In continuing our examination of the post game chess analysis provided by the Fritz family of playing programs (Fritz, Rybka, Hiarcs, Junior, and Shredder), I’m going to use an example from one of my own recent games to illustrate how these chess engines can simultaneously provide you with both specific and general information.
I won this game, but it wasn’t though any brilliant play on my part; in fact, I really loused up this opening, which is made worse by the fact that it’s an opening which I play regularly. Let’s have a look…
The game is a Budapest Gambit; I’m playing the Black pieces (my friends joke that the only way to stop me from sacrificing a pawn in the opening is to glue all of them to their starting squares). After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Qd5 we hit the following position:
Now I’m not a walking repository of opening variations in the Budapest, but I do know that 4.Qd5 isn’t a “book” move; in fact, the post-game analysis of Hiarcs13 (the engine I used to analyze this game) shows the notation “last book move” after my third move. So I’m already having to think for myself in this game. I’ve studied the Budapest’s general ideas and know that Black’s usual course of action is to continue his development by piling up on the e5-pawn and/or making threats against f2. The move …Bc5 is right out (because of the White Queen’s unorthodox move), so I went with 4…Nc6.
Here’s what Hiarcs says about the game up to this point:
We see that my third move was indeed the “last book move” (at least as far as Fritz Powerbook 2011 was concerned), that White unorthodox 4.Qd5 didn’t really hurt his position, and that my choice of 4…Nc6 keeps things pretty well-balanced. We also see that Hiarcs didn’t find an improvement over …Nc6 (at least not one that was 0.30 pawns [my choice for “Threshold” setting] better than what I actually played).
How do I double-check the validity of 4…Nc6? I did this in two ways. From the position after 4.Qd5 I had Hiarcs13 analyze the position (in “Infinite analysis” mode) and display the top six moves. Hiarcs indicates that the top four moves for Black (which include 4…Nc6) are all evaluated within 12/100ths of a pawn of each other, meaning that any of those moves would have been adequate for Black (although the top move was 0.12 better than my move, that’s such a close shave as to be essentially meaningless in human play; no carbon-based life form is going to be able to discern that minute a difference).
The second thing I did was do a database search (across multiple databases) for the position after 4.Qd5. I discovered fewer than a dozen games in which White made that Queen move, none from top-level play, and Black played 4…Nc6 in most of them. (And the really cool part was that one of the Black players is an old friend of mine who is a very good over the board and correspondence player, and he, too, had played 4…Nc6 here). So at this point I can reasonably note for future reference that if I see this move again when I choose the Budapest, I can feel confident in playing 4…Nc6.
But then my game started going south:
With his fifth move, my opponent made a questionable choice and the “advantage pendulum” swung over to my side. But then I made a move which can only be termed a bad, bad, bad blunder. (This, by the way, will illustrate the reason why I recommended that you have a chess engine analyze a game as soon as possible after you play it.) I played 5…Ncxe5 instead of Hiarcs’ suggested move 5…d6.
Notice the evaluations between 5…Ncxe5 and 5…d6; the move I chose was actually about two pawns worse than what Hiarcs suggests, and it was only the pure luck of my opponent’s subsequent questionable choice which saved me from suffering a losing disadvantage on the spot.
The sad part is that I remember actually considering 5…d6 during the game and rejecting it (as well as the far safer 5…Ngxe5), but passing it up for a reason. Remember how I’d said that two aims of the Budapest were to pile up on the e5 pawn (and, hopefully, win back the sacrificed pawn), plus pressure/attack f2? I still had this weird idea that I’d be able to play …Bc5 at some point and double up on f2, so I didn’t want to play …d6 and block my Kingside Bishop, nor capture with the g4-Knight. The problem is that I was thinking strategically (and incorrectly at that) instead of tactically, ignoring that White’s h-pawn push (which he thankfully didn’t play) would wreck my game. The move …Nb4 would have been better for me based on what I thought I was trying to accomplish. And if you look ahead down the page, you’ll note that I made a couple of other opening errors later, but none as bad as my fifth move choice.
So why did I screw up? Pure complacency, first of all, as I saw that my opponent was not playing “by the book” but also not playing especially effective moves. Second, I was trying to apply opening principles to a position in which those principles were no longer applicable.
In just the first half-dozen moves of a game analyzed by a chess engine, I’ve learned several things – one of them a “small picture” (specific) item and the others are “big picture” (general) items. The small picture item is that I’ve learned a better way to play against the unorthodox move 4…Qd5, which does come up a fair little bit when I play the Budapest against players who aren’t all that familiar with it; I can tuck away the ideas of 4…Nc6 followed by …d6 in the back of my mind for when I need them later.
The big picture stuff? First of all, I need to crank my tactics training up a notch or so; the next time I’ll remember which Knight I should use for the capture. Second, I need to review the ideas behind the Budapest Defense, because I followed the ideas for one specific branch of the opening when I should have been looking at others which I failed to remember; I really need to take a step back and look at the core ideas (not variations) of the various branches of the Budapest again to refresh my memory. And, third, I need to keep in mind something I already know (and just wasn’t thinking about) – that no matter how badly your opponent plays a game, he’s not going to just hand it to you, and that you always have the potential to play worse than he’s playing if you allow yourself get complacent (if Dr. Lasker were here, he’d no doubt be kicking me right now).
And I learned all of this based on a chess engine’s analysis of just the first half-dozen moves of this game.
Later in the game I did let a middlegame opportunity slip, but aside from that I did play much better as the game progressed and I went on to win. According to Hiarcs, my endgame technique was just fine. So right now it’s some tactics training and a refresher on positional themes in the Budapest for me; later, I’ll need to work on something else, and it’ll doubtless again be a chess engine which will point me in that right direction.
I hope you’ll profit from this example of how a chess engine can show you how you can improve, not only in the “small picture” of specific circumstances but also in the “big picture” of general defects and weaknesses in your play. And I’m not proud – I have no problem with using my own mistakes as examples in the hope that they’ll help you better use the Fritz “family” of chessplaying programs.
Have fun! – Steve Lopez
Chessplayers who have purchased their ChessBase brand chess computer software from USCFSales can receive free technical support and advice on their purchases straight from me; just shoot me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), but please remember to include the USCFSales order number from your ChessBase software purchase. – Steve
Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.