Fritz 9 Play Chess

Review by Old Rooster
March 2006

"Computer chess," in its earliest forms and iterations, has been a favorite pastime of mine for many years. Having been on high school and college chess teams (don't laugh, you football jocks—we even had our own cheerleaders!), I found live adult opponents harder to come by as I grew older, moved around and didn't feel like traveling to central city somewhere for the lone area chess club. Then I discovered primitive computer chess sets, desk and travel size, which afforded some practice and entertainment but little challenge.

With the arrival of the PC and, especially, the Internet, the situation has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. The Fritz and Chessmaster series have provided increasingly broad, deep, educational, challenging and improved iterations year after year. Fritz, with its online accessibility, gives a player like me a range of offerings that I couldn't possibly have envisioned 15 years ago. Just take a look at only some of the features of Fritz 9:

  • A one-million (!) game database covering four centuries of chess;
  • Training modules, from a video beginner's course to sample lessons and interactive training for attack, defense and check improvement;
  • Coach and help function explaining all moves;
  • Hand-holding move by move if you choose (best move, etc.);
  • Hint, Spy and Kibbitz engine;
  • An opening book, with one million opening positions—fully searchable and interactive;
  • Graphical commenting, with arrows, highlights and medals;
  • A computer opponent that will tailor itself, after a few games with you, to provide just enough challenge to keep you on your toes and continuing to improve your own skill;
  • One-year free membership in, the largest online chess community, offering a nurturing and friendly environment of players at all levels of ability;
  • And, lest we forget to mention the heart of the game, Fritz 9, the most powerful chess engine available, the same engine that has defeated the world's number one Grandmaster, Garry Kasparov.

I have Fritz 8, and this ninth version does show some interesting improvements. You now have available two 3D computer opponents, accompanied by an optimized graphics and physics engine—one that breathes easiest with a 128 MB graphic card! Positional play instruction is now available, as well as customizable boards and different, even novel, playing levels (sparring, fun, shuffle, giveaway, handicap).

Those who play computer chess look more to clarity and efficiency of graphics and interface than they do a showpiece for their latest nVidia card. Fritz 9's interface is functional, improved a bit from last year, with only occasional times of cumbersomeness. It gets you where you want to go without too much hassle. The new twists on 3D graphics are nice, a bit of fun, especially playing against the 3D rendered characters (Turk and Mia), but not essential for this kind of game. I found I mostly reverted to 2D renderings of my favorite sets from Fritz 8.

There's some accompanying classical music, if you choose, as well as often sarcastic and biting commentary from your opponent. Other than that, the clink of the moving pieces is all you'll hear from the game (my school cheerleaders aren't around any more—"Go Knights, go!").

Who should consider acquiring Fritz 9? Generally, two groups of folks—those who are somewhat beyond the beginner level, desiring to analyze, explore openings and other elements in detail, really take the game seriously, and those whose membership in is about to expire, or who wish to join for the first time, and can get one free year with game purchase (a $35 value), making the net cost of Fritz 9 only $5.

In summary, then, Fritz 9 expands upon the excellent versions of the past two years with updated graphics, broader tutorials and helping tools, and an expanded database. It moves well beyond the depth and scope of its main competitor, the Chessmaster series. Not only is its Fritz engine one that puts even Grandmasters to shame, but also the intricate analyses available to the player from that engine allow for continuing growth in personal skill. Finally, this year, in an attempt to be all things to all players at all levels (raw beginner to Grandmaster), Fritz 9 has made great strides with its new tutorials. If you're going to buy one program, this is the one, especially since it includes the $35 value membership. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Viva Media
Publisher: Viva Media
Release Date: December 2005

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Pentium II 300 MHz (P4 2.2 GHz recommended)
64 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP (XP recommended)
Windows Media Player 9
DVD-ROM drive
GeForce 5 graphics card with 128 MB RAM (recommended)

Where to Find It

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