by Steve Lopez

First off this week, thanks to everyone who's taken the time to send me e-mail about ETN. The feedback is always appreciated.

In digging through the virtual mailbag, I've come across a few nuggets submitted by readers. Let's have a look, shall we?

In the November 28, 1999 issue of ETN, I provided a partial list of missing or incorrect keyboard shortcuts for Informant-style commentary in ChessBase 7's notation window. My old friend Mitch White has filled in a few more of the blanks and provided us with some of the missing shortcuts. Here's the newly revised listing of keyboard commentary shortcut corrections for CB7:

Note that for the latter three symbols, you need to type the numeric sequence on the keypad (on the right-hand side of your keyboard) while simultaneously holding down the ALT key. Thanks, Mitch!

Another friend (and brother kamikaze), Jeroen van Dorp (a.k.a. the infamous "Chess Brat") provided me with this pearl of wisdom regarding using the Fritz Turbo Endgame tablebases in ChessBase 7 and Fritz6. Rather than retype his information, I'll just let Jeroen have the floor with minimal editing from yours truly:

I disagreed with the manual to put 2.62Gb on my HD -although I did it for a short time and had only 600Mb space left. So I decided a hybrid solution. CD 1 (3-4- and some 5 pieces) on the HD, and the rest to be accessed from the CD-ROM drive. Doing that I discovered that *ChessBase 7* supports swapping CD ROMS - so if you start at a 5 piece, and it arrives in a four piece situation, you can swap the CD ROM and it will continue with the solution. Fritz and friends however *don't* support that feature. The order for Fritz is very strict: FIRST put the right CD in the player , SECOND start Fritz, and THREE put up the position. If Fritz starts with a 5 piece and arrives in a 4-piece, it won't continue the solution by just swapping the CD ROMs to the right (first) one. It starts analyzing in the "old fashioned way". So then the only solution is saving your position, leaving Fritz, putting in the right CD ROM, firing up Fritz and loading the stored position. Another one which costed me some sweat (I knew I read it in RGCC) If you put CD ROM nr one on your HD there is a solution to access both CD-ROM and HD (you may well know) : change in the Chssbase.ini file [located in the \Windows folder -- SL] the path to path=c:\tb;d: with the semicolon. In that case it goes automatically from CD-ROM for the 5 pcs to you HD for the 4 pcs, like in a regular DOS path command.

Thanks, Jeroen! That last little bit is very useful. A user could conceivably copy just the small three and four piece endings to the hard drive and kep running the five piece tablebases from the CD. An ingenious little solution to the hard drive space problem (and one which is not at all obvious).

Tom Neal has offered us a really nice way to combine Fritz' post-game analysis with his own, getting the best of both worlds:

As to analysis, something I do is to capture my errors individually in a 'mistakes database':

  1. Let fritz analyze the game.
  2. For each better line it identifies, I comment as to what it accomplishes: pins, blocks, clears, etc.
  3. I likewise describe what I was attempting w/ the inferior move.
  4. Delete moves prior to the one in question, and those afterward.
  5. Save this position into the mistakes database.
  6. Now the filter can be used to pull up all your errors regarding particular areas: "control the middle" , "weak square", "attack defender".
  7. The mistakes database can be used as your own training facility by occasionally loading random positions and attempting the best move.
  8. when you save the position give it the name "Black to play after one move", or "White to play after one move"; you now know which side to play during training.

That, friends, is a slick piece of work (and exactly what I was referring to a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned how much fun it is to develop your own methods of using ChessBase/Fritz software)! Take another look at what Tom's doing. He's having Fritz analyze a game, but then he's examining the analysis and typing in what each recommended line of play accomplishes. This ensures that he understands what Fritz is "telling" him with its recommendations. He also types in a description of what his own plan was in playing the move he actually made (shades of Jeremy Silman!). So Tom is comparing his idea with Fritz' to identify the differences. He then saves the position into a database and uses these positions as a form of "flash card" training to repeatedly go over his errors and identify the areas in which his play may be a bit weak.

This is some hot stuff! That's an excellent tip, Tom, and I thank you for sharing it with us!

Jonathan Witaskin asked me how to add "null moves" to Fritz' commentary and I replied that I didn't think it could be done. It turns out that I was wrong; Jonathan wrote to Lutz Nebe at ChessBase GmbH and received the following reply from Lutz:

It's a bit tricky but you can do this. First select infinte analysis [ALT-F2]. Then Shift-T for thread and then hit SPACE. [Then choose "New variation" from the dialogue box that appears. -- SL] This will insert a blank move ( "--" ) and the calculated move. Got back to the empty move "--" and insert your desired move [and choose "Overwrite" from the dialogue box that appears -- SL].

Thanks, Jonathan and Lutz, for passing along this useful undocumented feature.

Keep those virtual cards and letters coming!


by Steve Lopez

Hey, is it just me or is everyone trying to be one of the hypermoderns these days? It seems like every time I turn around, my opponents are playing flank openings. I feel like I've seen more Pirc and Alekhine Defenses in the last year than I saw in the previous ten combined. Lately everyone wants to be a Reti or Tartakower.

Rev. Tim Sawyer's new book The Alekhine Defense Playbook has consequently been released just in the nick of time. Published by Pickard & Son, the book is a handy guide to the major variations of the Alekhine Defense.

The book at first glance appears to be just another of the Winning with the variety, but this appearance is extremely deceiving. Rev. Sawyer presents ten games with tons of variations and subvariations. The difference between The Alekhine Defense Playbook and the scores of books it initially resembles is that the author actually takes the time to explain what's going on in each variation. Rather than just tossing out endless variations with evaluations and game citations, Rev. Sawyer includes a generous amount of text explaining the ideas, so it's not just a "database dump".

The book is more of a suggested repertoire than an exhaustive treatment of the entire Alekhine Defense in all of its myraid lines. For example, the standard move order for the Four Pawns Attack (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.f4) only gets three pages as a variation line in Game 5. But that's exactly what makes this book unique: if you look carefully at the move orders, you'll see that Games 7 and 8 are actually the Four Pawns by transposition. The lines Rev. Sawyer recommends are a treasure trove of surprises, regardless of which color pieces you're playing.

There's a veritable avalanche of information packed into this book. The book consists of just ten annotated games in 157 densely printed pages. The author frequently detours from the main line to present three or four pages of alternative variations. These side trips are definitely worth taking, as Sawyer explains what's happening in each of them (as well as offering the customary Informant-style evaluations and game citations). If you're a player who's convinced that on-line play is the cutting edge of modern theory development, you'll be cheered by the knowledge that a lot of the game citations and variations are taken from Internet play. Sawyer (a USCF coorespondence Master and OTB Expert) spends a lot of time playing on ICC and examining their game archives for interesting ideas, many of which have found their way into the pages of this book.

It would be crazy to try to read this book without electronic assistance (such as using ChessBase or Fritz to play out the moves); if you try to read The Alekhine Defense Playbook using a traditional chess set, you'll get lost in the tangle of variations. Pickard and Son Publishing has come to the rescue here, too, with a companion CD: The Alekhine Defense Playbook CD. It contains over 42,000 Alekhine Defense games in its database. Any variation covered in the book can be found on the CD. The bulk of the CD's games are from over the board master and grandmaster play, but there are also around 10,000 on-line games in the set (including many which were played by Rev. Sawyer). The database is presented in three formats: .cbf, .cbh. and .pgn -- so it can be used with nearly any chess software. It also has a massive opening tree usable in ChessBase for statistical analysis or in Fritz to make the program play the Alekhine.

It's obvious that a heap of work went into The Alekhine Defense Playbook and the book is certainly worth some serious study regardless of which side of the opening you're playing. It's highly informative and is a real goldmine of ideas in this popular opening.

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