An Atomic Bildungsroman

I first began my atomic chess pages way back on 21 July 2002 and they were hosted at one of my old websites, wild5.org.  I had actually begun some study of atomic chess prior to that time, but after starting my website, I studied atomic chess a lot more.  The site has transformed itself over the years since it was founded and even the material itself has transformed and improved.  I’ve rewritten the entire site several times, and with the third edition as of April 2009.

A decade later after that third edition transformation, I finally decided to register chronatog.com as it’s the nom de plume that I’m best known as, especially as it’s continually served as my gaming handle all these years, going back to 1997. This is the first major overhaul of my website in a decade which has continued its nomadic pursuits since its very first appearance on the internet. With the move to a CMS based format, I’m finally able to focus on the content without too much worries about all the manual formatting and coding I was doing in the past several decades.

Website aside, I first learned of atomic chess when I registered at MEWIS-2 around April/May of 1998.  Obviously, I was a rather poor atomic player at first!  I was around the 1700-1800 level and had no knowledge whatsoever of atomic theory, or even of basic principles of atomic chess apart from things go boom when a capture was made.  But during the spring of 1999, I discovered Vlasov’s Atomic Page and began learning more about the principles of atomic without a teacher.  I didn’t have very much to go on, just the Atomix book and whatever atomic games I could scrounge up from various players at GICS, DICS, and MEWIS-2.

If we backtrack a bit, I did TD one of the 1998 Atomic World Championship matches and did watch all of the matches that occurred.  That doesn’t mean I understood the games or even the basic tactics that were going on during them.  I do vaguely recall some very odd positions that seem familiar today, such as a reverse Hook position in a few of the games.  But I did play a few games, mostly against Atomix(C) because it was always available at MEWIS and at the time, it was rather hard to find players online at the same time as you were.

In late 1999, I did play and save a game against Helenep from MEWIS. It remains as a time capsule of a game from the turn of the millennium of two allegedly high-level players at the time. Looking at that game 20 years later, I can only shake my head at a lot of the moves. Things have evolved much faster in the last few years than it did in the first two decades of online atomic chess.

That game with Helenep is playable on Lichess: https://lichess.org/study/DNmekMPL/qt2Bxwx2

It’s generally a terrible game with so many missed mates and I managed to blow up my own Queen for no reason. And yet, I still won. That’s part of how I got hooked on Atomic chess.

I eventually ended up with the following rating line at MEWIS-2: Atomic 2296 32.1 146 52 3 201 2422 (01-Oct-00) – I achieved both the AM (Atomic Master) and AGM (Atomic Grand Master) titles using the MEWIS-2 title system, and the following old news items were posted:

315 (Sun, Oct 01) Chronatog (2358) is now AM!
NEWS 315 (Sun, Oct 01) Chronatog (2358) is now AM!
Playing black in his promotion game (number 150) against pminear, Chronatog has
\ reached the Atomic rating 2358, which gave him the AM title. Well done! 🙂
\ The MEWIS Rating Daemon.

316 (Sun, Oct 01) Chronatog (2407) is now AGM!
NEWS 316 (Sun, Oct 01) Chronatog (2407) is now AGM!
Playing white in his promotion game (number 165) against Helenep, Chronatog has
\ reached the Atomic rating 2407, which gave him the AGM title. Well done!
\ 🙂 The MEWIS Rating Daemon.

After playing at MEWIS-2 and achieving the AGM title there, I began my quest to search out other places to play atomic chess at.  I began at the Dutch Internet Chess Server (DICS) but was unable to find any players online at all and probably only got to play 1 or at most 2 games there.  I think I lost both of these on time (no timeseal).  I moved on to the German Internet Chess Server (GICS), registered as Mirror, and then played whoever was available.  I ended up with the following rating line:

GICS: Atomic 2177 144.5 32 0 0 32 2177 (23-Jul-02)

Around 2000-1, US Chess Live! (USCL) was a fledging chess server that had licensed its code from FICS.  For a few months, atomic wasn’t added to the list of variants available, although the source code was freely available as GICS had made it available as part of its code.  It took a couple of years of lobbying but finally USCL integrated atomic chess into its codebase thanks to DAV, who was an employee of GamesParlor at the time.  Atomic was added to USCL on 22 August 2002.  It took me only a few days to reach the 2400 atomic rating at USCL (thanks to my years of practice).  I reached the 2400 rating level on 01 September 2002.

In preparation for the addition of atomic to USCL, I began my atomic chess website (which you are currently viewing) on 21 July 2002.  The first thing I did was prepare an illustrated opening book study of the Atomix book – which allowed me to analyze the book somewhat in depth.  I learned that there were some bad lines in there and that there were some new lines that weren’t included in the book.  But I think what really helped me most as a player was starting to analyze the endgames available in atomic.  I won many games based on my knowledge of atomic mates / endgames, rudimentary as they were at the time.  Eventually, I was able to reach the 2600 level and maintain my play there for approximately about two years.  Then when I quit online chess and analysis of atomic chess, I missed out on several new developments and my current strength I would say is still fluctuating, depending on my current theoretical knowledge.  I’ve been as low as 1800 and as high as 2500 in the years since 2003.

My final USCL ratings were (I had two accounts there):

(As Moon): Atomic 2606 128.9 832 311 45 1188 2625 (02-Dec-2002)
(As Angel): Atomic 2444 105.9 714 299 39 1052 2520 (03-Oct-2002)

Now, before, during, and slightly after the USCL atomic addition, several small servers popped up that offered atomic.  This section will be covered more extensively elsewhere on the site, but the sites included ZICS, DNCS, chess-square, and icchess.net.

Needless to say, atomic on icchess.net wasn’t very challenging.  At least on chess-square, I was playing ComboKid!  Now that’s some old school stuff there.

Anyway, moving on, FICS added atomic chess on/around 16 February 2003.  I had “retired” my account of Chronatog on FICS, which is a story for another time, so I decided to play on a duplicate account called “Wuf”.  I managed to go 65-1 with a 2513 rating but was immediately banned. Nevertheless – I continued to play atomic chess on FICS for several years after coming back as Chronatog, but my strength has fluctuated on FICS throughout the years.  Here’s some statistics:

FICS (Wuf – final rating): Atomic 2513 93.5 65 1 0 66
FICS (Chronatog): Atomic 2222 109.0 365 151 21 537 2372 (11-May-2003)  (This was as of 11 April 2005)

The above is my Atomic-Chess Playergraph from wildchess.org.  It doesn’t list dates but as you can see, I sat at about a 2222 rating for several years, leading to a spike to the 2500 rating level in late February 2008.

Pre-Wipe #1: Atomic 2500 72.7 701 456 46 1203 2500 (24-Feb-2008)
Pre-Wipe #2: Atomic 2112 58.4 164 133 13 310 2229 (15-Jul-2008)

All of the above has been for traditional atomic chess.  ICC added a variant of atomic chess to their site on/around 2001 that has no check rule.  This alters the game of atomic chess fundamentally and will be addressed in a special bonus section on this site in the future.  But as a small bonus, here’s some statistics for my play on ICC around October 2008:

>Atomic (w27) 1928i 60 38 1 99 1991

In 2008-2010, I played correspondence atomic chess on SchemingMind.  Correspondence is a lot harder than speed atomic chess! They do also have the very fun Atomic960 variant, which is exactly what it sounds like – Atomic Chess mixed with Fischer Random!  Do I smell the new wave of the future?

I’ve also earned the Senior Master title on every server that offered a server title, except on SchemingMind.  I’m just a lowly master there for the time being.  But that’s okay, I mean I crushed everybody in 2002 and it’s quite a few years past my peak as an unofficial World Champion.  I managed to bridge the gap between the Golden Era (got to play a few of the masters from that era) and I’m originally a Silver Era player that’s continued to play sporadically throughout the years.

In 2005, I did run the Atomic World Championship and then went on a hiatus for the most part until 2008-9. I then pretty much disappeared again for a very long time until being brought back out of retirement to lichess.org in early 2018. I’ve recently run the 2019 Atomic World Championship on lichess as well – it’s the spiritual successor to FICS in many ways.

Much of my time in 2018-2019 has been spent catching up with the evolution of the game, old friends, new friends, and some updates to the site. My current goal is simple – have fun playing atomic, and get to 10,000 games played – which was an impossible dream just ten years ago. There certainly weren’t enough players, much less games to even think about being able to achieve that kind of playing volume.

Of course there’s always the site. I hope to continue to update the atomic side of things, but rather than focusing on simply technical matters – I’m probably going to steer the site towards history, players, culture, and quite probably a printed book or at least the PDF of a revised atomic compendium. Things always change, but as they change, the more things remain the same as well.

Looking at my chess website over the years only validates those statements:

The Beginning at wild5.org (2002) First Edition

A simple website – and much of that simplicity has been maintained over the years.  The first features were:

  • Introduction to Atomic Chess (1st edition) – August 3, 2002
  • The Legacy of Atomic Chess – July 25, 2002
  • Atomic Endgames – July 25, 2002 (which consisted of 7 studies)
  • Atomic Mates – July 11, 2002 (which consisted of 11 studies)
  • Atomic Puzzles – August 4, 2002 (6 puzzles)
  • Atomic Openings, 1.Nf3 – July 25, 202 (This was an illustrated opening book from the Atomix Book, just the 1.Nf3 tree)
  • Atomix Opening Book – January 22, 1997

Move to xare.net (2005) Second Edition

Much of the same simplicity transposed to its second incarnation.  A wealth of material was added in 2005 and the first rewrite occurred, especially since the original edition only stuck around for a few months of 2002 and 2003 before it was removed.  I brought it back onto xare.net and added new information after siggemannen made his atomic page.  This version was also the victim of the Sygate / Metroid controversy.  Sygate / Metroid at this time was a young boy who enjoyed playing atomic chess on ICC but didn’t know much about HTML / diagram making.  He wanted his own atomic chess site, so his solution was to copy my entire site over and change a few things.  Then he emailed me about it.  I kindly told him how to alter his site – and he did gank some stuff from siggemannen and tipau’s sites as well, but eventually it morphed into a strange amalgam.  In fact, his site is still up and you can still access it on the Internet at times – but it eventually turned into a forum based index page that still maintains html code taken from others’ pages, such as this one:

The updates to my site for the second edition were as follows:

  • Introduction to Atomic Chess – 2nd edition – 15 March 2005
  • Atomic Mate Studies – 2nd edition – 15 March 2005
  • Atomic Endgame Studies – 2nd edition – 22 March 2005
  • Atomic Openings – 29 April 2005 (contained Atomix, seberg, and Metroid books)
  • Vlasov and Atomix(C) – 22 March 2005
  • A Brief Letter from JoelH – 06 January 2006
  • Atomic on GICS (transformed from Legacy of Atomic) – 11 April 2005
  • Atomic on MEWIS – 27 November 2005
  • A Brief Letter from Grobi – 02 November 2005
  • The 1998 World Championships – 11 April 2005
  • Atomic on FICS – 17 July 2006
  • The 2005 World Championships – 27 November 2005
  • Atomic Chess Games – 27 November 2005
  • Atomic Chess Links – 19 June 2006
  • About Your Author – 11 April 2005

nicklong.net (2008) Third Edition

I eventually moved the website over to a domain with my real name. Over time though, I didn’t feel like it was a good fit for the chess themed items especially as I rarely used my real name in conjunction with chess.

The design is still just as simple as it has been. I’ve always wanted to try to make the content the star, rather than the design itself. But at times, I’m also guilty of overdesigning.

The main updates for the third edition were:

  • 25 May 2009 – Added email from Ukimix to the Mailbag
  • 25 May 2009 – Added commentary from tipau on the Bronze Age timeline and switched dates accordingly
  • 18 May 2009 – Added final FICS finger to the About page (Atomic AutoBiography)
  • 12 May 2009 – Added siggemannen’s classic annotated game (tipau v sigge) originally on Rekursiv’s site to the Annotated Games
  • 12 May 2009 – Added siggemannen’s annotated game (HentyReader v SPogoBlind) originally on Rekursiv’s site to the Annotated Games
  • 12 May 2009 – Added a limited access version of The Atomic Book by Leonard Blackburn
  • 12 May 2009 – Updated the “Atomic on USCL” page with pertinent information submitted via wildchess by Nathan826(USCL)/CarlsHair(FICS)
  • 12 May 2009 – Created this “Updates” page per the suggestion of siggemannen

Creation of Chronatog.com (2018) Fourth Edition

Moving this entire site over to WordPress on the new domain required a lot of migration from simple HTML and CSS to fit within the new format. That’s taken the better part of two years, but going forward it will be much easier to create new content and post it without having to worry too much about the actual underlying structures. It’s pretty easy for me to say that this will be the best edition yet, because I can change the appearance of the entire site at a whim. I’m also able to store items outside of the WordPress “bucket”, such as the archived websites so that they retain their original glory. Maybe in the future, I’ll even have some more retro throwback sites.

If you want to reach out to me about this website – “iam” at this domain name is the email.

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