Do you analyze your games with an engine? Maybe in Fritz or Arena or Aquarium or Winboard or Chessmaster? Did you know that when the engine is in analysis mode that it does not source its opening books or endgame tables? At least, most of them don’t. Let’s have a look at why.
When an engine is actively playing a game, it sources its books and endgame table bases so that it can be as competitive as possible. But when you click the ‘analyze’ button, it does not. This is because it doesn’t know what stage of the game you are telling it to analyze, in a nutshell.
When in ‘infinite analysis’ mode, as it’s called in a lot of chess programs, it’ll just analyze the current position until you click to the next move. That’s why it is imperative that you don’t move through the game very quickly. Yes, some engines are faster than others, but every engine in the world will give a better move if it has a minute to think about each position as opposed to three seconds.
For that reason, it’s highly important to go through the opening and ending stages of the game as slowly as you can stand. In the middle game, most engines will find tactical blows pretty quickly, but in order to form correct ending and opening plans, unless the game is clearly won or lost for one side, it needs a little time.
Have you ever compared the opening book to what the engine suggests? The moves aren’t always the same. The engine doesn’t know theory when in analysis mode; it’s plain and simply going through each option, move by move, until it finds what it believes to be the strongest continuation.
That is the reason I always say that it doesn’t really matter which engine you use to analyze if you play below strong master strength. Even the free engines today play above the 2700 level, so there’s really no need to buy the biggest and best unless you are titled and even then, the point may be moot. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but it does carry some logic.
I use Shredder 11 mostly, but Houdini, Rybka, Hiarcs, Fritz, Fruit, Aristarch, Chessmaster, Spike (Arena’s pet engine), Arasan, Gandalf, and so on and so forth are all fine engines to study with. Remember, just because one engine can beat another engine doesn’t mean it’s going to be better for you to study alongside. It just means it can be beat by another engine. Magnus Carlsen may require the best one available. At the club/intermediate level, though, all decent engines are going to find strong plans in any position.
So what I do is I have the opening tree visible in Fritz when Shredder is in analysis mode. That way, I can see what the book line is and what the engine would do and I can compare them and see what the plans are for each candidate move. I can then decide which move or moves I’d like to include in my repertoire.
Heck, even Crafty, which is totally free, can only be outplayed by the strongest of titled players when it’s set to full strength. So fire up your engine, no matter what it is, and cycle slowly through your games with pride. In the end, they are all about the same, anyhow.