Nactation serves two functions.
- It is a tool that can be used for transcription of games and matches. For this purpose, it need not be adopted in toto. Whatever parts are deemed useful can serve as an adjunct to the system of shorthand one prefers.
- Together with nacbracs, Nactation is a tool for summarizing rollouts.
My own application deals primarily with the latter. The following remarks address the advantages of Nactation that motivate me to use it in that role.
Since January of this year, I have been working with Xavier, Miran, and Dmitriy to expand the XG Opening Book. The number of files involved is quite large.
For the opening roll alone, we have created rollouts at all scores 9-away and below. For the second roll, we have limited ourselves to unlimited games, plus the three major match scores, but that still means making thousands of rollouts. As we anticipate extending the OB to the third roll, we are facing the reality of 20,000 files or more.
Nactation provides a simple way for naming files, and later retrieving them. The slash required by traditional notation cannot be used in a file name. Even if you substitute a hyphen, the names resulting from traditional notation are too cumbersome to be useful.
Nacbracs are the heart and soul of Nactation.
A nacbracs does not just notate the moves in a rollout, for each one, it gives its rank and the number of millipoints of equity by which it trails the leader. A nacbracs summarizes the key information of a rollout in one short line.
When you are looking at a single rollout, nacbracs are not needed. When you have thousands, they become almost mandatory.
Remember this: Nactation is not about the notation. It’s about the nacbracs.
When you have more than one rollout for a given position, nacbracs are the easiest way to compare them. As an example, consider the recent rollouts of 21$-62. Part of my Index to Rollouts is repeated below.
A quick scan down the nacbracs column shows “S” lining up at the left. Splitting, S = 24/18 13/11, is winning all the XG2 rollouts.
The same glance also shows you that “N” and “Z” do not line up. There is still some disagreement about the famous Magriel alternative, N = 13/7 6/4. In some rollouts, N trails by about 0.015, an amount large enough to cause us to reject it when playing against strong opponents. In other rollouts, N trails by only 0.007. The use of nacbracs makes it easy to spot this ambiguity.
For this purpose, it key that the Nactation for a move use only one character. If Nactation adopted multi-character sequences for a move, the resulting nacbracs would be much more cluttered, and more difficult to take in at a glance.
One of the least understood advantages of Nactation is that it discards the specific points where checkers are moved, and instead aggregates moves into families such as Split, Point, and Hit.
Learning openings, and especially, replies, is one area where the use of families shines. The easiest way, for instance, to memorize the split openings of 62, 63, and 64 is just to learn “S.” Memorizing the specific destinations for these three rolls obscures the fact that they are all the same play.
When I memorized replies, the aggregating character of Nactation greatly simplified the process. Unlike many players, in addition to memorizing the moves I prefer, I committed to learning the close calls. Take the example of 21$-62 below. All I had to learn was “SNZ.” During flashcard recitations, it was much easier for me to recall those letters than it would have been to recite the traditional notations.
A more sophisticated application involves longer move sequences as well as short ones.
I have developed flashcard sets from the data in my RolloutSummary spreadsheet for categories such as “Anchor or Hit?,” “Anchor or Point?,” and “Hit or Point?” The techniques I use to search through thousands of rollouts and locate the positions for each category depend in a fundamental way on the aggregating function of Nactation families. They would not work if I used a notation that specified the exact points where checkers land.
Here is how I locate all the “Anchor or Hit?” positions.
- Open the RolloutSummary page of my rollout spreadsheet.
- Click the triangle next to the heading “Nacbracs.” This opens a menu where you can filter the data.
- Select “Text filters, Contains...”
- Enter four keystrokes (don’t forget the space): [@ H
- Click “Or.”
- On the following line, enter the condition “contains.”
- In the textbox on the right, enter four keystrokes: [H @
- Click “OK.”
If you want to try it, you can use the XGID at the end of each row to make your own flashcards. When you are finished, don’t forget to clear the filters. An easy way to do that is to select “Don’t save” when you close the spreadsheet. Otherwise, click the triangle, and select “Clear filter from Nacbracs.”
To locate the “Anchor or Point?” positions, enter “[@ P” and “[P @” in steps 4 and 7, respectively. For “Hit or Point?,” enter “[H P” and “[P H”.
Nactation is not for everybody. If you find that it is not useful for you, then by all means, leave it alone. You should not, however, try to convince me to do the same. I already drank the Kool-Aid.