Friday, June 12, 2020

Building a training database

From my last post,  an intro to chess databases, a couple folks were eager to learn how I set up my training database.  I thought I’d share the steps I took and a little on how I use it.  A couple questions I asked my self when setting this up were:


  1. How well do I know my repertoire in as either Black or White?
  2. Which lines am I actually encountering in these openings I chose to play?


The second question is really important as training for ALL possible outcomes is like trying to boil the ocean. I suggest using the database to help whittle this down as the outliers will come but the intent will be to handle 80-90% of what you face and you can bolster your training with the sidelines as they come in post mortem analysis.


Finding the common lines played within your own games

Maybe in another post I will walk through some steps on how to build a repertoire data base. Chessbase has some tutorials. There are videos out there too. Last time I showed a simple step using the database’s statistical tools and coming up with a pareto chart of common openings based on the ECO labels. It provides a quick snap shot.  You can even filter your data base to games you played only with the Black or the White pieces.   Here’s that chart again for reference.  Note, B12 is a common line in my games with the black pieces.


You could also use the reporting functions in chessbase and Generate a Repertoire database of your own.  I’ll do a couple of short cuts here as I really want to spend this post on the training side.

  I generated a repertoire in both Black and White using this function in my games database and here’s a look at the Black repertoire:

Big surprise, B12 (Advanced Caro-Kann) is my common theme here.  How you get to the common lines played is up to you. Whether you use the statistical functions of the database or report generation, both are useful insights that can save you some time for preparing a more focused training database.


Finding Annotated games for the training database

If you made it this far, you now may  have an idea what lines are played most in your games and you are ready to start your collection.  The MegaBase … the 8million strong…. has some annotated games in it. You can filter the Megabase to only have annotated games and create a separate reference database of this collection as well.  I looked in this collection for ECO  B12 games and found a few but buyer beware. Some are in another language while some are “a couple of additional lines from someone’s chess engine analysis”. There are some “verbose” ones but it’s hard to understand if the audience is meant to impress the masters or appeal to us mortals.

I wanted something that appealed more to the simpleton that I am.


I’m a lazy man with moderate means

The everyman series of books have been my go-to resource for “patzer needs to learn an opening” because they are verbose and written not to impress higher rated friends but rather written so a drooling imbecile, such as myself,  can understand it.  If only there was a way to import these books into a chessbase.

Years ago, I got really into Mike Leahy’s Bookup database software (now called Chess Opening Wizard) where I would search pgn files for my repertoire and meticulously import them. I would manually pick my lines and enter the text from the books laboriously. That was a lot of work, I was …younger… but I needed a better system.

I found out that Everyman Chess has ebooks! Which means, not only can you get the book for an ebook reader, but for the cost of the book, you can get not only the PGN version, but the CBV version for chessbase too!  YAY! Take my money as I am done transcribing books into a training database.  For instance, here a couple books I picked up for the cost of a chess book.


The move by move series is wonderful. It sets up questions like “Why move the knight to d7 instead of c6?”  This is the level of stupidity I need and seek for building training.  Going back to the advanced Caro-Kann theme in my black repertoire, finding games from the ebook collection was relatively easy:

I could select these and copy/paste into the Black side training games.  When I do this, I am careful to edit the game data so I can read it like a training database and easily select the game to train on.  

In the example shown, I append the last name of the white player to Black player’s last name so it shows up as a hyphenated so-and-so vs what’s-his-face.  In the White last name field, I enter a label. Here I used C-K advanced 3…Bf5 4.Nc3.  Use a system that works for you.

Looking at my Black side training Games, I have a nice list I can see immediately and select where I might want to train.


From this list, I extracted and relabeled all my games from the various Everyman ebooks I (recently) picked up and I am very satisfied with the results.  Keeping this to  manageable short list of training games ( 30-50) means I can use this iteratively and go a little deeper each time.


Using the training sets, I can click on a selected game and use the Replay Training function in the game view and select which side I wish to train on.

So here’s the thing, because I play amateurs such as myself, knowing the line  to the 15th move order or more is a waste of time.  I might get to a known tabiya in about 30% of the games, but mostly it’s about understanding the first few moves enough so that I can avoid the crappy traps and the “anti-whatevers”  that other amateurs, thinking they are tricky, will throw my way. When you play at my level, it’s the wild wild west and anything goes. I like playing stronger players for the very reason I can get to a known tabiya but lose mostly to middle game stuff.  Rather, training into these lines no more than 10 moves deep and really understanding the verbose explanations within those first few moves is a good remedy to avoiding sucker punches.

After my games, I use this as a reference to see where I may have drifted off or my opponent played off the main variation. If the variation didn’t exist in my training, I will search back in the ebook first for any missed lines.  If that doesn’t exist, I will go back to my game and use the MegaBook I created and see if it’s in the book and what is the proper response.  I tend to make use of the Master reference database, Lower rated Amateur database and a Live Base offered by chessbase.

Well, I hope you found this useful or at least got a couple ideas of how to prepare better for your games. I will say, since most of the chess world has moved to online play, and that means mostly rapid games, my Blitz rating jumped 300 points since I started using this tool. Even though I am slow curmudgeon, I am learning to adapt to a quicker world.


Until next time,







Saturday, June 06, 2020

Why have a chess database?

If you’re like me, a chess player of an older demographic with a bookcase of full of chess books and rating that’s as stuck as a rusty bolt on old lawnmower in need of repair, hearing about using a chess database is probably the last on thing on your mind. I am a willing old dog looking for new ticks and have renewed my interest in updating and using a database to help catalog my games and maybe learn something new.

Sam Copeland did a great job outlining the variety of online and offline databases on this post. I recommend spending a little time looking through it.


What was I looking for in a database?

Over the years, I’ve used a variety of revisions of the software tools from chess base. I wanted familiarity with horsepower. I was willing to spend the extra bucks so I didn’t have to build something from scratch and import PGN’s and game collections. Though, I like the DIY spirit of open software and free imports to stick it to the big guys, I’ll save my revolutions for other social injustices.  

  •        Large database to reference
  •        Ability to import my games
  •        Annotating my games
  •        Setting up training positions from my games
  •        Gain insights for next steps on where I need to train
  •         Develop and grow an opening repertoire from my collection
  •         Ability to access the database on both table top and portable devices connected

I went with a package from ChessBase and got the database manager along with the megabase of 8 million games for a reference base. I can set up the database files all on a shared OneDrive to use between devices. I got busy.  Here’s a snap shot of some of the items on my cluttered “top shelf”.


Holy Crap, what Am I going to do with that 8 Million game data base?


Yes, the Mega Data base is huge. Working with such a HUGE file as a reference while refining opening preparations can add to your frustrations as the system will lock and constantly refresh.  I suggest creating smaller reference data bases using the filtering function. 

Searching for games where BOTH players are rated ELO 2500 or higher pares down the beast to a solid list of MASTERS ONLY games. I created a reference database from just those.  Refining the search little bit more to Master only games with recent games ( I went back 10 years) made a good reference for OPENING BOOK from this collection.    

The other thing I did was create a reference data base of LOWER RATED Games. Why would I do that? I’m an amateur and I play other amateurs. If I am looking at opening moves most likely played, looking at a data base of LOWER RATED players gives me offshoots most likely played so I can prepare for this. If it’s a move I am looking to make, I’ll hop back to the MASTER GAME REFERENCE or look at the MEGA OPENINGS BOOK.


Using the cloud

There’s a working directing called “My Database” and then there’s a shadow directory under OneDrive > Documents>ChessBase that you can set up called “My Work” and I use this to share between devices.

Here, I create backups to various ‘bases” I’ve created. I like the flexibility of going portable for my devices or having the workhorse on my main system to run a batch of game analysis on recent games I imported from my online activity.


Gaining insights from my games

In the above image, you may have noticed the heart logo named “2020games”. This is a collection of my games I either imported from, lichess or meticulously entered move by move from over the board games since the beginning of the  year.  One of the things I can do with this when I click on it is to look at statistics on my openings. 

I can use this information to better prepare for my most common encounters.


A topic for another time maybe is how one can create a repertoire database from this and even the training databases you may have seen in the images above with the sneaker Icon. Basically, from the statistical insights from my games, I prepared a training database for my white pieces and black pieces based on the most common responses from the activity.


This is a snap shot of how an old dog is learning new tricks to loosen a rusty bolt in hopes to turn that motor over some day.


Until next time,