Grandmaster Pragg vs Fritz 18

by Frederic Friedel
1/3/2022 – We know that our latest version of Fritz has a special mode that allows you to actually win games – which no 3500+ program would ever do. A lot of amateurs are having loads of fun, learning to spot combinations and by brilliancies in the process. We are also experimenting with strong GMs: will they too enjoy using Fritz 18 as a training partner? Here's someone who has tried.

Fritz 18 Fritz 18

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In January 2020 (just ahead of the pandemic) I was in Chennai, India, watching Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand train some of the most promising young super-talents in the world. Here's one report from the time.

While I was there I met an expert who was doing research on Internet exposure. He told me that according to his calculations I had a name recognition of approximately three-quarters of a million people. What he meant was that if you mention my name, they would at least say: "Isn't he the guy who is somehow involved in chess?"

That made me feel quite proud. But then my expert pointed to 14-year-old boy running around the compound, chasing a football: "According to my calculations," he said, "that kid has the same kind of recognition factor with eighty million people!" It really put me in my place.

The young boy was Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, already a full grandmaster, fast approaching 2600 on the Elo scale. Pragg, as we expediently call him, has been caught on videos that were viewed on YouTube tens of millions of times. Check it out on ChessBase India's YouTube channel.

I got on very well with Pragg, who is an exuberant, humorous lad, interested in everything. It is an unusual experience to talk and joke around with a perfectly normal kid, who minutes later is discussing variations of a very complex opening in his head with a former World Champion. Today, at 16, Pragg is on his way to super-GM status and will, my prediction, in a couple of years be one of the top ten in the world. Incidentally I also got to know his elder sister Vaishali, who is also on her way up, and the family, in Chennai. Lovely people.

Training camp in 2019 with a World Champion in Chens Sur Leman. That's Pragg in the middle of all the Indian super-talents – the smallest of the lot.

Analysing with Vladimir Kramnik | photo Amruta Mokal

Well, I am in constant touch with Pragg on Skype, and I asked him to test our new Fritz 18 for me. He is currently preparing for the 2022 Tata Steel tournament, but of course obliged and sent me two sample games. He was quite tickled by the chances Fritz was giving him in Easy Game mode – something it and no other 3000+ brute force or neural network program would do. It is excellent practice even for a 2600+ player, and he will continue using it as a training partner.

So here are the two games, played at "Grandmaster" level. It is part of an experiment to test how useful and entertaining Fritz 18 is to strong grandmasters in Easy Game mode. 


We will be keeping this experiment up with top GMs and amateurs alike. Please send us your games against Fritz 18 as a contribution to our Brilliancy collection.


Watch Pragg in action and read about it in this birthday report

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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Denix Denix 1/4/2022 08:36
As Fritz has special mode(s), it should play on alias(es) if it is playing not on it's true strength and the naming should be automatic to avoid any conflict of interest.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 1/3/2022 11:44
Is there a difference between this and the handicap levels on earlier versions of Fritz? I'm still using Fritz 9, and if I put it on the right handicap level then I (~1800) can get reasonable games against it rather than get smashed every time. One thing it doesn't possess at the lower handicap levels is an ability to learn from its mistakes - if I catch it in an opening trap once I can play the same line repeatedly and catch it in the same trap every time, which gets boring after a while. There are also some oddities in its endgame play - on the lower levels it cannot mate with K+R vs K which every beginner learns, and it sometimes manages to lose K+R vs K+R by getting its rook trapped in the corner (e.g. WK g6, BK g8, BR h8, WR anywhere that threatens mate; Black's only move to avoid immediate mate is Ke8, then the check on the back rank skewers the king and rook). Does Fritz 18 iron out these flaws, so the handicap levels are closer to how a human of that rating might play?
Frederic Frederic 1/3/2022 04:10
@KjarHS. Check it out:
KjarHS KjarHS 1/3/2022 03:02
Grandmaster level is fine, but I'd be curious to see some examples of Fritz playing in the 1800-2000 range. Specifically when it comes to defending positions that are worse - and in particular technical endgames. If it makes completely stupid moves knowing it's already lost, there is zero value in this training. If it tries to put difficult practical questions in a more "human" way, then I'd consider this...