by Steve Lopez

Nearly everyone knows that you can play chess against ChessBase as long as you have an analysis engine loaded. You just set up a board position, start an analysis engine, let it think to a certain ply depth (I prefer nine plies), and hit the [SPACEBAR] when you want the move to be made on the board. You then make your reply, let the engine ponder the position, and again hit [SPACEBAR] when you want the engine to move.

But did you know that ChessBase 7 will let you play chess without hitting the [SPACEBAR]?

Here's a neat undocumented feature. You can now play chess against the Heumas move entry assistant in ChessBase 7. When you click on a piece in ChessBase, Heumas highlights the square to which it thinks the piece is most likely to move. This has been a standard feature of ChessBase since the old DOS days.

The current version of Heumas (3.0) is set up to allow you to play chess against it. All you need to do is open a board window and hit these keys simultaneously: [ALT-CTRL-SHIFT-H]. Make your move on the board and, after a few moments, Heumas will respond. You can then proceed to play out an entire game against the move assistant engine.

There are a few limitations. Heumas doesn't use opening books, so it's best to start playing from a position several moves into the opening. Heumas also doesn't have selectable time controls, so it will always move in its own good time with no way to alter it (in other words, no timed blitz games against Heumas -- sorry!). You can reset the depth to which it searches for some varied play. Go to the "Status" menu and select "Options". Click on the "Misc" tab and you'll see a slider that lets you select a search depth (up to four ply). Three seems to be the best setting (it's generally best to allow chess programs to search to an odd number of plies; they're less likely to make tactical mistakes at such settings).

I have no idea how strong Heumas plays; as far as I know, it's not been tested for strength. But the inclusion of this feature adds something to ChessBase that's been requested for years: a way to play against the move assistant engine.

Until next week, have fun!

I want e-mail!