by Steve Lopez

My apologies in advance for the relative brevity of this week's column. I'd intended to do a bit more on using ChessBase and Fritz for correspondence chess, but I'm still getting my wind after last weekend's whirlwind tour of the local hospital. I'll kick into some more about "postal madness" sometime in the next couple of weeks.

I'd like to call your attention to Battle Royale, my "other" weekly column on ChessBase USA's web page. I missed posting last week, so there are two installments this week: the introduction to round ten (which should have appeared last week) and game #46 (this week's installment). There is also a downloadable .ZIP file containing all the graphics from "Meet the Players" and the glossary which I just posted this week.

A bit of news for you. The rumors are true: ChessBase International plans to release ChessBase 7.0 around mid-summer. It will contain some swell new fonts, I understand. It will also contain the tree features of Fritz5 (which is the big news for me -- no more bouncing back and forth between the two programs to use the tree). There are a host of new features (which I'm not allowed to reveal just yet). I'm still waiting for my beta copy, but all indications are that this program is going to be a humdinger!

John Maddox, ChessBase USA's technical support guru is on vacation until the first of June. You can still e-mail him your questions at; he obviously won't be able to respond until he gets back, however.

While going through the mailbag several issues back, I somehow missed this gem from Nick Troisi. I managed to lose his e-mail in the dark recesses of my e-mail box (looking back, it came through on a day when I received about ten posts from a mailing list I subscribe to). Nick offers some really great tips on chess openings and I'd like to share them with you, as well as some info on an excellent chess publication:

I'm re-entering tournament play after an absence of about 15 years and I've been using Fritz to try to prepare. Based on what I've learned, I wrote an article about using Chess databases that appears in the latest issue of Chess Horizons (Massachusets Chess Association publication). The article features Fritz5, primarily as a database tool. My reviews of CBM 62 and Daniel King's 'Check and Mate' will appear in the next issue of CH.

I thought you might be interested in some ideas I have regarding opening study:

1. You should consider choosing openings that are interconnected (e.g., the Slav and Caro-Kann have similar pawn structures).

2. Your chosen opening shouldn't require you to know complicated refutations to simple, natural moves (and the simple, natural moves you play should require complicated refutations).

3. The openings you choose should have clear, relatively easy-to-understand plans.

4. Your openings should fit your style of play - also, don't adopt openings that require a higher level of positional/tactical skill than you currently possess (e.g., Kramnik's repertoire is probably not for you.)

5. Your openings should be 'preemptive' as much as possible (e.g., for White, the Exchange variation against the Slav reduces a lot that you need to know about playing against the Slav).

6. Avoid mainlines as much as you can, as it's likely your opponent will know more about these than you will (e.g., unless you're willing to spend a lot of time studying, playing the open Sicilian should be avoided.) Try to find a sound, but not very popular line.

7. Don't adopt super-sharp "refutations" against rarely played openings, since you'll need to remember a lot in order to play it only occasionally. The cost/benefit ratio isn't great - better to adopt a simple approach that results in a small edge.

8. In general, try to avoid lines where move order matters greatly, unless you love memorization. Unfortunately, particularly as Black, you do have to know how to handle White's super-sharp lines.

9. Using Fritz, I've put together a database of 'model' games for the openings I play. These are games that display typical plans and motifs in a given opening. (e.g., Black play against passive White play in the Closed Sicilian.) Unfortunately, most Grandmaster games do not qualify as good 'model' games because the play is too sophisticated for us ordinary mortals to understand (and one of the participants is unlikely to make the kind of naive strategical error that makes for a good 'model' game.) I've found that players in the 2200-2400 range provide the best 'model' games. Local and state publications are usually good sources for these kind of games. Rather than try to memorize variations, I try to review these 'model' games prior to a tournament.

10. Incidentally, is a future release of CB/Fritz slated to support searches for positions that reside in the variation of a game? I would find that searching for a position both in the 'stem' game as well as in any variations a very useful feature.

In answer to your last question, Nick, I really don't know. It would be a handy feature. Meanwhile, however, the tree feature of Fritz5 does allow you to include variations in the tree. When creating a tree, just check off the "include variations" box and they will appear in the tree. Their results are not factored into the statistical information, so moves from variations are easy to spot in the tree: they have "dashes" after them instead of numerical information.

Thanks for your tips on repertoire selection, Nick! They're all excellent suggestions for us class-level foot soldiers who can't make a career out of opening preparation.

You can reach me by e-mail with your ideas and suggestions. Hammer me with them! I'm listening!