EDIT: Tuesday, 5-8-12
I received an e-mail from Aquarium and the problem I had was resolved. Originally, just to make sure I was copying the serial number correctly and to save some time, I copied and pasted it from the download e-mail I received. Customer Service has advised me that with Windows 7 you must enter the serial number manually because the Windows 7 clipboard may change the dashes in the serial number to something else, thus rendering the serial number incorrect. This is what accounted for my inability to get the program to run.
Some time back I read an article in which the Blog poster claimed that IDeA (Interactive Deep Analysis) works very well for correspondence players, so I finally ordered ChessOK Aquarium as a download from ChessOK for $30.
I had installation problems from the beginning. Everything was fine until I tried to start the program and it would not run. After multiple tries I finally reinstalled it and it still didn’t work, so I e-mailed ChessOK. That was on Friday afternoon, so I did not expect to hear from them immediately. Anyway, Saturday morning I tried starting the program again and it worked. Later that day, the Houdini 1.5a64 engine I had loaded crashed and Sunday when I started the program it got hung up so I closed it and restarted it only to be asked to supply the serial number again. It remains to be seen if I will hear for ChessOK and if Houdini will continue to cause problems and if the program is going to continue to act up.
The program comes with Crafty (version not specified), Deep Rybka, 2.3.2ax64, Delfi, Rybka, 2.3.2ax64, Rybka Observer and Weak Delfi but you can install any other engines you want. A word on a couple of the programs: When playing asgainst the computer in the Fun Mode, the Rybka Observer runs briefly after each move to check to see if you have made an obvious blunder and the Weak Delfi is for use at easy levels; it is only set to 1000 Elo. The Weak Delfi engine is for use at easy levels; this version can be set only to 1000 ELO.
Anyway, on to my impression of the program. First, the interface appears more cluttered than Fritz, but that’s just me. Another thing I immediately noticed was that after using Fritz, the interface seems cumbersome. There is lots of documentation available for Aquarium and it appears you will need it…and that’s assuming you can understand it.
OK, so I’m not the most computer literate person around, but it appears I’m not the only one. One forum poster stated he was pretty much a noob and was also having trouble using the IDeA feature. Like this poster, I turned on IDeA and it’s supposed to generate new moves into the tree but I didn’t see anything happening. It was analyzing but not putting anything into the tree. Nobody answered his question so I don’t know what I am doing wrong and so far haven’t been able to figure it out from any documentation.
As I said, the main reason for this purchase was to try the IDeA function. IDeA is supposed to be a powerful analysis function that examines a position and then follows the most important moves to create a tree of variations and keeps adding more analysis until you tell it stop.
The analysis can be focused on moves and variations that you consider important and overnight analysis produces hundreds or even thousands of analyzed positions which are then stored on the hard drive. IDeA also uses the results of previous analysis, even if you start from a different position.
One experimenter evaluated IDeA as an analysis tool for correspondence play where he depended as much as possible on IDeA itself. He usually followed the recommended book lines and didn’t do any type of analysis until late in the opening or when entering rare variations.
His results were pretty impressive: 16 =2 -0 against an average opponent’s rating of 1943, giving him a performance rating of 2386. He also mentioned that in many cases he did not have to spend much time on his moves because his opponent’s moves were already in the analysis tree so he just did a quick check in the infinite analysis mode.
He also put emphasis on avoiding draws by trying to find ways to keep the game going, even when the position wasn’t particularly promising. Also because he wanted to win as many games as possible, he sometimes avoided the best move if it would lead to increased drawing chances for his opponent. In the process he discovered that IDeA is often good at distinguishing between drawing lines and winning/losing lines. He advised that, in general, IDeA improves with more powerful hardware because you can either analyze more positions or analyze each position to a deeper extent in the same amount of time and this will certainly affect the results.
His conclusion was that IDeA is a powerful analysis tool for correspondence chess adding that his opponents never managed to refute the moves found with the help of IDeA. Another advantage to IDeA as opposed to the infinite analysis method is that you can end up with extensive analysis on several openings.
So, I can see how this IDeA function could be a very valuable tool in correspondence chess, but I have to figure out how to use it first, and like I said, it’s not going too well at the moment. If I can figure it out, and if I don’t keep having those niggling little problems, Aquarium could be a very handy program. Still, for ease of use, you can’t beat good old Fritz. In fact, I can only recall having consulted Fritz' documantation on two or three occasions and that was more out of curiosity than need.