FROM THE MAILBAG

by Steve Lopez

There are lots of interesting questions hitting the mailbox lately, so let's dive right in and do some reading...

On our Web page user's group, David Hausmann asks several questions about Fritz and ChessBase:

1) Is there a way of stopping Fritz5 in the middle of analyzing a game and then restarting the analysis later?

Try this: when you click on the "Analyze" command, you'll see a box saying "Last move". If you stop its analysis at move 16, use "Save Game" or "Replace Game". Reload it later, click on "Analyze", and put "16" in the "Last move" box. Caveat: I've not personally tried this, so let me know how it works out for you.

2) Is it possible to use the Fritz5 engine in ChessBase 6.01?

Yes, definitely. On your Fritz5 CD, you'll find a directory called CBWIN.DLL. Open it and inside you'll find the analysis engines for Fritz3, 4, and 5. Copy these into your CB60 directory and use the "Select Analysis Module" command (in the Status menu in ChessBase) to set up hot keys for them.

3) David also asks if it's possible to use both the Fritz and Hiarcs engines for analysis in Fritz5. Sure is! Select "Engines" from the Levels menu. Use "Load engine" to load both the Fritz and Hiarcs engines into the left-hand box. Then, under "Engine choice", choose the Fritz5 engine for Tactical and the Hiarcs engine for Positional. Select "Automatic". Then, as the program analyzes, it will switch between the two engines based on the characteristics of the position it's studying.

4) What databases are included in the tree that comes with Fritz5?

I don't know for sure. I saw a post on Usenet that indicates that the basic Fritz tree is derived from the 300,000 game database that accompanies the program, but I've been unable to confirm this.

5) If you have the Fritz Powerbook installed on the hard drive, does it make any sense to add any database at all?

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. I don't think it's beneficial at this time to expand the tree by adding new games, if that's what you mean. The Powerbook tree is pretty comprehensive as is. If you're referring to obtaining/adding/using databases as separate entities (either as databases or as smaller trees), the answer is yes. A database differs from a tree in that a database is a reference library for your use (as opposed to a tree for the program's use). Also, making and using smaller trees on specific openings has the benefit of forcing Fritz to play a particular opening (one you might be studying, for example) to allow you to train in the opening of your choice.

6) When you hit [F11] to see the tree, you can click on a move when playing against Fritz5. However, Fritz5 does not respond unless you close the tree window. Am I missing something?

No. That's the way it works. Programmer Matthias Wullenweber was asked about this on Usenet and he indicated that it may be changed in the future.

I apologize about this next question. I was asked it last week and I promptly lost the e-mail, so I don't know who sent it; my apologies. I was asked to explain how to convert old ChessBase data (.CBF format) to the new format (.CBH) data in Fritz5.

Create a new database (section 7.4 in the manual), making sure you select .CBH format for it. Then open the old .CBF database (section 7.2 in the Fritz manual). Mark all of the games in the old database (using the [SHIFT] and cursor keys to highlight them) and then use the Copy command (section 7.17 in the manual) to copy them into your new .CBH database.

I didn't want to rewrite a couple of pages of the manual for this explanation if I didn't have to, but if anyone wants more details on this please e-mail me and I'll do a column on the procedure in the near future.

David Smith has created a Table of Contents for the first six months or so of Electronic T-Notes. What he's basically done is clip out the title and first couple of lines of each article and arranged them in chronological order. He sent it along to me and gave me permission to post it here. If you'd like to use it, click here to download it in .ZIP format. Thanks, David! Great job! (And one which I should have done if I wasn't so danged lazy!)

SHAMELESS PLUG: Bob Pawlak has a great Web page called "The Chess Widower's Home Page", in which he reviews a ton of chess software. Bob's a good guy (as well as a millionaire -- how else could he afford all of this software?) and his reviews are well-written and balanced as all get out. I've been a fan of his page for quite a while, so I was pleased to discover that he reads my deranged ramblings. Check his page out!

This week, I was extremely delighted to be forwarded an e-mail by Enrique Bird. Enrique is one of Puerto Rico's foremost chess talents. He played for Puerto Rico's team in the 1974, 1978, 1988, and 1990 chess Olympiads, captaining the team in the latter three. It's not every day that guys like him notice mere mortals such as myself, so I was very flattered to learn that he's enjoying my book Battle Royale (being published in installments on this website). Enrique has some interesting comments on my portrayal of the relationship between Capablanca and Alekhine:

"...one misconception should be cleared up: Capablanca and Alekhine were very friendly towards each other at the time and stayed so until some time after their 1927 match. As a matter of fact, Capablanca wrote in a column just before the match how much he admired Dr. Alekhine and how, maybe, he was at that moment the strongest player in the world."

Enrique is very probably correct. However, I derived my characterizations from a different source. Herman Helms, the tournament director, was under the impression that the two men didn't much care for each other. In fact, he decided to take the two men to a Broadway show as a way of attempting to get them to bridge their differences. According to Helms, the attempt was a total failure.

Enrique also cites Edward Lasker's book Chess Secrets as confirmation for his statements. I wish I'd known about this book before I started the project (as I don't own a copy). I did obtain a copy of Lasker's two-part article on the New York 1924 tournament (published in 1974 in Chess Life), but he makes no mention of the relationship between the two giants.

In my defense, let me say that it's really hard to discern these things almost three quarters of a century later. People mellow with age and will tend to be kinder towards others in their later reminiscences than they were at the time. On the other hand, Helms may have been writing many years after the fact and time may have distorted his perceptions of the seriousness of the emnity between the two players.

There's also the factor of how close a writer/reporter is to the situation. As a personal example: I played in a few blues bands back in the 80's. There was this one band I had in which nobody got along. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I and the drummer positively despised each other (it almost came to bloodshed on a couple of occasions). However, to the club owners and fans who came to see us, the band was a model of harmony. Everyone thought that the band members were total pals. The truth is that we seldom spoke to each other off-stage. Had the typical fan written a piece on us for a newspaper or regional music mag, it would have portrayed all of us as the best of friends.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's impossible for us to know the absolute truth at this late date. Consequently, I'll continue to portray the pair as respectful rivals, but with a slight trace of animosity toward each other (in other words, Helms' portrayal), primarily because this is what my sources indicate as well as the fact that the thing is already out there on the Net and it's too late to go back now. However, in future installments, I'll temper the portrayal a bit in light of Enrique's information. Thanks, Enrique!

One last note: I've been toying with the idea of using a colored background for this page, as opposed to the standard gray. My way of thinking is that appearance wasn't a big deal, as the information on the page was the important thing. I also personally can't stand white backgrounds on web pages (it hurts my eyes). However, a couple of people have asked me to consider dressing up this thing by using a blue or green background. Let me know what you think.

Don't forget, Electronic T-Notes is your newsletter! Don't hesitate to write to me with comments, criticism, questions, and information that you'd like to see here. Until next week, have fun!

Send your questions and comments about Electronic T-Notes and Battle Royale to our ChessBase Users Group or you can e-mail me directly.