by Steve Lopez

Mea culpa -- it's the Latin term for "I screwed up".

Last week, in the discussion about Tournament levels in Fritz6 (which, in my own defense, is a feature I never use), I presented some inaccurate information. Here's what I wrote last week:

I used to play in a lot of quads that had the curious time control of 40/80 followed by game in 30. I'm sorry to say that there's no way to duplicate this time control exactly in Fritz, but there's a workaround that will do just fine in 99.9% of the cases. Set the first time control for 40 moves in one hour twenty minutes, then set the secondary time control for 100 moves in thirty minutes. You might run into an odd case in which the tertiary time control is reached, but this should be pretty rare.

Unfortunately, I screwed this up, as programmer Mathias Feist pointed out to me a few days later:

Wrong. Set the moves or time of the 2nd time control to 0 to skip it. If you set the time of the 3rd time control to 0, the 2nd one is repeated ad infinitum. This was true for all Fritz versions which had a tournament clock.

To which I can only respond by quoting my son Sam: "oops". Sorry about the error.

Several people (Mathias among them) wrote to tell me that you can reset your ratings in Fritz6. Just delete the file rating.dat and you'll be starting over from scratch. This is good news, as I've been half-afraid to use the feature ever since Fritz3's "permanent" rating. By the way, Mathias explained to me how this was done and it was one of those deals where you smack yourself in the forehead and say "Doh!" after you hear how it's done. It's pretty clever and I should have been able to figure it out myself had I been using my head for something other than a fedora rack. But don't ask me how it was done because I promised not to tell...

In our final installment on levels, I'll hit a few quick points you'll find handy.

One is the issue of hash table size. You can find a lengthy explanation of hash tables in the September 27, 1998 issue of ETN. The principles are identical between Fritz5 and Fritz6, so I won't rehash (pun definitely intended) it all here. I'll just touch on a few tips and differences.

Hash tables are important when you're trying to get the strongest possible play out of Fritz. Consequently, you don't need to worry about them if you're playing in a handicap mode (Handicap and fun, Friend, or Sparring modes). If you're playing in a timed game, hash tables become important when you're trying to squeeze every last rating point out of Fritz.

You can set the hash tables by going to the Tools menu and selecting "Engine". You'll see a box marked "Hashtable size" which allows you to enter a number (in MB) for the amount of RAM you want to use for hash tables.

A shortcut is to allow Fritz to select the amount of RAM for hash tables for you. Once you've set a time control, go to the Game menu, select "Levels", and then "Optimize strength". Fritz will then set the amount of RAM to the optimum level according to the time control you've selected. If you're using large hash tables (for example, 24 MB or more on a 64 MB machine), don't forget to hit ALT-F2 to let Fritz set them up in RAM (as described in detail in ETN for Sept. 27, 1998).

When using "Optimize strength", you may get a warning message that Fritz won't be able to use it's learning functions in the opening book. This is nothing to panic over -- it just means that Fritz is accessing the opening book on the CD. We'll look at these learning functions when we talk about opening books in a later article.

Two more short (but important) tips before we leave our discussion of levels. If you're playing Black and you want to turn the board around (so that the Black pieces start at the bottom of the board), go to the View menu and select "Flip board" (or just hit CTRL-F). This turns the board around. It is not the same as "Resign game". (Don't laugh. I've had a number of calls down through the years from players who called to complain that "'Flip board' won't let me resign! All it does is turn the board around! It's a bug in the program!" All I have to say is that if one of these guys comes over to play chess at my place, I'm hiding the good wooden and ceramic sets and playing on a cheap plastic one instead).

The last tip is this: when you want to play Black, flip the board around and hit the spacebar on your keyboard to make Fritz play the first move as White. There's also a menu command for this: "Move now" in the Game menu.

Next time we'll look at some ways to get help when ol' Fritzie administers some major buttkickings. Until next week, have fun!

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.