ELECTRONIC T-NOTES


CHESSBASE USA'S WEEKLY ON-LINE NEWSLETTER


FOR THE WEEK OF DECEMBER 6, 1998


THE GOOSE IS GETTING FAT

by Steve Lopez

I'm a capitalist. I admit it. No twelve-step program needed here -- pretty much everyone likes money. And, after all, ChessBase is a business. We sell chess software. This is how I earn my keep. But it's fortunate for me: I love chess, I love computers, and I love the stuff we sell. I use it every day (unfortunately, not as much as I'd like -- I wish I could get in eight or ten games a day against our programs). I genuinely believe in this stuff. I tell people every day that if I'd had a computer and software like this 25 years ago I'd be a much stronger chess player today. So please forgive me this week as I take off my tech-support hat and put on my sales hat to tell you about the new software we have available in time for Christmas.

TRAINING CDS

Take a look at the following variation:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5

Speaking as the player of the Black pieces, I really hate this opening. I mean, I really despise it! My success rate against it has been exactly nil, nada, zippo, zilch. I might as well save time and tip my King when I see it, then go find a TV and see if I can occupy myself with a Bogart movie for a couple of hours.

I'm evidently not alone in my feelings about the Trompowsky. Check out what GM Rainer Knaak has to say about it:

"[Trompowsky] gave name to a system which is leading kind of a shadow existence: not recognized as a fully-fledged opening by the Whites, very unpopular among the Blacks, who are forced to leave the well-trodden paths right from the beginning. But exactly herein lies the chance for the first player - for the professional as well as the amateur."

Great! Another GM advocating the Trompowsky. I might as well resign myself to never winning another game as Black. On the other hand, what's good for the goose is good for the gander: I ought to take up the Trompowsky as White to try to make up some of my lost points as Black.

Regardless of which side of the Trompowsky you're on, you'll benefit from a new ChessBase training CD by Rainer Knaak (from which I was quoting earlier) in which he gives a complete Trompowsky repertiore for White. In it you'll learn the ideas for White in this interesting (and dangerous -- as I've learned the hard way) sideline.

Knaak provides a great deal of text instruction on this CD, in the form of on-screen English text files (in the new ChessBase WYSISYG hypertext format) and English-language text liberally inserted into the games themselves. There's an instructional database of over 90 games (most of them annotated) to show you how to play the Trompowsky as White. Knaak isolates the key plans and gives you easy access to the relevant games through the use of text links and opening keys. He even guides you through the minefields of tricky transpositions that exist in droves. There's a tree of Trompowsky variations included (that can also be used as an opening book for Fritz/Junior/Nimzo). Some of the games in this database contain multimedia notes, too.

Once you've learned the basic ideas, you can dive into the large main database: over 6000 Trompowsky games are included, many from recent master and GM practice. There's an extensive opening key to this database to help you quickly find the material you need. Also included is a training database of 16 games that will quiz your knowledge of the Trompowsky and assign you a score.

So if you'd like an opening that's pretty much guaranteed to make Black players (like myself) tear their hair out, you should check into this CD. Players of the Black pieces should look into this one as well -- it'll give you some good insight into the mayhem your White opponents are planning for you. The Trompowsky Attack is an excellent CD (much in the vein of Andre Schulz' King's Indian Defense with ...f4) and is competitively priced with standard chess books: $27. Try to buy a book with over 6000 complete games for that price! Good luck!

The Trompowsky Attack is suitable for use with ChessBase 6 & 7, Fritz5, Junior5, and Nimzo99. It also contains the "reader" program CBLight, so any chessplayer with a 486 (or faster) computer and a CD drive can use it.

Some of the most popular chess books are the ones about winning quickly. The works The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess by Chernev, Power Mates by Pandolfini, and Winning Quickly at Chess by Neishtadt spring immediately to mind. Face it -- we love this stuff! While there's a lot to be said for slow Karpovian positional crushes, who doesn't like seeing Paul Morphy flambe the Comte de Bonton Roulez and turn him into crepe suzette in eighteen moves? We dream about this stuff: I had a dream one night in which I swept a four-round swiss and used a total of 76 moves for all of my games combined! I was the gunslinger, I was the killer, I was the Man with No Name. I could hear Mexican guys whistling ominously in the background with every move I made...(plus the fact that the tournament's first prize was a date with Catherine Zeta-Jones didn't hurt my motivation).

A man can dream. Lubomir Ftacnik brings those dreams a step closer to reality (minus the part about Catherine) in Winning in 20 Moves!, another new training CD. On this CD, GM Ftacnik teaches us how to spot and exploit our opponent's mistakes, bring home the point early, and be enjoying a frosty one around the time everyone else is just getting to the middlegame.

The CD opens with an English text screen in which GM Ftacnik explains his teaching method. He's going to give us some basic explanation of a concept and then throw us into the mix, allowing us to load training games which contain timed questions we'll need to answer. He's divided the 333 games on the disk into themes. For example, the first theme we encounter is "Mating the Black King". We click on a link which jumps us to a text on typical mating ideas. He's further divided these games into sub-themes: King in front of the pieces, King on the Kingside, King in the center, and King on the Queenside. Links take us to a list of games for each theme.

Clicking on a game from the list loads it. Each game contains from one to three timed training questions you'll need to answer to proceed. A running total of your score is provided so you can check how well you're doing.

This is a great approach to chess instruction. You learn by doing, rather than by rote. No matter how well or poorly you do on the training questions, you're sure to learn plenty from the games, even if it's a matter of learning from your own errors.

All of the games on the CD are twenty moves or less in length. The whole idea is to teach you to spot early errors by your opponent and then severely punish those mistakes. Winning in 20 Moves! is similar in concept to Danny King's Check and Mate! disk and is just as much fun. If you're a big fan of "quick win" books, you'll love this CD -- it's even better than a book, because it's interactive. It costs $27 and is worth every penny for the fun value alone. This, too, contains CBLight (so it's a standalone CD) but can also be used with ChessBase 6 & 7, Fritz5, Junior5, and Nimzo99.

GM Knaak's Mating Attack Against 0-0 is a horse of a slightly different color. This CD is meant to be used with Fritz5, Junior5, or Nimzo99. On this CD, GM Knaak provides two databases. The first is a collection of mating themes, designed to teach you the common ideas used when attacking a Kingside castled position. Most of the 79 positions contain the timed training questions that we've grown to know and love so well. As always, your running tally is kept so you can see how well you've done.

Once you've mastered this material, it's on to the second database. This one is divided into themes, such as sacrifices, pawnstorms, and back-rank mating ideas. You are introduced to a concept with an example. These examples are then followed by a few positions. However, these aren't timed training positions. You're supposed to load a position into Fritz/Junior/Nimzo and actually play it out against the computer. This is true "trial by combat". You're not just answering a test question to get a score -- you're fighting for your life against a strong computer opponent. This will very quickly tell you whether or not you've truly mastered the concepts being taught.

This is a terrific approach (one that's traditionally been woefully underutilized by chess software programmers and instructors). The integration of playing features and database features in Fritz/Junior/Nimzo makes this kind of interactivity possible (and, in fact, it's really necessary for chess improvement). The CD is loaded with instructional text in English. This one is not a standalone disk -- it requires one of our programs. Although it can be used in ChessBase, you're better off using Fritz5/Junior5/Nimzo99 because of the way the disk is structured: you're supposed to try these positions out against one of the playing programs.

Mating Attack Against 0-0 is $27. It's pretty challenging and tough to master, but it's information you'll put to good use in your own games. Imagine the look on your opponent's face when you smash through his Kingside castled position and deliver a crushing mate -- heck, that look alone is worth the $27!

Another Knaak disk is challenging in the extreme: Tactics Test contains 400 training games that will challenge every chessplayer, regardless of skill level.

Contrary to what you've seen in ChessBase USA's latest flyer, this sucker is in English. I wish it was in German only -- then I'd have bypassed it and wouldn't be tearing my hair out. Man, some of these positions are really danged hard!

This CD contains timed training questions. You load a game and you're invited to solve the problem within a set period. Once again, a running score is kept so you can chart your progress.

There are two databases on this disk. One contains 300 tactical problems ranking in incresing difficulty (from level 3 to level 15). The other contains 100 problems of the "what's the best move" variety. I'll warn you: some of the Level 15 problems on this CD have been known to cause brain damage in Canadian lab rats. No matter what level you play at, you're sure to find much to challenge and instruct you on this CD.

Knaak's Tactics Test is $27 and contains CBLight, so it stands alone. ChessBase is not responsible for brain damage or other neurological disorders that might be incurred by trying to solve the Level 15 problems.

NIMZO 99

"Too many chess programs" is, for many of us, a completely alien concept (much like "too much money" or "too much fun"). You just can't have too many. Even so, what's the advantage of having Nimzo 99?

For openers, it has the same interface as Fritz5 and Junior5, so you don't have to learn a new set of menus and commands to be able to play a new chess program. It's a very fast searcher (though not quite as fast as Fritz). It contains a learning function in which every position it has ever played is stored in a special file. It will thus avoid variations in which it has previously fared badly -- thus the more you play it, the stronger it gets. It won't fall for the same tricks twice, so it forces you to vary your play against it.

One of the great features about Nimzo is its enormous "tweakability". There are numerous parameters that you can play around with. You can change the values of individual pieces, making them worth less or more in Nimzo's evaluation. You can vary the depth of its searches depending on piece threats (if the last move of its search detects a threat, it will deepen the search). You can change how Nimzo values piece mobility in the middlegame and endgame. Nimzo 99 also supports the Auto232 software for linking two computers together for a match.

There are also many new features in the engine and notation windows, making them much more like what ChessBase users are accustomed to. You can "lock" the search, send the analysis to the clipboard, scroll the main line of the search, and get additional search info (time spent and number of positions searched). You can also swiftly switch between analysis engines if you have more than one loaded at a time. In the notation window, you can promote and delete lines, enter text before and after moves, do database searches for the current board position, and a whole lot more.

Nimzo 99 also comes with additional chess engines for an even greater variety of play. You get Crafty, EXChess, and Comet with it. Comet and Crafty are just slightly weaker than Nimzo, with playing styles all their own. EXChess, meanwhile, is the weakest of the four engines and is included to give beginning players a chance at a competitive game without being overwhelmed. Of course, you can use all four engines for analysis in ChessBase 7, too, and they're compatible with Junior5 and the new Fritz5.32.

Nimzo 99 is a great addition to the ChessBase family of playing engines. For just a hair more than what previous versions of Fritz used to cost alone, you can now own three top-notch chess programs: Fritz5, Junior5, and Nimzo 99. They come on CD and cost $49.50 each.

Enjoy the cool new stuff and until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes. If you love gambits, stop by the Chess Kamikaze Home Page. and the Yahoo Chess Kamikazes Club.