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,





Signalman said...

A good insight on what you want out of a chess database and how you are going about doing it.

On this - "Sam Shanklin did a great job outlining the variety of online and offline databases on this post" where it's due though, as this was IM Sam Copeland's trawl of chess products.

Amazing how things change, as his post was 2014 :some have already gone,and some are probably on the way out ( Chesss Assistant and Convekta have been remarkably quiet for most of this year , for example). Nice to see a mention for earth-based apps like SCID for Android.

I use it to keep a copy of my own games and repertoire files, plus a selection whatever opening I am refreshing at the time. Easy to use on the morning commute by train for an extra 20 minutes practice. Its also enjoyable to input the game just played at the Club night when travelling home afterwards. Immediately recalling information about the game just after playing !

Sadly though, it looks like SCID development has stopped, but the other good Android app is Chess PGN Master, which has similar functionalities, but is not free.

Also good to see a mention for the online database of ChessTempo, which breaks moves down into different bands of ratings, so you can see the difference between 2200 and 2700 responses. No amateur games though :(

ChessTempo also has an opening trainer and of course tactics training, so not a bad choice to do multiple chess training on ! Nowadays, there is even an app for mobile use !

Finally, good to see you back and posting ! Look forward to more.

Blunderprone said...

Thanks Signalman!

I edited the post to reflect Sam Copeland!

I used Mike Leahy's Bookup-> Chess Opening Wizard for a few years as well but I am like the CHessbase tools better for evaluating lines and searching positions.