The latest Chess Life magazine informs us that Fritz 15 will soon be out and, of course, it's advertised as even better than Fritz 14. The hype says you can, if you want, have it automatically adjust its playing strength to your level. Naturally, the old features are still there: handicap and coaching, explanation of positions (in my opinion, the explanations are pretty poor), it displays colored danger warnings, provides openings statistics (handy), training modules for openings, tactics and chess endgames, a large database of chess games and one of the most important features - automatic game analysis.
One of the main enhanced features is the “friend” mode. In the friend mode Fritz constantly changes its strength based on your playing strength and how much time you are using. In this mode it also alerts you when a tactical opportunity is lurking in the position...too bad OTB opponents aren't this friendly! Another interesting and possibly very helpful feature is that now Fritz estimates your Elo rating for all three phases of the game...opening, middlegame and ending. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the ratings, but the feature could be very helpful when it comes to pinpointing where your weaknesses lie.
Vasik Rajlich is back and on the Fritz team, authoring the Fritz 15 engine so there’s a good possibility that the Fritz 15 engine will be considerably stronger that the old engine. How it will compare to Komodo and Stockfish remains to be seen.
They have also improved the database with enhanced access options and sorting functions. They have attempted to duplicate ChessBase in that regard. That's good because when it comes to handling databases ChessBase was superior.
Fritz 15 also offers a six month free subscription to Playchess complete with on-demand training, a 50,000 position tactical training app and ChessBase's online 8 million game database. The Let’s check feature is still there too although this is a feature that I personally can't really appreciate.
Fritz 15 can be ordered from the USCF for $90 which is $10 off the list price. So far though it does not show up on the ChessBase site, only Deep Fritz 14.
Requirements are: Pentium III 1 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Windows Vista, XP (Service Pack 3), 7/8, DirectX9, 256 MB graphics card, DVD-ROM drive, Windows Media Player 9 and Internet access for program activation, access to Playchess.com, Let’s Check and program updates. It can be installed on up to 3 computers and is Windows 10 compatible. The estimated ship date is November 20, 2015.
Sometime back I purchased Rybka Aquarium especially for the IdeA analysis function and I tried to like the program...I really did, but found myself constantly returning to my Fritz 12 GUI simply because it was easier to use (for me at least). A long time ago I found my Fritz 12 program at Best Buy for $20 so snapped it up and in the years since, it's never disappointed.
|My old Fritz 12 GUI|
As I see it, the main “new” selling points are the engine that's been upgraded by Rajlich and the “enhanced” Friend Mode. The idea of giving you an estimated Elo for each phase of the game sounds interesting, but I think most players already know which phase of the game they are weakest in. As for the strength of the engine we will just have to wait and see. If I didn't have my Fritz 12 GUI would I spend $90-100 for this program? Probably not...I go for one of the cheaper older Fritz programs, or maybe HIARCS or Shredder. As long as you can add Stockfish and/or Komodo and auto-analyze a game, I don't think you really need a lot of other stuff. You can get plenty of free database games, opening books and instructional stuff on the Internet and so far as I know engines don't make good practice partners. Maybe they do for Grandmasters, but for us Grandpatzers, they just don't play like our human opponents so aren't very realistic.
Out of curiosity I decided to play my Fritz 12 using Komodo 8 in the handicap mode with the program set at 1900 just to see how good it plays. Did it play like a real 1900? I think not so much.