THE ICS INTERVIEWS SERIES – No. 009 – KNIGHTTOUR
Interview begun March 2011, concluded May 2013
First published March 2019
Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed as part of the ICS Interviews project.
You’ve played several variants both on and offline. Which variants have you preferred to play the most online? And which for offline play?
Online the variant I play the most by far is bughouse. There was a period in my early years when I also played many other games frequently (including crazyhouse, suicide, and wild 5), but I’ve played far less of those since FICS imposed a default formula for new players that excluded variants. When MEWIS was thriving I also played a lot of wild 10, wild 32, quantum, and atomic. I played crazyhouse and atomic before they were implemented on FICS and in both cases I remember the mad rush to play them the first few days.
Variants for me were much more interesting when there were top players playing frequently who I could observe to analyze and improve at the game and a thriving channel adding culture. Channel 97 for crazyhouse used to be even more active than channel 24 with Flesh, CorpusFozzy, and Seipman trash talking their opponents in the channel while playing 1 0 zh games. Suicide used to have a lot of top players who would play both fast 1 0 or 0 1 games and longer 3 0 or 5 0 games, but like many variants most of the top players have long since retired and the remaining few only play quick games. The serious wild 5 players have also been gone for many years — in large part because Chronatog (the driving force of wild 5) kept getting banned. Although I didn’t play much randomized chess myself (fischer random, wild 3, and wild 4), I used to enjoy following players like Gobi and Firefly who played frequently. I strongly prefer randomized back ranks because it eliminates opening memorization, and nowadays I try to get players to play fr bughouse or fr crazyhouse on BICS whenever possible.
Over the board I mostly play bughouse. I also occasionally play crazyhouse, suicide, wild 5, progressive, and monster chess. Back in
college I played magnetic and fairy chess (pieces move like the file they are in, normal for K file). I also play 1 0 chess (if that’s considered a variant).
I’ve been to many colleges over the years. What I generally find is students at the chess club have either never heard of bughouse or they play it and are really horrible. I tend to convert them to playing it a lot, liking it more than chess, and getting better at the common tactics within 3-4 months.
I find normal chess very boring, so invariably when I have to play that I use weird, horrible openings. OTB I often move my knight back and forth for the first 10 moves, move all my pawns up 1, develop my rook on move 2, walk my king to the middle of the board, etc. By this point in my chess evolution my tactics have gotten good enough that I win 75%-90% of my games with terrible openings, which has the added benefit of tilting opponents.
When did you get introduced to online chess? What server was your original server?
The Free Internet Chess Server was my first foray into online chess. A friend of mine from high school (boffo on FICS) encouraged me to sign up. He had moved to FICS from Chessmaster live. Immediately upon joining FICS I got hooked on bughouse, which boffo also played a lot.
So what prompted you to register the name “knighttour”? Is it from the famous “Knight’s Tour” puzzle?
It is a reference to the knight’s tour puzzle. If I had it to do over again I would just make my handle my real name, but on FICS there are no do-overs.
How old were you when you first started playing online chess? And now?
I joined FICS November 22, 1998, when I was 19 and a sophomore in college. Throughout college I played on a laptop with a touchpad. My total time online is 717 days, 23 hrs, 0 mins with a % of life online of 16.0. I rarely idle. More than 75% of that time I was online chatting, watching games, or playing. I observe far more than I play. Right now I’m about to turn 32.
OTB I played my first chess game when I was 7 or 8. The game was against my brother and I remember trading off pieces until it was a K
vs. K endgame. We didn’t realize it was a draw, so we moved around until I was able to capture his king.
I first played bughouse at a gifted summer camp in middle school, but we played that you couldn’t drop check or mate. Apart from that summer camp I didn’t play bughouse again until I joined FICS.
What were you doing back then? And now?
When I first joined FICS I was a sophomore in college. Now I am an ABD Ph.D. student in economics getting some teaching experience. Along the way I also graduated law school and passed the bar in 3 states.
You said that you found regular chess boring. But there haven’t been many variant chess players that I know of. Did you ever join one of the CV societies, such as the BCVS or AISE?
I joined the British Chess Variant Society for a few years. Also I was an editor on chessvariants.org for a brief bit.
Has studying law helped your chess at all? And in addition to that question, did it help you to examine the contract between FICS and GamesParlor that you acquired via flum? Would you like to provide commentary regarding that agreement, especially with respect to how it impacted FICS and the creation of USCL?
Law school didn’t help my chess at all.
One thing I’ve noticed though is lawyers tend to be risk averse. A lot of the attorneys I know who play bughouse (myself included) are very good defenders. That is unusual because most bughouse players focus on attacking.
I got the GamesParlor contract on October 1, 2000. I didn’t start law school until 2003. So it had no impact.
The contract was sent to me by innocentone, who got it from Female. Or it might have been the other way around… it’s been so long I forget — the email address was anonymous. (I hadn’t revealed that until now… enough time has passed that I don’t think they’d care anymore.) I sent it to flum and he posted it to the world (I didn’t know he would do that when I sent it to him). I conversed with a few admins about the contract (including foxbat) demonstrating I had it by pointing out section 5e was mistakenly skipped over. Several admins pressured me to name my source, which I did not.
Could you describe your memories of flum? You’re one of the few people left that I know would have firsthand experience with him.
I didn’t know flum very well… just chatted with him a handful of times in various channels.
How many bughouse gatherings have you attended? Can you recall all the ICS players you’ve met over the years?
I started attending Vegas gatherings in 2001. Since that time I believe I’ve only missed 2 Vegas gatherings to conflicts (because I was serving on the Libertarian National Committee for 4 years and its meetings had to take priority).
I’ve attended every World Open since 2001 except 1 (when it conflicted with a Libertarian National Convention in 2006). That was relatively easy as my parents live in suburban Philadelphia.
I’ve been to all 4 Florida bughouse gatherings (2010-2013).
I’ve attended 3 Berlin gatherings: 2009, 2010, and 2011. I missed 2012. I’m still uncertain about 2013.
I try to keep a list of all the FICS players I’ve met in my variables, but I’m probably missing a few people from the most recent gatherings.
f6: # FICS players I have met IRL:
f7: # Adamf, andreufm, Alamar, alga, Alphalio, Aronomink, AuderyII,
BarryBoswick, Bearli, BigBugger, BiteMyBishops, Blackcomb,
BobbyFischerJr, boffo, bonk, Bremen, Britt, BugHolio, bugkid, Byrdman,
CaissaLives, CDay, chefj, chesgeek, ChIcKeNcRoSsRoAd, Chronatog,
ComboKid, Comonova, Cosinus, Cracktics, Cranith, Cren, Crusaider,
CSHbumbler, curtains, Darkfire, davebb, DesX, DKiller, docz, DRAGONXer,
drinkeh, DrVoland, dug, eberlein, EdenPrairieMN, EdgeCrusher, EEKarf,
ElEvEntEEn, epil, FantasticCat, fermy, Fieryplains, Firefly, Freakazoid,
Funkmaus, Gameday, Geogeo, GhostShell, giles, gldknight, gmuchess,
Gnejs, Grishezz, GusMcClain, hinoon, hohlfeld, Horkko, iamzebra,
Ilsensine, IndianReaper, InMyroomHigh, InsaneManiac, Intoxicated,
Intuitive, Iplaybyinstinct, Ishamael, Ismirdochegal, JamesBaud,
jamesensor, JamesSchuyler, JEGutman, JellyRoll, jesusga, jiggaman,
JKiller, jluke, JohnnyO, JohnnyRio, kasparovzbest, kennyforchessnet,
killabug, Killerpenguin, KingDan, KingWalker, Komal, KozB, Kozo,
f8: # Laktar, LilWeezy, LinusO, Lojza, loveorhope, Ludeo, MarkCarl,
Marv, masacre, mattjb, mattlh, MazrimTaim, Mejvik, mis, Mori, MrConsole,
MrCool, Musot, mxq, Myopic, NEUROSIS, NewFoundGlory, NilsSKBB, nitemove,
njsking, Nous, OBIT, Obliviax, onigirisamurai, outrunson, OUTRUNYOU,
Pawnonatorr, persiankitty, petradon, PhatKat, pinklung, pminear,
PrincessChess, ProfBug, psychic, pyroarchangel, Quaffer, RadioheadFiend,
RalfiZoller, ReneVanLent, RFrancisco, RMG, rockmove, RooRooBear, rory,
rosewood, RubberDog, RyMil, sacnmate, samshaunak, SamuelEtoo,
Sandokanom, Savel, SergeantPepper, sgs, shadew, ShadowThinker, Sheena,
sidereal, Sidney, sighlintschoop, SKAcz, SpareUs, sramanujan, swingman,
Taffa, Takaru, Teleman, Terrapin, TheBestGirl, TheFlyBoy, TheHusky,
TheRaven, Thufir, tilikin, timothyx,
f9: # tiredfeet, Tjeulesbetes, Tlhingan, toddm, toddmf, TrumpetX,
TRUPLAYA, tvail, TyrionsApprentice, UCLA, VABORIS, VaMPyReSLaYeR,
Venomous, volcano, wanksta, WhiteKnightMaster, WhoAmI, WillSFourteen,
Wir, wortel, xShyNe, xxbeastmodexx, Yeah, YGuthrie, yurijnsu, zakmobl,
Zap, Zayats, and Zola.
The only players who may have met more bughouse players than I have are those who regularly go to both U.S. and European gatherings: Firefly, Horkko, and toddmf.
We’ve met several times in person, including once at RIT. You’ve always had at least two Chronos clocks and two chess sets with sturdy chessmen. When did you commit to that level of dedication to bughouse?
Early on. I think I first got the 2 boards, 2 clocks and a big case during my second year of college. I didn’t know how great Chronos
clocks were until my first year of college when my friend Adam had one at chess club. I didn’t know you could get huge bags like that until my friend Molly suggested it (she worked for a bit at the Rochester Chess Center and said big bags were used there to tote around several boards at once).
Related to the above, you’ve always had a series of chess variant books on you as well. What books do you possess and which ones do you consider to be the best? Are there any fairy chess publications you’d highly recommend – most of my searching has turned up 1970s Dover publications that are hard to find, much less acquire.
I have 3 different bughouse books — though I’m told there are 2 more early bughouse books out there I don’t have (my friend Thomas has all of them).
Siamese Chess: How To Play… How To Win! (1992)
by John Manson and Todd Hoover
Comprehensive Bughouse Chess (1998)
by David Penn and Rommel Dizon
Bughouse Chess (2006)
ed. Georg v. Zimmermann
The best bughouse book (by far) is the most recent (2006), which was written by the actual bughouse experts on FICS and compiled/edited by Georg v. Zimmermann.
I also have the “Encyclopedia of Chess Variants” and “Popular Chess Variants”, which are more general books.
I have the copy of the email from flum describing the FICS board. What’s your view on knowing FICS has hid its legal structure and some of its actions from its users? For example, as far as I’m aware, the only admission FICS has ever made to users that it stores and tracks your actions on its server has been a tacit admission made in a town meeting called in response to the Daysleeper scandal.
I think the FICS board should be more transparent and they should actually hold elections for the admins to pick the board and the head
admin every few years. Unfortunately they have resisted any elections for many years, which I believe has a huge detrimental effect preventing improvement of FICS. Chessty is the best head admin FICS has ever had, but it shouldn’t be a lifetime appointment. Ask volcano about that controversy.
What do you recall from the Daysleeper scandal and what’s your opinion on it?
I thought it was pretty hilarious!
While this happened I was a (SR) helping to organize an overhaul of FICS helpfiles. DaySleeper was one of the few SRs actually willing to do any work.
I liked both DaySleeper and Seipman. I’ve always felt permanent bans were a really stupid idea.
Seipman attended a Vegas gathering in the mid 2000’s. Unfortunately it was one of the few gatherings I missed, so I still haven’t met Seipman in person.
You were banned from USCL once by bypassing the “country/paywall” filter at one point. Care to comment about that incident?
I wanted to use Thief rather than their proprietary interface and I found an easy hack to let me do that. (I never had any problem with
paying them, I just wanted to use a good interface.) The admins banned me for this. I didn’t fight it because FICS was always a lot more fun than USCL anyway.
Chuck Moulton (knighttour) actually got rid of that ABD title this year, finally completing his Ph.D. in Economics. You may have spotted him at a local bughouse gathering over the years. He’s also remained involved with chess and chess variants throughout the years, donating his time and materials to various projects. Thanks for the interview, Chuck!