Using Fritz Powerbook to find opening deviations

Fritz Powerbook has a number of different uses: it can be an expanded opening book for the Fritz family of playing programs, it can be a statistical tool for researching openings, it can be used for finding opening transpositions. Yet another interesting use for Powerbook is to find the spots in your own games where you or your opponent departed from “known” opening practice.

I’ll be using ChessBase 11 for this example, but you can easily do this with Fritz as well. The first step, of course, is to make sure Powerbook is loaded as your default opening book (by going to the “round button” Application menu, selecting “Open”, then “Opening book” from the submenu, and selecting Powerbook). Then load the game you want to check:

I dug way back in ye old archives to select a game from about a dozen years ago. After looking at this game, I remembered my thoughts as I was playing it. We’d both started with our kingside Knights and sort of “backed into” a King’s Indian Defense. I wondered then, and still wonder now, how far along the game progressed according to “book” lines.

(For those readers unfamiliar with the technology, “book” is chess slang for recognized opening theory, that is, known variations from books like Modern Chess Openings and the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings. “Book” can also refer to theory which is personally known to a player, e.g. “When he brought out the Bishop at move 8, I didn’t recognize the move – he took me out of ‘book’.”)

It’s pretty easy to use Powerbook to find the place where you “left book”. First click on the “Openings book” tab at the top of the Notation pane to display the move list from Powerbook:

You’ll see the first move of your game highlighted. Now just hit the right cursor (right arrow) key on your keyboard (or use the right arrow VCR button under the chessboard):

to advance the game one move. You’ll now see the next move of the game highlighted in the Powerbook list:

Just keep advancing through the game one move at a time until you come to a move which appears at the end of the game list and for which no statistics are displayed:

This is the point at which either you or your opponent played a “non-book” move, generally the point at which your game has departed from known opening theory. In the illustration above, we see that my opponent was the first to leave “book” when she played 8.Bd2.

However, it’s often worthwhile to play a few more moves ahead; sometimes your game transposes back into known territory. You’ll know this has happened if you suddenly see a highlighted move with statistical information to the right of its listing in Powerbook. But if your game doesn’t transpose back into known lines, move backward through the game (using the left cursor key or the “left arrow” VCR button) to return to the move at which one player departed from book.

There’s a reason why we’re doing this. We can actually annotate our own games “on the fly” by using our Fritz Powerbook.

First, click on the first listed move in the Powerbook display (which would be 8.O-O in the illustration), or use the “up arrow” cursor key on your keyboard to move up the list until that first move is highlighted, then hit the “Enter” key. The move will be made on the chessboard and you’ll see the following popup:

Click the “New variation” button. You’ll then see the list of replies to the move you just clicked (or “Entered”) on:

Keep advancing through the game until Powerbook comes to the end of the variation and runs out of moves:

Now click on the Notation tab:

…and you’ll see that the moves have been added to your game as a replayable variation. If you want to save this variation into the game, go to the Application menu (the round button in the screen’s upper left hand corner), and select “Save”, then “Replace” from the submenu.

Note that you can also display the opening book’s contents and your game’s notation simultaneously in separate panes. Just go to the “View” menu and select “Extra book pane” from the “Panes” portion of the ribbon:

You’ll see an additional Book pane appear on the screen beside the Notation pane; now you can view both the game notation and the Powerbook contents at the same time:

I’m a big fan of manually stepping through Fritz Powerbook to see where opening deviations appear in games. You can learn a lot about the openings in this manner; for example, you’ll also be able to see which of your “book” moves weren’t necessarily the most popular or most effective choice. has Fritz Powerbook 2011 in stock and available now!

Have fun! – Steve Lopez

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.



Filed under chess, Chess software, ChessBase, Fritz Powerbook

3 responses to “Using Fritz Powerbook to find opening deviations

  1. Pingback: Automatic opening citations in ChessBase 11 | USCFSales

  2. tommyg

    Hi Steve!

    I was slow at first to appreciate chessbase BUT I am now in love with Chessbase 9 (the premium lite version!) Having upgraded to the premium lite version I have been making much use of opening reports, creating my own opening books on certain openings and using the material finder to study endgames and even middle games(thanks to many of your earlier tutorials!)

    I have a question regarding the Fritz Powerbook. I have been thinking of getting it but if I can put together opening books on each opening from the Big Database 2010 do I really need the powerbook? I also have a subscription to the Hiarcs opening book that gets updated every 3 months or so.

    I am just curious. And thanks for all of your earlier tutorials. As I said above, I was slow to appreciate Chessbase but I can’t imagine studying chess without it!!

    • With Powerbook, you get two separate books. One is composed of all current opening theory with the bad or “junk” moves weeded out manually — which is the big plus of owning Powerbook. Bad moves from U12 world championships and the like, even though they’re part of the corpus of chess history and thus will appear in “the historical record” (e.g. Big and Mega Database) have been removed. The other book on the Powerbook DVD is a subset taken from master & GM play.

      Individual opening books are great for practicing specific openings (I make them myself all the time, especially for statistical analysis). I like (and use) Powerbook, too, because when you start a game with one of the Powerbook opening libraries loaded you never know what the computer will throw at you (just like the situation in actual tournament play).

      The Hiarcs book is designed to be used with Hiarcs to optimize that chess engine’s play (just as the case with the Rybka book), so it won’t necessarily reflect the range of openings you’ll find in human tournament play, just the openings which will maximize the specific engine’s chances.

      Thanks for writing! I’m glad that you’re finding ChessBase useful (and I’m happy that I could help).

      Best — Steve Lopez

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