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Fritz12 tip – setting the strength to beginner levels (Friend mode)

In our last Fritz12 tip we examined ways to use “Handicap and fun” mode to get an easier game from the software. Today we’re going to see a separate way to challenge yourself a bit more while still having a chance to win (at least occasionally).

When you start Fritz12 and select “Play Fritz” from the splash screen, you can go to the Training menu and look for the “Training levels” section of the ribbon:

"Friend" mode is found in the "Training levels" section of the Training ribbon

You’ll see the command for “Friend” mode. But before we click on it we might want to ask, “What exactly does Friend mode do“?

Friend mode is something that’s known as an adaptive opponent. The chess software will attempt to alter its own strength so that it will play just a bit better than you do, but not overwhelmingly so. With repeated uses of the Friend mode option, over time the chessplaying software will adjust (or “adapt”) its strength so that you will win 20%-25% of your games against it (in other words, once in every four or five games). This may not sound like a lot, but (human) chess trainers recommend this as the ideal ratio; you’ll win just enough to know that it’s possible, while not losing so often that you become discouraged.

The first time you click on the “Friend mode” command, you’ll see the following dialogue appear:

The Friend mode dialogue in Fritz12

“Games” shows the total number of games you’ve played against the software. Your win percentage is displayed beside “Score”. Obviously both of these values will be zeroes until you actually play a game in Friend mode.

Your “Handicap” score will also be a zero until you finish a game. This value has a dual purpose. The higher the value the weaker the chess engine will play. The value represents how much material the program will “spot” you and is expressed in 1/100ths of a pawn. So, for example, if you have a handicap of 200 it means that the software will blunder away two pawns to you, after which it will begin to play at close to full strength. In other words, Fritz will “spot” you two pawns and then start playing full bore. If the handicap is even higher (300 or 500) the program will try to lose a minor piece or Rook to you before “turning on the juice”.

That’s the first purpose of the Handicap score. Note, too, that the handicap can be manually adjusted; you can type a value of your choosing into the box. The primary purpose of this would be to reset the value to zero if desired, but you may set any value you wish. If you don’t reset the value, you will see it rise and fall from game to game depending on your results; the more you win, the lower the handicap score (and the software will alter its playing strength accordingly).

The second purpose of the score applies only if you don’t reset the score manually; the score will act a a means of comparison, sort of like a golf handicap. Just as two chessplayers meeting for the first time will often ask “What’s your rating?”, you’ll often hear two newly-acquainted golfers say “What’s your handicap?”

That’s the second purpose of the Friend mode handicap value. Stronger chessplayers will often have negative handicap values, so a lower negative score will give that player “bragging rights” over a player with a higher handicap score. (There is no other purpose to a negative handicap score — Fritz12 will not artificially weaken its play at a zero or lower handicap value as it will with positive values. There will be no difference in Fritz’ play between a “0” handicap and a “-600” handicap.)

Finally, the “Program plays fast” box cuts down on the chess engine’s thinking time.

So players who wish for a bit more of a challenge than “Handicap and fun” provides are encouraged to try Fritz12’s “Friend” mode. Even very strong chessplayers can benefit from it by gaining “bragging rights” from possessing a low handicap score.

You can learn more about Fritz12 at ChessCentral’s main web page.

Have fun! — Steve


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