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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tinkering With Chess King Diamond Pro

     I have two chess programs on my laptop, ChessOK Aquarium 2014 and the ancient (2010) Fritz 12. I used to have Chess Assistant, but that was lost when the old hard drive crashed. I still have access to it on the old drive, but can't get it to run. Somehow I got Aquarium and Fritz up and running off the old hard drive. Then I found the Fritz CD lurking in the drawer of a file cabinet. The CD was purchased at the now defunct Office Max for $20 which was a fraction of what it was selling for on all the chess sites of the day. 
     I also have a couple of other old programs I received free from the owner of a chess mail order business when I e-mailed the company looking for a specific database. The one program is so old it won't work on Windows 8 and up, but I have a really old laptop that it works on. I got the programs free because they are so old they are off the market and also because the owner is a friend. In any case, all I was interested in was the database. 
     Aquarium doesn't get used much. It's a nice program and I like its appearance, but Fritz is just a whole lot easier to use. 
     But, the whole point of this post is that a while back I got to tinker with Chess King Diamond Pro 2018 which sells for $100, give or take a few dollars depending on where you buy it. Or, I see you can get the Chess King Standard 2017 version for a fraction of that...about $40. The big difference seems to be that it comes with the single core Houdini 2 engine. 
     It is sold with both Mac and PC installers and what is really nice is that it allows up to 4 activations! Very handy if you have more than one laptop, especially if, as happened to me a few months ago, a hard drive goes bad. 
     A few days ago I got to tinker with a friend's newly installed Chess King Diamond Pro and was interested to see how it stacks up against my other programs. 
     As with all programs, some reviewers liked it, some didn't. One reviewer didn't like it at all and said it's like a donkey you can't get to move or analyze, the videos are hard to follow and of poor quality. This may or may not be a problem with his computer because nobody else seems to have had issues.
     Chess King Diamond Pro includes the Houdini 6 Pro and a game database with over 6 million games, a database of commented games and a large correspondence database, bringing the total of games included to 6.8 million games. 
     The blurb in their ads says Houdini 6 Pro is the choice of most of the world’s GMs. I don't know how true that is, but on the CCLR 40/40 list the top engines are Stockfish 10 (3464), Komodo 11.3 (3398) and Houdini 6 Pro (3397). The ratings don't tell the whole story though...Houdini has an equal score against Komodo, but against Stockfish it's result are a dismal +0 -11 =39!! Of course, unless you are playing correspondence chess on which engine use is permitted or you are preparing to play a GM, then Houdini's record against Stockfish is pretty meaningless because it's still very strong. 
     Both installers for PC and Mac are included. The PC version is compatible with all windows versions from XP, Vista, 7, 8, up to Windows 10. It can be installed English, French, German, Spanish and Russian. Internet connection required only during installation for engine Houdini activation. 
     There are a lot of Chess King tutorials by Alexandra Kosteniuk and Steve Lopez on Youtube. I think you could use some of the advice on how to train with Chess King and make it applicable to any program so some of the information in the video may be valuable regardless of what program you use. 
     How did it stack up against Fritz 12?  While playing around with Chess King, I found it intuitive and easy-to-use, much like the old Fritz GUI. There are a lot of training features, but because none of them appeal to me, I didn't check them out. 
     You can play against the engine in the Fun Mode that offers hints and take backs or in Rated Mode where the program estimates your Elo rating after every game. I am not sure how accurate this feature really is. Naturally, the engine playing strength is adjustable. 
     One feature I did not get to check out was creating a database of a particular player's games and then generating a tree to analyze their tendencies. You can then set the engine to analyze what the best move would be against those tendencies. Again, I am not sure how useful or accurate this feature would be. 
     It proved very easy to annotate games and insert diagrams and you can even create PDF files from a game. The user interface is attractive and easy to use, maybe even a little more so than Fritz' which is much simpler than Aquarium or Chessbase. 
     Engines: This is one thing I really forgot to check!  I am not sure if the Chess King Diamond Pro 2018 allows you to download and use other engines. I couldn't find an answer on the internet! 
    The basic Chess King is optimized to use a custom version of Houdini 2 and Chess King Pro uses Houdini 6 Pro. They say that if you want to use another engine, you could edit the file engines.xml file or simply rename the new engine. In any case, not being able to use Stockfish would be a deal breaker for me. 
Good if you like plain vanilla
     In the end, I found Chess King to be a pretty decent program and it was certainly easy to navigate. I would describe it as good and label it plain vanilla. 
     If I was in the market for a program today, I would go for Fritz 16. It costs about $80 and has a ton of training features if that's important to you.

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