"Fat Fritz seemed to be from an entirely different plane of existence!"

by Tanmay Srinath
11/4/2019 – Fat Fritz for the club player: While the top players and grandmasters are leaping into the neural network boat, the question of value to amateurs is still left somewhat unanswered. Isn't one engine as good as another when it comes to sub-world-class players? We gave generous use to a former critic of Fat Fritz, TANMAY SRINATH, and not only was he extremely impressed, he was and was kind enough to share his experience with the readers.

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What sets Fat Fritz apart (part 1)

I wanted to race back into tournament play. However, because of a gap that exceeded a year and a half, I was incredibly rusty, and my opening preparation was non-existent. Then, I had to buy a new engine to analyse my openings in, and that is when my interest in analysis started to grow. It was also my first foray into the world of the aggressive MCTS [Monte Carlo Tree Search] engines, beginning with Komodo 12.

Believe it or not, most of the times the engines provide us wrong solutions to our problems, and are sometimes can be more useless than a rank beginner. The problem with machines is that they are non-interactive. For example, in a position of immense complexity, a human might struggle to continue in the best way, but an engine quickly finds a forced line leading to a piece vacuum and a draw. This problem, called the 0.00 conundrum, is so named because the engines fail to differentiate between lines that give static (aka boring) equality, and dynamic equilibrium, where there is a lot of life left in the position. I have on numerous occasions struggled with this, and it is only my intuition and understanding that helps me find a way through the dark forest and escape unscathed, more often than not thankfully. Another important thing they fail to take into account is the accuracy of play of their opponent, or the complexity of the position and the capabilities of the players, thus proving to be a good instrument to criticize the top players, something IM Sagar Shah looked at in detail recently.

It is said that the neural network simulates the human brain. Is this proof that we are yet to reach our potential? | Photo: Oracle Blogs

Believe it or not, but MCTS engines rarely suffer from this problem, because unlike the traditional engines which aim to find a move that wins the maximum number of pawns, the MCTS engines aim to find the move that has the greatest possible chance of winning. The former and the latter might not seem to make much of a difference, but believe me, it does — while Stockfish might assume that the opponent plays perfectly, Komodo MCTS will not, and thus more often than not it favours the side with the easier play. As an after-effect, it proves to be extremely good at handling gambits as well.

Leela Chess Zero is another example. I have found that in some positions where Stockfish sees nothing but a desert leading to a fight-less draw Leela poses immense practical problems, the sort which even the best engines on the planet sometimes fail to solve. While this might make you feel that MCTS engines are better than Stockfish, Houdini and their siblings, I would interject here and say you are right and wrong. Right in some cases and wrong in some. Instead of categorizing life into a slew of binary options of yes and no and right and wrong, why not find something in the middle?

Alpha Zero for the PC - Leela Chess Zero | Photo: Leela Chess Zero Blog

It was this thought process that ultimately resulted in me speaking to Albert Silver about his latest offering Fat Fritz. I had used the engine once, and was intrigued as to what it can offer, so Albert kindly lent me full use of Fat Fritz for a while. What Fat Fritz is, is something that the author himself has explained in great depth, so instead of going into that let me illustrate what exactly I felt about its capabilities and where it is most useful.

Let me first say that I have used engines extensively, and have found good and bad qualities in almost equal measure in each one. However, Fat Fritz seemed to be from an entirely different plane of existence! Why?

The first thing I noticed about Fat Fritz was the speed at which it judged positions. While normal engines took around five minutes to nearly fully understand any given position, Fat Fritz was astonishingly taking only a minute and a half at most to decide which move or plan it deemed best, and this I feel is not only because of the superior hardware it is run on, but also because of its innate intuition coming from millions of human games. 

This unique non-zero approach resulted in it often contradicting numerous top engines on various positions. Let us take one position for example:


I considered the position after 8...♞xe5 to be playable for White. Initially, that is what Stockfish seems to think too. The alternative 8...0-0! is not considered so seriously by it till beyond depth 30, by which point Fat Fritz is claiming an advantage of over 1 here for Black [i.e. -1].

What is special you might ask? Such quick accurate assessments make our analytical work easier as we need to spend less time in investigating a new position. Also, I noted the evaluation patterns for both engines. While Stockfish assessed both 0-0 and ♞xe5 almost equivalently as better for Black, Fat Fritz was giving a nearly winning advantage for Black after 0-0 and only a slightly better position after ♞xe5. See the difference? Fat Fritz believes fully in its main line, and assesses certain positions a lot better than its counterparts.

For those of you who feel that speed is not really an issue and feel that it is not worth spending money for it, I ask you to look at the following position closely.


For the Sicilian players out there, this is where you really start to sweat — White enters the Fried Liver version of the Wing Gambit after 1.e4 c5 2.b4!?. The reason the Wing Gambit lines after 2...cxb4 3.a3 e5(!) lines were not previously played was because of this particular setup for White, which gives him very dangerous attacking chances. However hard I looked at this with other engines, I was unable to find a suitable response for Black, with the very greedy ones wanting to take on d5.


It was Fat Fritz that put the matter to bed once and for all with the rare but best 7...b5!

This was a move I had never seriously considered before, but the more I looked at it the more I was convinced that White is in-fact closer to a loss than a draw or a win here — Black's aggressive counter-attack means that White doesn't get time to develop his famed assault on the f7 square. I feel White is a lot worse here — and that is not the end of his troubles — his winning chances are absolutely zero, and that's sad news for gambiteers across the globe.

Chess is perhaps as inscrutable for us as the vastness of the universe! | Photo: Delightful Knowledge

I was going through the game Shivananda vs Neverov once, and I stumbled upon this position.


Here the Ukrainian GM instead of playing 9...d6! (in the diagram) played 9...♞bc6 and won only after further errors from his Indian opponent. However, Fat Fritz immediately finds the refutation to White's risky opening play here with 9...d6!, and assesses it at a whopping -2.50! It is not only this move — it clearly shows a plan to blow open White's lacklustre position! This is what I had been waiting for a long time — an engine that can play a logical set of moves that we humans call "a plan"!

I am confident that this new development will take the game forward. In the second and concluding part I shall speak more about the unique features of Fat Fritz.

Continued in Part 2 (shortly)...

Tanmay Srinath has been writing for ChessBase India since quite some time now. His tournament reports and depth of analysis have been widely appreciated. Pursuing a full-fledged career in engineering Tanmay doesn't get enough time to pursue chess, but he loves to follow top-level encounters and analyzes those games with his Fat Fritz engine. We hope you find his analysis useful in your games.


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