Thursday, May 17, 2007

Computers Have Changed Everything

This should be extremely obvious to the Knights. Those that use computers in one of the most breakthrough methods of education and discussion. The Blog-o-sphere.

This has happened in several ways for chess. One is that you can have all of your own games at least initially reviewed by computers of grandmaster strength. The ability to narrow your play to key decisions while the silicon monster or two is looking over you shoulder. The ability to play through positions. You are a one man cyborg, providing annotation that would have required having a band of seconds around to help.

There are a lot of options here, some free, some expensive. There is a link here on the side for a bargain version of Fritz at 19.95 for Fritz 9. There is very little difference between the Fritz 10 UI and Fritz 9, especially in annotation and exploration. The top 4 features for me are, Infinite Analysis, Add a Kibitzer, Copy and Paste, and Opening Book, I almost never auto-analyze nor blunder-check. You must make sure that after you have installed you at least visit the Playchess site, as that is how the software updates.

There is also the Winboard, or Arena option, both of which are free. Personally, and lots of Pros agree, the Chessbase UI just works better. And at 19.95 it is cheap enough that I can be wrong, and I am not going to feel to guilty. If for some reason you are here, reading this, and you do not have Fritz or something like this, just buy it. It is at least as important as the next chess book you were going to buy. It will be an important part of your chess improvement. I could have, but I am not getting any referral fees for sending you there. It is simply a bargain. And yes I did, last year. But I didn't get it for my friend after the first of the year because the price shot up over 40 bucks. But it is back down to 19.95. I think ChessBase had a pricing epiphany in March or so, and rolled back prices they had increased at the beginning of the year.

I do think it is important to have at least 2 engines for analyzing games. It helps you distinguish style from truth. Me? I have Fritz 10 and Rybka 2.3.1 running in Infinite Analysis and Add Kibitzer. When analyzing quiet positions you will often find the two engines at odds, sometimes by over a pawn or more of positional weighting. Sometimes believing one side or the other is better compared to the other. Sometimes in deep agreement. Some times with different amounts of hope. Sometimes the only winning play is something so ugly it will never be seen by a human OTB. There are many very strong free engines. And there are many very strong for-pay ones. has 2 of these.

The one year of Playchess is not to be sneezed at. The only real downside to Playchess? It is not ICC. This is like the battleground of Yahoo vs. Google. Except that these are pay sites. They each do many of the same functions, but they each do some things the other doesn't. The good news is that Playchess is free with the Fritz software, and it isn't so clear that ICC provides enough extras that you should pay for it as well , and you miss out on stuff. This will work out well if you are already a member of ICC. And if you are not a member of ICC, (I used to be), you probably should be, (but I am not).

But one of the cool things about Playchess, except getting a game in a moderated environment (less computer cheating), is the stored Radiochess shows.

This requires that you buy 200 ducats from the site, which really isn't that much money, and ducats can be earned or played for once you have them. But most people like me just buy them. The radio chess shows go for a 2 ducats each. There was a rumor that this was going to go up 5 fold or more at the beginning of the year. This would have moved the cost from an irritant, to reasonable. But you would listen to a lot less of them.

One of the truths that seems to remain useful in growing your game is to review strongly played games. A large part of this, I think, has to do with brain-programming which is central to the Knight's quest. And at a cost of less than 50 cents to do this time to time with the guidance of a talented IM educator is a seeming educational no-brainer. Andrew Martin approaches the games in such a way as to tickle the brain, and doesn't focus too much on memorization.

I have no idea how this compares to the Informant CD's or the ChessBase "magazines", but it does compare favorably to the FritzTrainer CD's.

Anybody want to swap FritzTrainers?

BTW. For Mac-heads out there. I run Fritz under Parallels, and seems to work perfectly. There is the option of VM-Ware, BootCamp, and CrossoverMac, but I have not tried any of these. Parallels and Coherence, by far satisfy my needs. The computer is fast enough that it works at a speed sufficient for my needs, and coherence, means that it looks like just another app in my system and I can freely copy and paste between the two systems.

This is not the only thing that has changed.

More Later...


Blue Devil Knight said...

Imagine if Steinitz had a copy of Fritz. :) He would have worked hard every game to reach adjournment.

hisbestfriend said...