by Steve Lopez

This week we're going to take a brief pause from the beginner's guide to Fritz6 and take a look at an interesting use for ChessBase 7. The reason I'm making this detour is because the Corus tournament is presently being played and a lot of folks are watching the games live on the Internet, so this is a function of CB7 that we really need to look at right now (before the tournament ends). We'll return to the Fritz6 beginners' guide next week.

Modern grandmaster games are hideously difficult for the average weekend tournament player to understand. We not only fail to understand the moves as they're being played, we also can't evaluate a position well enough to know who's ahead or have an inkling of a clue why. ChessBase 7, in conjunction with an analysis engine, can really help out here and increase our understanding and enjoyment of these games.

The first step, of course, is to log onto an Internet site where the games are being shown live. USCF members can view the games at the Federation's site. There are another couple of sites where the games are being shown live (and, for all I know, some of the telnet servers like ICC and chess.net are showing the games as well). Once you've accessed a site and selected the game you want to view, fire up ChessBase 7, open a new board window and manually input the moves (either mouse them in or use cut and paste if the display at the site you're using allows this technique).

To switch back and forth between the game and CB7, you can either click buttons on your Windows Taskbar or use the ALT-TAB key combination (referred to as "tabbing over" to the other program you want to use).

As an example, I've keyed in the first sixteen moves from the Nigel Short - Peter Leko game played on January 16th. I'm waiting for Black's sixteenth move to appear on-line. So what do I do in the meantime? A good way to help me understand the game is to fire up one of the analysis engines in ChessBase 7. I've configured my program to use Fritz6 as the primary analysis engine (ALT-F2), so I give the key combination a whack to set it to analyzing:

Fritz revs up to a nine ply search depth pretty quickly. Remember that the Corus tournament is played at standard time controls, so it may be awhile before Leko finally moves. While I'm waiting, I can have a look at Fritz' analysis, compare its analysis to what I was thinking Leko should play, check out the different evaluations of the various lines Fritz is considering, and figure out why Fritz thinks one move is better than another. Meanwhile, I occasionally tab back over to the live coverage of the game to see if Black's next move has been played.

After awhile, Leko decides on his reply. The first thing I do is go back over to CB7, right-click in the analysis window, and select "Paste". This immediately pastes all of Fritz' analysis into the notation window:

We see that Fritz' preferred move was 16...Bb7 (the other choices are given as subvariations), and this is what Leko actually played. But how do we get this into the main line of the game, instead of displaying it as a variation?

It's actually pretty simple. At the bottom of the game window is a row of buttons. Look at the second group of buttons (the long group); the rightmost button shows a column of horizontal lines with an arrow going from one of them to the top of column. When you move your mouse cursor over this button, the popup says "Promote line". This feature allows you to reorganize variations in the game notation window. In this case, I just highlight 16...Bb7, click the "Promote line" button, select "Promote variation" from the submenu, and voila -- the 16...Bb7 line is now the main line variation:

Note that Fritz6's other three suggested lines of play have become separate variations. There's also a loose 16.Bxe4 variation that can easily be deleted by clicking on it to highlight it and then clicking the "Delete line" button (immediately to the left of the "Promote line" button).

So now I get to sit back and watch while Nigel has a long think. Fritz anticipated 17.Ne3 as the next move (here's a look at the newly-reorganized notation window after I deleted the extra "hanging" 16.Bxe4):

The next move comes through and, sure enough, Nigel plays the Knight move. I clip Fritz' analysis into place and wait for Black's next move, while continuing to enjoy Fritz' master-level commentary:

This brings me to another point. You'll often find sites with live coverage of games in which a master or grandmaster is providing commentary for the games. It's especially interesting to see how Fritz' analysis compares to that of a strong human player. Chess programs have come a long way in the last several years and you'll find a lot of cases in which Fritz agrees completely with a grandmaster analyst (especially in tactical positions). Sometimes you'll even see instances in which Fritz is better at calling the position than the human analyst.

What happens when you've pasted in Fritz' ideas and the next human move is something that didn't appear in Fritz' analysis? This is very easily handled. Just enter the move manually and select "New Variation" from the box that appears. The move that was actually played will appear as a variation line. Then you just use "Promote line" to bump it up to main line status and proceed from there.

Once the game is finished, you can then save it into a database and have a permanent log of Fritz' "thoughts" during the game.

If you're pretty ambitious (and have sufficient RAM) you can have multiple engines analyze the game side by side and then paste all of their analysis into the notation window. Note, however, that every time you fire up an additional engine you're slowing things down -- the analysis won't go as many plies deep as it would if you had just a single engine running.

You can also use SHIFT-F7 to do position searches in your reference database while watching games on-line. Just click on the current position, hit SHIFT-F7, and ChessBase 7 searches your reference database for the identical position and sends the matching games to the clipboard for your viewing pleasure.

I've had a lot of fun watching some of the Corus games live and using my "silicon master" to help me understand them. It's definitely increased my enjoyment of on-line live game viewing (I remember using these techniques to provide database information and Fritz' analysis to chess.net's viewers of the sixth Kasparov-Deep Blue game in 1997). I get more out of the games than I normally would (in fact, if I didn't use them I'd likely hurt myself by banging my head on the desk when I failed to understand the significance of a grandmaster's move). Give it a try -- I'm sure this will enhance your enjoyment of the games (and save you some headaches too -- literally).

Next week, we'll return to the series of beginners' tips for using Fritz6. Until then, 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.