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Fritz12/Rybka4 tip – Draws and Resignations

I’m cursed with a long memory, which is relevant to this post because of a conversation I had at a chess club nearly twenty years ago.

I friends of mine was bitterly complaining ab0ut a fellow member of our club (“fellow” being loosely defined here, as the player in question was a gal). My friend was in high dudgeon over the way this lady played the game they’d just finished.

“I was a Queen up and she refused to resign! She made me play it out!”

“So what?” I replied.

“‘So what’???!!!??? I have a higher rating than she does — she should have known she had no chance!”

I would’ve countered that it was that exact attitude that kept her playing on (as Dr. Lasker said, the hardest thing to do is to win a “won” game), but I decided to not bother — this guy always acted like a dog with a bone in any argument and I knew there’d be no convincing him.

To me, the issue here runs deeper than the “etiquette” of knowing when to resign. It’s more an issue of “my opponent doesn’t play the way I want him/her to play”, and I see this happen in many games other than chess. Whether you, I, or anyone else likes it or not, the fact of the matter is that (aside from pointing it out if they cheat) we really don’t get a say in how our opponents play. If, for example, I’m playing chess with you and I’m behind by a whole passel of material, nothing says that I must resign; it’s my privilege to make you “prove” the win by playing it out to mate if I want to do so. Likewise if I’m beating you by a large amount of material, you are well within your rights to make me show that I know how to force the win. That’s just how it works, vague notions of “etiquette” notwithstanding.

However, I do know of one instance in which you can exercise near-total control over your chess opponent’s behavior when it comes to resignations and draws: the Fritz12/Rybka4 interface. If you’re a player who hates to take the time to “prove” an obvious win or to play out a dead draw, you’ll find this particular software tweak very useful.

Launch Fritz12/Rybka4 and go to the main chessboard screen. Click on the round button in the upper left corner of the screen and select the “Options” button at the bottom of the menu (highlighted in orange in the following illustration):

Select the "Options" button at the bottom of the drop-down menu

After you click “Options” you’ll see a new dialogue appear with several “tabs” across its top. Click the “Game” tab to get the following display:

Clicking the "Game" tab provides a particular set of options

In this post, we’re going to concern ourselves with just two small sections of this dialogue:

This portion of the "Game" dialogue lets you set draw and resignation preferences

This is where you’ll set your preferences for how readily Fritz/Rybka will accept a draw offer or will resign when its going gets tough. I can’t provide specific pinpoint examples of the exact differences between some of these options (as I’m not a programmer and don’t have access to the software’s “guts”) but a set of general guidelines should be sufficient for users to understand these particular tweaks.

“Never” means exactly what it says. Selecting this option means that Fritz/Rybka will never offer or accept a draw or resign under any circumstances. While this will tend to make for longer games, it also makes for excellent endgame training for you, the user (especially when the “Resign” toggle is set this way).

“Early” and “Late” are relative terms here. When speaking of the “Draw” options, “Early” means that Fritz/Rybka will be perfectly happy to offer or accept a draw in relatively even positions (within some span on either side of a dead-even 0.00 evaluation), even if this occurs in the early middlegame. “Late” means that draw offers are more readily accepted in the endgame rather than sooner, and still must “make sense” to the engine (the position must be within a set span close to 0.00 — the software still won’t accept a draw when it’s materially/positionally ahead by a significant amount. “Willing to accept a  draw” here is not the same as “stupid”).

The same idea applies to resignations. If you manage to get a material or positional advantage early in the game, the “Early” setting makes the software more apt to throw in the towel (especially if you have a pretty large advantage). “Late” means the program will be less apt to resign and more willing to play it out awhile (unless you have a really huge advantage).

While these settings may seem a bit vague at first, further use and experimentation will show some significant differences in the settings. Note that these settings are independent from each other: you could conceivably tweak Fritz/Rybka to resign early but never offer or accept a draw under any conditions.

So even though you still can’t tweak your human opponents to control whether or not they “play it out” when you’re beating the tar out of them, you have near-total control over the proclivites of your electronic sparring partners Fritz12 and Rybka4.

Pre-order Rybka4 now from ChessCentral and get my Guide to Computer Chess as a freebie!

Have fun! — Steve


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