This help file describes what a "category" is on FICS. It explains how the
categories can be divided into two slightly different groups, and it provides
a list of the categories, which includes some of their statistics. It also
gives a brief description of each category, and gives a broad overview of some
of the ways to use categories. For details about any one specific category,
you should read the separate help file for that category. (Note: the term
"board_category" has been used in the past, and it means the same thing as
DESCRIPTION OF WHAT A "CATEGORY" IS ON FICS
Here on FICS there are several different types of games which you can play.
In addition to regular chess, there are six major variants of chess, and there
are also several other specialized variants of chess. These many different
types of games have been split up into separate divisions, and each division
is called a "category." The game types which are very similar in nature, or
those which have some common theme, are grouped together in the same category.
Some of the categories have just one type of game, and others have two or
more. Categories make it possible to have a separate rating for each major
classification of games. Each one of the six major chess variants currently
played on FICS is a category. (The names of these variants are: Wild,
Bughouse, Crazyhouse, Suicide, Losers and Atomic.) Regular chess is also a
category ("Chess"), and there are seven other specialized categories.
It's easiest to learn about the categories when they are divided into two
Group (1): The categories in this group each have only one type of game that
you can play. Examples of this type of category are Suicide, Losers and
Group (2): The categories in this group each have two or more slightly
different types of games that you can play (with two exceptions noted below).
Examples of this type of category are Wild and Odds. Each one of the various
game types within a given category is called a "board." The differences
between the various boards in a given category can be (in any combination):
1. Different starting positions.
2. Different sets of chessmen.
3. Different rules.
Usually, the rules are the same for all of the boards in a given category.
The exception is in the Wild category, where the rules for castling are
different for several of the boards.
The various boards are named in different ways, depending on the particular
category in which they reside. Most of the boards in the Wild category are
simply named with a number. Boards in some categories are given a descriptive
name, such as the "pawn-and-move" board in the Odds category. To see a list
of all of the boards in one of the categories which has separate named boards
(that is, in one of the categories in Group (2)), you can use the "boards"
command. (See "help boards".) For those categories which are not fully
supported by the boards command (currently the Wild, ECO and NIC categories),
you can check their separate help files to see the list of their boards.
The reason for splitting up the categories into two groups is simply for
clarity in understanding how to use them. When you refer to one of the
categories in Group (1), you only need to include the name of the category.
That is because those categories have no boards within them. When you refer
to one of the categories in Group (2), most of the time you will also have to
include the name of a board from that category. Otherwise, your use of that
category in a command would be ambiguous. This is explained in greater detail
below, under "USES FOR CATEGORIES."
EXCEPTIONS IN GROUP (2)
Two of the categories in Group (2) (the Misc and Pawns categories) have only
one board within them. Even though they have only one board, they still must
be treated in the same way as the other categories in Group (2). This simply
means that you still have to include both the name of the category, and the
name of the board that's in that category, when referring to one of them in a
THE CHESS CATEGORY - SPECIAL NOTE
The Chess category (the one for regular chess) is unique among the categories
in that it is the only one which is split up into divisions based on the
Expected Duration (etime) of the game. The names of these divisions are
Lightning, Blitz, Standard and Untimed. Lightning is very fast chess,
allowing you the least amount of time to complete the game. Blitz is not
quite as fast as Lightning, giving you a little more time to complete the
game. Standard is slower still, allowing you much more time to play out the
game. In Untimed chess no clocks are used at all, so one of these games could
go on for a very long time. The Chess category is the only category which can
have untimed games.
These divisions of the Chess category are similar to those found in
Over-The-Board play of regular chess. On FICS, you can obtain a separate
rating in each one of these divisions, except in Untimed, which is always
unrated. At first glance, it might seem like these divisions are boards in
the Chess category, but this is not the case. They are all played with the
same starting position, the same set of chessmen, and the same set of rules.
The only differences between them are the time controls involved. So they are
not different boards. They are merely divisions of regular chess, with the
divisions being based on the Expected Duration (etime) of the game.
On FICS, these divisions of regular chess are often treated as if they were
categories themselves. In most situations where the server displays
information in some type of list, such as in the "Games" and "History" lists,
you will see that Lightning, Blitz, Standard and Untimed are treated as
categories. Also, in many commands, you must use one of these divisions of
Chess as the category parameter in the command, rather than using "chess".
Some examples of this are in the "gstat", "pstat", and "hstat" commands. More
details about this are included below, and you can always check the help files
for the individual commands to see which term is the proper one to use.
LIST OF THE CATEGORIES
Here is a list of all 14 categories currently available on FICS. The list is
split into the two major types of categories: (1) those which have only one
type of game, so they have no separate named boards within them; and (2) those
which have named boards within them.
GROUP (1) CATEGORIES
Each of these six categories have only one type of game. They have no
separate boards within them:
RATED GAMES GAMES ARE
CATEGORY CAPABILITY NONSTANDARD
---------- ----------- -----------
Chess YES NO
Bughouse YES NO
Crazyhouse YES NO
Suicide YES NO
Losers YES NO
Atomic YES NO
GROUP (2) CATEGORIES
Each of these eight categories have at least one named board within them:
RATED GAMES GAMES ARE NUMBER
CATEGORY CAPABILITY NONSTANDARD OF BOARDS
-------- ----------- ----------- ---------
Wild YES NO 9
Odds NO YES 10
Misc NO YES 1
Openings NO YES 2
Pawns NO YES 1
Uwild NO YES 18
ECO NO YES Very Many
NIC NO YES Very Many
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE CATEGORIES
(Note to fellow old-timers and others: the term "piece" as used in these
descriptions means any one of the chessmen, including the pawns, unless noted
otherwise. This is in agreement with the use of this term in the current
version of the FIDE Laws of Chess. Please bear this in mind when reading
=== Chess ===
Regular chess. The classical game that we all love. See the section above,
"THE CHESS CATGEGORY - SPECIAL NOTE," for more details.
=== Bughouse ===
A variant of chess played between two teams, on two separate boards, with both
games being played simultaneously. Each team has two players. You play
against one member of the opposing team, and your team partner, playing with
the opposite color pieces from you, plays against the other member of the
opposing team. The special feature of the game is that the pieces which you
capture are transferred to your partner, and the pieces which he captures are
transferred to you. (It's the same for both teams, of course.) These
transferred pieces can then be "dropped" onto empty squares, as subsequent
moves, so the pieces are constantly being recycled. When one of the games is
concluded by checkmate, resignation or loss on time, the match ends, and the
other game ends immediately. The player who won his game and his team partner
are both treated as having won their games, and their two opponents are both
treated as having lost their games. It is possible for a Bughouse match to
end in a draw, but only after the draw has been requested and accepted on both
games. This makes draws in Bughouse extremely rare.
=== Crazyhouse ===
A variant of chess with the special feature that when a player captures a
piece, they receive a piece of the same kind, but of their own color. These
captured pieces can then be "dropped" onto empty squares, as subsequent moves,
so the pieces are constantly being recycled.
=== Suicide ===
A variant of chess in which you win if you lose all of your pieces before your
opponent loses all of his/hers, or if you have no legal moves to make and have
fewer pieces left at the end than your opponent has. If you can capture a
piece you must do so (you can choose which capture if there is a choice),
there is no castling, and the king is just a regular piece, so there is no
check or checkmate.
=== Losers ===
A variant of chess similar to Suicide. The difference is, in Losers, the king
is treated much more like it is in regular chess. Castling and check are the
same as in regular chess, except that when you are in check, you must defend
by capturing an opponent's piece if at all possible. You win if you lose all
of your pieces, except for the king; or if you are checkmated; or if you are
stalemated. If you can capture a piece you must do so, and you can choose
which capture if there is a choice.
=== Atomic ===
A variant of chess in which pieces explode. When a capture is made, the
capturing man explodes. The square on which the capture occurs is "ground
zero." All pieces (but not pawns) that are on squares adjacent to ground zero
(horizontally, vertically and diagonally) are destroyed in the explosion.
Their squares, and the ground zero square, are left empty by the blast. You
win if you destroy your opponent's king in an explosion, or if you attack
their king and they cannot defend. Exploding an opponent's king takes
precedence over direct attacks on a king, so it's possible to defend against
an attack that would otherwise be checkmate in regular chess. This can be
done by destroying the opposing king in an explosion on the next move. In
that situation, the player whose king is left under attack wins the game,
because his opponent's king has been "blown away."
=== Wild ===
This category has nine different boards, all of which are played with rules
which are fundamentally the same as in regular chess. The boards have either
unusual starting positions, or unusual sets of pieces, or both. In some of
the boards the rules for castling are specially modified, and in others,
castling is not allowed.
=== Odds ===
In odds games, a stronger player gives a weaker player some type of an
advantage, to "even up the odds." There are very many ways to do this. On
FICS, the Odds category uses a difference in material for the advantage. The
player who is giving the odds will begin the game with one less piece than his
opponent. This is called "piece odds." The various boards let you choose
which piece will be the one that is missing. There are additional boards that
let you increase the advantage a little bit farther, by giving the weaker
player the material advantage and the first move. This is called "piece-and-
=== Misc ===
A catchall category. It currently has only one board, in which each player
begins the game with a king and three pawns.
=== Openings ===
The boards in this category have starting positions which are taken from well-
known openings in regular chess.
=== Pawns ===
A category in which the emphasis is on pawns. It currently has only one
board, in which each player begins the game with a king and eight pawns.
=== Uwild ===
The Unrated Wild category. Similar to the Wild category, but the boards in
this category are for testing and experimentation, and can only be played
unrated. The rules are fundamentally the same as in regular chess, but
castling is not allowed on any of the 18 boards currently available in this
category. If any of these boards become popular enough, they could be added
to the Wild category. After you take a look at some of the boards in this
category, you could easily believe that "UltraWild" is the correct name for
=== ECO ===
This is another category with boards which have starting positions which are
taken from the openings in regular chess. "ECO" is short for "Encyclopedia of
Chess Openings," a classification system for the openings, which uses a set of
codes to give names to the various opening lines and positions. The ECO codes
for the various positions are used as the names of the boards in this
=== NIC ===
This is yet another category with boards which have starting positions which
are taken from the openings in regular chess. "NIC" is short for "New In
Chess," which has (among many things) a classification system for the
openings, which uses a set of codes to give names to the various opening lines
and positions. The NIC codes for the various positions are used as the names
of the boards in this category. Coverage of the NIC codes on FICS is much
more limited than the coverage of the ECO codes.
NOTE ABOUT IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CATEGORIES
Categories and server commands have been added to FICS at various different
times in the past, as FICS has been evolving and growing. Due to this, a few
of the commands may treat some of the categories a little differently than do
the rest of the commands. For example, the "gstat", "hstat", and "pstat"
commands do not count games from the Odds category as nonstandard games.
Also, some of the categories have been implemented in a limited way, meaning
that they are not fully supported by all of the features listed below. This
is especially true of the ECO and NIC categories. The sections below, titled
"SPECIAL NOTES," and "FORMULA VARIABLES - SPECIAL EXCEPTI0NS," explain these
USES FOR CATEGORIES
STARTING A GAME
Whenever a game is to be played on FICS, the server must be told what type of
game it will be. The category, and if needed, the board, are two of the
parameters which tell the server what type of game to create. Regular chess
is the most popular type of game, so the default category is Chess. Also, the
Chess category has no named boards, so no board parameter is needed. So, to
issue a seek or a match challenge for a regular game of chess, you don't need
to include the category or board in your seek or match command. The server
simply assumes that you want regular chess. And you don't have to tell the
server whether it will be a Lightning, Blitz, Standard or Untimed game,
because the server can tell that from the time controls in the command.
If you want a game that is not regular chess, you will need to include the
category in your seek or match command. And if the category is one that has
named boards, then you will also need to include the board in your seek or
match command. The help files for seek and match show how to do this in
detail, but here are two simple examples:
To seek for a game of category "Losers", with 3 0 time controls, you would
seek 3 0 losers
To match user beuki for a game of category "Wild" and board "8", with 5 0 time
controls, you would type:
match beuki 5 0 wild 8
EXAMINING FROM SCRATCH, OR SETTING UP A POSITION
When you examine a game from scratch, or you set up a position to examine, the
server must be told what type of game it will be. And just like with starting
a new game, the default is regular chess. So, to begin examining a regular
chess game from scratch, you simply type the command:
The server assumes that you want the default category "Chess".
To begin setting up a position of a regular chess game, you simply type the
Again, the server will assume that you want the default "Chess" category.
To examine from scratch, or set up a position of a game that is not of the
Chess category, you must include the category and, if needed, the board, in
your command. To do this, you use the syntax:
examine b category board
bsetup b category board
The character "b" in the command informs the server that you want a category
other than regular chess. (The character "b" comes from the fact that
categories have also been called "board_categories" in the past.) For
categories that don't have named boards, the board parameter must be omitted
from the command. Here are two simple examples for each command:
examine b atomic
examine b wild 8
bsetup b atomic
bsetup b wild 8
These are just some simple examples. The help files for "examine" and
"bsetup" have complete details on the syntax and uses for these two commands.
THE "CATEGORY" AND "BOARD" VARIABLES
The server provides to you a "category" variable and a "board" variable, to
allow you to change what your default category and, if needed, board, will be,
for seek and match commands. This is rarely done. However, if you are mainly
interested in playing one of the game types other than regular chess, this
might be beneficial to you. For example, if your primary interest is to play
Atomic, then you could change your category variable to "atomic". Then, when
you issue a seek or match command with no category parameter included, the
server would obtain this parameter from your category variable, and you would
be seeking for, or matching for, a game of Atomic. You could still seek for,
or match for, regular chess, or one of the other categories and boards.
But you would have to include the category parameter, and if necessary the
board parameter, in your seek or match command, if you wanted something other
You use the "set" command to set the value of your category variable or your
board variable. Here are some simple examples:
set category atomic
set category wild
set board 8a
To return both your category and board variables to their defaults ("chess"),
use the command:
To return just your board variable to its default ("chess"), use the command:
As long as your category variable is set to its default value ("chess"), then
your category and board variables are not shown in your list of variables,
when you issue a "variables" command to see that list. If you change your
category variable to one of the categories other than chess, then your
category variable will be included in your list of variables, so that you can
see what it has been set to. Your board variable would then also be included
in the list, if it has been changed from its default value ("chess"). See
"help v_category" and "help v_board" for complete details on the use of these
1. "ECO" and "NIC" are implemented as categories in a limited way. Because of
this, you cannot set your category variable to "eco" or "nic". If you want to
use either the "ECO" or the "NIC" category in seek or match commands, you will
have to manually include "eco" or "nic" in the command (as described earlier),
along with the specific board that you want. The boards are the eco codes or
the nic codes for the various positions in the openings. It is possible to
set your category variable to any one of the other 12 categories listed above.
2. Your category and board variables only apply to the seek and match
commands. They have no effect on the examine or bsetup commands. For those
two commands, you must include the category, and (if needed) board, in the
command, if you want anything other than the default "chess" category.
3. When your category variable has been changed from "chess" to one of the
other categories, you will then be able to enter a value into your board
variable. If your category variable is set to a category that does not have
any boards, whatever you enter into your board variable will be irrelevant.
In that situation, if you issued a seek or match command with no category
parameter included, the server would use your category variable for the
category, and your board variable would be ignored.
4. When your category variable is set to one of the categories that contains
named boards, the server will check whatever you enter into your board
variable for validity. You should enter the name of one of the boards that
resides in the category that is in your category variable. If you enter
something else, you will receive a warning, but the server will still accept
what you have entered. (A few things will always be rejected, such as
anything containing a decimal point.) So it is possible to set your board
variable to something that is invalid. In that situation, if you issue a seek
or match command which gets its parameters from your category and board
variables, then that command will be rejected by the server.
CATEGORIES WITH NONSTANDARD GAMES
Certain categories produce games which are designated as "nonstandard". In
"Games" and "History" lists, they will be marked with an "n". Also, the term
"nonstandard" can be used as a formula variable, to filter out (or require)
seeks and match challenges for nonstandard games (see "help formula"). The
definition of nonstandard has evolved over time. Originally, it meant a game
which begins from a nonstandard position, or with different time controls for
the two players (which is called "time odds"). However, time odds is not
currently supported on FICS, and many of the games which begin from very
nonstandard positions are not designated as nonstandard (games in the Wild
Fortunately, the categories give you an easy way to tell which games will be
designated as nonstandard. Look above at the master list of the categories.
There is a column which tells whether or not the games from each category are
nonstandard games. The information in that column is based directly on the
information in the "RATED GAMES CAPABILITY" column. The categories which do
not have rated games capability, will have games that are nonstandard. The
categories which can have rated games, do not have nonstandard games. Whether
a particular game will be rated or not does not matter. For the purpose of
determining whether or not a game will be designated as nonstandard, all that
matters is which category the game comes from. (Note also, as can be seen
from the list above, all nonstandard games are unrated.)
USING CATEGORIES AND BOARDS IN YOUR FORMULA
You can use categories and boards in your formula to help define which seek
adds and match challenges you want to have automatically rejected by your
formula, or passed through to you. There are two ways of doing this.
First, any one of these seven categories can be used as a formula variable:
chess, bughouse, crazyhouse, suicide, losers, atomic or wild.
Second, these two formula variables allow you to use any of the categories or
boards in your formula (with a few special exceptions noted below):
Here, you replace the "x" inside the parentheses with the name of the category
or board that you want your formula to test for. When you use one of these
two formula variables you must be very careful to type in the name of the
category or board correctly, as the server does not test what you have typed
in for validity. (Reminder: always use lower case for everything in your
FORMULA VARIABLES - SPECIAL EXCEPTI0NS
1. You cannot use the "chess" category in the category(x) formula variable.
If you do, it will always evaluate to "0" (zero), which also means "false," or
"fails." Also, you cannot use the divisions of the chess category (lightning,
blitz, standard, or untimed) in this formula variable, as they will always
evaluate to zero. All five of these terms ("chess", "lightning", "blitz",
"standard" and "untimed") are already formula variables themselves, so they
can be used without any need of the category(x) formula variable.
2. You cannot use the boards "albin_cg" or "falkbeer_cg", in the board(x)
formula variable, even though they are valid boards (in the Openings
category). Currently, the server will not accept them in this formula
variable, due to the underscore character in their names.
3. You can use any of the standard ECO codes in the board(x) formula variable,
but you can't use the extended ECO codes. The standard ECO codes are "a00"
through "e99". The extended ECO codes as implemented on FICS have a decimal
point in them, which causes the server to not accept them in the board(x)
4. You can't use any of the NIC codes in the board(x) formula variable. These
codes have a decimal point in them, which causes the server to not accept them
in this formula variable.
FORMULA VARIABLES - EXAMPLES
Here are two simple examples of the use of categories and boards in a formula:
To filter out all seeks and match challenges except for those for category
"losers", you could enter the command:
set formula losers
Now, with your formula set to "losers", all seeks or match challenges for
games of category "losers" would be passed through to you. All other seeks or
match challenges would be automatically rejected by your formula.
Say you want to see all seeks and match challenges except for those of board
"5" in the "wild" category. You could enter the command:
set formula !(category(wild) and board(5))
With your formula set this way, all seeks and match challenges would pass
through to you, except for those for board "5" in the "wild" category.
These are just some simple examples. See "help formula" for the complete
details on how to use a formula.
The many categories and boards on FICS provide a wide variety of possibilities
for how you can spend your time here. There's regular chess for more or less
serious play, specialized categories for working on technique, and the many
variants for just plain fun. If you spend a little time investigating the
many possibilities available, you might find there's something new that's just
right for you. But beware. You might also find you suddenly have a few new
"chess-related" addictions that you hadn't counted on before.
atomic blitz boards bsetup bughouse
chess crazyhouse eco etime examine
formula games gstat history hstat
intro_playing lightning losers manual_vars match
misc nic nonstandard openings odds
pawns pstat ratings seek set
standard suicide untimed uwild v_board
v_category variables wild
Created: 20 October 2008 mattuc