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Pleasing the Schoolmaster

Pleasing the Schoolmaster

Jan 5, 2010, 7:04 PM 2

In the world of computerized Chess analysis, I have found Chessbase’s champ, Fritz, to be the terrifying mentor of would-be GMs everywhere. You see, while your typical Chess program approaches the user with the air of a well-meaning tutor, one eager to see his pupil improve at his difficult Chess studies, Fritz is closer to a drill instructor or a fierce schoolmaster who considers every mistake on the part of his pupil to be a personal affront to his honor. For example, while Ubisoft’s Chessmaster might indicate a less than savory move as a “miscue”, Fritz often lashes out at the pupil with abandon. Some of my favorite gems include comments that I was “crumbling under pressure”, “making it easy for Black/White”, that I “cannot undo what has already been done” (did I murder someone?!?) and my personal favorite, critiquing a move I made with an alternative suggestion and the snarky comment “What else?” Not content to stop there, Fritz likes to also take out its red pen and lavishly mark-up my paper with a string of ‘?’ [mistake] and ‘??’ [blunder] annotations.

Every time I submit a game for analysis, I always feel like I am back in my high school geometry class, submitting my latest comical attempt at reasoning out one of those inscrutable “proofs”. I just know that what I am going to get back from the teacher isn’t going to be pretty. Can you blame me for fearing the program ?

It’s for this reason that the following Fritz analysis almost made me weep with joy. In the following game, I have black against an opponent who had thoroughly cleaned my clock in a previous match-up (I still pale when thinking about Fritz’s critique of that game).


I really don’t know what got into Fritz. Perhaps this was a belated Christmas present from my silicon mentor? Who knows. All I do know is that this report card is getting put up on the refrigerator! Cool I guess I can now start a new quest for a "!!" [brilliant] remark from Fritz....

PS: The “beautiful” comment belongs as much to my opponent as it does to me. In the words of David Bronstein:

“The act of playing chess is an act of creative cooperation. Even though you're trying to defeat your opponent, you're still creating something in partnership with him, a brand new game. Whether that creation is ultimately beautiful or ugly makes no difference, the aesthetics don't matter - you're still teaming up to make a game that's never been played before.”


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