Fritz, a chess-playing computer program developed by Fred Friedl, is the best chess playing program in the world. It especially excels at speed chess; in other words, games with severely limited time constraints.
The Birth of Fritz
Fritz was originally designed by Fred Friedl in 1989 to provide a good competitor for speed chess, which is a popular chess variant. The primary problem to solve was to figure out the best method of eliminating large sets of possible moves very quickly, with a secondary problem of learning from the mistakes and repetitive moves of the opponents.
From this idea, Fritz 1 was developed in 1990, with a second version to follow in 1992. The program was extremely strong at speed chess and, in the second version, began to demonstrate the ability to remember the moves of the opponents and exploit these moves later.
Fritz in Competition
The first version of Fritz to be noted in significant match play was when Fritz 2 defeated sitting champion Garry Kasparov in a five minute match in Cologne in 1992. It should be noted that speed chess has always been the strength of the Fritz engine, mostly due to its ability to discard huge amounts of moves very quickly.
In 1994, Kasparov lost to Fritz 3 in a blitz tournament in Munich. At that tournament (which is somewhat seen as Fritz's "coming out" party), the program defeated Grandmasters Vladimir Kramnik (current world champion), Viswanathan Anand, Boris Gelfand, and Nigel Short, and Robert Huebner refused to play Fritz.
Probably the greatest setback that the Fritz program has seen in competitive play is when Garry Kasparov played Fritz 4 in a regular match in November 1995 in London, when he defeated the program with a win and a draw. After this, Fritz mostly appeared in computer-based tournaments for several years, while the Deep Blue story was unfolding.
In 2001, a match against the world champion Vladmir Kramnik was arranged for late 2002, in which the top computer program in the world, as determined by a tournament, would play. At this time, Fritz had reached version 7 and the creators planned to enter the tournament; however, one of the elements of the tournament was that multiprocessor programs were allowed. Since Fritz was designed to run on a single processor, the Fritz team re-wrote the Fritz 7 code in a hurry to run on a parallel computer. Upon completion, the group re-named this version Deep Fritz.
Deep Fritz entered this tournament against two other competitors: Shredder and Deep Junior. Shredder's team, unhappy with the rules of the tournament (they wanted an immediate berth in the finals), dropped out, leaving the tournament with two competitors. After dropping the first five matches outright, Deep Fritz managed to rebound and the match ended with a 12-12 tie, with Deep Fritz winning the tiebreaker. This is likely due to the "learning" capacity of the Fritz engine, in which it remembers mistakes of its opponents and moves such that such mistakes in the future will be exploited.
In October and November 2002, World Champion Vladmir Kramnik and Deep Fritz (now using a version of the new Fritz 8 engine) played a series of eight matches, resulting in a 4-4 tie; since there was no agreement on a tiebreaker, the match remained a tie. Will there be another match in the future? Possibly, but it is likely that a PC-based program has finally surpassed the greatest chess players in the world.
Since the match against Kramnik, Deep Fritz 7.0 has been sold by ChessBase, and the non-parallel Fritz 8 is also sold by the company.
Play Fritz! (and get annihilated!)
ChessBase, the company that makes Fritz, sells the program on their website. Prior to playing Fritz, I believed I was a strong chess player, but Fritz is by far the strongest program that I have played. At higher settings, I have an extremely difficult time with the midgame, where before with programs such as Chessmaster the midgame is where I would dominate. I also own Deep Fritz 7.0 and occasionally play it on a two-node parallel computer, but it quickly exploits my flaws and I am defeated.
If you're interested in purchasing Fritz for your own use, visit the ChessBase website at http://www.chessbase.com.