Workshop: Stretching your evaluation profile

2/22/2004 – Software in general, and chess programs in particular, have many undocumented features which are up to the users to find. Take for instance the evaluation profile of Fritz, a very useful training instrument to locate errors at a glance. Trouble is you cannot stretch the profile enough for some people's liking. Or can you? Roger Vermeir tells us how...

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Fritz: An interesting Evaluation Profile feature

by Roger Vermeir

Being a mediocre club player, one of the features I particularly like about the chess programs from the ChessBase family is the evaluation profile, which allows me to spot my mistakes at a glance. As my average opponent usually belongs to the same Elo range (you don't want to know the numbers, trust me), we still commit serious errors from time to time, making the yellow bar appear in the evaluation profile given by Fritz & friends. The 'problem' which then arises, is perfectly summarized by the note accompanying the screen shot below. We might see something like this:

As the program has switched to a full scale of eight pawns, we may not very well see the severity of the other errors we have committed.

If you are in the habit of writing elaborated tournament books, like I am, you may have tried to include the evaluation profile screen shot into your favourite word processor and then tried to stretch the drawing vertically. That would for example have the following result:

Notice not only that the text becomes slightly distorted, but also that we apparently do not get any more detailed information about the severity or number of mistakes earlier in the opening. That is due to the fact that we are actually trying to stretch pixels which aren't even there (because the original frame didn't show them when me made the screen shot). What we need is a way of 'stretching' the information at the time when it is generated, i.e. while entering the game in infinite analysis mode, or right after a blunder check (Fritz 8 or higher). Is this possible at all? The answer is a clear 'yes', as we will discover very soon.

When you start the Fritz family of chess programs, you may have chosen for a layout which includes the evaluation profile below the diagram of the chessboard. It may also be the case that the program starts with a rather tiny size of this evaluation pane, something like this:

Now that is real small, and no doubt you will have enlarged the evaluation pane yourself. However, whatever you try, you will not be able to increase the size beyond a certain limit (probably coded somehow in the GUI part of the chessprogram). The maximum you will get, may look like this:

For some people, this is still not what they want. However, as you probably know, you can not only stretch the size of the pane a little, but also grab it (the cursor becomes a grabbing hand, seen from the back) and drop it at another location inside the chess GUI.

Now the nice trick, something you may not know, is that you can drag the pane completely outside of the chess program's window, and drop it somewhere on your desktop, such that it becomes a 'Windows OS' window of its own, as you can see in the following partial screen shot:

You may need to try a few locations on your desktop before you succeed, but once you manage to get this far, you can resize this window to a much higher extent than the GUI would normally allow you to do. See the next screenshot:

Maybe you are now pleased with the extended size of the evaluation pane, and as you can see more details about weaker moves are being shown now (maybe the game I selected for this demonstration wasn't the most appropriate one, but I'm sure you are getting the picture)!

But probably you are a bit of a perfectionist like myself, and you don't want your desktop to be cluttered with an evaluation profile window, covering up your favourite chess application window? Well then, another trick comes in very handy now: by double-clicking on the title bar of this 'new' window, it disappears from the desktop, and gets restored inside the chess program's GUI, with its original size it had before the stretching operation.

Now, what good is that, you undoubtedly ask, if it gets back its original size we wanted to get rid of in the first place? Well, for some obscure reason (I bet even the ChessBase programmers still haven't found out ;-), after performing this entire operation meticulously, the GUI program has now 'forgotten' that there is supposed to be a maximum size for stretching the pane, and you can now resize the evaluation profile pane from inside the chess GUI, up to any size you prefer! Don't take my word for it, just look at the final screen shot (where I exaggerated the resizing a little bit):

Now this is what I call a (detailed) evaluation profile! You also notice that this time, the numbers in the pane are not distorted at all, and the X-axis is still a tiny line like it's supposed to be.

Let's hope this – until now undocumented? – feature doesn't disappear in the future releases of the ChessBase programs (and maybe it will even make its way into the online help).

I can assure you, from now on my chess colleagues who participate to the annual tournament I'm kind of responsible for, will get a tournament book with not only very detailed engine analysis and blunder checks, but also with awesome evaluation profiles where they can see every mistake, even those of sub-pawn magnitude, at a glance!

I would like to end this little workshop with a small copyrighted quote from Steve, hopefully small enough not to offend the netiquette:

Until next time, have fun!
Roger Vermeir


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