Including one of the strongest commercially available chess engines worldwide, Fritz 8 offers novice and expert players alike unlimited hours of enjoyment, study and competition. Whether a new player intent on learning the intricacies of this ancient strategy game or a world-renowned grandmaster using various analysis tools to sharpen skills before a rated tournament, Fritz 8 gives all players a huge number of customizable options and features.
Within literally minutes of installing the software, players can compete against the computer, go online to compete against opponents from around the globe or simply watch opponents from any country in the world face off across this ancient battlefield of 64 squares. Every aspect of the game of chess, ranging from the type of board and notation used to multi-level training and built-in voice feedback is available. Beginners can benefit from an introductory course, while more advanced players can study opening, middle, and endgame strategies -- an immense database of more than half a million games is stored for immediate use by all players, including classic games ranging from 1749 through 2002.
Just a few of the customization tools include features like five distinct modes of play (blitz, long, sparring, friendly, and handicap), each with many adjustable parameters, help in multiple forms (spy, threatened squares, hints, take back options, and more), a comprehensive opening book repertoire, and tactical advice. The level of help players receive from the program varies according to personal preference, from setting Fritz to play like a moron (one of nine pre-configured selectable levels) to unleashing the full power of no-holds barred grandmaster-level gameplay.
Analysis options range from deep position to blunder searches, comparative analyses between chess engines, solving for checkmate, classifying openings, and much more. In addition to the Fritz 8 chess engine, the program also offers Comet B50, Crafty 19.01, and Fritz 5.32 versions, multiple chess notation save formats, more than a dozen languages, various clock styles and computer "thinking" parameters, and an option to input user-created UCI (Universal Chess Interface) engines. Players can build personal databases, an ELO rating, or sign in as beginner, hobby, or club player.
The Fritz 8 chess game is a powerful teacher of chess, and also a powerful opponent. Many times during my tests I felt like a grandmaster was sitting the room with me, analyzing my every move. I can safely say that I am a better chess player because of my experience with Fritz 8.
When you load up Fritz 8, you can instantly begin playing. But before you do, you probably want to set up the levels of skill that best match your playing style. I found that in automatic matching mode, Fritz did a good job of keeping up with my skill level. It never stomped me outright and never was a pushover either. But I did prefer to set Fritz the way I wanted.
The game is highly customizable. You can tell it to favor moving its queen for example, which is a common thing rookie players do. Or you can setup Fritz to play using a certain style, like Desperado or Drunk. In this manner, you can ensure that every game is different. It's also fun to set Fritz to "Moron" level and pretty much ensure yourself a victory. At the hardest levels, I never came close to beating it, but at least I learned a lot about the game.
Visually, the game is excellent, especially for a chess title. There are several different boards you can play on, most of which look pretty real, and a few that deliberately don't look real, but are very cool. The realistic looking boards, the ones I liked to play on, were nice because it was easy to envision an actual chess board in front of me.
You simply use your mouse to move your pieces. I have heard that some grandmasters don't like to use the mouse, and Fritz 8 compensates for this. You can type commands into the keyboard to signal pieces to move. You use standard chess lingo to accomplish this, and the game even interprets your typing and will move the piece as soon as you get enough of your command entered. For example, if you are telling the system to move your knight to a certain row, and there is only one legal move there, you probably won't need to type the full command before it gallops off. I did not like this method of control, but it is nice to see the game is built for all styles of play.
The best feature of the game is the tutorial aspect of Fritz 8. During the game or after the game, you can have the program comment on your moves. This can be as subtle as asking "what did I do wrong" whereupon the system will scan for obvious blunders you made. Or you can have the game comment while you are playing, which can sometimes be annoying but really adds to the excitement. It's just hard to make a move and then have the commentator say, "This throws away the game!" or "Why didn't white play pawn takes rook?"
Interestingly enough, you can also have Fritz analyze a particular position on the board, ignoring the rest of the game. If you think you have moved your bishop into an ingenious spot, you can ask Fritz to check your logic. It will generate a tree showing all your possible moves from that point and all the opponents' possible counters. It will then look at the different moves, and depending on how you set the engine, and give you suggestions as to how to best proceed.
The game will also look at your database of previous games and determine your Elo rating, which is how you can determine how good you are at the game compared to others. Strong players can score around 2,000. A grandmaster might score about 2,700 or even a bit more. You can select which games to look at when determining the Elo rating, so you can see over time if you are getting better as you play.
The most amazing thing about Fritz 8 is that it can be played at different levels. You can load the game and start playing without any other intervention, have a good time and be evenly matched with Fritz. Or you can drill down and really set up the specific parameters you want to analyze and critique your game. Because of this, Fritz 8 is suitable for hardcore chess fans and those that simply enjoy a good game.
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