by Steve Lopez

It's finally here! The new 32-bit Fritz5 is out! And the question everyone wants to know is: "What do you get with it??"

Physically, here's how it works. If you upgraded your 16-bit Fritz, you get a new CD with the program on it. You still use your old Talk CD for Fritz' spoken commentary. You also receive an upgrade manual detailing Fritz' new features. This manual is located inside the CD's jewel case.

For first-time Fritz5 owners, you get two CDs -- an installation CD and the Talk CD, plus the original Fritz5 manual and the new upgrade manual.

What's different about the 32-bit Fritz5 (hereafter referred to as Fritz5.32) compared to the old 16-bit Fritz5 (henceforth and forevermore known as Fritz5.16)?

There are 56 new features in Fritz5.32. None of these are earth-shattering changes individually, but collectively they're a major step forward in the ongoing evolution of Fritz.

Obviously, I won't be able to cover all 56 features in the course of a single column, but I'll hit on a few of them just to give you a taste. Many of the other features will be covered in upcoming ETN issues (I don't want to write myself out of a job this close to Christmas).

Frans Morsch has improved Fritz' playing engine by making it a 32-bit application. Consequently, the program runs more quickly in the 32-bit Windows environments (Windows 95 and 98) and leads to an increase in playing strength. There have been some internal tweaks as well: Fritz5.32 budgets its time differently than in previous versions, for example.

Contrary to what I told a couple of customers a few weeks before the program was released, thunking code has been included for the Fritz1, Fritz3, and Fritz4 engines (so impeach me or call for my resignation; I hear that's going around lately).

There are a pile of extra engines included with Fritz5.32. In addition to the older Fritz engines, you also receive versions of Comet, Crafty, EXChess, and a new Doctor?3.0 (come on, guys! I had enough problems beating the old Doctor! Longtime readers of ETN will recall my trials and tribulations with my old silicon nemesis Doctor?2.0).

A new opening book has been included: it's a good general opening book for all of the engines included on the CD.

There are a large number of added engine vs. engine features, including the ability to set up complete engine tournaments. The ability to think on the opponent's time has been added to engine vs. engine matches for users with dual-processor machines.

There have been a large number of changes to the on-screen displays to put them more in line with those of ChessBase 7. These include ChessBase 7-style notation display, material balance display, colored variations in the notation, game truncation, annotation medals, and more.

The evaluation display has also been improved, with node speed display added, as well as elapsed time display.

There are new printing functions, EPD import, improved PGN conversion, new fonts, selectable fonts for the notation, game list, and search info, and the old 4,999 game limit for copying games has been upped to an unlimited number.

Fritz5.32 has some great new configurability tweaks. You can set new parameters for contempt value (willingness to accept draws) and aggressiveness (crank it full-tilt one way for Tal-like play, the whole way in the other direction to make a Petrosian out of it). You can set its willingness to resign in a bad position.

A few users have asked for a "human handicap" in blitz games. Computers have a bit of an advantage at blitz because they can move literally instantaneously, while a human loses a bit of time physically clicking and moving a mouse. You can now set a human handicap in Blitz and Fischer modes to offset the computer's natural advantage.

The correspondence analysis feature has been improved. You can set the program to think for a longer time on the first move of its analysis tree than it does on subsequent moves. You can also limit its branching analysis to only White's or Black's moves.

There's a comparative analysis feature (in which you can have more than one engine look at a position and get a comparison of their analyses). You can also switch quickly between engines while analyzing a position on the screen.

I loved this line in the upgrade manual: "Did you ever play chess for money?" Oh, boy! Did I ever!! I used to make a nice chunk of change as a chess hustler many years ago. Fritz5.32 has a fun new "hustler" feature: doubling in rated games. It's the computer equivalent of "put up or shut up". You bet an amount of cyberbucks on the game's outcome. You can then give Fritz the option of resigning or doubling the stake. The "doubling" option alternates between players. It becomes sort of a "chickenfight" -- do you have the guts to double the stake or do you just want to pack it in and take the rating point loss (plus lose the current stake)? Fun stuff!

Another feature (which is bound to be extremely controversial) is the Elo estimation feature. You can take a batch of non-rated players (yourself and your friends, various chessplaying programs, or famous players whose careers thrived in the years before the Elo rating system was devised) and Fritz5.32 will generate ratings for them based on their performance and a baseline which you specify. I'll have more on this feature later (after I've had time to play with it).

There are more features in Fritz5.32, but this should give you a nice taste of what's in store when you upgrade. Contrary to what some misleading folks on the Internet have said, there is an upgrade price for owners of Fritz5.16 -- please contact your national ChessBase vendor for details.

I will now take my leave and resume swearing at Doctor?3.0. 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.