by Steve Lopez

Rushing to meet a deadline causes one to write silly things...

Two weeks ago in ETN, I was describing how the statistical percentages work in Fritz's opening trees. I made the statement that a percentage close to 100 means that the move was better for White, while one close to 0 means that the move was good for Black. This is true, as long as it's White's turn to move. I had intended to take another "step" into the tree (to show how the percentages "reverse" when it's Black's move) but somehow managed to omit it in the rush.

Basically, the percentages in the tree are always given from the standpoint of the moving side. Whenever you see a percentage close to 100, this means that the move was very successful for the moving side. When you see a percentage close to 0, this means that the move was very unsuccessful for the moving side.

I apologize for any confusion caused by my inadvertant omission in the article two weeks ago. Mea culpa (which is Latin for "my bad" -- an expression I never encountered until I had Internet access, and which I'm sorry I ever saw in the first place).


by Steve Lopez

Before we have a look at having Fritz analyze our own games, we first need to examine how to have these games saved into a database.

First of all, Fritz automatically saves the games you play against it. The exact location of this database will vary depending on the parameters you specified upon installing the program. One of the installation screens asked you to specify a folder into which Fritz would save additional information (databases, opening trees, etc.). If you used the default path provided by the program during the installation process, your games are automatically saved into the following database:

However, you may have changed the default folder when you installed the program. This is not a problem. Just open the database window and go to the pull-down list on the upper right side of the window (see ETN for Feb. 13, 2000) -- you'll see your Autosave database listed there.

As I just stated, Fritz takes all the games you play against it and saves it into this database automatically. However, some people want to save every chess game they play into a single database. Others (like myself) save all games they play against computers into a single database (and I do play against other programs besides Fritz -- no great shock there, as I have a huge collection of chess programs and standalone chess computers dating back to the 1970's). In this case, you'll want to save your games manually into the database you've created for this purpose.

To create a new database, just go to the File menu in the database window, select "New", and then select "Database" from the submenu. The Windows file select dialog appears. Go to the folder where you want to store the database. In the "Save as type" pulldown list, select the file format for the database. If you want Fritz to analyze your games, leave this at the default of ".cbh" -- although you can save games in .pgn and .cbf formats, you won't get all of the annotation features if you save the game into one of these formats. The filename defaults to "noname.cbh"; unless you see yourself as a Clint Eastwoodesque chess gunslinger, you'll probably want to change "noname" to something more meaningful (I use "sl-comp.cbh" to store my games against computers. I originally started to name it "losses.cbh", but I try to be optimistic about my meager chess abilities).

Before you play a game against Fritz, open the database window and make sure your new database is loaded (again, you can go to the pulldown list on the upper right of the window and select it from the list). Then play a game against Fritz (or any engine of your choice, of course). After the game, click the button that looks like a floppy disk (or else go to the File menu and select "Save game"). A window pops up that lets you type in the player names and other relevant info. Much of this will already be filled in; you can leave this info as it is or edit it to your heart's content. Click "OK" when you're finished and the game will be saved into the database you selected back in the database window.

Fritz is also very useful for analyzing games you play against other humans. Entering these games by hand and saving them is pretty easy. Once again, start by going to the database window and selecting the database into which you want to save the game (or create a new one. I have multiple databases of my games against other people -- one for rated tournament games, one for casual games, several for Internet games [segregated by Internet server], one for correspondence games, etc.). Go back to the main chessboard screen and hit ALT-F2. This puts Fritz into "infinite analysis" mode -- you'll see Fritz analyzing the current board position, but the program will not respond with moves of its own after you make a move on the chessboard.

Just make the moves of your game on the chessboard and then click "Save game" (as described above). In this case you'll need to fill out the header info -- player names, tournament, date, etc. Click "OK" and the game will be saved into the database you selected in the first step.

The next step is to have Fritz analyze your game, and we'll dive into that function next week.


by Steve Lopez

Two new CDs are now available which will likely be of interest to ChessBase and Fritz users.

The first of these is Fritz Powerbook 2000. This is the newly expanded and updated opening book for use with Fritz/Hiarcs/Junior/Nimzo. New games and theory from 1999 have been added to the Powerbook to provide your playing program with the lastest opening knowledge.

The Powerbook gives your playing program a much broader opening knowledge than the book which accompanies the program. Each program's own opening book is "tuned" to maximize that program's specific strengths and minimize its weaknesses. A common denominator is that chess programs tend to avoid closed, strategic positions with their normal opening books (computers are abysmal at long-range planning). The Powerbook CD allows your playing program to select these strategic openings by including them in the book (and marking them so that the program will play them itself, rather than just reacting to them as they do with their normal opening books). Against a computer-savvy human, this tends to be bad for the computer's long-term results, but it's good for you as a human player -- you'll be exposed to a wider range of openings than you see with the regular opening book that accompanies the program (and thus be better prepared for your real-life human opponents).

The Powerbook also increases the depth of the program's opening knowledge. The variations are extended out farther than in the regular opening book. The Powerbook contains some variations to a depth of about 30 moves.

The Powerbook is also a great research tool. As is always the case with our opening trees, you're able to get statistical information on the success of each individual move in the tree. But the Powerbook CD also comes with the database from which the tree was derived -- this database contains 620,000 unannotated games to allow you to see the full games in which a particular position occurred. All of these features make Powerbook 2000 a great tool for learning and practicing the openings.

As a bonus on Powerbook 2000, you get a special gambit opening book (which is different from the one which comes with the Gambit Lexicon CD). This allows Fritz (or any of the other playing programs) to play gambit lines that it normally avoids (due to a lack of soundness of the opening or the normal materialistic nature of chess computers). This book also gives Fritz the information it needs when responding to your gambit play. (By loading the gambit book, you essentially turn Fritz into a gambit specialist -- gambits are all it knows).

The second of the new CDs is the long-awaited Basic Principles of Chess Strategy Vol. 2 by Prof. Aleksey Bartashnikov. This CD is the second in a series he began last summer (Vol. 1 was previewed in ETN, July 4, 1999). In Vol. 2, the Professor continues the very high standard of excellence he set with Vol. 1.

There are 89 entries (games and textfiles) on this CD, covering the topics strong and weak squares, weak (target) points, outposts and overprotection, open lines, active pieces, Bishop and Knight imbalances, types of centers, isolated and hanging pawns, attacking play, and defensive techniques. You are also presented with ten test games at the end of the CD; these contain the usual timed training questions in which you are awarded points based on how quickly and accurately you find the correct moves. This is a standalone CD, too -- it comes with a copy of ChessBase Light, so no other software is required to view the games and take the tests (although you can certainly use this CD with ChessBase 7 or Fritz/Hiarcs/Junior/Nimzo as well).

As is the case with Volume 1, this is an excellent CD, suitable for players rated US 1350 and up. I'm always seeing questions on the Usenet chess newsgroups in which players bemoan the fact that they can't find a suitable plan in the middlegame. Much of this is due to an insufficient grasp of the strategic elements. Mastering the concepts on this series of CDs by Prof. Bartashnikov will go a long way toward helping you find not just any plan in the middlegame, but the correct plan.

Volume 3 (the final volume in the series) will likely be released sometime during the first half of 2000. It will cover endgame strategy as well as middlegame concepts.

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.