Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Fritz Review

I have some extra time now and am beginning to see the end of circle 1 this weekend. WOOT!

Alert! Opinionated Fritz review coming up...


I just got Fritz and I and not impressed with the overall user-friendlyness. Out of curiosity I opened the beginner tutorials and the 1st page wouldn't show properly. I went into the middle of it where there was some simple mate problems which showed up fine but gave all the moves ( i.e. answers). Duh. And when I went to the next game which had several moves in it, it didn't automatically start at the beginning.

There are other things that just aren't intuitive about Fritz, like needing to right-click to modify a game, or that single-clicking on an opening variation pretty much does what double-clicking should do. I find it weird that what would normally exit you from a program is the standard way to go from a game to a game list. Odd.

I really wanted Fritz so I could make better annotated game printouts. I spent some time comparing it with Chessmaster, and I would say that Fritz certainly does have more going for it in the annotation apartment. On the plus side, Fritz is has configurable blunder reporting threshold, and it has plenty to say about several sharper continuations that Chessmaster just didn't go into. On the minus side, Fritz had nothing to say at all about a large variety of positional changes, as well as a few moves that Chessmaster thinks were better. One move was to threaten the center with a sharp pawn push, and another was to avoid losing 2 tempi. Those moves did not cross Fritz's threshold of .33 pawns worth of error that I had it set to, so it didn't get a '?'. I found that a couple of other chess engines sided with Chessmaster on those moves, and the pawn push move wasn't even in Fritz's top 3 list:

r4rk1/pp1n1pp1/2ppbn1p/q3p3/3PP2B/P1PQ1N1P/2P1BPP1/R4RK1 b - - 0 1

Analysis by Fritz 8:
1. = (-0.07): 13...Rfe8 14.Rfb1 b5 15.Nd2 Rab8 16.a4 bxa4

2. = (-0.04): 13...Rae8 14.Rfb1 Nh5 15.Qe3 g5 16.dxe5 dxe5 17.Rxb7
3. = (0.02): 13...Nh5 14.Be7 Nf4 15.Qe3 Nxe2+ 16.Qxe2 Qxc3 17.Bxf8 Rxf8 18.dxe5
4. = (0.08): 13...d5 14.Nxe5 Nxe4 15.c4 Rfe8 16.Rfe1 Nxe5 17.dxe5 Qc7
5. = (0.12): 13...Rac8 14.Rfb1 Qc7 15.Qe3 d5 16.Nd2 dxe4
6. = (0.15): 13...Rab8 14.Bg3 Rfe8 15.Nd2 b5 16.f4 exd4
7. = (0.18): 13...Rad8 14.Nd2 Rfe8 15.Rfb1 Rb8 16.Bg3 b5 17.f4

Chessmaster didn't like (the text move) Nh5 because after appropriate defense by White, Black's Knight is on the edge. Chessmaster liked d5 more, .95 pawns more (depth 10). It's a matter of opinion I suppose.

What Chessmaster's auto-annotation has going for it over Fritz's is the details it shares. It reports play by play positional factors, like blocking a pawn, pinning a piece, and putting your Knight to the edge of the board. I recognize basic positional features pretty well at this point, but every now and then Chessmaster's annotation alerts to something that I didn't fully appreciate about a move. Because of this, I would say Chessmaster is better suited to help out a beginner or intermediate player. I think that Fritz's looks more like a master level human annotation, whose audience is expert and up.

Another thing I might add: Chessmaster's printout looks nicer to me, although it certainly takes up much more paper.

In conclusion, Even though it's strong, relying on Fritz alone for annotation leaves some gaps. As an overall package, Chessmaster seems friendlier.


TCT Circle 1
Result step 1: Average score 97 %
Result step 2: Average score 93 %
Result step 3: Average score 93 %
Result step 4: Average score 80 %
Result step 5: Average score 74 % [17 left]
Finished circle 2 of book problems 204-218

Yes, the user interface of Fritz is terrible. It costed me two hours to find out how I manually could record a game. It's a bit like finding the rooflight switch in an Opel Astra. The user interface of Rebel is even worse though.
Thanks for the helpful comparison of Chessmaster and Fritz! I'll have to try Chessmaster for annotations. Good luck on the TCT: I am in the middle of Step 2, still grinding along daily...
I'm with you on Fritz. Very poor documentation. However, if you stick with it you start to find it can be quite helpful. Especially if you are going through a chess book that uses master games as examples. You can just search through the database, find the game, and you save so much time compared to setting up a board. On the other hand. I can't even play against Fritz. I love the different opponents that Chessmaster offers.
I played Fritz only once in "talking" mode, and I resigned at move 25 being down 2 pawns. Somehow that talking didn't make the loss feel any better!
Fritz is a lot stronger engine that Chessmaster, so I'd value Fritz' analysis much more than Chessmaster. I have both. I use Chessmaster for game play, and I use Fritz for analysis.
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