ICS Interview – tipau

THE ICS INTERVIEWS SERIES – No. 003 – TIPAU
Interview conducted February 2011
First published January 2013

 

INTERVIEWER
Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed as part of the ICS Interviews series.

TIPAU
No problem.

INTERVIEWER
When did you first start playing chess online?

TIPAU
I think it was in 2000. I joined my first chess club in late 97 as a complete beginner, but I quickly got into it. It was only a matter of time before I started looking for more opportunities to play and improve, which naturally got me interested in online chess.

INTERVIEWER
You’re best known for being one of the world’s best atomic chess players. According to my research, this version of atomic chess originated online in 1995, and as such you have to have learned it online or from someone else who did. How did you find out about atomic chess?

TIPAU
I was taught the rules by a friend from my junior club in the summer of 2002 in between rounds at a tournament. He wasn’t a strong atomic player, maybe 1600-1700, and the main piece of advice I remember he gave me was to always respond to 1.Nf3 with 1…f6 – advice I immediately ignored πŸ™‚ Of course I had no idea about how the game had originated and I wasn’t really interested in that, it just seemed like a cool variant.

INTERVIEWER
Which ICS server did you first begin playing on? I’m assuming it was ICC, but was there another server you tried before landing onto ICC?

TIPAU
I started playing on KasparovChess and I also played one or two games (literally not more than that) on Yahoo. I shared an account on KasparovChess with my Dad, which I’m sure was against the rules, but as we were a similiar level at blitz chess it made more sense than setting up seperate accounts. A year or so later in 2001 I moved over to ICC.

INTERVIEWER
What’s the origin of the handle, “tipau”?

TIPAU
Tipau was our shared handle on KasparovChess. When I moved to other ICS servers we stopped account sharing but I kept the same handle.

INTERVIEWER
How old were you when you first began playing online?

TIPAU
I was 13 when I started on KasparovChess and 15 when I started playing atomic on ICC.

INTERVIEWER
For something specific to atomic chess, when did you first realize that ICC had a different version of the game widely accepted elsewhere? Which version is your preference? ICC’s no-check rule or the check rule used elsewhere?

TIPAU
I can’t remember when I first heard about the difference, but I didn’t give it much thought until I ventured over to USCL in 2003. I was there for a 2 week trial and had to adjust to using the check rule, which cost me a few games. Now I only really play using the check rule and that’s definetely my preference, although the differences aren’t too significant in reality. People can point to changes in endings such as KR vs K which (if the King’s are seperated) is a win on ICC and a draw on FICS, but I haven’t seen this occur very often in a way that a FICS player couldn’t have won earlier in a different way before liquidating to KR vs K. In endgame practise the stronger side has to be a bit more careful with the check rule but it’s highly unlikely that the objective result changes without a mistake. The real difference is being able to castle through check, which can provide an important defensive resource.
A bigger rule change has been implemented on Buho, which uses the check rule but doesn’t allow the King’s to connect. I haven’t analysed many endgames with this rule as it clearly reduces the defending player’s resources which in my opinion makes the endings far less interesting.

INTERVIEWER
What time controls did you start out playing atomic chess at?

TIPAU
At first it was only 0 1 or 1 0, as it was very hard to find anyone willing to play other time controls on ICC. After a while I started playing a lot of 1 1, which sort of became my speciality if you like. I remember a lot of players complained that it was too slow for them, usually at the end of a bad series of course.

INTERVIEWER
What time controls would you say are your preference now?

TIPAU
I like 3 3 or slower. I make sure that there’s always a bit of increment as I get frustrated by flaggers. I can still play 1 0 or whatever, but I prefer to try and play reasonably good games. I remember in my last couple of years on ICC making a bit of noise about them only having a 1 0 championships, which contributed to them introducing a 3 0 event.

INTERVIEWER
KasparovChess was your first server, really? How did you come to find that “server” and then what prompted you finding and transitioning to ICC?

TIPAU
I promise πŸ™‚ I can’t remember how I found it; most likely my Dad found the site and set up the account for us. I don’t remember it too well except that I don’t think it was very well policed and there were a lot of abusers. After a while I started hearing more about other ICSs, predominantly ICC where a lot of my chess friends were playing – as well as many of the world’s best of course. I remember that being able to watch top GMs blitz whenever I wanted was a big attraction.

INTERVIEWER
Does your father still play chess online and has he learned atomic chess?

TIPAU
He plays blitz on FICS very occasionally and has tried out a few correspondance chess sites, but no atomic chess πŸ™‚

INTERVIEWER
We’ve heard about your opinion on time controls. What do you think of premove and smartmove?

TIPAU
As I hardly ever play bullet time controls it’s not so much of an issue. I tried smartmove while on ICC and I didn’t like it but I still use pre-move to make re-captures, or (in atomic) a move made possible if my opponent captures a particular way.

INTERVIEWER
What interface do you use to play and what interfaces have you used in the past?

TIPAU
I use Thief whenever I can. I used Blitzin at first on ICC but swapped after I joined FICS. I’ve used a few others for FICS as well but only once or twice at most (Java, Jin, Babaschess and Winboard). For USCL and Buho21 I was/am forced to use the site’s own interface.

I may switch my preferred interface soon though. I recently swapped Windows for Linux and running Thief through WINE doesn’t work as well as I’d like, the clock display in particular is buggy. I just don’t play enough to find/try out possible replacements.

INTERVIEWER
Have you had a chance to play some of the older atomic players at all – I know some of them played on ICC, such as FireDragg, DukeNukem, and a few others. Despite starting on ICC around 2000/1, you’re still considered a “latecomer” to online chess.

TIPAU
You might call me a latecomer but lots of others have called me a dinosaur πŸ™‚ Certainly there are only a handful of active atomic players left who have been playing longer than me (TheChessKid, MoltenThinker and MillzesChess come to mind).

I played a few of the older players on ICC who have since stopped. I remember playing DukeNukem a couple of games in a tournament and another player I played with a lot in my early atomic days was AHighSchoolBoy. I’m not sure if he was active on other ICSs but he was one of the best on ICC around 2002/3 and although I mostly got hammered I improved a lot in our matches.

After playing on several other ICSs I tried to find and play against older players who had been considered amongst the best or had had the highest ratings there. I managed to play against a few but I quickly got bored as winning such matches doesn’t mean much if they’re not still on their game.

INTERVIEWER
What other chess servers have you played on since you started playing online chess?

TIPAU
From 2001 to 2005, apart from a 2 week free trial on USCL in 2004, I solely played on ICC. Then in March 2005 I joined FICS and a year or two later Buho21. Apart from those I’ve tried GICS (I managed to get a couple of atomic games but it was almost a complete ghost town) and a couple of correspondance sites (SchemingMind and BrainKing).

INTERVIEWER
Do you enjoy any other chess variants besides atomic?

TIPAU
I quite enjoy suicide chess and occasionally crazyhouse. I enjoyed playing Bug over the board at tournaments with other juniors, but I’m not particularly good at it. I’ve never played enough of another variant to get my level up very high though.

INTERVIEWER
Have met anybody off of any of the ICS sites and have you had the opportunity to play atomic chess with them OTB?

TIPAU
In my first year or two playing atomic there were a couple of other English juniors who were consistantly around 1900 or so and I played against them OTB a few times during events/trips. Then sometime between 05 and 06 another English junior Wildkiller/Peter-Patzer came through as one of the very top players and as we were in some of the same tournaments we played quite a lot of OTB atomic. But I arranged to meet up with anyone from an ICS site who I wouldn’t have met anyway.

INTERVIEWER
Which ICS server had the best atomic culture on it in your view?

TIPAU
I think FICS, but Buho21 has a lot of new players coming through so it’s a good place to play as well. Certainly FICS had a much better culture than I was used to on ICC, as there was a real community rather than chess players who occasionally dabbled in atomic. On ICC there wasn’t anyone who I could really analyse atomic with but in my first few months on FICS I was already spending a lot of time analysing with lots of different players, especially Siggemannen, Maciejg and Seberg. I think along with playing slower time controls that really helped improve my game.

INTERVIEWER
You’ve been more active on Buho21 and played some correspondence chess. Can you compare and contrast the experiences of playing on ICSes versus sites such as Buho21 and online correspondence?

TIPAU
I almost only play correspondence atomic now, it’s good for when you don’t have much time but don’t want to forget everything. As I enjoy analysing atomic I think corr suits me well because I probably put more time/thought into my games than my average opponent. Still it’s a completely different proposition from playing fast live games and both are fun in their own ways.

I’m not so keen on Buho21 as I don’t like the interface or the rule change, but there are a lot of strong players there so I couldn’t ignore it.

INTERVIEWER
You’ve been published in Variant Chess Magazine (published by the BCVS) . Have you had the opportunity to write any more chess articles anywhere else? For a time period, you were selling two atomic analyses that you had written up.

TIPAU
Yes, you’re talking about the opening articles I wrote a while back. I spent a lot of time on them and was quite happy with them, but atomic opening theory moves quickly and I think one of them is pretty much busted now. I thought about doing some more but I generally lack the motivation for atomic that I used to have. Before those opening articles I wrote a couple of shorter articles on basic principles for Rekursiv’s site (in 2005 I think), I still have them somewhere if anyone’s interested in them.

INTERVIEWER
You majored in mathematics at university. Do you think that factored into your enjoyment of atomic chess at all? And what are you doing with that mathematics degree now? Anything interesting that lets you utilize it in London, England?

TIPAU
I was playing lots of atomic long before I was even thinking about studying maths at university, so I don’t think the maths factored into my enjoyment. I think that I have some natural ability with maths and chess, the right type of brain maybe. I’m not a particularly strong chess player (2050 FIDE) but I suspect I could be much better if I really set my mind to it (easier said than done of course).

I’m working as a business analyst for a large energy company. I look after internal databases, design reports and so on. I don’t directly use a lot of the mathematical knowledge from my degree but I think that again I’m well suited to the types of problems that come up.

INTERVIEWER
Some of the early ICS players encountered great resistance from the “established” chess community regarding chess variants. As recent as a few years ago, I still see and hear about chess “teachers” that forbid their students from playing any variants, especially bughouse. What’s the British chess climate like with regards to chess variants? Do you think that variants have become more “accepted” within the orthodox chess population?

TIPAU
I had a chess coach for a while when I was around 16 or 17, so I was playing a lot of atomic then. He didn’t try and stop me at all, in fact I showed him the rules and he found it quite amusing. Personally I never found it to be a problem playing variants and I’ve never noticed it having an adverse affect on my regular chess play. I haven’t been a junior for a while, so I’m not sure what the climate is like now, but I suspect it’s quite relaxed. As time goes on more coaches will have played the same variants themselves as juniors and so won’t try to forbid their students from having harmless fun.

INTERVIEWER
Buho21 is an interesting case study. It’s not really an ICS, but rather a very limited java-based game server that allows people to play a version of atomic chess and a few other variants. It serves the Spanish speaking community which hasn’t been done very well in the past. Have you seen a growth in atomic chess or other variants being played by non-native English speakers due to Buho21?

TIPAU
Yes, there’s been a clear increase in the number of Spanish speaking atomic players due to Buho21. In fact Buho21 is probably has more active atomic players than any other site and has a number of very strong players.

INTERVIEWER
Is there a mindset or some sort of consideration you take in account when playing atomic chess? What perspective should a new player starting out in atomic chess take?

TIPAU
I think atomic chess should be a fun variant – if you’re not enjoying it then there’s really no other reason to play. That being said it can be hard for new players to enjoy it at first because they are bound to lose a lot of games very quickly, as the openings are very tricky and have a lot of traps. I’d advise them not to give up on the game too quickly, try and figure out a few opening lines and see how they find it then.

INTERVIEWER
Having played through KasparovChess to ICC and FICS, what do you enjoy most about the online chess community?

TIPAU
Well one attraction is how easy it is to dip in and out of. Even if you’re very pressed for time you can log in when you have a spare half an hour and play a few games. Another thing is that without an online chess community it would be practically impossible to find other players interested in chess variants, as it helps to bring enthusiasts together from all over the world. I’m sure that a lot variants currently being played only came into existence after online chess communities began to appear.

INTERVIEWER
Who have been some of your favorite opponents throughout the years?

TIPAU
ICC, FICS and Buho21 have all produced a stand-out opponent for me.

First on ICC there was TheChessKid; he’s been the most dominant player on that site for about the last 10 years now and was already the top rated player when I started out. It took a while before I could compete with him for the top spot at which time I started looking for other sites to try.

On FICS it was Siggemannen, who really helped me improve a lot after I joined. We played and analysed together a lot, which brought forward atomic theory in many openings and even middlegames and endings. Our styles are quite different and we had different opinions about almost every position we looked at.

Finally Buho21 has Onubense, probably the strongest player I’ve played against. I’m not sure how he reached the level he did only playing on Buho21, as at the time he emerged as a top player there was no one else anywhere near his level there. The first time I played him I actually thought it was Siggemannen on a dupe account!

Also worthy of a mention are MoltenThinker (mostly ICC but other sites as well) and WildKiller (FICS – aka Peter-Patzer on ICC).

I’ve had countless tough matches against all 5 of these guys and it would be hard to look past them if making an all time best list.

INTERVIEWER
You lost to siggemannen in the 2005 Atomic World Championship. What are your thoughts about that match in general and anything you’d like to add about the games from that match?

TIPAU
I only remember the second game well; Sigge unleashed an important idea against my favourite opening and won a very nice game with Black. The rest of the match I played far below my normal level and got a real beating. It was a shame as I think that throughout 2005 I’d been the strongest player around, so winning the WC would have been a nice way to end the year. I probably didn’t take it as seriously as I should have though and used up all of my opening ideas before the tournament, rather than saving them as Sigge did.

INTERVIEWER
If atomic became a forced or nearly forced win, would you continue to play it, or would you switch to Atomic 960 or use atomic rules solely for composing chess puzzles?

TIPAU
I’d continue to play it against opponents who avoid using the forced win. As I mentioned before it’s only worth playing atomic to have fun and I’m sure some other players would be happy to avoid such lines and have interesting games. I’d consider switching to atomic 960 if servers added it, but that seems unlikely. I’ve played atomic 960 a little on SchemingMind and it’s clear that many positions give White a much larger advantage than the regular starting position.

INTERVIEWER
I: Given that atomic theory is somewhat nebulous, doesn’t it strike you as odd that the introduction that most people get to atomic is from a rather outdated 1996 atomic opening book used by the Atomix chess engine?

TIPAU
I suspect that more people now will see WildChess first rather than Vlasov’s old page. From conversations I’ve had I know that a lot of the Buho21 community use WildChess a lot to research openings and opponents.

INTERVIEWER
What’s your opinion on chess engines, both for atomic specifically and for chess in general? And of computer cheating?

TIPAU
Chess engines are useful if they’re used well and I think most strong atomic players will have the pulsar programme downloaded. I use it myself for analysis in certain types of positions, but in others it’s next to useless. Real chess engines I use less well because I tend to just believe it in any position whatever it says, such is the strength of them now.

As I don’t play in many events with significant prize money I think computer cheating is practically non existent. Certainly I’ve never suspected anyone of computer cheating OTB against me, but of course on-line I’ve come across a few obvious cases. I don’t think computer cheating is a problem in atomic chess for the reasons that in general people take it less seriously and the relative strength of the computer programmes is much lower. The ratings usually achieved by the easily available pulsar engine are much lower than the top players.


“tipau” has been known as one of the world’s strongest atomic chess players for the past several years. He’s probably best known for coming in second in the 2005 Atomic World Championships and for his role in analyzing 1.Nc3 in atomic theory. If you’ve played against 1.Nc3, you have tipau to thank for pioneering this opening into a top-flight opening choice. You can visit his YouTube channel here: tipau’s channel

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