I consider atomic chess history to be divided into distinct eras, with their own related stories. The second such era would obviously be the silver age of atomic chess, going by the traditional methodology of naming eras within history. I date this period from between early 2004 throughout the start of 2009. This period of time is about five to six years long. There were several developments that occurred during this time that led to some growth and then a partial decline of Atomic Chess. The Silver Age was the most popular time for Atomic Chess, but the Bronze Age definitely advanced the game of Atomic Chess more than both ages before it. The game itself became increasingly complex and the casual players began leaving in droves because of all the theory that began to be developed during this period of time.
- The year of 2004 – AGree has an Atomic Chess site (no longer active) with FICS tournament results of the weekly tournaments
- Summer 2004 – Estimated start of development of the Sordid Atomic engine by MightyByte
- 01 November 2004 – siggemannen posts his atomic webpage to the Internet (this site had gone into dormancy)
- Late 2004 – MoltenThinker keeps his ICC Atomic page a secret, but word eventually gets out a couple of years later
- 01 March 2005 – I brought back this site in response to siggemannen and tipau’s pages going live
- 09 May 2005 – Estimated date that tipau sent siggemannen the first version of his website
- 01 June 2005 – Estimated start of “Secret Atomic Channel” (SAC) by siggemannen
- 15 July 2005 – TrojanKnight(C) reaches highest established rating in atomic chess on FICS (Atomic 2746 274.1 131 6 5 142 2758 (15-Jul-2005))
- 15 July 2005 – TrojanKnight(C) retires from atomic chess
- Summer 2005 – maxtasy begins two websites for atomic chess, one in German, and an Atomic Chess Wiki (Both go dark after less than a year)
- Summer 2005 – WildKiller begins his Atomic Chess website and stops updating it almost immediately
- Summer 2005 to Early 2007? – Estimated dates that seberg had an active Atomic Chess site hosted on his own computer
- 01 August 2005 – My site is copied nearly verbatim by Sygate / Metroid as is siggemannen’s and tipau’s page later on (commentary by tipau below)
- 01 September 2005 – Estimated date that siggemannen finally posted tipau’s page onto a shared domain
- 01 October 2005 to 01 December 2005 – The 2005 Atomic World Championship was held on FICS
- 01 December 2005 – The staggering result of the ’05 Championship, siggemannen 9, tipau 1
- 01 February 2006 – wildchess.org, the Internet Chess Variant Database project begun by siggemannen on FICS
- Spring 2006 – Buho21 starts up and onubense is introduced to atomic chess
- 12 July 2006 – Sygate / Metroid’s site shifts to an odd “forum” based site
- 28 September 2006 – tipau begins a 2006 Atomic Chess World Championship (I had to withdraw due to real life reasons) – not sure how it ended
- 29 December 2006 – Leonard Blackburn begins his Open Atomic Chess Diary (mirroring the excellent Tim Krabbe page)
- Summer 2007 – Yokke wins the FICS Atomic Championship
- Summer 2007 – MoltenThinker wins another ICC 1 0 Atomic Championship
- Summer 2007 – tipau wins ICC 3 0 Atomic Championship
- 02 June 2007 – Estimated date that the OACD becomes Atomic Chess by Leonard Blackburn
- 13 February 2008 – Estimated date that Atomic Chess by Leonard Blackburn becomes The Atomic Chess Book by Leonard Blackburn
- 08 March 2009 – The Atomic Chess Book is removed from the Internet by Leonard with the hopes of publishing it in book format
Growth of an Internet Presence
When I took down my atomic chess pages temporarily, a void on the internet for atomic chess information existed. There was just Vlasov’s seemingly immortal page and whatever else you could scrounge up, mostly chessvariants.com and maybe some very obscure sites if they were still around, like Mr Pink’s site, which didn’t delve very much into atomic chess. I’m not exactly sure when AGree began his atomic chess pages, but they were used mainly to host atomic chess tournament crosstab information from FICS. And the rules. Not much on strategy, if at all was available out there after I took down my pages. I had grown disinterested in atomic chess as this was a period in time where my interest in atomic chess had waned. Then came along siggemannen, who had just discovered atomic chess and began searching out players from the past to play and learn about the past. Eventually, his atomic chess site went up, which got tipau to put his own site up courtesy of siggemannen, which prompted me to resurrect these pages. There was also MoltenThinker’s page, which was really a SUPERSEKRETS page as you had to know the direct link to access it and it was only available via a finger note on one of the other smaller ICSes that popped up in the Silver Era – it was not even on his ICC fingernotes until many years later.
With this “seeding” of internet information, an explosion in atomic websites cropped up. Less than two months after I had posted my site back up, I got an email (I wish I still had copies of the emails – they are priceless now!) from a young teen known as “Sygate/Metroid”. He told me how much he liked my site and pointed me to his own site enthusiastically – which turned out to be my own site, copied wholesale with minor changes made. Eventually, he ganked siggemannen’s pages as well. I explained to him how to learn about HTML and making his own pictures/diagrams and he did alter his site a bit, but at least it wasn’t a direct mirror anymore. Around this time period, siggemannen began the “Secret Atomic Channel” (SAC) tournament series on FICS and produced its own website. It was PHP based and served as a mini-wildchess.org site for those specific atomic chess tournaments on FICS, so it was the precursor to wildchess itself. This drummed up more interest in atomic chess on FICS (which had already begun to die out, due to lack of interest / promotion). maxtasy joined in on the fun by creating a German page and an Atomic Chess Wiki, although both projects soon failed.
But a trend had begun and more atomic chess pages got added to the Internet – although it seems cyclical at times, ebbing and flowing with the popularity of the game itself.
Emergence of Stronger Atomic Engines
When the Golden Age ended, we had a warning about the future with that impressive showing by TrojanKnight. We didn’t hear about it again for several years though. There were a number of weaker engines (by today’s standards) developed during the Golden Age with a smattering of engines developed during the Silver Age. Atomix, OliThink, pulsar, and TrojanKnight can all trace their lineage to the pre-Bronze Age. Chernobyl (USCL) was developed during the Silver Age and pretty much died with the end of the Silver Age as well. But the Bronze Age brought out some of the strongest engine developers who immediately began adding onto their existing engines or with new developers trying out new atomic chess engines. TrojanKnight came out to clobber everybody and then went back into the closet again. Sordid, Atomatic, KKFchess, Opossum, MoneyPenny, and Guildenstern were new atomic chess capable engines produced at this time. Some atomic endgame tables were generated by Syzygy due to his years of work with Sjaak (TrojanKnight’s engine). Some engines reached 2500, but only TrojanKnight went ahead and hit that 2700+ ceiling. When the engine develops its own atomic opening move named in the Atomix book, you know its got lasting power.
The 2005 Atomic World Championship
So what would be the best way to encourage players to play atomic chess? Hold a World Championship, of course! I recalled the MEWIS 1998 Championship matches as a great idea and a way to get players interested in playing strong atomic chess. So I developed a set of guidelines, opened up registration, and eventually had to join the tournament myself even though at the time I was only able to play my games via mobile telephone with 7 seconds lag, no timeseal, and playing with style = 1 since it was the only style I could read the moves and transmit moves in. I think it was successful, even though a couple of players had to be forfeited. At least we got some classic quotes out of it. To date though, there hasn’t been another successfully ran World Championship, so it’s about time we had another one soon.
The Atomic Chess Book
By far, one of the most influential events of this era was when Leonard Blackburn began working on his seminal atomic chess page, which eventually turned into The Atomic Chess Book. Organized and meant to be read by a player new to chess, it’s even been cited in an academic paper (PDF)! I’ll be able to post a few excerpts from the now gone page, which Leonard has removed from the Internet in the hopes that it’ll get published as a book. I’ll wholeheartedly endorse its value and will buy a copy if and when one gets produced. It may also be published in magazine format. The details are still being worked out. But in any case – he never completed the entire book and is still working to complete it as of summer 2009. With his work, several concepts within atomic chess have been given names and new opening theory has been refuted or added directly as a result of his refined exploration.
And with the advent of a possible atomic chess publication on the horizon, the Bronze Age of Atomic Chess has drawn to a close.
(24 May 2009)
Just some comments on your bronze age timeline –
1st Feb 2005 is too early for my site, I joined FICS on 16th March and then I first sent Sigge a draft of the site content on 9th May. It was put online at http://vagonchik.info/sigge/tipau/ in September, and finalised some time in October.
* I should also say that Metroid completely ripped of my site, to a ridiculous degree 🙂 The only changes I remember were that he mixed around the sentences and changed the piece evaluations I’d given to some stupid figures which were clearly wrong. I was quite annoyed about it at the time because I was quite pleased with that particular section as no one else had done anything like it before, that I know of at least.