Learn sharp openings with Fritz 18

by Matthias Wüllenweber
11/24/2021 – After 30 years, chess programs are now gradually reaching a level at which one can reasonably play against them. With Fritz 18 you have an unprecedented opportunity to train and learn sharp openings, helping you master the tactical motifs that are otherwise invisible in the 'perfect play' of normal computer games. Fritz 18 will even help you set up tactical tricks and sacrifices for you to deliver!

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In every game, you will be guided through its subtle tips, and learn to become a strong player able to more easily refute your opponent's mistakes. You will experience the typical problems of the defender, have great fun learning openings, and experience the joy of playing brilliant games.

Does it make sense to memorize reams of theoretical variations that rarely appear on the board? What you really need is to feel so at home in certain position types that you master common motifs in your sleep. Unfortunately, the typical tactical elements and traps of sharp systems rarely appear in GM games, because the opening variations they play represent optimal play from both sides. However, theoretical variations are only the tip of the iceberg of what lies in a sharper position.

When a strong player is up against a weak player, typical attacking ideas and tactical motifs become much more visible, and that's exactly what happens when you play against Fritz 18. You are given the opportunity to conduct attacks that will often end in fireworks in your favor. 

In order to illustrate this, consider the example of four famous sharp systems. All games below were played using the "strong club player" level. 

1. The Marshall Attack

In the Spanish Marshall Attack, there are many opportunities that White can miss. Fritz always falls for a motif that appears in a surprising number of variations: As soon as the black rook comes to e6, sacrifices for minor pieces on f4 are in the air. For example, White has an unprotected rook e1, or the opening of the g-file allows the deadly Re6-g6.

The starting position for the training games is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Be3:


And here are two examples of the winning motif ...Nf4:


Example games:

(The games have brief comments, generated by Fritz while the game is being played).


2. Exchange sacrifice in the Grünfeld Exchange Variation

In the classic main system of the Grünfeld Exchange Variation, White can give up the rook on a1 for the bishop on g7, and weaken Black's king position. This is then torn open with e4-e5 (against Black's f7-f6) or h4-h5. This frequently works when Black is imprecise. Alternately, White forms a very strong d-passed pawn.

Starting position: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 Bg4 11.f3 Na5 12. Bd3 cxd4 13.cxd4 Be6 14.d5 Bxa1 15.Qxa1 f6 16.Bh6 Re8


The simplest trick: build up pressure on g6 and then play the breakthrough on e5. The bishop sacrifice on g6 then follows:


The attack with the undermining f6, to threaten mate on g7, is also typical:


Game examples:


3. Najdorf Poisoned Pawn Variation

The Poisoned Pawn Variation in the Sicilian Najdorf is a nightmare for Fritz 18, and there is no other way to put it. The king is so exposed in the middle that some kind of attacking setup always comes through. White can sacrifice comfortably. The standard threats then pile up in such a way that Fritz is virtually guaranteed to miss something.

Starting position: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.f5 Nc6 11.fxe6 fxe6 12.Nxc6 bxc6 13.e5 dxe5 14.Bxf6 gxf6


The well-known piece sacrifice on f6 is very effective (15.Ne4 Be7 16.Be2 h5 17. Rb3 Qa4 18.Nxf6 + Bxf6), in which the black king is wedged between the open d- and f-file. Then there are multiple decoy motives in order to open up deadly break-in squares for the white queen.


Game examples:


4. Old Najdorf main line with 6.Bg5

In the classical Najdorf White attacks e6 with f4-f5. The path of precise defense is then solid but narrow. Fritz 18 deviates inconspicuously, but reliably, from the right path. Just like your opponent in a blitz game, things then explode, most often on e6.

Starting position: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.g4 b5 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12. g5 Nd7 13.f5 Bxg5+


Two motifs with Nxe6:


Game examples:


If you analyze the training games for these four openings soberly with a "normal" engine, you naturally ask yourself: isn't Black sometimes playing a little recklessly? Well, if that seems too easy for you, just play a winning position with no tips to the end. That will help brings you down to earth.

Instructions for attack training with Fritz18

In the Fritz 18 start screen, click on "Easy Game" to enter the spectacular game mode. Select the level "Club Player" or "Strong Club Player", depending on your taste. On the “Club Player” level, Fritz sometimes overlooks an easier mate when he can take a piece away.

You now have various options to reach the starting position: You can, for example, “Switch Off Engine” (above under steps) and simply enter the moves. Then turn the engine back on and simply start playing for the side you want to play. This starts the game.

Likewise, you can copy a game from another program and insert it here with "Paste Game", or click on the trains in the LiveBook. Finally, you can fetch your repertoire using the standard Copy (Ctrl-C) and Paste (Ctrl-V) from the notation tab "My moves" and start playing from any point.

Games against Fritz 18 contain more tactics than you typically experience against human opponents, and with a halfway sensible game, there is at least one winning trick in every game. This is because Fritz 18 is secretly helping out. If there is a way to tactically go wrong with a move that is halfway plausible at first glance, then he will play it too. In this way, even losing positions can often be saved through stubborn resistance.

Speaking of which, don't forget that after the game you can use the numerous training tools in Fritz such as "Full analysis" or "Blunder Check" to see what opportunities you may have missed.

Have fun with this completely new form of training!

Matthias Wüllenweber, owner and chief-programmer at ChessBase
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Leavenfish Leavenfish 11/30/2021 01:57

"Full" is implies something approaching 'comprehensive'...'tactical' is clearly something less. But it is hard to do what a program like DECODE CHESS does so well. It is a shame that something like that is not in the Chessbase family of products.

It would be ideal within Chessbase itself which does precious little for your 'average' player to further their game.
Matthias Matthias 11/29/2021 04:35
Hi Leavenfish,

"Full Analysis" and Tactical Analysis are synonymous (not optimal, ok). Full Analysis started out as pure tactical analysis but over time more and more strategic elements have been added.

Best, Matthias
Leavenfish Leavenfish 11/27/2021 12:50
Or...am I completely missing something when it comes to 'Full Analysis' in Fritz 18?
Leavenfish Leavenfish 11/25/2021 05:47
One clicks on 'Full Analysis'...and is only offered 'Tactical Analysis'.
'Blunder Check' is right beside it...Tactical and Blunder sound a lot alike...but there is no 'Full' unless you have mislabeled things.
fad3r fad3r 11/25/2021 04:38
The blunder analysis is in pretty much unintelligible to me. It is doesnt seem as "accurate" as full analysis in 15. Maybe it is the lack of natural language, maybe it is the cold raw centipawn evalutation. I am not sure but I have tried it in all versions from 15 - 18 and haven't liked it. Also I ran into bugs with it in 18 (haven't tested since 18.2 came out). The future is moving to what decodechess is trying to do.

If I had a wish list for Chessbase it would be:

01) Bring back the 15 full analysis or at least create this as a new option for people who want to use it (maybe a legacy analysis checkbox in full analysis.)

02) Move more towards NLP based explanations of what is happening. Decode does this all right. It is early but things like that and aimchess are the future chess training with computers

03) Build in customized training programs based on user games (exactly what AimCess does)

04) Bring in Mac support because running it in a vmware computationally costly.

Chessbase used to be an indestructible giant like the Roman Empire and while you guys are still of king of the hill companies have sprung up to address weaknesses in the fortress (chessable, aimchess and decode all handle things that really could be handled by Chessbase or Fritz. For chessable you simple need SRS built into Fritz, for decode you simply need NLP based analysis, for AimChess, that is more challenging but you have the players games, it is simply building statistical analysis of it and then designing different form of tactical training to address the weakness).

Just my 2 cents as someone who has spent 1000s with your company and has close to every product.
Matthias Matthias 11/25/2021 09:36
Hi fad3r and Masquer,

interesting input. In our view, the full analysis in early versions produced a lot of noise. Meaning that it gave engine variations that did not really clarify what happened in the game. The new analysis tries to mimic how a human would annotate: Highlighting critical turning points, anticipating "what if" questions, setting diagrams for interesting moves or tactical motifs. Detect concepts like "Initiative", "Attack", "Counter Chances", etc.
But I can see your point. What about using the traditional Blunder Check analysis? That yields an engine line for every move.

Best, Matthias
Masquer Masquer 11/25/2021 07:45
+1 @fad3r Newer versions should provide better analysis features, not worse.
fad3r fad3r 11/24/2021 07:54
I wish you would bring the Full Analysis function you had in Fritz 15. It was superior to 16 - now. It let you choose the side and gave many lines. The one now does not let you choose the sides and barely writes anything. I keep fritz 15 solely for analyzing and 18 for playing.
Matthias Matthias 11/24/2021 07:28
Ouch, CRR, we are sorry. The update (with some improvements in the Full Analysis function) for that is in preparation.

CRR CRR 11/24/2021 07:12
I am lppking forward to playing & training with my new Fritz18, but I am also looking forward to a new version of F18 that allows activation of FritzTrainers, so they can be actually used for training & not just icons on display in Fritz18 database & non working! Anyway, thanks for this article.
Matthias Matthias 11/24/2021 03:23
Hi Leavenfish,

Evolving genius ("Easy Game") uses the Fritz18.ctg book. You could replace this with your own book. However I recommend simply somehow navigating to a position which you would like to train and then make a move. The game will then start.

Fritz can only credibly present you with tactical opportunities if you have managed to achieve a somewhat superior position. So your suggestion for small positional errors is right on spot. This is more or less the way it works.

Please note that it is quite difficult to repeat a game. The algorithm is non-deterministic. So repeated training games from a given position make sense.

Best, Matthias

PS: When trying to create an interesting game, I sometimes "cheat" by simply going back a few moves to a promising position and then probing an alternative continuation.

PPS: Check "Autoplay" and experience a kind of match between an engine playing correctly and "Evolving Genius". Can be quite entertaining. However a human player risking suboptimal attacking moves ("Tal") usually achieves nicer games.

PPPS: If you think that the estimated Elo is too high, play without any hints and switch off "Click & Check". That usually drops my Elo from 2600 to 1900 against "Strong Club Player".
Leavenfish Leavenfish 11/24/2021 02:55
While this is a great idea and has led me to purchase, I wonder why in this 'easy mode' (or even 'friendly mode') one is not able to follow even a self-created 'CTG Book' to target and simulate the very opening lines one would aim for in an OTB tournament? You seem to have described 'work arounds' at least.

I also wish you could simulate (I haven't tested enough admittedly) real human play by not just allowing tactical shots but making for occasional smaller positional 'errors'...2nd,3rd,4th (but not truly stupid) best moves by the engine to allow a human to try to exploit by non-tactical means...perhaps thus gaining a real edge where those tactics are more likely to happen.
thirteen thirteen 11/24/2021 01:18
Giant steps indeed, with great fun, but just as much seriousness as required, with these new learning adaptions. But in every single opening, from any position, black or white.