Jul 26 2011

A message from the CEO – Thank you!

Sean

Dear ChessCube users,

ChessCube certainly has wonderful users. Your response to our appeal to help support ChessCube has been overwhelming. Thank you!

Your contributions to ChessCube – monetary and otherwise – have invigorated us and we are working harder than ever to deliver a fantastic product to you – our community. Throughout the past month we have received support via online purchases, donations, marketing expertise and advertisement offers from our users, tons of heartfelt emails and, most importantly, your vote of confidence and support regarding our recent Cubit and in-application advertising policies.

Those who have been able to support us by purchasing Cubits, ChessCube Cinema videos, virtual items such as backgrounds and chess piece sets in our store, purchases in our merchandise store, VIP upgrades and donations on PayPal – we thank you. For those who have not been able to support ChessCube financially, we thank you too, as we truly appreciate you staying active on ChessCube.

I would also like to mention a huge thanks to our community members who have been using our social gifting feature. We have seen large amounts of virtual goods and VIP memberships being gifted to friends and strangers alike.

We appreciate your continued support for ChessCube – which really helps secure our future as a leading chess network and we will do our best to serve you well.

If you would like to contact me to discuss any issues, please email [email protected].

Thanking you in advance!

Mark Levitt
CEO ChessCube


Jun 21 2011

ChessCube Update: A message from the CEO

admin

Dear ChessCube users,

ChessCube has always been a labor of love for the staff of ChessCube and our moderators and community for a number of years now. Our users love ChessCube as it is unique in what it offers to the chess community.

We have also been very fortunate in having fantastic investors whose funding allowed us to build out a great online playing product. Our tournament services are really unique and fun. All our staff love ChessCube and we all play on it regularly!

While we have always been a free-to-play service, we do in fact have a number of products that people can purchase to increase their enjoyment of ChessCube, such as VIP memberships, chess videos, backgrounds, sound packs and, of course, cubits for wagering and tournaments.

As only a few percent of our users actually do purchase items from our stores, ChessCube has not been able to run profitably enough to improve our services and grow our staff numbers.

So, we have been looking at our cost structures and have cut costs where we can. This also included moving most of our servers to a more cost-effective environment over the last two weeks. This has led to some downtime and some small issues with our service – but we have been hard at work to ensure that our service levels are back to normal – and in fact our goal is to make them better than ever. Due to the high volume of games on our servers (6m a month!) though, we are already hitting some limits on our new server infrastructure – but we have some ideas how to manage this.

As you know, every company needs to make a profit, in order to invest into growth and improvements. For this reason I would like to appeal to you, our loyal users, to help ChessCube by taking up VIP memberships, buying cubits and crowns and taking part in our amazing tournament services.

As you know, you can earn free cubits every day by showing up and winning games or playing in tournaments. Our promise to you is that we will always keep ChessCube a free service. Nevertheless, as the cost of our servers, staff and other running costs is high, we have decided to ‘charge’ 10 cubits for all rated or unrated games.  This is not a true financial charge though as you can simply use the cubits you receive each day to play. You can also win cubits in wagering games, tournaments and off our hourly/weekly/monthly leader boards.

Wagering games and tournament games will not be affected at all by this charge though. We will also increase the number of free and low-cubit entry tournaments at the same time.

VIP members play free and will not have to pay any cubits for their games. And in fact, if you do run out of cubits, buying even $5 worth of cubits will give you around 5,000 cubits which is 500 games!

I understand that some of you will not be happy to have limits imposed on your free games, but this will lead to a better service for all of our users.

VIP has all of these great benefits http://www.chesscube.com/vip but, even if none of them are appealing to you, consider a VIP purchase as a sign of your support for ChessCube. All of these actions will be greatly appreciated by your ChessCube team and will lead to a better service for all.

If you would like to contact me to discuss any issues, please email [email protected]

Thanking you in advance!

Mark Levitt
CEO ChessCube


Apr 6 2011

The Online Commonwealth Chess Championships: a great success!

Mark

ChessCube, the world leader in online chess tournaments, with over 20,000 tournaments per month, sponsored the 2011 Online Commonwealth Chess Championships. This event ran over nine days, from 26 March to 3 April.

This unique online series awarded each section winner $1,500 in cash prizes and, in addition, they receive free accommodation and entry into the real-world combined Commonwealth and South African Open Chess Championships. This land-based event, which is not limited to Commonwealth country entrants, will be held at the beautiful Emperors Palace Hotel Casino & Convention Resort in South Africa, where an additional $21,000 in prizes is up for grabs.

There were three groups: above 2200 players, under 2200 and under 1800 rated players. Players who finished from 2nd to 100th positions in each group also won an array of cubit or virtual goods prizes.

Overall there were 9,061 entrants in 426 separate events. Participants were given the option to play in one of the three sections depending on their strength. This worked well in giving the lower-rated players a fantastic opportunity, as well as giving the stronger players a chance to compete. The feedback from the community was very positive over the splitting of the separate groups.

ChessCube’s unique ‘Warzone Chess’ pairing system gives anyone a chance to win one of the groups. Our handicap system includes time, material and scoring advantages for the lower rated players, which could even allow a 1200 to stand a chance of beating the 1700s to win the under 1800 event.

The Warzone pairing system creates a new exciting edge for Internet play, compared to the traditional slow-paced round-by-round Swiss or Round Robin systems. Instead of waiting idly between rounds, your next game starts 2 or 3 seconds after the last one ended. It’s a grueling trial by fire, with one fast-paced match after the next. The handicap system then creates the balance for you – so you can defeat anyone.

With such a big prize at stake, some dishonest players dropped their ratings on purpose in order to compete in a lower section, or to create some advantage in the handicapping system. We used a number of countermeasures to weed out the cheats:

  • We have introduced a well-constructed ‘rating floor’ system, to ensure that so-called ‘sandbaggers’ cannot dump rating points before an event in order to enter a lower category.
  • We used a very high k-factor (which increases rating volatility) in the first few rounds to ensure that player’s ratings settle very quickly into their correct strength.
  • We used XP levels in the final events to ensure that new players coming in with a low rating would not be able to enter or win prizes,
  • Our systems also compared player’s previous history on their account (or related accounts) to ensure that they do not have higher ChessCube ratings.
  • We also require the three winners to submit real world identification and proof of their real world ratings as a final check.

The tournament was an amazing success for ChessCube and we will be hosting many more exciting series in the upcoming months.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Mark Levitt
ChessCube CEO


Mar 14 2011

Warzone Chess tournaments: Anyone can win

Jacques

Warzone Chess™ ushers in a new era of chess tournaments. Instead of the normal slow and steady round-based tournaments, Warzone Chess is fast paced and action-packed, with a new game starting as soon the previous game ends. The aim is to score as many points as quickly as possible, with the highest overall score winning.

It is generally accepted that stronger players win tournaments, however in Warzone Chess it’s a free-for-all, where anyone can win. How is this possible you ask? Well there is a unique live handicap system which is in place for every tournament. The handicap system gives lower-rated players an advantage over higher-rated ones, with chess ratings used to calculate how much of a handicap will be given.

Each Warzone Chess tournament has the option of having handicaps enabled, which evens-up the rating gap between players:

  • Time handicap. A lower-rated player will start with a larger amount of the total game time, while a higher-rated player will have less time at the start of the game.
  • Position handicap. A lower-rated player will be given a positional advantage at the start of the game. For example, the stronger player may have to start the game without their queen.
  • Points handicap. Lower-rated players will be rewarded with more points if they win against a higher-rated player.  For example: a lower-rated player may gain 100 points for beating a stronger player, while not losing any points for being defeated. This gives you every reason to fight for the win.

You can see which handicaps have been enabled in a Warzone Chess tournament by looking at the tournament info on the right of the tournament window. Hover over the info icon to the right for additional information.

Warzone Chess handicaps


Feb 24 2011

Flash Player 10.2 Bug Resolved by ChessCube

Sean

Flash 10.2 is a key part of the Adobe move towards a faster lightweight flash that leverages hardware acceleration. Early indications are that performance is massively enhanced. Flash is also on a critical path to get onto Android and other devices. This is something we at ChessCube are very excited about and support.

Immediately after the release of Flash Player 10.2, ChessCube noticed that users’ Adobe plug-in was crashing. It was particularly bad for our Chrome browser customers as Chrome automatically updates users to the latest version of Flash under the hood.

The diagram below shows the time online of people on our website. Some of our users play online and that is the part that uses Flash.

Just after the first week we can see a divergence of Chrome users as they start to spend less and less time on our site compared to the other browsers, who are, we are certain, on Flash 10.1.

The diagram above shows the length of time users spend online within specific versions of Adobe.

At first we assumed that there were changes to the Adobe system that were not backward compatible. Comprehensive searching on the Internet uncovered that other sites were having issues, but most were not. There were some who advised switching off hardware acceleration on the client – although this has no effect for our users.

The ChessCube tech team embarked on an internal project to replicate the crashed browser in the smallest amount of code and then to see if we could work around the error in Flash 10.2. Download the code here.

Ultimately our team realized that the cause of our crashing was very obscure. It is related to the use of a specific combination of rest arguments and the switch-case statement.

We added a simple try-catch element and, for magical reasons, this prevents the Adobe Plug-in Crash. We released our new version on 23 February, and immediately we see that Flash 10.2 is now working beautifully for ChessCube users.

Feel free to distribute our code to any website that is having a similar problem.


Feb 2 2011

ChessCube Community Update – February 2011

Sean

“I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.”
Blaise Pascal, 1656

Hi and welcome to my first Community Update of 2011!
To get things kicked off, I want to welcome all our new members since my last post, and to wish you well during your stay at ChessCube.

We’ve had a big past few months, launching Warzone Chess™ Tournaments, introducing our 2nd currency – ChessCube Crowns, and watching our users play 31,633,344 rated games in 2010. We’re absolutely sure that this number will easily be doubled in 2011. As much as we’ve been updating our product with great new features, we’ve also been squashing out bugs and enhancing current functionality – ensuring we deliver the best possible chess playing experience to our users.

On the subject of the Community, we now have 1.3 million members with 145 Moderators across our 60+ live chat rooms. Should you be interested in joining the Moderator team, have a look at this forum post. We’re always looking for helpful and friendly users who are willing to join as Moderators – users who are passionate about ChessCube and its community as a whole. We’re also looking to expand our room list – so if your country currently does not have a room on ChessCube, read this post on how to secure your country room on our forum and on our live site. We also want to welcome KingsCrusher and his faithful YouTube followers to ChessCube, who are likely to be found discussing chess theory and current real world events in “KingsCrusher Cafe”, a new ChessCube chat room run by KingsCrusher himself!

The biggest announcement I would like to make in this post is about our new forum! That’s right, we’ve been hacking away and building a whole new, super awesome forum, just for you! Please drop by and introduce yourself. You’re welcome to read and post chess related messages, or chat in your own language with users in your own country via the country forums! We hope you enjoy using our new forum as much as we’ve had building it! We still have many more add-ons coming to the Forum – and remember, you can always send in your suggestions on what you features you would like to see both on ChessCube.com and our new Forum by emailing [email protected] or by sending feedback from within the Cube.

So Cubers – for the year ahead, there are 2 words I would like you all to remember: Think Big! We’ve got some very fun and interesting projects lined up, including the much anticipated ChessCube Version 6, due out later this year. Remember, for all the latest news and product updates regarding ChessCube, be sure to join our 1800+ followers on Twitter, as well as our 30,000+ Fans on Facebook and our LinkedIn group!

I hope you enjoy our new forum and all other updates, and until the my next Community update – take care!

Sean
ChessCube Community Manager
[email protected]


Sep 10 2010

New Seek Graph!

Jacques

We’ve just released a new seek graph which makes it simple and easy to find and start games!

New Seek Graph!

The seek graph shows users currently looking for a game. The height of a seek indicates the player’s rating while the horizontal space represents the approximate length of the game. Quickly see the seeks you are interested in by looking for your “sweet spot”.

To get more details about a seek just hover over it (you will only see the seeks which you qualify for). To accept a seek and start the game just click on it – it’s that simple!

The colour – from cold to hot – of a seek tells you the value of the game:

  • grey = 0 Cubits
  • blue = 10 Cubits
  • cyan = 50 Cubits
  • green = 100 Cubits
  • yellow = 500 Cubits
  • orange = 1,000 Cubits
  • red = 2,000 Cubits
  • white = your own seek regardless of the Cubit value

The shape and fill of a seek tells you the type of offer:

  • circle = standard game
  • triangle = chess960 game
  • solid/filled = rated
  • ring/border = unrated

For all the details have a look at this forum post.

We hope you enjoy using the seek graph, and that you find many exciting games using it! Remember to send us feedback, we’d love to hear from you!


Sep 6 2010

In-Application Store launched in ChessCube V5.06

Sean

Hi Cubers!

Exciting news coming out of the ChessCube Labs today! With today’s launch of v5.06, you will now find our new in-application store – containing even more backgrounds to make your ChessCube interface more vibrant, plus fantastic chess piece sets to make your playing experience even more exciting.

ChessCube's in-application store

Together with the in-application store, you can also purchase Cubit bundles from within ChessCube. It’s now even simpler and easier to top up your Cubits balance, right from within ChessCube!

Get Cubits from within ChessCube!

We’re really excited to welcome you into the new in-application store, and hope you have fun personalizing your ChessCube experience.

See you soon!
The ChessCube Team


Aug 18 2010

ChessCube 5.04 update launched!

Sean

Hi Cubers!

We’re excited to let you know that ChessCube V5.04 has been launched, and with it comes a a few great updates:

Minimize your Friends Bar:

The Friends Bar can now be minimized at any time while on ChessCube. With the Friends Bar minimized, you still have access to the Tournaments, Watch, Play, Chat, Shop and Leaderboard buttons. You can also show the friends bar in its normal size at any time to see how your friends are progressing through the levels and ratings.

Choose to hide or show your Friends Bar

Bigger chessboard:

With your Friends Bar minimized, you can now play on the biggest chessboard we’ve ever had on ChessCube. When watching a live game in progress, sit back and enjoy an even bigger board in full screen mode!

Unified user and profile settings:

We’ve unified all your profile, interface, playing, and community settings in the new “Settings” box. To find this box, simply click on the cogwheel above the Tournament and Watch button.

We hope you enjoy this release!

Regards,
The ChessCube Team


Mar 9 2010

Why Be Good at Chess?

admin

Why Be Better at Chess?

As chess players, a great deal of our time is devoted to the subject of how to be better at chess. We live in hope of that Damascean moment when the secrets of chess excellence will revealed to us and the tyranny of the bell curve distribution will be overthrown. We will, like Bobby Fischer, “just get good”. To this end we study, practice and reflect. We join clubs. We sign on with online chess sites. Some go so far as pay for personal coaching. And we buy books about chess – a lot of books! Now, things being as they are, I am not the person to give anybody advice on how to become excellent at chess. But the thought strikes me that it may be helpful for us all to consider why it is that we strive to do so.

Dr Siegbert Tarrasch once remarked that “Chess, like love, like music has the power to make men happy” [1] which is certainly true as far as it goes but the “Teacher of Germany”[2] does rather gloss over why it is that chess has that power to make people happy. But perhaps chess computers like Deep Blue, Fritz and Rybka, which have made a number of important contributions to technical chess theory, can offer us a clue to this distinctly human concern too. Consider; very few of us endeavour to become good at chess because we wish to be able to beat chess engines. We wish to play against other human beings! Quite clearly, chess is a social occupation.[3]

Returning to the question why be better at chess? It seems reasonable to conclude that proficiency at the game gives us a sense of status and belonging in a community which shares our values and an affirmation that the community values us. It is in this respect that ChessCube is unique in online chess; ChessCube recognises that the social component of the game is as important as any other element of it and provides a community where this aspect is actively nurtured. And come to think of it, this social dynamic seems likely to better any player’s game.

We would love to hear from you – what are you in it for? Hopefully an interesting and fruitful conversation will arise and in future blogs we can develop it further.

[1] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Chess
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarrasch
Praeceptor Germaniae
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_animal

“A social animal is a loosely defined term for an organism that is highly interactive with other members of its species to the point of having a recognizable and distinct society.”