Fritz Endgame Turbo 3 - Part 2

7/10/2006 – In the second of two ChessBase Workshop columns on Fritz Endgame Turbo 3, we look at some specific installation instructions and see some specific examples of the endgame tablebases in action. Workshop...

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Last time around we looked at Eugene Nalimov's tablebases (a.k.a. Fritz Endgame Turbo 3) to discover what they are; we also looked at a few technical details about the tablebase files' naming convention. In this ChessBase Workshop we'll talk a bit more about their installation and show a couple of examples involving the tablebases in action.

Before proceeding I'd like you to note that the Fritz Endgame Turbo 3 package contains an instruction booklet (inside the lid of the DVD case, on your left-hand side as you open the box. I think that's as complete a description as I can muster without coming to your home and physically pointing it out). Please read this booklet, as it does contain some technical details which are not covered in these two ChessBase Workshop columns (such as which engines will use the six-man tablebases and in which ChessProgram interface versions).

INSTALLING THE TABLEBASES

The easiest way to install the tablebases is to run the Setup.exe file located on DVD #1. As noted in the previous Workshop column, however, this will require 43 GB (that's gigabytes, friends, not megabytes) of free space on your hard drive for a full installation. There are several reasons for doing this if you can spare the space:

1) Your chess engines will have access to the full set of three- through six-piece tablebases included in Fritz Endgame Turbo 3;
2) The installation program will automatically configure your ChessProgram interface to "point" to the proper folder in which the tablebases have been installed (otherwise you'll have to do this manually as we'll see later);
3) The only way to get the six-piece Q + 2P vs. Q endgame file is to use the installation program (NOTE: it may be possible to use the old DOS command for joining files to piece together this tablebase, but I've not tried it. You might also be able to use another third party file-joining utility to do this, but I've not tried that either).

The installation program will prompt you for a folder into which the tablebases will be copied/installed. You can use the default (C:\Tablebases) or else create/select another folder. If you don't use the default (and there's no real reason why you shouldn't, unless it's to install them to a different drive), I strongly encourage you to install them to their own folder or subfolder; don't just dump them into the same folder with your Fritz (or other chess engine) program files. If you decide to remove some or all of the tablebases later, it'll be a real pain in the patoot to do so if they're intermingled in a folder with non-tablebase files.

As stated previously, using the installation program will automatically make a parameter change in your ChessProgram interface to point the GUI to the correct location of the tablebases.

Manually installing a portion/subset of the tablebase files (if you don't have the space for the full 43 GB set) is pretty easy (at least physically): you just create a folder to house the tablebases and copy what you want into this folder. We discussed this at length in the previous ChessBase Workshop column and I won't repeat that information here, except to remind you that you must copy all subsets of an endgame, as well as any transpositional endgame files caused by a pawn promotion, in order for a particular tablebase to work properly. Consequently it's best to start with the three- and four-piece files (from DVD #1) before moving on to any five-piece files. See the previous CB Workshop column for more on this.

After you've manually copied the tablebase files you require to your hard drive, you'll need to point your program's GUI to the proper location. Fire up Fritz (or whichever related program you own) and go to the main chessboard screen. Go to the Tools menu, select the "Options" command, and then click the "Tablebases" tab to get the following dialogue:

 

You can either type in the path to your tablebase files in the box to the right of "Path 1" or else use the "Browse" button to bring up another dialogue which will let you navigate to the proper folder and select it.

Why is there more than one "path" available? This is useful for people with partitioned hard drives; you can copy tablebase files to multiple physical locations if no single drive contains enough room to house them in a single place. Another possibility is to copy some of the tablebases to your hard drive and run others directly from one of the DVDs; if you choose this option, make sure your path contains not only the drive letter of your DVD drive but also the subfolder on the DVD disk in which the tablebases are located.

After you've selected the proper path(s), click "Apply" to finalize the change, then "OK" to close the dialogue. Since changes to program parameters are written to the program's .ini file when you exit the program, it's a good idea to exit your chess program immediately so that the changes aren't lost and "forgotten" in the case of a sudden program crash/power outage/meteor strike/etc.

For ChessBase users the procedure is the same: Tools/Options/Tablebases tab, make your change(s), and then exit and restart. Note, however, that if you don't have one of the newer ChessBase chess engines which use the tablebase files, you'll also need to copy the Tablebase.eng file to your \Engines folder in order to use the tablebases for analysis in ChessBase. See the aforementioned Fritz Endgame Turbo 3 booklet for some more information on this.

THE TABLEBASES IN ACTION

Let's look at a couple of examples of the endgame tablebases in use.

Here's a position from Reti-Treybal, Baden Baden 1925; Reti has just played 76.Bxg6:

 

To examine this position using the tablebases, all we need to do is activate a chess engine which can use the tablebases. Since this is a five-piece position, all of our chess engines from the last eight or so years will work. Hit ALT-F2 to fire up your default engine (in ChessBase) or the engine you currently have loaded in your ChessProgram interface.

 

When you hit ALT-F2, you'll see the above display appear in your engine analysis pane in about a second (or less). Why so fast? Because the chess engine isn't calculating a thing; it's reading the information directly from the endgame tablebases, looking at every legal move, every possible reply, and so on the whole way out to mate or draw, and doing so near-instantaneously.

This is a pretty interesting position. Treybal has one "out" (as we poker players say): it's either 76...Bd1 (to block the pawn's advance) or get mated due to his inability to stop the pawn. Any other move hands White the win. And, of course, ...Bd1 is what Trybal played and the players immediately agreed to a draw.

That's what the books call "a matter of technique". And a chess engine that can't use the tablebases (and thus can't see very far ahead and aren't afforded the "instant technique" which tablebases provide) might hack around aimlessly with the other moves and thus blow the game.

Let's add some material to the board to see how chess engines can use tablebases as part of their late-middlegame searches:

 

This is a seven-man position (for which no tablebase yet exists). Using the five-man tablebase KBPKB and its subsets, we'll see how a chess engine can use the tablebases as part of an earlier search in which the endgame hasn't yet appeared on the board:

 

How do we know that the tablebases are in action? After all, we're getting a different evaluation than in our last example. Well, of course we are -- we started with a position containing a different material balance. But Fritz is still using the tablebases. Note the entry "tb=591" at the end of its evaluation. This means that Fritz has spotted many future positions as part of its search in which the material has simplified to B+P vs. B; in fact, it's accessed the tablebases 591 times during its search as a result of finding such positions "out there in the future".

As a result of its tablebase access, Fritz has not only evaluated these lines of play much faster than it would have done without the tablebases (since the information is already available for its use), but it's also evaluated them more accurately because the tablebases provide perfect endgame information.

So why would you want to own Fritz Endgame Turbo 3 (as if the preceding examples didn't already have you sold on the idea)? If you're a computer vs. computer player (either online, as a programmer of your own engine, or as a hobbyist who enjoys running engine vs. engine events) the Endgame Turbo set will greatly improve the results of your chess engine in competitive play. If you're a chessplayer who's looking to improve his own endgame skills, your favorite computer sparring partner will play a much stronger endgame as a result of accessing the Fritz Endgame Turbo 3 tablebases, plus will provide you with excellent post-game analysis of your own endgames. Additionally you can set up endgames (using ChessBase's or Fritz' "Position setup" feature) and then see perfect analysis of these positions (as we did with the Reti-Treybal game above), getting ready instant access to that old nagging question: "Why did he play that?"

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.


© 2006, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


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