A Chess Media System for Fritz

by ChessBase
10/16/2003 – The latest ChessBase Magazine 96, due out on Monday, contains a directory with updates of our main software programs: ChessBase, Fritz and Junior. One of these is very special this time. The Fritz 8 update introduces a whole new dimension to our activities on the Playchess.com server. Here are all the details...

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To install the update you must, of course, have a Fritz installed on your computer. Start the program \updates\Fritz8\setup.exe (you can do this straight from the CBM 96 CD) and allow the new version to replace the old one. The next time you log into the server you may be prompted to upgrade this installation as well. That is normal – and you should accept. The Playchess.com server will always try to keep your Fritz or Fritz-compatible programs completely up-to-date.

With the new update installed you will not immediately notice any difference. But there is a major enhancement hiding in the Window menu:

Clicking “Window – Panes – Chess Media System” (or pressing Ctrl-Alt-V) will open a new window on your chessboard screen. This is empty, and you can close it again by repeating the action.

The quickest way to see what this “Chess Media System” is all about is to load the small trial lecture that is on the CBM CD. Start Fritz 8 in the classical offline mode (use “Play chess” in the start dialog), and then click “Open – Chess Media File” in the “File” menu. Select the file “\Demo Chess Media System\Mig.wmv” from the CD. This will open the media window and start playing a lecture.

The demo file on the CBM CD is a short recording we made in July in New York with the chess journalist Mig Greengard. Mig was the second person to see our new functions – the first was, as tradition requires, Garry Kasparov, who played around with it a day earlier. As the Mig Greengard file is played you can see the lecturer is moving pieces, drawing arrows and colouring squares on the chessboard.

It should be mentioned that in order to see the video lecture you will need to have the Microsoft Media Player 9.0. This is usually preinstalled on recent Windows XP systems, but if your computer cannot play the files you can install the player very easily, in just a few minutes, from the Microsoft web site.

The very first person to try out the Fritz Chess Media system was Garry Kasparov, shown above doing a recording in New York in July this year. He could hardly hide his delight at the new possibilities that become apparent to him.

How exactly does the ChessBase Media System work. It makes use of the Windows Streaming Media format (the files have the ending .wmv and .wma) to capture video and/or audio files on the fly – the lecturer simply plugs in a webcam and a microphone and starts recording a session. Whatever is done on the chessboard is recorded by Fritz and instructions are embedded in the multimedia stream. When the file is replayed everything is faithfully repeated on the graphic chessboard.

Chess prodigy Taimur Radjabov experimenting with the system during the Super-GM in Dortmund. The media file is recorded by a webcam on top of the notebook screen. On the right Frederic Friedel, who hardly needs to explain anything to the computer-savvy young man.

Lectures can be pre-recorded and supplied on CD, or they can be conducted live on the Playchess.com server. There you can see and/or hear the broadcaster speak, while the pieces move on the board. It is an ideal instrument for chess training, interviews, chats, or live coverage of important events.

This is what the trial recording by Radjabov looks like, when you load and replay it on the Playchess.com server.

Our Chess Media System works well on the Playchess.com server as well. There is a special room, only visible to users who have installed the update. In it you will find live and archived lectures, some of which in the future may require payment (in the server currency of ducats).

Click on “Free Chess Media” in the “Chess Media Streaming” room to load a few test files we have placed there. In the coming months there will be much more content and possibly a new archive system with additional rooms.

Note that you cannot start a multi-media broadcast yourself. This function is reserved for qualified trainers and VIPs who can contact ChessBase if they wish to provide multimedia content.

The reigning US Champion Anna Hahn trying out a multimedia session with ChessBase programmer Jeroen van den Belt

The main author of the Fritz Media System is Jeroen van den Belt, who is also responsible for the ChessBase Online database. This was launched in 1999 and currently contains 2.9 million games. Each week about 5000 games are added to keep it completely up-to-date. The online database is around 10 GB in size, most of which is taken up by a gigantic index that allows instant access to about 50 million positions. The online database is queried about 6000 times a day by visitors using the Java applet on the chesslive page or directly from the ChessBase program. It is even possible to query the database using the programs Pocket Fritz 1 and 2.

Three-times US women's champion Anjelina Belakovskaia records a session from her home in New Jersey

Frederic Friedel

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