ChessBase have a knack of bringing out at least one major programme per year and this year is no exception.  Last year we had ChessBase 9 and this year Fritz 9.

Computer engines have been developed to such a high level that one wonders in which way they can be improved further.  ChessBase have found a way!  Up to now most engines have been designed using "brute force" as the motivation.  They have analyzed to the extreme and finally plumped for the most forcing move.  At times their recommendations have seemed rather unusual to we humans and human grandmasters have varied their normal game in playing against programmes.  Programmers have concentrated on producing an engine that will beat other engines.  ChessBase claim that in producing Fritz 9 they have disregarded it's performance vis-a-vis other programmes and concentrated on making the engine more "human".  It is very difficult to demonstrate this change but certainly one can see the difference in graphics and functions between Fritz 9 and 8. Apart from the usual variations in the 2D boards there is now a 3D graphic which allows one to play against the Turk.  

In order to use this function one needs a powerful computer and even then one has to beware of a programme crash.Here is a summary of changes as listed by ChessBase.

New in the chess program

* New super-strong chess engine: Fritz9
* „Position explainer“: positional comment about the current position
* New forms of training for the topics attack, check and defense with high-score rating.
* New handicap-function for practical training of positional play
* Printout of the score-sheet
* Evaluation profile with depth of calculation
* Presentation function: Show games automatically
* Alternative forms of chess: Engines for Giveaway Chess and Fischerrandom (Chess960)
* 1 million games from 1625 to 2005
* Chess beginners course (1 hr. video in Chess Media System)
* Chess course for advanced players (3 hrs. video in Chess Media System)

New server functions of

* Calendar of events: list of the current
* Events with direct access through mouseclick.
* Multi-board: comfortably following up to 9 games in only one window, e.g. for team events or top-boards in world class tournaments

* Other forms of chess: Capture Chess, Chess960, Twin Chess, Ouk Chatrang
* Challenges with time limit span
* Automatically follow the best player
* Search for titleholders in all rooms
* Showing tournament title, round number and number of kibitzers in the list of games
* Flags in the dialogues Elo-opponents, channel-listeners, friends online, titleholders online
* „Who lives here“ information and current weather information on the world map

* The picture of the player is shown in the list
* Emoticons in the chat and new chat indicator
* Automatically defusing insults
* Rank information: „When do I become a Knight“
* Musical themes for players
* Machine room information: Hardware information saved in game, expected move and first engine evaluation as commentary.

 Fritz 9-Look

* Supports Windows XP Themes
* Better menu navigation in 3D options
* Boards and interface with new color gradients and new buttons
* New look of the world map
* Direct access to the training databases and videos via the portal screen.

System requirements :
Minimum : Pentium II, 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Windows98 SE, Me, 2000, XP, DVD-ROM drive, Windows- Media Player9 Recommended: Pentium IV 2,2 GHz or better, 256 MB RAM, Windows XP, GeForce5 graphics card (or comparable) with 128 MB memory or better, 100%DirectX compatible, sound card, Windows Media Player 9, DVD-ROM-drive.

To give some indication of it's capabilities and strengths, attached are some examples of the automatic analysing output. 

The first three games show the analysis in the "Full Analysis" mode, the next three in "Blundercheck" mode and the remaining three in "Deep Position" mode.

Game No. 9 is particularly interesting in that the programme used a 5 man tablebase. If you are considering buying Fritz 9 - a word of caution.  ChessBase are not renowned for explicit manuals and although this manual is an improvement on previous efforts there is a lot lacking.  I would recommend that you experiment with all the menus to get a good understanding of what you can do with the programme.

Fritz 9 costs £36.50 (excluding post and packing) and if you are a chess programme buff, the purchase is well worth the expenditure.

(1) Wunder,S (2181) - Taeger,W (2294) [A49]
9th Bavarian Open Bad Wiessee GER (6), 03.11.2005
[Fritz 9 (15s)]

A49: 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 g3: Anti-King's Indian systems

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.0-0 0-0 5.d4 d6 6.Re1 Nbd7 7.e4 e5 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.b3 Nxe4N
[9...Re8 10.Bb2 Nc5 (10...Qe7 11.Na3 Nb6 12.Qd2 c6 13.Qa5 Nfd7 14.Nd2 Bf8 15.Rad1 Qe6 16.Ndc4 Nxc4 17.Nxc4 b5 18.Ne3 Bc5 19.c4 Bb6 20.Qd2 a6 21.Qd6 Nf8 22.Qxe6 Bxe6 23.Bf1 1/2-1/2 Karner,H (2390)-Gavrikov,V (2550)/Tallinn 1985/MCL) 11.Nbd2 Bg4 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Qe7 14.Qe2 Rad8 15.Nc4 Nfd7 16.Rad1 Nb6 17.Ba3 Bf8 18.Na5 Rb8 19.Qe3 c6 20.h4 h5 21.Bg2 Nc8 22.Bh3 Qc7 23.Bxc5 Qxa5 24.Bxf8 Karner,H (2320)-Krupenski,Y/Tallinn 1998/EXT 99/1/2-1/2; 9...b6 10.Bb2 Qe7 11.c4 Bb7 12.Nc3 c6 13.Qc2 Ne8 14.Rad1 Nc7 15.Qd2 Rfd8 16.Bh3 Nf8 17.Qc1 Nce6 18.Ba3 Qf6 19.Bg2 Rxd1 20.Rxd1 Nd4 21.Nxd4 exd4 22.Ne2 Ne6 23.Bd6 Ng5 24.Qf4 Dryja,P (2104)-Markowski,T (2546)/Lubniewice 2002/CBM 90 ext/0-1 (38); 9...Nc5 10.Ba3 (10.Qxd8 Rxd8 11.Nc3 c6 12.Bb2 Ne8 13.Nd1 f6 14.Ba3 Bf8 15.Bb2 Nd6 16.Nc3 b5 17.a3 a5 18.a4 b4 19.Nd1 Be6 20.Nd2 Nb5 21.Nf3 Nd6 22.Nd2 Nc8 23.Nf1 Nb6 24.Nde3 Nxb3 Stahlberg,G-Ivkov,B/Beverwijk 1963/MCL/1/2-1/2 (47)) 10...Qxd1 11.Rxd1 Nfxe4 12.Ne1 Bh6 13.f3 Be3+ 14.Kf1 Nd6 15.Ke2 Bd4 16.c3 Bg1 17.Nc2 Bxh2 18.Bxc5 Bxg3 19.Ne3 b6 20.Bxd6 cxd6 21.Nd2 f5 22.Ndc4 Ba6 23.Rxd6 e4 24.Rd7 Braga,F (2461)-Corsi Ferrari,N (2330)/Mar del Plata 1999/CBM 73 ext/1-0 (42)]

10.Rxe4 Nc5
Black threatens to win material: Nc5xe4

[>=11.Re1 was necessary 11...e4 12.c3 exf3 13.Qxf3= ]

11...Nxe4-+ 12.Qxe4 Bf5 13.Qe1 e4 14.Nh4
[14.c3 exf3 15.Bxf3-+ ]

14...Bxa1 15.Nxf5 gxf5 16.c3
[16.Ba3 doesn't improve anything 16...Re8 17.Nc3 Bxc3 18.Qxc3 Qd1+ 19.Bf1 Qf3-+ ]

16...Qd3 17.Bh6
[17.Bg5 doesn't get the cat off the tree 17...Qc2 18.Bh3 Rfd8 19.Bxd8 Rxd8-+ ]

17...Rfd8 18.Bf1 Qc2 19.Qe3 Rd6 20.Bf4 Rd1 21.Be5
[21.Bh6 cannot undo what has already been done 21...Rxf1+! the final blow 22.Kxf1 f4 (22...Qxb1+?! is not possible 23.Kg2 f6 24.Qc5= ) 23.Qxf4 Qxb1+ 24.Kg2 Bxc3 25.Qxc7 Qd3 26.Qxb7 Qf3+ 27.Kh3 Qh5+ 28.Kg2 Rd8-+ (28...Qxh6?! is a bad alternative 29.Qxa8+ Kg7 30.Qxe4-+ ) ]

[21...Qc1 22.Qxc1 Rxc1-+ ; 21...Qxb1 22.Qg5+ Kf8 23.Kg2 Rxf1 24.Qg7+ Ke8 25.Qh8+ Kd7 26.Qg7 Rxf2+ 27.Kxf2 e3+ 28.Kg2 Qxa2+ 29.Kh3 Qxb3 30.c4 Qxc4 31.Bxa1-+ ] 0-1