by Steve Lopez

Ahhh, the good old days. Remember when we analyzed chess positions using a real wooden or plastic set? Knocking over pieces, spilling drinks all over our chess books, tipping the popcorn bowl all over the floor, needing four or five sets available to be able to follow nested subvariations, leaving the room for a few minutes only to return and find the cat had jumped up on the table and knocked pieces all over the place, hearing that satisfying howl when you hurled a Drueke weighted King at said cat and connected?

Man, forget that! These days we shuffle our pieces around on a computer screen. I can't even remember the last time I tried to read a chess book at home using a regular board. These days I park myself in front of a computer running ChessBase or Fritz and easily follow the subvariations on the screen.

Even so, there were times when I wanted to be able to compare the position at the end of a variation with the position from the main game without having to click back and forth between the moves in the Notation pane. A new feature in Fritz7 makes this easy to do -- the Analysis Board:

We had a quick look at this new feature in last week's ETN. This week we'll dig a little deeper and discover what this thing can do.

The first step to using the analysis board is to actually get the thing on the screen. It's simple: just go to the Window menu, select the "Panes" command, and then click on "Analysis board" in the submenu that opens off to the side. Bingo! There's your analysis board. It appears in a separate pane below the main chessboard (and sharp-eyed users will spot that it's a bit smaller than the main chessboard).

The basic point of the analysis board is that you can move pieces around without disturbing the pieces on the main chessboard. It's the digital equivalent of using a second chessboard to follow variations in a chess book without losing the position on your primary chessboard (and thereby losing your place). C'mon, you remember what this was like. You'd try to remember the position on the board, shuffle pieces around to follow the variation, then try to put the pieces back where they were in the actual game. If you're like me, you'd fail miserably and have to go back to either the last diagram in the book or even the start of the game and replay moves to get back to where you were. So you'd sigh, walk across the room to get another chess set, come back and find that a pet, a kid, a spouse with a dust rag, or a sudden earth tremor had knocked your pieces all over the place, thus causing you to have to replay the whole thing again. Then when you got to another variation, you'd have to set up the second set (the one you just crossed the room to fetch) to the proper position. Playing through a heavily-annotated game could actually take longer than the GMs took to play the freaking game in the first place.

With a digital chessboard (i.e. one on your computer), you can enter and replay analysis quickly and easily. The analysis board makes this even easier, because you can compare a position from a variation with the position from the main game at a glance.

The basic use of the board is to just shuffle pieces around. Make an alternate move on the variation board and you'll see the following popup dialogue appear:

There are five buttons in this dialogue:

But there's an interesting twist to this whole process. Note that when you load a game that's already annotated and then activate the analysis board, you'll see a new notation pane that shows just the main line moves of the game (no pre-existing analysis), with the header of this notation pane reading "Analysis". You can add variations to your heart's delight, but when you close the analysis board you won't see the new moves added to the gamescore. But if you reopen the analysis board, your new moves are back again as long as you've not loaded another game in the interim.

So how do you add analysis to an already analyzed game by using the analysis board? There's a handy button for this. Note the buttons at the bottom of the analysis board pane:

These buttons provide additional functions for the analysis board:

Note that if you want to save your added analysis into the database before loading a new game, you'll need to use either "Save game" (to save the game as an entirely new entry into the database) or "Replace game" (to replace the original game with the modified version).

You may now officially (and fearlessly) let the cat back into the room.

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes.