by Steve Lopez

I've been a bit under the proverbial weather this week, so I figured this would be a good time to hit some various short topics and questions that have recently come up, none of which are extensive enough to merit an entire article.

New freebie engine from ChessBase

ChessBase GmbH has put a new free engine up for download on the engines page. Anaconda 1.00 is its name. I haven't had the chance to play against it yet, but it's supposed to be pretty hot stuff positionally (judging by the buzz on various Interrant message boards). You don't need an unzipping utility to install it, either; just download the .exe file and run it -- but be sure to read the directions on the ChessBase engines page if you've installed your programs to folders other than the defaults suggested by the Installation Wizard. Anaconda will run in ChessBase 8 or any of the 32-bit playing programs; if you've installed any/all of these programs to the default folder(s), you can just download and run Anaconda's .exe file to install the engine.

Jump to next game in ChessBase 8

I'm occasionally asked how to jump to the next game in a game list in ChessBase 8 without having to return to the game list itself. The keyboard shortcut is F10, but you can also use the VCR buttons (assuming you have them displayed below the chessboard) to do the same thing. Click the rightmost VCR button (the white arrow pointing to the right) to jump directly to the next game in the database. Clicking on the leftmost button (the white arrow pointing to the left) will jump back to the previous game.

Note that if you do a search and are viewing games directly in the Search Results window, these two VCR buttons are absent -- they're not really necessary, since you can load a game just by single-clicking on it in the game list pane. But if you double-click on a game from this list, the game will load in a separate board window and these two VCR buttons are visible below the board.

If you're not seeing the VCR buttons directly below the chessboard, right-click on the board, select "Board design" from the popup menu, and put a check in the box next to "Replay arrows below board" before clicking "OK" -- then you'll have the VCR buttons.

Training notation

Every couple of weeks I'm asked about the "Training" tab in ChessBase 8's notation pane. There are some really neat uses for this notation display, but a brief description is in order first. The normal notation display shows the moves for the entire chess game, plus the annotations and/or variations if any are present. Clicking on the "Training" tab changes this display so that only the last-played move (plus any verbal annotation to that move) is displayed.

Why is this useful? I can give you three reasons right off the top of my head:

  1. You can play "guess the next move". Training notation shows only the last move played and hides all of the remaining moves. After each move of the game, you can guess the next move to see how well you anticipate what the players do. It's also useful for playing through the opening theoreticals from ChessBase Magazine or the ChessBase Opening Encyclopedia as a means of drilling yourself on the openings.

  2. You can simplify the notation pane. If a game is heavily annotated (particularly verbally), the Notation pane can get pretty "busy" and it might be hard to keep your place while reading verbal annotations. Since training mode displays not only the last-played move but also the verbal annotations associated with that move, it's easier to read and follow extensive verbal commentary in a game.

  3. It's great for players with visual impairments. You can switch to "Training" notation, right-click in the pane to get a popup menu, select "Font", and crank the font size way up to one that's more comfortable for you but which would tend to render the normal notation display almost totally unusable.

That's what I came up with after about five seconds' thought -- I'm sure you can find other useful and creative ways to put this display to work for you.

Switching Heumas off

Heumas is ChessBase 8's "intelligent move assistant". When you're entering a game and you click on a piece, Heumas tries to guess what square it will go to and will highlight that square; if it's right, you just release the mouse button and the piece jumps to that square. Conversely, when you click on a square, Heumas will guess what piece should go there and highlight it; if the correct piece is highlighted, release the mouse button and the piece goes to the square.

I've been asked by a few correspondence players how to turn Heumas off, as they don't like seeing recommended moves as they shuffle pieces while analyzing. I concur completely; I always turn Heumas off when looking at my own correspondence games. It's easy to do -- just go to the Tools menu, select "Options", then click on the "Engines" tab. Uncheck the "Use Heumas" box and this turns it off.

While we're here, you'll also see a slider as part of this display. For those players wishing to use Heumas, this slider controls how far ahead Heumas looks before suggesting a move (from zero to five plies). There's a bit of a tradeoff, though: the higher you set this, the more of a delay you'll experience before Heumas highlights a square. Even at five plies, it's not a huge delay but you can reduce the lag by setting a lower search depth (at the expense of some accuracy in Heumas' guesses).

Until next week, have fun!

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