I guess I've let all three of my blogs go. Maybe I'll try to catch up.
As far as chess goes I have been playing mostly online against human opponents. I like playing humans better now for several reasons. I find it more exciting. I want to win more and find myself more engaged. This means that I often play better games. The other thing is that humans are more interesting. They will play more offbeat moves in the opening (I have HIARCS set to the most wild opening book but somehow it still seems predictable) and so you get more interesting problems presented to you. Also people have definite styles of play. With humans I am often left with a distinctive feeling from the game. With Hiarcs it's always kind of the same. It's also true that a human will often play at a fairly consistent level all through the game. With Hiarcs, I often find that it plays above my level and then will sometimes make a really obvious and large error basically giving up a piece or better for a pawn or something. Then I will win the game. With people they rarely make those kinds of blunders even at my level.
The other things are the opportunities to get into conversations or something. This can happen either during or after a game, or in the chat channels. I've done all of those. Certainly sometimes I feel like just playing the game and then moving on, but other times I start a conversation and have had some very positive encounters this way. Of course there can be annoyances to the human experience. The times when you can't get an opponent, or when you sit there till you have lost the enthusiasm to play and then just as you are about to log off you get a game. Or there are people who will abort or do other silliness as well as the complaints that you often see in the chat areas that someone feels there opponent is cheating or escaping. For the most part I have had positive experiences with the people I play. Often people will say 'thanks' or 'gg' if not on their own then at least after I say something.
I have also posted to the STC Bunch website to look for opponents and I may look into joining the 45 45 league that one of my opponents told me about. Basically, I think it would be good to try to join some kind of community to get games as well as just looking for games by seek since I am looking for some of that human connection. That's doubly true right now since I don't have a real life chess club.
Speaking of which though, I did call about a chess club here in Taipei that is for western chess. Apparently they have both adults and kids so my boys could come too. Unfortunately they charge to play, so we will have to see whether it is fun enough to pay for.
As far as servers go, I like FICS a lot. I generally have an easy time finding a game there when I want one, and that is at the unusual time frame of 30 0 and for only a band 100 rating points above and below mine. However, FICS was down the other day for most of the day. I got frustrated because I really wanted to play online. In a fit of madness I bought a membership at ICC. I had tried the free 7 day trial this summer and decided against buying the membership. I don't really know why I decided to do it now. I do regret it a little bit just because it seems that it's a bit harder to get games in juncture between my rating range and the time limits I play. There's also less chat at ICC. That's one of the things I like about FICS is the chatter that is on there. It's possible that my issues with finding a game at ICC and the dead chat channels are just my log in time. To be fair, my switch to ICC coincided with a switch in my schedule here in Taipei so I am probably more out of synch than I was when I was playing exclusively on FICS. Still, why am I paying the fairly large sum to have a problem I might not even have had at FICS or would be about the same? The other thing is that I like Babaschess significantly better than I like Dasher, the ICC client.
Still, there are some very nice things at ICC like all of the chess.fm lectures available. Those are pretty cool and I have dipped into some of those. There's also a larger pool of high rated players including titled players so if I want to watch some chess and feel confident I am being presented with quality models. I will also say that the ICC app for ipad is hella better than the two FICS interface apps I have found.
So the long and the short, I will probably be trying to play at ICC to get my moneys worth and will continue to look for ways to engage people more, even if it is client to client rather than over the board in person.
I have really let other training go for the time being. I have picked up my Reinfeld mate puzzle book a few times but just am not spending time with it, the Nunn, or even chesstempo. I also haven't been spending any time with Chernev lately though I have by the bedside and fully intend to pick it up and keep going with it. I'm also not spending much time studying openings or anything. I did decide to switch to the Tarrasch as black against the queen's gambit. It's one of the first openings discussed in FCO and I got another brainstorm when reading it, remembering an Eric Schiller book that discusses it. I have been a bit disappointed with the Tartakower because I felt opponents deviate from the key setup a lot. With the Tarrasch it doesn't take as much cooperation to get familiar setups which seems to be one of the key reasons for learning an opening.