We’ve already discussed a couple of Fritz12’s training modes, both of which were very suitable for beginners. A third training mode, Sparring mode, is for players who are intermediate (“club”) level or higher.
To enter Fritz12’s Sparring mode, you just select it from the “Training” ribbon as shown here:
After clicking on this button you’ll see the following dialogue appear:
Before we proceed, we should talk about Sparring mode’s purpose. Normally a chess engine will try to avoid giving you any tactical opportunites; this is why some chess players define chess engines as “useless” for tactical training. In normal playing modes, these players are absolutely right — a chess engine is programmed to snuff out a human player’s tactical options.
But Sparring mode, in some regards, works “backwards” from the way a chess engine normally “thinks”. When the engine spots a tactical opportunity for you somewhere ahead in its search it steers toward that position instead of away from it. And, if you wish, Fritz will even flash a light on the board to alert you of the opportunity’s presence!
To have Fritz display that warning light, make sure the “Point out wins” box is checked in the Sparring mode dialogue (pictured above). When you start the game, you will see a green “dashboard” light displayed just below the chessboard:
This light will switch from green to red whenever it’s your move and you have a nice tactical shot in the current position.
How do you fine-tune the “tactical sensitivity” of this feature? After all, a GM won’t need Fritz to point out a two-move tactic which wins a Knight, while the typical club player isn’t usually going to spot a fairly baroque six-move combo.
That’s where the radio buttons under “Difficulty” in the above dialogue come into play. These don’t tweak Fritz’ playing strength (as some users erroneously believe) but instead control the types of combinations and tactics Fritz will steer itself toward.
Setting the “Difficulty” to “Very easy” means that Fritz will steer toward easy-to-spot tactics, such as 2- to 3-move combinations. This setting is designed for average club chessplayers (around 1400-1500 Elo). “Really hard” is for GM-level players who wish to spar against the Fritz software; the engine will steer away from minor tactical shots (as a chess engine normally does) and instead look for far longer, more complicated combinations into which to steer itself. “Normal” is the middleground and is intended for the higher-level club players (such as Class A or Expert USCF players).
Don’t forget that the use of the red warning light is entirely at your option. Note, though, that if you choose to not display the “dashboard” light, the phrase “You missed something” will appear in Fritz12’s game notation at points where you missed the tactical shot and played something different.
Have fun! — Steve
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