We all know that chess programs become extremely popular among players of all levels. But what’s so great about all these modern Rybka, Fritz, Junior, Crafty, Shredder and zillion of other chess engines? How to use these chess monsters to improve your game? If you’re interested to know answers to questions above keep reading.
The very first thing that chess programs gives you is ability to play against itself infinitely, anytime you want even at 2 a.m. on Friday. It means you can play against it every time and watch your progress going. You do not need to play against full strength 2900 rated Deep Fritz if you are 1300 rated. Of course you can play couple of games for fun, but I bet because of such a huge rating gap you would not even understand why you keep loosing on 20th move game after game. You will not learn much this way. It’s like trying to race Ferrari on an old style bicycle. Instead of being steamrolled over and over again by 2900 rated Fritz, adjust its strength level to something more realistic.
Let’s say +300 points should work well. Meaning that if your rating is 1300 you should set engine to 1300 + 300 pts.= 1600 to have decent chances.Keep track of you game results and go over the games by yourself and with full strength program to find mistakes on both sides. That’s a great feature of most chess programs – ability to show its analyzes of certain position. It means program will point out where you or your opponent went wrong, so you can learn on these mistakes and improve your future game. When you start beating program on certain level increase its strength and move up.
What else can you do with chess engine besides playing and analyzing? You can play against it but not the normal way. Good exercise recommended by many chess professionals is to set up an endgame position say King + 8 Pawns vs. King + 6 Pawns, set up engine to maximum strength this time and play for strongest side (the one with 8 pawns) and see if you can beat the machine. When you start beating program, add couple of knights or rooks and try again. It’s a great exercise which helps you to understand endgame and pawn structures in practical way.
Another fun and at the same time helpful way to enhance your positional and tactical understanding is to play against full strength program with odds. Remove a pair of rooks, queen or if you are stronger player a knight and try beating 2900 ELO Fritz. About a year ago I was practicing the same way against Chessmaster 10th full strength. Chessmaster was playing with no pawns at all which gave the program instant attack, but I survived and even managed to win the game. Try it when you have some free time. It’s not as easy as it seems.
Computer program can be the most patient teacher or strongest opponent you can imagine. Nowadays programs offer a lot of optional features such as solvable puzzles, endgame studies, tactics drills, opening lectures and even video lectures from top GMs.
Take advantage of all the technologies available today in order to improve your understanding of chess. Get a couple of (a dozen?) chess programs for you computer.
You can get free versions of programs like Rybka and Zappa first. Then you decide which is better and buy “normal” one if you feel that you need it.
In case you don’t want to spend time installing chess engines on your PC you can always enjoy our Little Chess Partner online.