Over the next few ChessBase Workshop columns, we're going to take a closer look at a new chess program. The programmers at ChessBase have released a new version of ChessBase Light for 2007, and it operates a bit differently from the older versions of ChessBase Light which are still out there kicking around on various web sites. CBLight 2007 is based on the ChessBase 9 model, meaning that it has the same look and "feel" as CB9. I'm sure there will be plenty of new users who won't be familiar with the operation of CBLight, so we're going to take some time to look at a few basic features of the CBLight database program (and, incidentally, a great deal of this info will be useful to new users of ChessBase 9 who are still learning about the program's basic operations).
The first step, of course, is to download and install the program. The installation program for CBLight 2007 is over 38 Mb in size, so you're going to want to use a high-speed connection instead of trying to download it via dialup. After you've saved the file to your Desktop or to a folder on your hard drive you'll just run it to install the program. The installation process is pretty straightforward, so there's no reason to give a step-by-step set of instructions -- just run it and follow the prompts.
The next thing you'll need will be a database of games. Chess game databases are available all over the Internet in a variety of formats, the most common of which are .pgn (Portable Game Notation) and .cbh (the proprietary ChessBase format). You'll sometimes see .cbv format databases -- these are compressed archives of ChessBase-format games, and you just open them the same way as you open any other chess database file in CBLight 2007. I'll show you how to open databases in just a bit.
Bear in mind, though, that a .pgn database (regardless of the number of games it contains) is really just a textfile with the information provided in a standardized format which is recognizable by most commercial and freeware chess programs. Consequently there are some features in CBLight which won't work when reading a .pgn-format database.
After you've downloaded a database to a folder on your hard drive, the next step is to open it in CBLight so that you can begin working with it. I'll be using a small ninety-one game database of the games from the 1991 Linares tournament for our examples. I've downloaded it into a folder I've called \Bases. Launch CBLight 2007 by double-clicking on its Desktop icon or firing it up from Start/Programs. You'll see an illustrated splash screen for a moment; this will be followed by the main program view:
This main view is often referred to as the Database window; it's the screen in which your database(s) will be visible as icons in the uppermost of the two panes on the screen's righthand side. The pane immediately below it will provide a game list for your selected database. The lefthand pane functions in a manner similar to Windows Explorer, giving you quick access to all of your drives and folders.
To open a new database, go to the File menu, select "Open", and then "Open database" from the submenu. This will bring up the standard Windows file select dialogue:
Use this dialogue to navigate to the folder into which you stored your downloaded database. You'll recall that I stored my Linares '91 .pgn file in a folder called \Bases. So I just go to that folder, select my .pgn database, and click "Open". After you select your database file and click "Open", you'll see a new window which will display a list of the games in that database:
Go ahead and close that window if you like; you'll still see your game list in the lower righthand pane of the database window:
To open a game and play through the moves, just double-click on a game in the game list. This will open a new window which contains a chessboard on one side of the screen and the game's notation on the other. This view is called the Game window:
There are a few ways to replay a game. You can use the cursor keys (commonly called "arrow keys") on your keyboard to step through the moves. Hitting the right arrow key will move forward one move, while hitting the left arrow key will go backward one move. You can use these two keys to move through the game at your own pace. As you step through the moves (the current move will be highlighted in the righthand pane [the Notation pane] with a black cursor) you'll see the board position change to reflect the new position in the notation:
Another way to replay the game is to use the VCR arrows located below the chessboard. If you don't see these displayed on your screen, you can insert them by right-clicking on the chessboard, selecting "Board design" from the popup menu, and checking the box marked "Replay Arrows Below Board".
The two buttons with black arrows will step forward or backward through the game (just the same as do the cursor keys on your keyboard). The buttons with black arrows pointing at lines will jump directly to the first move or last move of the game.
A third way to replay a game involves going to the Game menu and selecting "Replay" (or hitting SHIFT-8 on your keyboard). This will display a new dialogue window:
"Replay" causes the game to replay automatically without any action on the user's part: just sit back and enjoy the game. The slider in this new dialogue allows you to adjust the replay speed (i.e. the delay between the moves). "Pause" lets you temporarily pause the replay; you'll resume the replay by clicking the "Pause" button a second time. You can also manually go forward and backward through the moves by using the black arrow buttons.
After you've viewed a game, just click the "X" button at the upper righthand corner of the window or else just hit the "ESC" key on your keyboard to close the Game window.
There are a couple of limitations on ChessBase Light 2007 of which you should be aware. The program will open and display the complete game lists for databases of up to 32,000 games; if the database contains a higher number of games, the gmes numbered higher than "32000" will not be accessible by the program. ChessBase Light 2007 will also display more than one database in the Database window until you exit the program; the next time you start the program only the last database you added to the Database view will be visible. Both of these limitations can be overcome later; we'll save that information for a later column in this series.
In the next ChessBase Workshop, we'll look at ways to perform some basic database searches. Until then, have fun!
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