by Steve Lopez

First off, Happy Holidays to one and all! And special thanks to everyone who sent holiday greetings to me in their e-mails.

I'd like to make an important announcement to ChessBase USA customers: phone tech support for the next two weeks will be available on Thursday December 26 and Thursday January 2 at the usual time (6 PM to Midnight Eastern) instead of the regular Tuesday slot (c'mon, you didn't really think I'd be manning the phone on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, did you?). Tech support will return to the regular Tuesday evening hours on January 7.

And while we're on the subject of technical support (in this case e-mailed questions), please try to follow a few do's and don'ts and be aware of an issue or two:

  1. Please make sure you have a valid return e-mail address. It doesn't happen too often, but I occasionally get a desperate plea for help from a customer who has (oddly) munged his e-mail address in the header, so when I write a reply and sent it, it bounces back to me with the message that no such address exists. (And, of course, these are the first people to rant in a public message forum that I "ignored" their e-mail). Please make sure that your return e-mail address is a valid one. And please don't try to munge it cleverly (by adding something like "frogpond" in the middle of your return address and adding something like "To reply, remove the amphibian from the water" to your sig); I get a lot of e-mail each week and (not to sound harsh or anything), I don't have time to figure out how to "demunge" this clever stuff. After I type a reply, I just hit "send". Trust me, I don't give your e-mail address to anyone else (unless I need to forward your mail to Customer Service or to the programmers) and I don't send out spam. I file answered e-mails in a hard drive folder for a month or two and then just delete them, and I don't add customer addresses to an address book in my e-mail client. So there's no reason for you to disguise your return address when you write to me.

  2. Please try to put something in the e-mail's "Subject" header field to indicate that it's a tech support e-mail. I'd like to be able to say that I read every e-mail I receive, but this just ain't so. Spammers and people who like sending viruses/html exploits/etc. via e-mails often use things like "Hi" or just blank subject lines when they send you that stuff; when I get e-mails like these, I typically just delete them unread (especially if they have attachments).

  3. When describing a problem, please be somewhat specific. It doesn't have to be an extended discourse, but please tell me what program and version you're using (i.e. ChessBase 7, CB8, Fritz7, Fritz8, Hiarcs 8, whatever), what's happening, and what you're doing when it occurs (i.e. "Fritz7 isn't using the opening book when I play it in Friend mode", etc. rather than just "My Fritz isn't working -- please help" -- the latter doesn't give me much information to go on when I'm trying to solve the problem and formulate a reply).

  4. PLEASE don't send files as e-mail attachments unless I ask for them. You would not believe the number of times that people write to say they're getting an error message and attach a 875 KB screen shot in .bmp format (I once even got a .tif like this that took an hour to download) to illustrate what they're seeing. It takes a ton of time to download these and I seldom need to open the attachments anyway.

    If you need to send me a gamescore to illustrate a point, just use "Copy game" and then CTRL-V to paste it into your e-mail. You don't need to send a single game as a compressed .cbv file, unless a specific issue requires it (for example, where I need to see the colored arrows on the board or some post-game analysis by Fritz included in the gamescore as variations). I'd even prefer a .pgn attachment over a .cbv, but putting the game into the body of the e-mail is actually best. And if you need to describe an error message, please write it down and include it in the body of the e-mail rather than sending some huge graphics file screenshot as an attachment. If you feel you must send such a file, please use a smaller graphics format (such as .gif or .jpg) rather than a .bmp or .tif file.

  5. And please note that this is the holiday season and my schedule will be somewhat spotty for the next two weeks. Your e-mails will be read and answered, but it may take a day or three for you to receive a reply at this time of year. I normally answer e-mails each weekday (usually twice each day), but I won't be guaranteeing a rapid-fire turnaround over the holidays.


by Steve Lopez

OK, I finally got my copy. My friends in Germany somehow forgot me this time around and I had to get a copy from CBUSA -- in fact, some of you had copies well in advance of me. So first let me apologize for my vague answers (or non-helpful answers) early in the week (although I still batted about .750, which isn't bad at all); I'm now equipped to check into things within the Fritz8 program.

It's Saturday as I write this and my copy came yesterday (Friday). So instead of a complete lowdown on all the new goodies in the program, let me instead address some questions I've received and/or which have popped up in the Interrant message boards over the last week or so. I'll have the "new goodie" lowdown after I've spent some more time with Fritz.

Q: The choices in the Opening Training menu are in German? How do I fix this?

A: This one's pretty easy to fix. Go to the Tools menu, select "Options" and then the "Language" tab. Make sure you have "English" selected for both "Program language" and "Alternative annotation language". This will make the Opening Training menu appear in English.

Q: I can't get the new 3D board to appear. What's going on?

A: This is a problem that I had on my system and I solved it quite by accident. First off, let me say that the system requirements for the new 3D boards aren't all that high. You don't need some monstrously RAM-eating 3D card to make it work; my graphics card only uses 6.5 MB of RAM and the new board displays fine on my machine.

But there are some other issues that come into play here:

  1. You must have DirectX 8.1 installed for the new 3D board to work. You're given the option of installing DirectX 8.1 as part of the Fritz8 installation procedure (and, if you play computer games with 3D graphics that are less than a couple of years old, you probably already have it installed on your system). If you didn't install it as part of your Fritz8 installation, you can run the setup from the \DirectX folder on the Fritz8 CD #1 to do so.

  2. Your graphics driver must be able to handle DirectX 8.1, so update your graphics driver. I recently had to do this to be able to run some drag racing game I recently bought; my original driver was two or three years old and predated DirectX 8. You can typically get updated drivers at the website for the company which made your graphics card (or sometimes even at the site for the company that manufactured your computer).

  3. You must be running your monitor in 16-bit High Color or 32-bit True Color mode. This is the hole I fell into with my system -- I had the option of either 16-bit High Color or 24-bit (not 32-bit) True Color. I can't get the 3D board in True Color (and 24-bit is admittedly pretty weird), but in 16-bit High Color mode, the board works like a champ. So this is probably the first thing you should check into if the new 3D board isn't displaying. If it's still not working properly, then install DirectX 8.1, then update your driver as the final thing you try. (And, by the way, to check and change the graphics settings you can right-click on the Windows Desktop and select "Properties". Many machines also have a small icon for this near the clock on the Taskbar).

Q: What's the second CD (the Multimedia CD) for?

A: That CD contains the Talk files for Fritz (the files that allow it to talk during a game). That CD will need to be in the drive for you to be able to hear Fritz yak at you as you play.

Q: What's this "registration" business for the Playchess server?

A: You'll need to register your program now to play on the server. It's easy, quick, and painless. It's also a good idea -- even if you've had an existing account for a long time, you'll eventually get booted back to "Guest" status if you don't register. The first time you log on to Playchess after installing Fritz8, you'll be asked to type in your registration number as it appears on the front of your manual. Just type it in, click "OK", and go. It's easy.

Q: Do you plan to discuss the new Fritz8 features in ETN?

A: Of course. Yes. Absolutely. In fact, nearly all ETN references from now on will be to Fritz8 (although the older articles for Fritz6 and 7 are 99% applicable to 8 as well). In the coming weeks, we'll look at the new 3D board and other new features, and I'll likely be discussing some tweaks (like adding openings to the Openings Training menu). Just give me a little time to figure it out -- I've had the thing for just 24 hours as I type this.

Until next week, have fun!


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