by Steve Lopez

One of the new features in Fritz8 (added by popular demand) is the Opening Training feature. This feature lets you practice against an opening by selecting it from a menu. The neat thing is that this menu is configurable -- you can add openings to it (and we'll look at that below).

The first step is to learn how to practice against an opening. In Fritz8, go to the Tools menu, select "Training", and then "Opening training". You'll see the following dialogue appear:

(By the way, if this menu appears in German see the ETN issue for December 22, 2002 to learn how to correct this).

The lefthand side of this dialogue contains a list of openings. Note that when you select an opening from the list you'll see the defining position for that opening appear on the chessboard to the right; below the chessboard you'll see the moves you'll need to know to train in that opening. In the illustration above, we've selected "Alekhine's Defense" and we'll need to remember the moves 1.e4 Nf6 to train against it.

To train as White in this opening, put a check in the box next to "Learn moves", then click "OK". The dialogue disappears and you're ready to begin. Play the move 1.e4 on the chessboard and the program will respond with 1...Nf6. If you play any other opening move (besides 1.e4), the program will respond with an error sound (or the Coach dialogue if you have the Coach enabled) and you'll need to try again.

If you'd prefer to train as Black in the Alekhine, check both "Learn moves" and "Change sides". Click "OK" and Fritz will flip the board around and play 1.e4. You'll need to respond with 1...Nf6 (otherwise you get the error sound/Coach).

Note that in this basic display of the openings all of the opening variations are very short. For example, Alekhine's Defense consists of just the moves 1.e4 Nf6. If you'd like to train in longer variations of Alekhine's Defense, put a check in the box next to "Detailed". The list will change to the following display:

Notice that you now have multiple Alekhine Defense entries, including three on specific variations. For example, if you select "Alekhine's Defense/Four Pawns Attack", you'll notice the moves 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 in the display below the board; these are the moves you'll need to play to avoid the error tone/Coach when training in this opening.

Once you've successfully completed the moves of whichever variation you selected, you're now playing a game against Fritz. So, for example, if you're playing the White side of the Four Pawns Attack, Fritz will play a Black move (from its opening book) after you've played 5.f4. You're now in a game (under whatever time controls you presently have set) and you can play it out against Fritz. (By the way, this is an excellent shortcut for forcing Fritz to play a particular opening).

To review, here are the three check boxes and what they do in the Opening training dialogue:

Back at the start of this article, I mentioned that this list is configurable. You can add or modify games in this openings list. The process is really quite simple. The opening list is just a database like any other; its default folder location is c:\program files\chessbase\training\openings.cbh

To add an opening to the list:

1) In the Engine menu, select "Switch off engine" and input the moves;
2) Go to the File menu, select "Save", and use the dialogue to go to c:\program files\chessbase\training\, select "Openings.cbh" and click "open";
3) Use the Save game dialogue to name the entry in the database. Put the name of the opening in the "White" field and the name of the subvariation in the "Black" field (for example, "Russian Defense" in the "White" field and "Cochrane Gambit" in the "Black field"). Then click "OK" when you're finished;
4) Go to Tools/Training/Opening training and look in the list -- you'll see your new variation listed in the proper alphabetical spot.

To modify an existing opening in the list:

1) Go to the game list screen in Fritz and open the Openings training database (File/Open/Database, use the dialogue to go to c:\program files\chessbase\training\, and double-click on Openings.cbh);
2) In the game list, find the opening you want to modify and double-click on it in the list -- this will return you to the chessboard screen;
3) In the Engine menu, select "Switch off engine"
4) In the Notation pane, single-click on the move just before the move you want to change;
5) Make the move on the chessboard -- in the dialogue that appears, select "Overwrite";
6) Make the remaining moves (if any);
7) Go to File/Replace, make any changes to the game header you wish (if necessary) in the dialogue, and click "OK".
8) When you select the replaced opening from the Openings training dialogue, the moves displayed and used will now reflect the changes you made to the game.

Tips on adding/modifying openings:

1) Note that when you save an opening, it's added to the end of the Openings training database. This will have no effect on the alphabetical display in the Openings training dialogue: the openings will be displayed there in alphabetical order, regardless of the order of the games in the actual database.
2) When you add an opening to the Openings database, be sure to name it differently than something that's already in there. For example, if you open "Sicilian Defense - Morra Gambit" and add some moves to it, you might want to save it with the "Black" header reading "Morra Gambit (2...cxd4 3.d3)" to differentiate it from the Morra Gambit entry that already exists in the database. This has the added benefit of making it easy for you to select the correct entry from the alphabetical list.
3) It does no good to add variations/subvariations to an existing entry in the database and replacing it -- the Openings training feature only recognizes the main line of a game in the database and ignores variations. So you can't create a big game chock full of variations and have Fritz randomly select from those variations -- each variation you want must be a separate game in the database.
4) If you see superscript characters in the Opening training dialogue (in the box below the chessboard) rather than figurines, go to Tools/Options, select the "Clocks+Notation" tab, and select the radio button for letters as the piece designations (rather than figurines); the superscript will then be replaced by letters for the piece names.
5) Since the openings training database is just a standard ChessBase-format database, you can also open/edit it in the ChessBase program.
6) If you want to create a new opening training database from scratch, just create a database and add games to it using ChessBase or Fritz. Then (in Windows Explorer or My Computer), rename the files openings.* and copy them into the c:\program files\chessbase\training\ folder, overwriting the existing opening training database files (but see #7 below!).
7) Before replacing the existing opening training database or making major changes to it, it's a good idea to back it up first! You can just copy the openings.* files to a floppy or CD (or even just to another folder on your hard drive). If you want to make an archived .CBV file instead, see ETN for April 29, 2001.

Until next week, have fun!

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