.g3 Prevents any funny business from Black on h4 25...Bc5 26.Kg2 Ne7 It would be better to anticipate the queenside pawn advance with Bb6 27.b4 Bb6 28.a4 Rd1 29.a5 Qe2 is necessary to prevent the tactical shot on f2, which however... 29...Rxe1
[I also miss. 29...Bxf2!? 30.Kxf2 Rxc1 31.Rxc1 Qd2+ employs a queen fork and highlights the value of the queen on the open file.]
30.Qxe1⩲ Bc7 31.Qe4 This allows the black queen to penetrate, thereby fully offsetting white's space advantage and two bishops. 31...Qd1 32.Be3 Qxh5 33.f4 Nd5 Houdini says a6 would have been slightly better, although I thought getting the knight into play was more important at the time. 34.Bxa7 Nxc3
[Here both Fritz and Houdini originally thought that 34...Qg4 was better, as the queen stays active near white's king with the possibility of advancing the h-pawn to attack. However, Houdini eventually came around to my way of thinking. Both moves are essentially equal.]
[35.Qh7!?± was Fritz's evaluation, although I wasn't afraid of it at the time, believing my piece activity would compensate. Houdini agrees with me.]
35...Nd5 36.b5 Qg4 Fritz agrees taking the pawn too early is bad.
[Not 36...Bxa5 37.bxc6 bxc6 38.Bxd5 exd5 39.Qa6+ Kd7 40.Qxa5 Qe2+ 41.Bf2 Qe4+ 42.Kh2+⁠− ]
37.Bxd5 exd5 38.bxc6 Bxa5??
[Unfortunately I didn't remember this and admittedly was a bit flustered by White's apparent attack. Better is 38...Qe6 39.cxb7+ Kxb7 40.Bd4⩲ Bxa5 ]
[Both Browne and I missed 39.Qxd5 and White wins 39...Qe2+ 40.Bf2+⁠− ]
39...Kxb7± 40.Be3 Qd7 At this point we have reached a dead-even endgame where neither side can hope to make progress with good play. 41.Qd4 Kc8 42.Qc5+ Qc7 43.Qxd5 Bb4
[This allows white too much space. Better was 43...Qb7 44.Qxb7+ Kxb7 ]
44.f5 After this move, either Qc2 or Qb7 allows Black to comfortably hold. Something like Kh2 could have been tried to keep the queens on and white's space advantage. [1/2-1/2]

  • Copy & paste of PGN data method requires opening multiple windows
  • Moves with annotations are highlighted in the game score in italics, with the annotations listed in a box below the board
  • Does not display variations on the board
  • Cannot use arrow keys to advance through game, must use mouse
  • Has different options for board style, but published version does not look like what you see on the webpage (different colors/piece design)
  • Does not require any plugins (Flash, Java) to be installed

4. Chess.com's Game Editor (now with much better functionality, as highlighted by the FIXED issues below. However, it still does not display pasted PGN evaluation signs in the final product.)
  • Aesthetically pleasing design (although without any customization options for color, etc.)
  • FIXED: Displays variations on the board and annotations in the textbox below, but you cannot tell by looking at the game score where the annotations are
  • FIXED: Cannot use arrow keys to advance through game
  • Game itself is hosted at Chess.com, which may be a positive or negative, depending on your preference
  • FIXED: The editor apparently has trouble with annotation text placed before a move (as shown by the non-appearing intro text on the move 12 variation). Of course you can get around that by selecting only "text after move" annotations, but it's still annoying.

Other related resources/comments:
  • The pgn4web board generator is useful but has a 2000 character limit; the test game above has double that.  This means that the application isn't suited for annotated games.
  • ChessBase 11 allows HTML output of a game with a replayable board, but you have to host it yourself and cannot simply paste it into a blog post.
  • The HTML output from Chess King is not contained in a scroll box, so the text and variations of a typical annotated game will eventually drive the board off the viewable area (as in this example).
  • ChessTempo offers a PGN viewer/publisher but it requires editing HTML source, so involves more than just a copy/paste of a game.


  1. One idea would be to use the Chessbase 11 function to produce the HTML game, host it in some web account, and then embed it in blogger using an iframe.

    1. Anonymous13 June, 2013

      Hello Alan, thanks for the comment.

      My main consideration for this blog is ease of use and functionality. I have all the games stored in ChessBase, so just hit the "copy" button while in the game there and it will generate the PGN text on the clipboard, which is then pasted into the ChessFlash page, then the HTML generated is a simply copy & paste into Blogger. It takes something like 10 seconds from start to finish.

  2. Anonymous25 June, 2013

    Updated the original post with the Chess.com game editor/publisher info.

  3. I just wanted to let you know that I was able to get the Aquarium 2012 to produce replay boards that don't have the main problem that you describe (cutting off the other posts.) I have a number of examples up and I think they are pretty nice. I did have to overcome one weird bug but that seems to be past now.

    1. Thanks for the info, glad it's working for your site. Aquarium would be a great product for publishing if it was at all user-friendly, I think.

  4. I realize this post is pretty old now, but I thought I should point out that the publishing option in Chessbase 12 and Chessbase 13 seems to fit all of your criteria except the ability to flip the board. You basically get the same thing you see on Chessbase's own site when they publish games.

    Perhaps it was different in Chessbase 11 (it's been so long since I used it and I never tried) but with the modern one you don't have to host any files. Instead, you can generate the html file as though to publish it, open this up in your favorite text editor like Notepad, and copy everything between the body tags to paste into your blog. This gives you basically what you see on the Chessbase site when they post games. They detailed it in an article if you want to read about it - http://en.chessbase.com/post/web-publishing-with-chessbase-12-part-2-3

    1. Thanks for the updated info, it's good to have the latest on the ChessBase options. I do like the way the games look and the in-box scrolling of the text, but that lack of ability to flip the board still bothers me.

    2. I wish it had that ability as well, but for me I like the tradeoff of having it useable in a mobile browser (KnightVision requiring flash is a killer for me) and being able to include multiple games as a drop down menu as well as having it directly provide the PGN to download.

      I was inspired by your blog to start setting up one of my own (and playing again, after a 3 years break), and I really appreciated this post because it gave me a pretty solid list of options. It gave me a list of options from someone with years of practical experience to judge off of, and even though we have made different choices I would have ended up with chesspastebin or something without your suggestions.

  5. I am having trouble with chessbase 13 and publishing replayable games to my blog. Are there issues withn 8.1 or internet expolrer? I copy to html format from chessbase but internet explorer restricts it from running scripts and no board appears.Not sure where im going wrong any advice would be appreciated.

    1. As you might be able to see, I've started using Aquarium 2015 for blog publishing of games (previously it had been KnightVision), so I'm afraid I don't have any advice on ChessBase publishing, beyond the URL given in the above comment. If it's simply a script restriction, then you should be able to change that in the IE security settings (being careful about what you allow during browsing other sites, of course).


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