Previewed by Steve Lopez

Chess Tiger 15
World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz by Thorsten Heedt

The long awaited ChessTiger 15 version for ChessBase/Fritz is here! The engine has, of course, been upgraded and my early results with it indicate that it's stronger than version 14. It's not gutting 14 and leaving it for dead game after game or anything (I'm estimating a 20 Elo point jump between the versions) but it is demonstrably stronger judging by the tests I've made.

The GUI is the same as Fritz8's (so please refer to previous ETNs for the details on new features that have been added since CT14). Tiger 15 comes with its own opening book, generated from over 750,000 games and containing 2,334,164 unique positions. It also comes with the standard Fritz database of 506,444 games.

Note, however, that Tiger 15 doesn't come with the "Talk" files that you get with Fritz8, so unless you also own the Fritz8 program Tiger won't talk during your games with it. However, the other features of the Fritz interface are present and accounted for in Tiger 15.

You may recall that Chess Tiger 14 came with an additional engine: Gambit Tiger 2.0. In the new version of Chess Tiger, the Gambit Tiger engine has actually been incorporated into the regular Tiger 15 engine. You can freely select between four different modes of play: Normal, Gambit, Aggressive, and Suicidal. (To switch bewteen these modes, hit F3 to bring up the engine dialogue, select the Chess Tiger 15 engine, click the "Engine parameters" button, and use the pulldown menu next to "Gambit level" to pick your poison.)

People often ask me what I think of Tiger. I don't use it for analyzing my own games in the Fritz interface or for analyzing positions in ChessBase 8 (except in special circumstances) because of its completely wild style of play. But I definitely find Tiger to be the most fun of all the ChessBase engines to play games against; whenever you play against Tiger, always expect the unexpected.

Chess Tiger is really quite like any other chess engine on the market. Most chessplaying programs reject gambits and sacrifices (due to material count considerations); Tiger actually prefers them. So I guarantee that you'll have a chessplaying experience totally unlike that from any other engine when you play a game against Chess Tiger. And, speaking as a fan of gambits, sacrifices, and unorthodox/romantic-style chess, that's the finest recommendation I can possibly give it.

ChessBase GmbH has released another in its series of chess biographical CDs: World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz by Thorsten Heedt. Steinitz, of course, was the first officially recognized world champ and is known today as the "Father of Positional Chess". While he didn't invent many positional chess concepts that we take for granted today, he was the first to write about them and codify them for the benefit of other chessplayers. And he almost single-handedly revolutionized chess merely by the way he played it. Prior to his ascendency, gambits and sacrifices were the order of the day -- in fact, it was considered somehat cowardly to refuse an opponent's offered pawn. But Steinitz changed that -- if he didn't see the benefit to accepting the offer, he refused it. His results spoke for themselves and the old "Romantic Era" of chess closed when Steinitz assumed the mantle of world champion.

As with the other CDs in the series, no additional software is required to be able to use World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz; the CD is self-contained, as it comes with a copy of ChessBase Reader (in fact, you don't even have to install anything -- you just run the file Reader.exe direct from the CD and the biography opens of its own accord). However, owners of ChessBase or any of the Fritz "family" of playing programs will certainly want to use those instead of the Reader because of the additional features these programs provide.

The main database of the CD contains the heart of the biography. Heedt opens the database with nine text chapters about Steinitz' life and work. (These are followed by bibliography and "About the author" [Heedt] texts). Rather than cluster the individual match and tournament reports at the start of the database, Heedt intersperses them throughout the database in chronological order: each tournament or match report is followed immediately by Steinitz' games from that event.

The total length of this main database is 1102 entries (games and texts), spanning Steinitz' career from casual games played in Vienna in 1859 to the 1899 London Tournament.

A second database, ("Steinitz - Special Themes") sheds more light on Steinitz as a player. This database contains eight texts which contain detailed analyses of Steinitz' style of play:

Each of these chapters contains links to important illustrative games which are contained in the database.

The third database contains a whopping two hundred training games! These are games that contain timed training questions; when you're playing though a game and reach one of these, you're given a certain amount of time to provide the best move in that position. A scoring system shows you the percentage of how many you've answered correctly (see ETN for April 7, 2002 to read about the nuts and bolts behind training questions).

The CD's texts are liberally sprinkled with illustrations and diagrams which really help bring Steinitz to life. All in all, World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz by Thorsten Heedt is another great addition to ChessBase's series of biographical CDs on great chessplayers, and I'm eager to see more releases in the series.

Until next week, have fun!

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