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Opening Studies with Rybka & Chess Openings 2009 19 January 2009

Buy Rybka 3 UCI & Chess Openings 2009
The clearest indication that Rybka 3 UCI & Chess Openings 2009 is much more than a regular onevolume reference work on the chess openings is in the title itself.
For this program includes Rybka 3, by far the strongest chess engine available.
This month I will discuss the different tools that the program offers for viewing and studying the theoretical material, and next month I will take a look at some additional features, including using Rybka for analysis.

Part 1

The program is based on material prepared by the Russian grandmaster and opening expert Alexander Kalinin.
He provides a general introduction to most openings as well as Informator-style annotations and plenty of verbal commentary on specific positions.
The reference database contains one million games played by grandmasters and masters and the 2009 Chess Openings Encyclopedia has more than a half million evaluations with 8,000 text comments. (Note that the downloadable version of the program only has games by grandmasters).
In addition to Rybka 3, four other chess engines come bundled with the program, offering you the opportunity to test your openings against opponents of different strength. It also comes with the ability to connect to two playing servers: Convekta’s own ChessOK Playing Zone, which is free for everyone; and the ICC, one of the oldest and most popular chess servers. Any game that you play, either against the chess engines or on the chess servers, is automatically stored in a database. Afterwards you can analyze the games using Rybka, and any deviations from opening theory will be highlighted as will any improvements that Rybka finds.
Alexander Kalinin.

The user interface is based on Chess Assistant 10, with some functionality disabled. For example, it’s not possible to create or open databases other than those mentioned above.
Overview of Openings and Variations
The variations covered by Chess Openings 2009 are accessible through a Windows Explorer style user interface.
In the above image, the Petroff Defense (also known as the Russian Defense) folder is highlighted. The diagram shows the position corresponding to the selected variation and below that GM Kalinin gives some general comments about the opening, its history, and some of its most famous proponents, etc. To the right, branches can be expanded and collapsed by clicking on the “+” and “-” icons. This is an example of what Convekta calls a classifier, a powerful method for organizing chess knowledge, where each folder can contain diagrams, text and multimedia comments, opening trees, chess games, other folders, etc. Classifiers are used in many of Convekta’s products.

If you want to study a particular variation, just double click on its folder in the classifier. You will then be presented with a screen that puts all the information needed for opening study right at your fingertips. The best way to explain this excellent tool is to look at each component separately.

Tree Display

Rybka 3 UCI & Chess Openings 2009 also uses position databases, which has several advantages over traditional game databases. I’ll be working with the variation ending with 7.O-O from the classifier screenshot above. If you click once on that variation and then click on the tree icon on the toolbar, the image below will be shown. This shows how move trees are displayed. Whenever you want to generate a tree display for a position, just click on the tree icon.

The chessboard shows the position that is being studied. The highlighted line to the right of the diagram shows information about the move 7…O-O. Immediately to the right of the move notation you see that, according to Kalinin, it leads to a position that is equal or perhaps slightly better for White. The reference database contains three games from this position and Black scored 33%.
The latest game in the database is from 1994 and the rating of the highest rated player who used 7…O-O was 2620. The last column (CAP) shows a computer evaluation of the position following the move. Here the score is +0.37 in White’s favor. CAP is a distributed computing project that Convekta has been running for several years with the participation of volunteers, and tens of millions of positions have been evaluated.

The “Move” column in the tree shows ten different moves. The first five occurred in games in the reference database, and the rest are classified as “Other moves.” The latter were not considered important enough to be included in the theoretical material, but their CAP evaluation can indicate an interesting move overlooked by theory. The total shows that there are 96 games in the reference database and the overall score for the side on move (Black in this case) is 44%.

The colored bar below the total displays a breakdown of Black’s results from the highlighted move in the move list (7…O-O). He drew two games (67%) and lost one (33%).

The right hand tab at the top of the window, the “Moves to” tab, can be used to look for transpositions and move-order variances. First select the tab and then right-click on a move in the move list and select “Show paths”.
The above image shows that the position we are examining has occurred via four different move orders (paths) in the reference database. The move list shows that the final move leading to the position was 7.O-O in all 96 games. Therefore, it is the only move displayed in the “Move” column on the “Moves to” tab.

Opening Tables

The move tree only shows the next move and moves leading to the current position. Although very helpful for studying openings and catching transpositions, it is limited and doesn’t give an overview of a whole variation or a comparison of several different variations. A move tree is also very different from the way theoretical material is presented in opening books. To address the shortcomings of the tree representation, Convekta designed so-called opening tables, which complement the move tree and present the theory in a familiar format. As the opening tables are dynamically generated, you can create a table for any position.
The top of the screen shows the variation that leads to the starting position for the table. In this case, 7.O-O, so the first move in the table is Black’s seventh move. The move numbers are shown in the column headings (7-14) and the “Eval” column shows GM Kalinin’s evaluation of the variation. The cursor (the blue square) is positioned before Black’s seventh move in the first variation and it can be moved used the arrow keys. The green triangles track the location of the cursor.

The table displays six different variations, with each variation taking two lines. White’s moves are on the first line and Black’s moves on the second. However, this is optional and if you prefer you can have White’s and Black’s moves on the same line.

If you look at the moves of the first variation, you’ll see that they are formatted differently. Some of them are displayed in normal type, while others are in bold or light-brown.
A move that is displayed in bold has Informator-style analysis associated with it, which is then displayed below the opening table when you click on the move.
A light-brown color means that the move has verbal comments. White’s 9.h3 is both bold and light-brown, so it has both. When you click on that move the following comments are displayed below the table.

First there is a frame containing a comment on the current position and below that a comment relating specifically to the move 9.h3. Selecting “More lines” above the comments allows you to examine the side variations for this position. In this case there is one variation.

You can click on this variation to play through the moves.
As you move through the opening table the program shows a list of all the games from the reference database that match the current position. So every time the position changes the list is updated.

In this case there are three games that match the position. Note the different background colors. The first and the third game have a light-green background. This means that the next move in the opening table (9.h3) was actually played in these games. The second game has a white background, which means that it matches the position, but the next move was different from the one in the current variation. If we move forward one move in the variation, the second game would therefore disappear from this list.

A single click on a game displays the game score below the opening table. You can also open the game list in a separate window by right-clicking on the list and selecting “Open list” from the context menu. Use “Open game” from the context menu or double-click if you want to open and view a selected game.

If you would like to create a new opening table, just right-click with the mouse on a move and select “New table” from the context menu.

Bringing it all Together
I began by looking at the classifier for the openings and variations. When you double-click on a variation in the classifier, a screen containing all the tools mentioned above is opened.
Here you have the chessboard, the move tree, a list of games matching the position on the board, the opening table and below that you can view verbal comments, variations or any game from the game list.
Additionally you can analyse any position with Rybka 3, whether it happens to be in the opening table, variations or a game in the game list.
Just select “Engines” from the menu bar and then “Infinite analysis.” The analysis is displayed in a new tab where the game list currently is. You can then add your analysis to the opening table. But we’ll explore this further next month.

Part Two

In last month’s column, I examined some of the powerful tools offered by Rybka 3 UCI & Chess Openings 2009 for studying openings. This month I’ll discuss how you can use Rybka to expand your theoretical knowledge base using your own moves and variations.

Infinite Analysis with Rybka

It is an invaluable resource to be able to analyze an opening position with the strongest chess engine available. You can launch Rybka while viewing a game, in tree mode or while examining an opening table, any position that is displayed on the chessboard can be analyzed.

Infinite analysis means that the chess engine will analyze the current position until you direct it to stop. The toolbar has a special button for starting infinite analysis.
To analyze the current position with the default engine, just click directly on the infinite analysis button. If you want more options, click on the arrow to the right of the button to display the drop-down list shown above. The four options are:
  • Infinite analysis: This is equivalent to clicking directly on the toolbar button.
  • Infinite analysis…: This allows you to select a chess engine before starting the analysis.
  • Engines in memory: Shows which chess engines have been loaded into memory and allows them to be removed.
  • Chess engine setup: Allows you to install and configure new chess engines.

I recommend that you use the last option to increase the hash table size of the engine. In general, the bigger the hash table the better, as long as there is enough memory. If it is too big, there will be an increase of disk activity that will considerably slow down the analysis. To modify the hash table size and other engine parameters, select “Chess engine setup”, select an engine from the list and then click on the “Edit…” button.

If you click on the infinite analysis button while viewing a game, an analysis pane opens below the gamescore:
Each line in the analysis pane shows Rybka’s evaluation of the position (in square brackets). Positive numbers mean that White has an advantage, but Rybka’s evaluations are often quite conservative when compared to other chess engines. One of the options available in the “Chess engine setup” is to have Informator signs displayed in front of the evaluation; however, I prefer to have this option turned off. After the evaluation is the “depth” (ply) of the analysis; the lines are structured so that the newest and deepest analysis is always on top. Following this is the variation that Rybka has found and the time it took to reach this stage.
In the image, Rybka assigns a score of -0.58 to the position, meaning that Black has an advantage. The analysis has reached a depth of 16 ply and the best move is 13…O-O. Note that this move has been at the top of Rybka’s list throughout the entire analysis. We can also see that it took Rybka only 1 second to reach a depth of 10 ply. Note that you can click on any of the lines and play through the variation without disturbing the analysis.

The total analysis time (1 minute and 46 seconds) is displayed above the analysis window. To the right of that we see that Rybka is considering move number 21 (Qb8) of the 41 legal moves in the position and that a total of 6,719 thousand positions have been examined at a rate of 68,000 positions per second. Finally, the drop-down list on the right shows the name of the active chess engine.

As you go from one move to another in the game, using the mouse or the arrow keys, Rybka begins analyzing the new position. When you are done you can either save the analysis or discard it via the toolbar buttons displayed above the gamescore.

Clicking on the “Exit” button, on the far left, stops the analysis and discards the results. Next to that is the “Insert Analysis” button, which saves the analysis. In this case it would be saved as a variation in the game. The third button can be used at any time to switch to and from multi-variation mode. The “Freeze” button, on the far right, can be quite useful. If you click on it, the engine will continue analyzing the current position, even if you move the cursor to a different position in the game.

Personalizing the Theoretical Material

Rybka 3 UCI & Chess Openings 2009 contains theoretical recommendations for just about every opening. However, there may be several reasons why you would want to add new analysis to this comprehensive database, whether it’s to update a line or just to add your own thoughts about a particular opening. This is quite easy to do and your own analysis becomes integrated with the theoretical material. Yet it is stored separately, so that when Chess Openings 2010 becomes available, you can upgrade and take advantage of all the new material, while still preserving your own analysis. Even so, I recommend regular backups of all important data, especially before an upgrade.

Let’s look at an example of how you can expand the theoretical material. The best way to do so is from the opening table view:

The above image shows an opening table view, which was explained in last month’s column. The diagram displays the position before White’s 14th move in the first line of the table (see the blue cursor and the green triangles). The exit and insert analysis buttons are located at the top of the analysis pane. The bottom left of the image points up that analysis is in progress and that Rybka has analyzed to a depth of 19 ply. Analysis in opening table mode is begun by clicking on the infinite analysis button, just like when you are analyzing a game (see explanation above). Saving this analysis as a new variation is as simple as clicking on the insert analysis button.

As a result, the variation from Rybka’s analysis is added as a footnote to the opening table, under the “More lines” tab.

You can add an evaluation to this variation in two ways, either by using the keyboard (Ctrl+V) or by right-clicking on the variation to display a context menu.

Here I have selected to evaluate the position as equal or slightly better for White.
The evaluation is displayed at the beginning of the variation and the color red signifies that it was added by a user.
You can add as many variations as you like. If you want to add more complicated analysis, you can right-click on it and select “Make the variation a table line”.

The variation suggested by Rybka has been inserted as the third line in the opening table, along with the evaluation we assigned to it.
After this you can add sub-variations to this new line in the same way as described above.
You can also annotate individual moves and positions of a table variation by using the “Annotation editor”:

These toolbar icons are located above the opening table. If you click directly on the annotation editor icon, it is equivalent to selecting “Annotate position” from the drop-down menu.
Let’s select “Annotate move” and assign a “!?” symbol to the first move of this variation. Note that you can also add verbal commentary to both moves and positions.
Besides providing extensive theoretical material, Rybka 3 UCI & Chess Openings 2009 gives you the opportunity to modify the material to suit your own needs. There are no practical limits to the volume or depth of analysis that the program can handle. I hope that these two columns will help you make the most of the software, even though I have only managed to cover a small part of its functionality.

Dadi Jonsson.

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