Database searches

8/30/2004 – This week's ChessBase Workshop continues our series on database searches. The most common type of search involves the game header information. We explore the "Game data" tab of the search mask here.

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DATABASE BASICS -- PART 2

by Steve Lopez

In the last ChessBase Workshop we discussed what a chess database is and why you'd want to use one. This time around we'll talk about some basic header searches.

What's a "header"? When you open a database and look at the game list you're looking at the basic header information: players, tournament, year, etc. Header searches are the easiest searches to perform because they involve simple typing and/or selection of checkboxes for other parameters.

Start Fritz8 and hit F12 on your keyboard to go to your database's game list. Then go to the Edit menu and select "Filter games" to bring up the program's "Search mask":

The search mask is the tool that allows you to tell the program what information to look for. There are four tabs at the top of the search mask; in this article we're going to look at the search parameters provided under the "Game data" tab. Most of the parameters you can specify under "Game data" deal with information found in the game headers.

Arguably the most common header search is by player name. The "White" and "Black" fields let you specify names of players for whom you want to search. These fields work just like a telephone directory in that you'll need to type in the last name first, followed by the player's first name. For example, let's say you want to find all of Garry Kasparov's games in which he played the White pieces. In the first box after "White:" you'd type "Kasparov" (without the quotation marks). If you want to be more specific, put a "G" in the second box after "White:". You'd also want to make sure that the box next to "Ignore colors" is unchecked.

Keep in mind a few tips for doing player searches:

  1. The little "dot" between the two boxes is a comma, which indicates that you should type the player's last name in the lefthand box and his first initial or first name in the righthand box.
  2. You can use partial names and "wildcards" (asterisks to replace specific letters) in your searches.
  3. The "Ignore colors" box is very important. If you uncheck this box and type a player's name in the White box, it'll bring up all of that player's games in which he played the White pieces. If you uncheck it and type his name in the Black box, the program will display his games in which he played as Black. If you check this box and type in one player's name, it'll bring up all of that player's games regardless of which color pieces he played.
  4. It's best to leave the first name field blank whenever possible. However if you're finding that more than one player with the same last name is being found, try using the desired player's first initial. Using the complete first name should be a last resort for several reasons. First of all, a player's first name may appear in the database under several different spellings ("Garry", "Gary", "Garik", etc.). Also a player's games might appear with no first name or initial at all -- typing anything in the first name field will cause the program to ignore the games in which no first name or initial is provided. [1]

[1] This latter point is why many players prefer to purchase databases such as Big Database or Mega Database rather than try to assemble databases from myriad Internet downloads, which will likely contain variances in the manner player and tournament names are provided. ChessBase's commercial databases contain standardized spellings of player names as well as tournament locations, eliminating the worry of missing games because of varied nonstandard header info.

Let's say that you want to find all the games two players contested against each other. You'd just type one player's name in the White field and the other player's name in the Black field. If you uncheck "Ignore colors", you'll get all of the games with the color assignments exactly as you specified them. If you check "Ignore colors" you'll get all the games the two opponents played against each other regardless of which player had which color.

The "Tournament" field allows you to search for specific events; for example, typing "Linares" (without the quotes) in this field will cause the program to pull up all the games in the database which were from events in Linares. The Tournament field works best when combined with a "Year" search; more on this later.

"Annotator" will pull up all the games annotated by a specific writer (assuming that any of the games in your database are annotated). As with the Player fields, it's best to use just the writer's last name without a first name or initial; most databases from ChessBase use just the last name of the author in the Annotator field.

The "Elo" fields allow you to specify a range of Elo ratings and further modify them with radio buttons located beneath the numerical dialogues:

  • "None" is the default value and should be used if you want a lot of "hits" from the database. Many games (particularly ones downloaded from the Internet) don't include player ratings in the game headers; selecting "None" ensures that no games will be ignored due to the absence of Elo data in the header.[2]
  • "One" means that at least one of the players must have an Elo rating within the range specified.
  • "Both" means that both players need to have an Elo rating within the specified range of values.
  • "Av" means that the average of the two players' ratings must fall within the range of values you provide.

[2] Also be aware that nobody had an Elo rating prior to the early 1970's, so selecting an Elo range and clicking a radio button other than "None" guarantees that you'll get no games from the period prior to the introduction of the Elo rating system. I can't tell you how many e-mails and phone calls I've received from disgruntled users who want to find all of Capablanca's games and are torqued because the search found nothing: "But there has to be some games! I even told it to find games with a rating of 2200 and up -- and Capablanca's rating had to be higher than that!" Uh, right.

"Year" lets you specify a single year (if you type the same year in both boxes) or a range of years. This is very useful when coupled with the "Tournament" field; for example, providing the name "Linares" in the "Tournament" field and "1992" in both "Year" boxes will bring up all the games from the Linares 1992 event that are in your database.

Another commonly-used field is the "ECO" field which lets you type in a single Encyclopedia of Chess Openings code (in both boxes) or a range of these codes. For example, typing "B12" in both boxes will get you all of the games in the Caro-Kann Advance (as well as a few extras, like the Fantasy Variation), while typing "E60" in the lefthand box and "E99" in the righthand box will bring up all the games of the King's Indian Defense.

"Moves" lets you type in a range of moves. For example, putting "1" in the lefthand box and "20" in the righthand box will pull up all the games which lasted twenty moves or less.

"Text" will pull up all of the special database texts within the database. These are typically instructional texts (on ChessBase training CDs) or tournament reports (most often found in ChessBase Magazine).

"Result" allows you to find a variety of ending results for games:

  • 1-0 designates games won by White.
  • 0-1 means games won by Black.
  • ½-½ refers to draw games.
  • Mate indicates games ending in checkmate.
  • Stalem. will bring up drawn games which end in a stalemate position.
  • Check provides all of the games which end with a check (though not mate).

You can combine more than one of these "Result" parameters. For example checking "1-0" and "0-1" will give all the games that ended in a decisive result (i.e it would exclude all drawn games). However, choosing "Stalem." in conjunction with one of these would just be dumb -- stalemates are draws by definition. So use a little common sense if you combine these parameters.

You can combine any of the parameters in this screen of the search mask but (as described a few weeks ago in a ChessBase Workshop article called "The Law of Diminishing Returns") the more information you enter into the search mask, the fewer games you get as a result. Please refer to that prior article for more detail on this than you could possibly want.

Also remember that the program combines all of the parameters you've set. For example, if you designate "Kasparov" as the player, "E60" through "E99" as the ECO codes, and "1-0" as a result, the program will return a list of E60 to E99 games in which Kasparov was a player and White was the winner. This is not the same as a combined list of all of Kasparov's games along with all White wins along with all E60-E99 games.

After you've set your parameters, click the "OK" button. The program will then search the database and pull up a list of all the games that qualify under the parameters you've set. Just double-click on a listed game to load it on the main chessboard screen; you can now use the cursor keys or VCR buttons to replay the game.

If you've finished with your list of the games found by your search and want to return to the full list of games in Fritz8, just go to the "Edit" menu, select "Filter games" from the menu, click the "Reset" button (the one next to the "Cancel" button"), and then click "OK". You'll again see the complete list of games from your database.

Pretty easy, right? You now should be able to do simple header searches on your database. In our next ChessBase Workshop we'll take the next step and look at ways to find things that are "hidden away" with the games themsleves. Until then, have fun!



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


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