Monday, December 10, 2007

Computer Tutorial

Since chessloser mentioned me in his latest post, I decided to do a quick-and-dirty tutorial for how I use my ChessBase 8 and Fritz 8 software.

When I get home after a tournament game, I almost immediately power up ChessBase 8 and enter the entire game into my Tournament database. A long time ago, I created this database by using File->New->Database and naming the database "Tournament".
Since my database already exists, I double click on it to open it and it lists every one of my 369 rated games. With the Tournament database open, I click the checkerboard button near the top of the window to signal the entry of a new game, my 370th game. By clicking and dragging pieces , I put all the moves of the game in and then save it using the Save button . I enter all the game data into the pop-up form and click OK.

Now here comes the fun part. I click the analysis button which is a computer chip with an exclamation point on it in ChessBase 8, six buttons to the right of the aforementioned Save button. I have Fritz 8 as my default best analysis engine. Then I replay through all the moves of the game, pausing at each position long enough to watch Fritz crunch its analysis for about 1 minute or two.
It takes some practice to read the data, but learning Fritz's language is well worth it since it's almost like having an International Master in your back pocket to tell you how your position could best have been played.

The lines are usually ranked from best to worst based upon what the engine has determined in the time allotted. Here, the #1 line shows a -+ winning advantage for Black, quantified as -1.59 pawns (negative means Black is ahead, positive means White is ahead) which is arrived at if Black starts by playing 4...Nxe5. If somehow, Black decides to play line #2, 4...Bc5, then White has a slight advantage += of 0.48 pawns. Numbers with magnitude between -0.5 to +0.5 mean that the position is close to equal. Numbers with magnitude greater than +2.0 or -2.0 mean that one side has a winning advantage. Large swings of 1.5 pawns from one move to the next are serious mistakes and swings of greater than 3 pawns are essentially blunders. Fritz shows alternatives that may or may not match what was played in the game. The #1 variation often makes it into my notes while I'm annotating.

I usually manually go to the branch point and drag the alternative move in. The program will ask if I'm trying to enter a New Variation, enter a New Main Line, Overwrite the current line, or Insert . I choose New Variation. If you right click on a line of the computer evaluations and choose Copy to notation, ChessBase will insert the variation into the game notation. In the Game notation window, you can right click and add text to help add English notes to the chess notation and make it more meaningful to you and any potential readers. After I mark up the game with my annotations, I use the Replace Game button so that I don't get two copies of the game in my Tournaments database.

I have found that this has made me a little lazy in analysis, but the exercise provides a gold standard of a strong player (Fritz) against which you can compare your game thought processes against. If you are organized enough, Fritz can help you figure out what's going wrong in your openings. Fritz does have weaknesses, though. "Positional compensation" is a difficult concept to make a computer understand. The Halloween Gambit in the example above isn't outright losing, but it is probably unsound.

Many of the software clients for the internet chess servers log the games in a PGN file that can be opened by ChessBase. If you are hardcore enough to analyze your internet games, they've already been entered and stored somewhere; you just have to find the file and have the diligence and patience to watch Fritz find the good variations that were missed during the games.

1 comment:

chessloser said...

thanks, between this and blunderprone's comment, i should figure out what to do.