ChessBase Database tricks - part two

1/21/2005 – In the last installment of ChessBase Workshop we unearthed a treasure trove of useful new ChessBase 9 features. In the latest edition we've uncovered more of them -- including one that just might knock your socks off. Can you say "mouse rollover"? Strap on your garters and read all about it...

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CHESSBASE 9 DATABASE TRICKS -- PART TWO

by Steve Lopez

In the previous ChessBase Workshop we looked at ways to change the game list display in ChessBase 9's initial screen. This time around we're going to examine a few additional database tricks.

In the last article we dealt exclusively with right-clicking on column headers in the game list. But what happens if we left-click instead?

Left-clicking is a quick way to re-sort the information in a game list. Using the same small database from our last article, let's look again at the initial game list:

One of the problems some users face when tackling a new database is knowing what games to play through. This particular database (downloaded from the Interrant) is a small one -- just twenty-two games -- but contains no round numbers or other chronological information. So assuming that we want to play through all of the games, what kind of system do we adopt as to the order in which we'll replay them? (Naturally this isn't really a big deal with such a small database, but it's a nice transition into the useful sorting functions).

Let's say that we'd like to look for games of a favorite player. With a larger database you'd likely use the Search mask. But with such a small database, all you need do is left-click on the "White" column header to resort all of the games alphabetically by the names of the White players:

Bingo! the database is instantly re-sorted according to the White players' last names, with Robert Byrne being at the top of the list. He's a fave, so I'll play through his White games first.

Note that this isn't a permanent sort; i.e. the games aren't physically moved within the database. The games are merely displayed in a different order. This is readily apparent by a quick look at the "Number" column, which no longer shows the games in numerical order. Another reminder that this is a temporary sorting of games is visible in the "White" column header -- it now shows red highlighting. This serves the additional purpose of reminding you which column you clicked on to re-sort the database (which might not seem like a big deal at first, but late in a long evening of game research it's likely to be some useful information).

After playing through GM Byrne's games as White, we can click on the "Black" column to get a similar sort -- this time by the last names of the Black players:

Here again GM Byrne's games are at the top of the list and we can easily double-click on a game to open it and replay it. Note that the column header we just clicked on (i.e. "Black") is again highlighted in red.

I suspect, though, that most players will probably be more interested in the opening played in each game rather than in the identity of the players. And it's a real pain in the patoot to visually scan down through a list of ECO codes looking for the one(s) we want. ChessBase 9 has us covered there, too. Left-click on the ECO column and the program re-sorts the list by alphanumeric ECO code:

Now it's just a simple matter to scan down through the list to see if there are any games using interesting or favorite openings.

When you want to re-sort the list, there are two ways to tackle the task. One is to left-click on the "Number" column to put the games back into their original order. The other way is to click on another database to open it; when you return to your first database, the games will again be in their original numeric order.

Let's return for another look at our initial database view:

Another way to re-sort games within the database is to do it by hand. Let's say that we want to move Game #9 to the top of the game list. Grab the game (by left-clicking with the mouse and holding down the mouse button), drag the game to the desired location, and then release the mouse button:

Note that this is a temporary change; it doesn't permanently alter the database's game ordering. So why would you want to do this? It's a really handy device for making game printouts or textfiles -- you just drag the games into the order in which you want them to appear in the printout or textfile, highlight them, and let 'er rip.

I'll leave you with one last database trick this week -- but I've saved what's arguably the best for last. There are two questions I've received a zillion times over the tech support line: "How do you know what ECO code corresponds with what opening name?" and "How do you know what the different colors of medals signify in a game list?" They're important questions; they express a desire on the part of the user to increase his or her knowledge. And, up until now, there's been no really easy way to get the answers: ECO to opening name conversions required a chart or separate web site, while medal colors had to be looked up in the program's Help file.

So how does ChessBase 9 provide this information simply and easily? We've all played computer games that use a programming technique called mouse rollover: when you move your mouse over a character or object, a small window pops up with a description of that item. CB9 uses this same technique right there in the game list. Let's return to our database's game list and look at the ECO column for the first game. We see "D58" (meaning section 58 in Volume D of ECO). Now I don't care how long you've played chess or how familiar you are with the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, nobody knows all of the codes unless they're either a World Champion or a mutant. The only way you're gonna know what D58 is would be if it's one of your preferred openings.

So let's see what happens when we roll the mouse cursor over the "D58" entry in the header info for that first game:

Cazart! CB9 actually gives you the name of the opening! Now you can just roll the mouse down the "ECO" column and look for the names of openings that interest you without having to know the ECO codes for them! (And the best part is that over time, through the process of osmosis if nothing else, you'll actually learn the ECO codes for your favorite openings [whether you want to or not] by seeing them repeated again and again).

Now let's switch to another database to show you a similar tool. Let's find a game with a medal attached to it and see what happens when we position the mouse over a medal in the game list:

When you place the mouse cursor over a colored medal in the game list, a popup describes what that medal signifies. In the above illustration, we see that a red medal indicates an interesting sacrifice within the game.

And the fun doesn't stop there -- the rollover works for lots of other header fields as well. If a full game header contains the complete first name of a player but only his first initial is displayed in the game list, rolling the mouse over that player's name shows his complete name in the popup. Rolling the mouse over the name of a tournament shows the full tournament name. Move the mouse over the "VCS" column and it'll tell you what those abbreviations mean (and even the number of moves contained within the game variations). And so on...

As an old musician buddy of mine always says when something tickles his fancy, "Man! This really kicks!"

Yes. It kicks indeed.

Until next week, have fun!



© 2004, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


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