When one thinks of ChessBase the word "Fritz" is synonymous. Ever since its advent on the chess scene the Fritz engine and programme has been the flagship of ChessBase. Fritz has been carefully developed and nurtured until now we have Fritz 10. In many ways Fritz has led the way in which such programmes have progressed. It was the first of its kind to introduce an internet playing function and the first of its kind to include a means of video presentation that is both instructive and entertaining. Now one can get instant reporting on important chess events together with informed commentary from grandmasters. To complement these facilities, Chessbase produce a variety of CD's and DVD's that can be appreciated to their fullest extent by the use of the Fritz application.
With each successive issue of Fritz, enhancements and improvements have been injected into the engine and general programme. The engine has won many world computer titles until, when constructing Fritz 9, ChessBase forsook engine competitions in an effort to make their product play in a method more akin to humans. Despite this the playing strength of Fritz 10, is reputed to in excess of ELO 3000, a staggering statistic that should have the knock-on effect of making analysis more and more creditable.
Two programme enhancements have been mentioned above, but in addition, some very useful training functions have been added. Opening and endgame features allow one to test and hone skills in these parts of the game, whilst other sophisticated coaching functions include the use of graphics and positional assessments. Such graphics are invaluable, not only in explanation when playing over a game, but also as additional commentary when illustrated games are transferred to the internet by webmasters. The lecturers on ChessBase training discs are very expert in their use of these graphics and are able to convey ideas and plans in seconds in a method that would otherwise require a lot of explanation and imagination to cover adequately. A very useful function in most of the later programmes has been the facility to auto-analyse games in several modes. This can be carried out in normal mode, deep analysis mode or blundercheck mode and can be very revealing and instructive when analysing one's own games.
The Fritz engine has undergone further development in preparation for a "Man v Machine" contest against World Champion Vladimir Kramnik in a six game match from 25th November - 5th December in the German's Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonne. That the engine must now be somewhat in advance of ELO 3000 is a truly awesome prospect for Kramnik. He had this to say when asked how he judged his chances.
"Fritz examines millions of moves per second. It is extraordinarily difficult to play against such a calculating monster. Right from the start you are walking on a very narrow ridge, and you know that any inattentiveness will be your downfall. It is a scientific experiment and I will have to fight very hard for my chance."
This match will be closely followed on the Playchess function of Fritz 10 using the Media System and expert commentary.
One of the main features of Fritz 10 that will be in use during these broadcasts will be the enhanced graphics that demonstrate plans and tactics available for both sides in the normal 2D board windows. In Fritz 9 similar graphics were used but compared with those available in Fritz 10, they were quite rudimentary.
The diagram opposite illustrates the possibilities that exist in a rather off-beat line of the King's Indian Attack. This shows that Black could complete his set-up with moves such as ....c5, .....e5, ....Nfd6 followed by .....f6 and ....Re8. White's plans are also clearly evident.
All these functions are automatically available when playing over games, but can be switched off if required. Together with the Turk and robot features held over from Fritz 9 and as well as the normal 2D boards available, there is a high resolution 3D piece sets in classical wood that can be adjusted to whatever design one might favour. This is easily operated and gives a game an additional dimension.
The database that accompanies all the Fritz products contains 1,128,000 games - the latest game to be given being played in late September 2006. This database is available on the DVD and can be used direct from the disc. However, it is more useful to load this onto the hard disc in order that it can be designated as the reference database if you also use a database programme such as ChessBase 9.
There are many functions included in the Fritz 10 application - probably too many to give details here. However, a few are worth special mention. As described above, the opening, middlegame and endgame training functions are particularly useful and instructive, especially as one can add to the variety of positions or openings given with the DVD and tailor the contents to one's own taste and preferences.
The operation of the application is particularly smooth and games can be keyed in with the minimum of effort - a considerable help to webmasters and authors.
The Playchess server has additional ranking lists with full rankings for all players, filters for challengers who have bad internet connections, video conference functions, bullet lists in the engine room, animated global weather display and a direct link to Google Earth.
Now that DVD's are in general use, ChessBase have been providing a number of samples of their training products and this DVD is no exception. There are 31 video clips available from the Fritz Trainer series totaling in all almost 10 hours of viewing. These lectures etc are given by such luminaries as Garry Kasparov, Victor Korchnoi, Karsten Mueller, Andrew Martin, Danny King, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Jacob Aargaard, Peter Wells, Loek van Wely, Alexei Shirov and Ari Ziegler.
In addition, there is a complete course of videos for those starting out in chess. Andrew Martin delivers 31 lectures in his own inimitable style that cover the entire spectrum of the game. All these videos are best played from the DVD if you value the free space on your hard disc.
Fritz 10 is also available in a multi-processor application.
For those of you who are considering buying Fritz for the first time, we recommend that you visit our ChessBase Archives and study the appraisal of Fritz 9 to give a clear and definitive explanation of the application. With this in mind, the above review will give you the overall picture of Fritz 10.
For any serious minded chess player, this is an application that is a "must have" and for those of you that are wondering what to give your teenage son or daughter for Christmas, here is something to give you a peaceful Yuletide holiday.
requirements: Minimum : Pentium 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP
SP2, DVD ROM drive, Windows Media Player 9.