Fritz 13: To buy or not to buy?

by ChessBase
11/30/2011 – "Fritz has changed our lives. For many it is an integral aspect of our chess experience. But should we stick with Fritz 12 or buy Fritz 13?" On his web site Carl's Planet, Carl Portman thinks you should: "We may be living in austere times, but I see no reason why Fritz 13 can't alleviate some of the gloom and improve the chess players' lot at the same time." Review.

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Review of Fritz 13 by ChessBase

By Carl Portman, BCF County Master

As Fritz 13 hits the streets it does so in austere times. People are buying what they need as opposed to what they want. Chess players are not exempt from this and I know of many (including myself) that are giving more consideration than ever before before spending hard earned cash. Yet amongst the doom and gloom we still need to have some fun, to enjoy ourselves and if we are able to, give ourselves the occasional treat.

In chess terms then the question is should you stick with Fritz 12 or buy Fritz 13? In order to answer this question one needs to ask the question 'What's new about it? I'll come to that presently but first let me give my opinion on the Fritz programme for us club and county chess players who this review is primarily aimed at.

Quite simply, Fritz has changed our lives. For many it is an integral aspect of our chess experience in terms of preparation for club and tournament games, for training and self improvement and indeed for analysing your own games to try to find 'the truth' of the position. I think Nigel Short once said that we know computers are stronger than us so there's no need to try to prove otherwise. He said it was like 'entering a fork lift truck into a weight-lifting contest' – there IS no contest so just accept it. We amateurs are not stupid. We know that we can't play like Fritz (We don't always want to) but we do use it to aid and analyse our games. Then there are other benefits. The wonderful database system where we can locate specific games from millions played with a single keyboard stroke. Remember when players had to scour the books and newspaper cuttings to do this? It wasn't that long ago you know. Then there's the multimedia aspect with hours of training and lessons from the very best masters and Grandmasters (including Garry Kasparov) on the planet. How much would a single hour with one of these guys cost?

My favourite element and the one most 'responsible' for consuming many hours of my life is the ability to play online chess at the web site. It's brilliant. You can travel around the world in one evening playing people from Brazil to Birmingham, from New Zealand to New York – whilst sipping hot coffee and nibbling away at ginger biscuits from the comfort of your own home. That little button that says 'Would you like another game' is akin to Santa Claus saying 'Have you been good this year?'...OF COURSE.

So what IS new about Fritz 13? Actually, there is a really groundbreaking development to tell you about and it's called 'Let's Check'. This is a revolutionary new feature that is changing the chess world. Users can join a world-wide community that will build a huge knowledge database for chess. Whenever you analyse a position to any meaningful depth with your chess engine, Fritz 13 will, if you allow it, send the main line and evaluation to a central chess server to be shared by all participant users. Therefore you can find deep analysis for almost every position you look at – instantly. The days of waiting for your computer to reach substantial depth to be sure that you are not falling into some kind of trap are gone.

You can even see the analysis of differing chess engines in seconds which is a fantastic new development in my opinion. Then there's the marvel of 'Discover a position' which registers you as an automatic discoverer of a position if you use a powerful engine to analyse a hitherto unknown position. Let's check continually updates evaluations given to any position with newer, deeper analysis and this allows you to 'conquer' chess positions with your name attached to the newest analysis. This 'Conquer chess positions' is a cool feature that gives you the opportunity to make a name for yourself on the world stage! You are even able to add comments to your analysis for the world to see. I can see the headline now...Kramnik uses the Portman variation of the Petroff Defence after consulting Let's check. Okay okay, I can dream can't I?

It matters not if you are a beginner or a super GM, you can use this facility to improve your game. Finally on this, using 'Let's Check' whilst watching top games live on the Playchess server (did you realise that you could do this – it's brilliant?) is very informative. You have the latest opening statistics at your disposal and the results of the most powerful engines and serves logged on to the central server. Talk about having a personal trainer.

For a demonstration from ChessBase on what 'Let's Check' is all about visit here.

Fritz 13, like those previous is easy to use and the database has been improved to Windows Office 2010 standard. This is important as I want database management to be as quick and easy as possible. I log all of my games into my own personal database so I can bring them up, print them off, analyse them, use them in training, etc., whenever I want. It's just so darned useful. When I was at school in the late seventies I was besotted with chess to the detriment of some of my other learning but I never believed that we would have access to this sort of chess material. How things change – and in this case for the better.

Other features on Fritz 13 include an improved engine, excellent board graphics in 2D and 3D, coaching functions and adjustable playing strength, automatic analysis of games (a really great function), a database of 1.5 million games and ten hours of private video instruction by those GM's I was talking about. Finally – and the real winner for me is a FREE six months premium membership to the world's largest chess server,

Should you buy it? Well, let me put this in perspective. For around £40 you get all of the above which will, I guarantee, give every chess player enjoyment and improve their game if they use it properly. I just bought a round of drinks for some friends and it cost me nearly £40. I topped up my car with fuel and that was over £60 and I bought just a few items of food groceries that cost me £50. None of these will last but Fritz 13 certainly will. It boils down to one's definition of 'need'. If I want to improve my game and have hours of fun playing the game I love above any other, then I need Fritz 13. Without it I would feel a little empty. It may 'only' be a computer program but it's been a great companion in the wee small hours of many an evening.

Before I go, and for the sake of trying my best to be objective, I always try to find something that I think could be improved upon. There are a few very minor points such as adding a back button once you have searched for games in the database to get you back to the main list, and providing a hard copy user booklet with the disc instead of having to read and/or download it online (which I really don't enjoy doing). But this is niff-naff and trivia in the wider scheme of things. No – there are no major issues for me, and if any issues arise the ChessBase team tell me how something can be done, so it is usually my lack of competence rather than the program that's to blame. The support is first class.

Christmas is almost upon us folks, so treat yourself. There's a line in 'A Christmas Carol' where Bob Cratchet as head of the family takes the first taste of the Christmas pudding. He slowly masticates, looks to his wife (the tension is palpable) and declares it to be 'another triumph'. The very same can be said for Fritz 13 and the ChessBase team are to be heartily congratulated. We may be living in austere times, but I see no reason why Fritz 13 can't alleviate some of the gloom and improve the chess players' lot at the same time. Merry Christmas to one and all.

I rate this software as ***** – highly recommended.

From: Carl's Planet, which published the above review here.

About the author

Carl Portman, British Chess Federation County Master, Shropshire County Champion 1998, Bicester Chess Club Champion 2005, 2006, 2007.

I learned to play chess when I was twelve years old. I was at school, it was lunchtime and the rain was driving down outside making football impossible. I decided to check out (pun intended) the nerds in the chess club. It was going to be boring but there was nothing else to do.

I opened the door... And so it was that I opened a new door to the rest of my life.

Chess players generally become more confident, have enhanced self-esteem and are more able to organise their thinking and behaviour. It teaches responsibility too, after all we don't get to take moves back in life so it's important to try to make the right decisions for the right reasons. Chess is a fun social activity that helps bring youngsters together and break down potential barriers. An example of this is when a youngster aged nine plays a person aged ninety. In other sports there would be barriers to this encounter (physical fitness, etc.) but here it's the exercise of the brain that anyone can do, all of their lives. Quite simply…chess is a gift for life.

I am available to give simultaneous displays at schools. I am prepared to play up to 30 players at once. I am also available to teach chess to groups or individuals as necessary. Chess is the game of kings and the king of games. It is proven to be key to improving thinking and decision making.

Order Fritz 13 here

Price: 49.90€, shipping immediately, per download or on DVD.

When you click on the "To Cart" button you will get a choice of ordering the program on DVD to be delivered by post or whether you want it right away as a download from the shop.

Previous articles on Fritz 13 and Let's Check

Fritz 13 and Let's Check at the Women's World Championship
25.11.2011 – What do the players in a world chess championship do immediately after their games? Rush off for dinner? No. Check their game with the computer? Warmer. Actually in Tirana the two GMs used, for the first time in such an event, the new feature of Fritz 13, "Let's Check", to see what spectators from all over the world had found in their games. Here's how it is done.
Fritz 13 and Let's Check – Lesson one: getting started
31.10.2011 – You have ordered Fritz 13, on DVD or as a download in the ChessBase Shop. And you have heard a lot about the new Let's Check function. How do you get started? In our tutorial series we begin with some very basic instructions on how to activate the program and then take a few initial steps into the world of cloud computing. Too daunting? Take a look – it's easier than you think.
Hoogeveen: Kramnik beats Polgar, leads by a full point
20.10.2011 – In round two Vladimir Kramnik beat Judit Polgar – as usual, we are tempted to say. In twenty classical encounters Judit still has to win a single one. At the end of this game Fritz 13 surprised people on Playchess by announcing mate in 45 moves – on a super-fast spectator machine. In rounds three and four all games were drawn, but some of them quite interesting. Report and commentary.
Fritz 13 is now available – let's check who needs it!
13.10.2011 – “Success very often is the enemy of future success," Garry Kasparov warned us some months ago. Changing the world once is not enough, he said, we needed to do it again. Well, we are trying. Today we launch Fritz 13, which incorporates a tantalizing new feature: "Let's Check", which provides communal analysis in the cloud. You can order it now or download it for instant access.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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