The 'Spy' in Fritz

by ChessBase
8/27/2009 – Fritz 11's "Spy" function is sometimes misunderstood and often underutilized by amateur players for whom the feature is intended. Learn more about "Spy" – a sort of "mega Threat" function, which is always switched on, in the newest ChessBase Workshop.

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Continuing our exploration of Fritz11 features aimed at beginning chessplayers...

In the last ChessBase Workshop we examined Fritz11's "Threat" feature and had a close look at what constitutes a "threat" in chess. Our definition of "threat" is a simple one: a threat is what a player would do if he could move twice in a row. That's what's displayed by the "threat" function in Fritz11. Using the time parameter the user sets (under Tools/Options/Game), the Fritz software displays an arrow on the chessboard indicating the move which the chess engine intends to make next.

"Threat" is a great function, always there when you need it -- you just click on the command, wait a few moments, and you see what Fritz intends to play. But what if you need a little more help? When you're a real novice, someone who hasn't been playing chess very long at all, you need a bit more guidance than someone who's been playing longer. Having to repeatedly click on the "Threat" command every move can be monotonous.

Fortunately there's a solution: an "always-on" version of "Threat" (which also has an extra bonus thrown into the mix). You can go to the Help menu and select "Spy":


By the way, you can always go to the Help menu to check if the "Spy" feature is switched "on" -- if it's "on", you'll see a check beside it in the menu:


What does this feature actually do? Very simply, Spy shows what the engine intends to do next by a red arrow on the board, just as you'll see in the "Threat" function:


In the above illustration, the actual move Fritz (Black) played is shown with a yellow arrow, while the threatened move appears in red.

So how does this differ from "Threat"? There are two key differences:


  1. Unlike "Threat" (which must be re-activated each time you wish to see the threat displayed), Spy is "always on" until you turn it off;
  2. In positions without obvious tactical threats, Spy will actually update itself as the chess engine looks deeper into the position -- the displayed threat (the arrow on the board) will change if the chess engine "changes its mind" about what it intends to do next.
This second difference is actually pretty significant. Unlike "Threat", which uses the same "Calculation time" parameters as the "Coach" feature, Spy will run continuously "in the background" and update its display as it discovers new ideas in the current position.

Of course, switching Spy "on" isn't a permanent state. You can always switch it off simply by going to the Help menu and clicking on the "Spy" command again to remove the check beside it.

Spy is certainly a great help, especially to newer players who need the extra coaching (as discussed in last week's ChessBase Workshop). We're going to look at a different beginner feature in the next column -- until then, 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.


© 2009, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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