Saturday, July 21, 2012

Aquarium 2011 - Beating a Dead Horse

 Whenever I have had a spare moment I have still been messing around with ChessOK’s Aquarium 2011.  Aside from the fact that it’s a really clumsy program, I have somewhat gotten the hang of using the database function but much to my dismay I have discovered that there does not seem to be any way to delete a game from the database!  What a crappy program!  I am deleting it off my computer; it’s unfortunate they don’t have a money back guarantee because I’d sure be applying for it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


ChessBase has been around a long time and is a database that allows you to enter, annotate and save games, including variations, text commentary, spoken comments, embedded pictures, soundtracks and even video sequences; analyze, generate a comprehensive openings report with main and critical lines, plans and most important games; search for material distribution, and more.

Chessbase 10 comments:
I got mine this morning... is it worth it…after a couple of hours playing with it I do not think so!!
…a lot of useless functions.

The version Chessbase 10 that I have been using until now is, in my opinion, an excellent chess program (especially with the new update): the player has practically everything that is needed for tournament preparation as well as for abstract preparation. The options are simple and a user has no problems to use them.

Chessbase 11 comments:
Modern programs, like Chessbase 11 have such a large number of options that it is practically very difficult to know all them.
Chessbase 11 is based on the new Microsoft Office based interface just as Fritz 12 and I can say that it is very easy to manage with the new environment. I had no problems when using it for the first time.
ChessBase 11 is rife with bugs…Terrible…I cannot activate it…I hate this mess…they are telling me that my activation number is already in use.
Get CB9 if you can. CB11 crashes, is bloatware, and has nothing, zero the earlier version will not do.
Games won't save, crashes do not show versions in history, and history does not work like it did.
CB 11 is wrecked.
…think ChessBase, the database program, is garbage.
It is highly unstable…activation locks up, indices become corrupted, games are lost, crashes, you get a "Disable" message when opening games.
It is a sea of bugs and problems…

Chessbase Lite
You cannot play against the engine and it has a limit of about 32,000 games in the database. You can open any database of course, but it will only read the first 32,000. It comes with the Fritz 6 engine and you cannot add other engines in the lite version. If you are looking for a free database program with reasonably strong engine this is an excellent program.  Good for doing opening research but if you want to analyze a game, you’ll have to do it move by move and hit the spacebar to enter the engine move.
      An excellent program if you are looking for free and you can live with the limitations and an annoying nag screen that pops up once in a while asking you to buy Fritz 13. Its main use that I can see would be for doing opening research.  Especially helpful is the “Opening Report.”  This report tells you how many games with the variation are in the DB, highest rated players who used the line, other strong players using it and statistics.  A random example:

Black scores below average (41%).
Black performs Elo 2307 against an opposition of Elo 2370 (-63).
White performs Elo 2410 against an opposition of Elo 2347 (+63).
White wins: 600 (=38%), Draws: 653 (=42%), Black wins: 306 (=20%)
The drawing quote is higher than average. (4% quick draws, < 20 Moves)

The report also gives you the most successful moves against each reply:

Moves and Plans
a) 12.a4

586 Games, 1975-2010, Ø=2001
White scores above average (59%).
Elo-Ø: 2324, 566 Games. Performance = Elo 2373
played by: Kasparov, 2744, 8.5/12; Topalov, 2731, 3/3; Anand, 2720, 5/10; Grischuk, 2717, 0/1; Shirov, 2704, 1/1;

You should play: 12...h6  Click for Games

Free Download: ChessBase Lite 2009

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Deep Shredder 12

     Shredder's playing style is more positional  than tactical and it plays with positional threats and can squeeze the most out of a position.
      Supposedly when practicing against Shredder at lower settings it simulates a human player at any playing strength by making typical human mistakes.  It also has a variety of pieces and boards both in 2D and 3D, a built in coach, direct access to huge online endgame and game databases, etc, etc…all the things we have come to expect in any program.
      Of course any engine will beat you up pretty bad tactically, but if you want to evaluate a game from the positional aspect, some of them give quite different evaluations.  I’ve heard Komodo is well ahead of most engines when it comes to positional evaluations but personally I’ve found my free version to be unreliable.
      If you are playing against other engines or engine-assisted games against other players then Houdini, Rybka or one of my favourites, Deep Saros, are the engines of choice. On the CCRL rating list Deep Shredder is ranked tenth behind such staples as Houdini, Stockfish, Rybka and Critter, etc.
      On the other hand if you are using an engine to analyze your games with the idea of improving your play, then Shredder is an excellent choice.
      I should add that when some time back I had a minor problem with Shredder I e-mailed for help and received a reply the next day, so their service is excellent.

Fritz 13

     Fritz 13, according to the advertisements, has an array of exciting new features. I have used Fritz 12 for several years ever since I found it in Office Max for $20.  Like most chessplayers though I find it hard to resist the newest stuff so considered upgrading to Fritz 13.  So, what’s the difference?
      For most of us these days being without a chess playing program is unthinkable because they help us prepare for tournament games, train in tactics, study openings and analyze our own games.  Then there are databases and game collections that are a big help in keeping up with the latest developments.  Gone are the days of buying Informants every six months and searching through hundreds of games to find examples of our favorite openings or trying to discover how GM's played the positions arising from them.  Now you can do it in a couple of mouse clicks.  Today we have multimedia training and lessons and the possibility of playing online chess from the comfort of our home.
      One new feature of Fritz 13 is called 'Let's Check'. This feature allows the world-wide chess community to build a huge database.  Whenever you analyze a position long enough and deep enough Fritz 13 allows you to send the main line and evaluation to a central chess server to be shared by all users. This feature also allows you to search for positions that have been analyzed to a substantial depth by others.  Supposedly this feature will save you time. You can also see the analysis of different engines.  One “hook” they use to get people to use this feature is that you can automatically get registered as discoverer of a position if you submit analysis of a hitherto unknown position. You are also able to add comments to your analysis.  This feature allows you to have the latest opening statistics at your disposal and the results of the most powerful engines.
      Fritz 13 features an improved engine, board graphics in 2D and 3D (if anybody actually uses the 3D views), coaching functions and adjustable playing strength, automatic analysis of games.  Also included is a database of 1.5 million games and ten hours of GM video instruction and free six months premium membership to the world's largest chess server, Playchessdotcom.
      So from what I can discover, Fritz 13's only new features are a stronger engine and the “Let’s Check” function.  There are better engines than Fritz available for free and all can be used with Fritz 12, so there is no incentive to upgrade just for the sake of a better engine.  The “Let’s Check” functions sounds like something that might be fun to play with but personally it doesn’t hold any interest for me. 
      Conclusion: As a user of Fritz 12, I did not see any enhancements or changes that warrant purchasing Fritz 13.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Endgame by Frank Brady

What do you think of Bobby Fischer?  Despicable lout?  Schizophrenic?  A tortured soul? A man to be pitied? Or, like many of those who knew him best, do you think he was a sensitive, caring person? Whatever your opinion of Fischer is, there is no question that he was one intriguing fellow.  Frank Brady knew Fischer quite well and the overall tone of this book is one that puts Fischer in the best possible light and it is extremely well-researched and well-written.  I don’t know that it will change anyone’s mind about the man, but it at least gives you an understanding of where Fischer “came from” and gives you some insights as to what made him the kind of person he was.  No games, just 403 pages detailing Fischer’s life.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The King by Jan Donner

      Donner was one of the top players in the Netherlands for years and for a while was one of the world’s top ranked players.
      I don’t own this book but did read it some time back in the hardback edition.  It has been reprinted in a paperback edition which, fortunately, is longer than the original. The book is mostly a collection of articles covering just about anything on chess you can think of.    
      Donner wasn’t shy about voicing his (sometimes radical) political views and he had, like everybody, his views on Bobby Fischer. Donner admitted Fischer’s behavior was bad and his decisions often were wrong, but for the most part he was right in his fights with FIDE.

      The book was enjoyable, but I have to admit that sometimes Donner tended to be wordy…no, call it a printed version of, “he never shuts up.”  On occasion he spends forever saying something that he could have said in a lot fewer words, but I never doubted his enthusiasm.  Sometimes he got a little nasty in commenting on certain individuals too and on occasion he doesn’t give you enough information to know what he was writing about.  In the style of Purdy’s book, The Search for Chess Perfection, Donner’s book is actually a series of articles in chronological order but there wasn’t an index.
      You won’t learn anything about how to play better chess from this book, but it is a great read if you enjoy reading about chess and chess players.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mammoth Book of Chess by Graham Burgess

      In his introduction, author FM Graham Burgess writes, "I have written this book in such a way that it provides inspiration and useful information for everyone with an interest in chess, from total beginners to grandmasters."  I seriously doubt GM's will find this book useful or for that matter, anyone except maybe new players.
      The book is divided into three parts:  Part One: Mastering Chess in which the author covers delivering mate, tactics, combinations, endgames, openings, open and semi-open games, d-Pawn openings, flank and miscellaneous openings, attack and defense.  The Delivering Mate chapter is aimed at beginners and the tactics chapter intoduces things like forks, pins, discovered attacks, skewers, and deflections, etc.  The Endgames chapter is a basic review and is only about 20 pages long. Then comes chapters devoted to an overview of various openings.  The balance of Part One, titled Attack and Defense, consists of  annotated games illustrating basic strategy.
      Part Two is a bunch of boring chapters on the chess clock, tournament play, computer & internet chess, puzzles, women's veterans, junior and correspondence chess, and finally, endgame studies and chess in the media.
      Part Three consists of a  Glossary of Chess Terms, A Brief History of the World Chess Championship and other miscellaneous stuff for people new to chess and the indexes.
     Unless you are an absolute beginner and new to the world of chess, pass on this one.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How To Beat Bobby Fischer by Edmar Mednis

      Edmar Mednis (March 22, 1937–February 13, 2002), an American GM born in Latvia, moved to the US with his family at the end of WW2 where he trained as a chemical engineer but worked as a stockbroker and chess writer.
      I had the pleasure of meeting Mednis at the US Championship in 1971.  I say pleasure because that’s what it was.  I remember one day before the start of one of the rounds how a group of us were standing outside the tournament hall when Mednis, his wife and young daughter along with, if I remember correctly, Robert Byrne were entering the building.  Mednis and Byrne stopped to greet us and while his daughter, perhaps 5 or 6, busied herself swinging on the step railings and his wife and Byrne stood by patiently, Mednis gladly engaged in conversation that ended up with him telling anecdotes of some of the players he had known. 
       Somehow the conversation turned to Latvian master Vladimirs Petrov (27 September 1907 – 26 August 1943). When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Petrov was unable to return to his wife and daughter at home in Latvia and remained in Russia where he was arrested on 31 August 1942 under Article 58 for criticizing decreased living standards in Latvia after the Soviet annexation of 1940. As a result Petrov was sentenced to ten years in a corrective labor camp. In 1989 it became known that he had died at Kotlas in 1943 from pneumonia.  At least that’s what the history books say.  When somebody asked Mednis whatever happened to Petrov, Mednis’ terse reply was, “The Russians shot him.”  Take your pick which version you believe.  On to the book…
       In this book he annotates 61 games that Fischer lost between 1958 and 1972. The annotations are mostly in the form of words with just enough variations give to illustrate the point.  The focus is mostly on the critical point where Fischer played what Mednis considered to be the losing move. Mednis calls it "The Losing Moment" and explains why the move cost Fischer the game usually by concentrating on general principles which helps all us non-masters understand things a little better.
       Mednis also includes interesting tables that show Fischer’s wins and losses with the colors, who had the best records against Fischer, which countries had plus scores against him, categories on why Fischer lost and what opening he had the most problems against. Mednis also includes some anecdotes about Fischer which make interesting reading.
       There are two editions of this book.  I have the edition written right after Fischer retired and Dover put out a second edition which includes games from the 1992 match with Spassky. 
       This book was apparently good enough that in My Great Predecessors Kasparov quoted it on several occasions when discussing Fischer’s losses. Of course Kasparov, being a far better player than Mednis, punched some holes in Mednis’ analysis, but that doesn’t detract the book in the least in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can recommend it to anybody who is interested in Fischermania or just wants to play over games that are well-annotated without being bothered with slogging through line after line of analysis.