Tweaking Fritz - PART 2

5/11/2008 – The second in a series of columns on "Fritz11 tweaks" discusses some of the options found under the "Game" tab, specifically those which control when the Fritz program will resign or accept a draw. You can find more in the latest ChessBase Workshop.

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In the previous ChessBase Workshop we began a tour of the wide range of tweaks which can be found in Fritz11's Options menu. This go-round we'll examine another tab in this dialogue: the Game tab.

To refresh your memory, go to the Tools menu in Fritz11's main chessboard screen, and select "Options" from this menu. When the Options window appears, click on its "Game" tab to get this view:

The first box is labelled "Resign"; this portion of the dialogue lets you control how willing Fritz will be to resign in a losing position during a game you're playing against the chess engine. This is actually a pretty significant tweak; I've often received e-mails from players who wish to practice late endgame/mating techniques and find it frustrating when Fritz resigns "too soon". This is the portion of the Options dialogue in which you can control that tendency on the part of the program.

Obviously, selecting "Never" means that the program never throws in the towel no matter what (and this is equally obviously the setting which the players I described in the previous paragraph will wish to use). With the radio button beside "Never" selected, you'll need to mate Fritz in order to beat it; the chess engine won't quit.

"Late" and "Early" are, of course, relative terms. "Early" means that the program will fairly readily resign when it evaluates the current position as losing for itself by a (relatively) narrow margin. If you select "Late" instead, the program will often play on a bit more tenaciously before tipping its King.

If you're interested in the technical details behind the Fritz software's decision to resign, it really has everything to do with the engine's numerical evaluation. With "Early" selected, the Fritz program will resign if it sees it's behind by 4.8 pawn units (or more) three moves in a row. So you'll need to be ahead by about a Rook, or two minor pieces, or a minor and a couple of pawns, or some combination of material and positional criteria exceeding 4.8 pawns (and maintain that advantage for at least three consecutive turns) before Fritz calls it quits with the "Early" setting selected. With "Late" selected, you'll need to be ahead by a larger margin (although still for just three consecutive turns); the margin must be at least 6.5 pawns (or the material/positional equivalent) when you've clicked the radio button beside "Late".

The same general idea applies to the "Draw" setting. This toggle controls Fritz' willingness to agree when you click "Offer draw" (found in the Game menu or activated by hitting CTRL-D during a game). Note that this setting has nothing whatsoever to do with "forced" draws (i.e. draws which are manditory by the rules of chess): stalemate, threefold repetition, or the fifty-move rule. This toggle just controls Fritz' reaction when you use the "Offer draw" command (although Fritz' seeing an unavoidable draw in its analysis does come into play here).

Selecting "Never" under "Draw" means that Fritz will absolutely never accept a draw offer; the only way to draw against the chess engine will be to "force" one by means listed in the previous paragraph. "Early" means that the program will accept a draw fairly readily (in fact, it might even accept one when it's slightly ahead, and by "slightly" I mean ahead by less than a pawn -- Fritz isn't stupid). "Late" means that the program won't accept a draw unless the position's been dead even for a while and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future.

There are two somewhat related toggles present under the "Game" tab. These are "Single-click entry" and "Premove"; both allow you some measure of control over how quickly you can enter moves with the mouse, which can be especially critical during games played under blitz and bullet time controls.

"Single-click entry" has three settings. "Normal" allows you to click on a square instead of picking up a piece with the mouse and moving it to a square. Basically, if you click on a square and only one of your pieces can move to that square, that move will be executed as soon as you click on the square in question. What happens if more than one piece can move to that square? The software has no way to know which piece you intend to move, so nothing will happen; you'll still need to click first on the piece and move it to the intended square. (You can also "quick castle" if short castling is legal; clicking on your back-rank g-square will automatically castle if the move's still legal).

There's also an "Aggressive" setting under "Single-click entry". This is identical to "Normal" with two important differences. First, if you click on a square to which more than one piece can move, the software will select the piece which last moved. This is pretty good for late-game motifs like King hunts (if, unfortunately, you're the hunted) or pawn marches down the board. The second difference occurs if you click a piece (instead of a square) and that piece can capture an opposing unit; the program will automatically make the capture move for you.

Finally (and obviously), selecting the radio button next to "Off" turns Single-click entry off completely.

"Premove" is an interesting technique which is useful for computer games: you can enter an entire sequence of moves (during your opponent's turn) and have them executed automatically by the software. Let's look at an example: you might have a pawn on h3 whose promotion is unstoppable by your opponent's pawns and King. While your opponent is taking his time deciding on his next move, you might click the h3-pawn and "advance it" to h4 (which won't actually move the pawn yet but will instead display a green arrow between the two squares). You can continue the process by making these "phantom" pawn moves in sequence until you finish with h7-h8. After your opponent finally moves, the software will make the h3-h4 move automatically, and will advance the pawn square by square to h8 after each of your opponent's moves.

If you change your mind and want to retract your series of "pre-moves", just right-click anywhere on the chessboard.

As a side note, I find the "pre-move" concept to be an interesting one in computer/online chess. More than a decade ago I recall reading a tip in Simon Webb's book Chess for Tigers advocating saving time in over-the-board tournaments by writing down entire move sequences on your scoresheet in advance. The problem with this tip was that it was an entirely illegal practice in both USCF and BCF events (it actually violated two rules: one which disallowed "pre-recording" moves and the other which disallowed the use of written notes). So I find it interesting that a somewhat analogous practice is provided for in present-day software. Of course, you do take a chance when using pre-move in the event that an opponent plays something entirely unexpected.

A third (non-toggled) Fritz feature involves a practice called "dropping". You can pick up a piece with the mouse while waiting for your computer opponent to move, and "hover" the piece over the intended destination square. The instant the opponent makes a move, you can just drop the held piece onto the destination, thereby making a move that takes a negligable amount of clock time (here again, though, you run the risk of making a bad mistake in case the opponent plays something surprising). Just try "dropping" in an over-the-board game; it's a sure-fire way to get your hand slapped!

We'll continue our look at the "Game" tab the next time around in ChessBase Workshop, since one of the features will require a fair bit of exposition to adequately cover. Until then, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. No tech support questions, please.

© 2008, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

Topics f11
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