I get a lot of hits on my blog for people doing a search for “Fritz 13 Review“, so I decided to actually do one
I use Fritz 13 a lot, and would certainly recommend it.
The Let’s check feature is very cool, and I think is a revolutionary idea. More on that in a minute.
I always thought that one main problem of “opening books” is that the analysis was mostly done by humans, and therefore was someone error prone. These books were what the computer would use for its first few moves.
Books like “E.C.O Busted” would come out that give refutations and errors contains in the lines given in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, which is what many of the opening books were based on.
Fritz 13 attempts to solve this problem, by having thousands of users around the globe running their chess engines on positions, and submitting their computers’ analysis into Chessbase’s global computing “cloud”.
Another cool feature is that users are given “points” for each bit of analysis that they upload to the cloud (this is done automatically, when you have an internet connection, and “Let’s Check” is turned on).
You can also tell how deep the analysis is by the color that is given. Green is the lowest analysis that is accepted, then blue, then red for really deep analysis.
In this screenshot you can see that I did a blue level of analysis, and did the deepest analysis on this position, which occurred after the moves 1. b4 d6 2. Bb2 e5 3. e3 g6. Even though I am using the Fritz 13 interface, I am using the Deep Rybka 4.1 engine in this example, which evaluated the position as equal (0.02).
The more views a position has, the more points you will get. In this example only 13 people/visits have looked at this position (since it is an odd opening), so I will not get a lot of points. I do not know how to check how many points I earned from this evaluation, which would be nice to know.
Instead of telling me how many points I got, it says “My Line“.
I know it is my line!
So basically everyone else on earth, EXCEPT ME, can see how many points I earned on this, and I am the only one who would even care! These are the types of little things that can be very annoying about using Fritz and Chessbase products.
Anyway, sorry for ranting…
I find the whole points thing to be a lot of fun, and adds some nice “competition” between users, and encourages them to contribute.
I normally have Fritz 13 running 24 hours a day on my computer, either on games looking for tactics to put in my database, and in my newsletters, or donating the engine to run positions for other people.
Here you can see I am ranked 25th in the World for points earned. I am not sure how to tell how many points a user has if you are not in the top 100.
You can lose points if someone does better analysis of a position, known as “winning” a position.
You can also “Discover” a position, which basically means being the first person to do a deep analysis (red level) of a position that is not considered to be “opening book”.
So overall the “Let’s Check” functionality is really cool, and a lot of fun (for me) to play with.
Things I don’t like about Fritz 13 (and Fritz products in general, since most of these complaints have been around for quite some time):
- Fritz comes out with frequent updates and bug fixes, which is good, but there is no way to know when they do this. It would be nice if they had some sort of mechanism that says “There is an update available, would you like to download it”? This has been a common thing since the days of AOL 3.0 back in the late 90s. You have to manually check every once in a while to see if there is an update available. A lot of times your Fritz will crash or freeze if you don’t do the updates, and my guess is that most users don’t do this, and won’t unless prompted.
- The Let’s Check will freeze on some endgame positions, especially ones with a forced mate or draw. I submitted a bug report to them, and they may have fixed it, as I have not seen it recently. I also recently installed the 3,4,5 man endgame tablebases, which may have fixed it as well.
- The interface is not as usable as it could be. They have made improvements, but I think that they should consider hiring an outside user interface expert to really look at the functionality. Or bring some non power users into their office, and observe how they do things, and take notes. They have a lot of their own terms like “Default Kibitzer”, that are kind of cute, but can be confusing, especially to a new user. I have use the help files a lot, and have been using Fritz products for over 10 years.
- The Chessbase archive file system has to go, and is very annoying. This is the most confusing thing, and in my experience, people don’t get it. Chessbase saves your database as multiple files. For years I have had people e-mailing me the .cbh files, but this will not work. You have to “archive” all of the files, and then send it. Could you imagine Apple making their users do something like this? Steve Jobs would be turning over in his grave. The designers need to read a book like Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug on User Interface design and useability. This is the complete opposite of “Keep it Simple, Stupid”. Just because you have an Office 2007 ribbon, doesn’t mean your program is easy to use. I cannot think of one other program that has a similar way of saving their files.
- I would like to see an option to have the “Full Analysis” and “Blunder Check” combined, without having to do separate runs. Right now if you want the output of both you have to run it twice (and make sure that you don’t check “Delete old annotations”). This seems absurd. Both are nice to have, and useful.
- It would be nice if there were some auto complete/guessing when entering player names for the games. If I have entered 500 games with the user “Tim Brennan”, Fritz should be smart enough to guess that I mean “Brennan”, once I start typing “B..R..E..N..N..”, etc. Google, iPhones, Word, and all sorts of software do this now.
- The “Training” function seems to output a lot of false positives. It might give a certain move as a training question, but the answer is not actually the best move in the position. It should only give training answers that are the best move.
- The Training function also has no way to input more than one correct move. So you can’t have Bg6# and Qg6# as both being equally good moves as an answer.
Ideas for future enhancements
- A similar “Let’s Check” for Endgame Tablebase creation. Right now a lot of work has been done by a small number of users in the tablebase arena. Using the power of Let’s Check to add to this would be great.
- Along the same lines having the tablebases online would make all of our engines more powerful. Right now if a user wants his engine to have access to the tablebases they have to download gigabytes and gigabytes of data to their local hard drives. With Cloud computing, this could all be stored in one place, and updated on a regular basis for everyone to use.
- This would also eliminate players on “Let’s Check” wasting their time solving positions that have already been solved. You will often see one engine coming up with a mate in 25, and another with no mate, because the one engine has access to the endgame tablebases, and the other does not. These positions are all reinventing the wheel, if the position was already solved in a tablebase.
- If a person owns both Fritz and Chessbase, it would be nice if they could do all of the functions within the same program. For example use Let’s Check in Chessbase, and sort the database in Fritz. Right now you have to jump back and forth depending on what you want to do, and having both open at the same time can lead to problems (like being unable to write to a database, if the other has it open).
- It would be nice if there were “Tool Tips” that tell you what a certain button does. So when you hover over a button with your mouse, a little text comes up that says what the “+” button means for example (add more lines of analysis). This is also very common in software for the last ten years. They do have some tool tips, but need more.
- It would be nice if the program was smarter about remembering what the person uses. For example I never play blitz against the computer, and always use “Infinite Analysis” mode. However Fritz always assumes I want to play Blitz, and doesn’t remember that I mostly use the Infinite Analysis mode.
- It would also be nice if you could use “Let’s Check” while using the other analysis features, like “Full Analysis” and “Blunder Check”. Why does everything have to be so compartmentalized, and separated.
- It would be nice if they web playback feature included was the one that Chessbase themselves used on their own website. See example here. The one they offer is very primitive compared to this one (still using HTML frames), and hasn’t been updated in 10 years.
Tips and Tricks:
- When running “Let’s Check” on other people’s positions, make sure that you only have one line of analysis, otherwise you are just wasting computing power.
- It really is worth it to RTFM (Read the Fun manual) to truly take advantage of the features. Trying to figure it out on your own is difficult, and in my experience getting tech support from Chessbase is very hit and miss (mostly miss). They actually did respond to me when I spoon fed them a bug description recently related to Let’s Check, which surprised me.
- Also google some archives of chessbase writers over the years like Steve Lopez and Mig Greengard, who have given good tips, and is how I learned to use a lot of the features.
If you don’t care about “Let’s Check”, there is really no reason to upgrade to Fritz 13. If you are curious about it, it is quite an amazing thing, and a lot of fun to play with, and worth the price of an upgrade.
As a owner of Fritz 12, I did not see any enhancements or changes, besides the Let’s Check functionality added to Fritz 13.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will be happy to answer them!