A library on your computer - part two

by ChessBase
12/21/2006 – The latest ChessBase Workshop column continues our ChessBase "library" analogy with some other bookmarking and search tricks, as well as some tips for personalizing your own chess library. Make sure your card's up to date and check in with the latest ChessBase Workshop.

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We began our last ChessBase Workshop by discussing the idea of databases as libraries and ended it with a look at using medals to "bookmark" games. We'll start this column with a couple of other bookmarking features.

The "Special annotations" command (which you can reach through a popup menu that appears when you right-click on a move in ChessBase's Notation pane) holds some other means of bookmarking games in addition to medals. Although these are designed as non-verbal means of annotating games, they're also useful as ad hoc "bookmarks".

The "Critical position" commands (one each for the three phases of the game: opening, middlegame, and endgame) will change a move's color in the Notation pane from black to another color depending on which command you select. Choosing "Critical opening position" changes the move's color to blue. "Middlegame" switches the color to red, and "Endgame" changes the color to green. These commands are intended to denote crucial "turning points" in a game, or even positions in which the side to move missed an important continuation. If you plan to publish a game you're annotating online, I encourage you to follow these conventions in order to avoid confusing your readers. But if you're just bookmarking a game/position for your own use, feel free to use these commands in any manner you choose -- your database, your rules. I've often used the "critical position" commands to mark moves that were decidedly "non-critical" in long games which I didn't have time to review in one sitting. I just mark the move at the point where I leave off and when I open the game later I can easily pick out the point at which I stopped replaying the game.

As with medals (which we discussed last week), you'll need to remember to use "Replace game" before you exit the game; otherwise your "Critical move" markings are lost.

Another way to mark a game is with the "Pawn structure" and "Piece path" popups. These are also intended for use by game annotators to provide illustrative, non-verbal commentary (typically to enhance points made in verbal annotations). But you can also use these as a "quick'n'dirty" way to bookmark a game, even if the merits of the position don't warrant their use. Remember that you're just using them as a "place holder" in case you have to leave your computer before you finish viewing a game.

The reason why I'm mentioning these three non-verbal annotation forms is because they're searchable: you can easily find them later by using ChessBase's Search mask. Just right-click on the database's icon, select "Search", and click on the "Annotations" tab at the top of the Search mask:

You just put a check in the box next to the annotation form you used to "bookmark" your game:

And then click "OK". ChessBase will pull up a list of all games in which that particular annotation form appears, and you should then be able to find your game.

But in general, if you want to permanently bookmark a game (as we discussed last week), it's preferrable to use medals (at least in my view). Unless the "Critical position" move coloring or "Pawn structure/Piece path" markings are relevant to the move in question, you'd probably want to use these as temporary bookmarks and remove them later.

Going back to last week's column, you can also use the "User" medal to temporarily bookmark a game. The "User" medal is a catch-all for any important concepts or events that aren't covered by the other medals. There's even a whiz-bang shortcut for bookmarking a game with the light-blue "User" medal: just highlight a game in the game list (by single-clicking on it) and then hit the "+" key on your keyboard's numeric keypad (to the right of the main set of keys); using the SHIFT-= combination (i.e. the "+" sign in the main area of your keyboard) doesn't work. Then you can just do a search for "User" medals to find your game.

That's right -- a search for medals. I left this out of last week's column on purpose, knowing that I'd cover it here along with the other searches I just discussed. Call up the Search mask and click on the "Medals" tab, select "User", and click "OK". You can search for any of the medal types in this manner, not just the "User" medal.

Now my main purpose with these two columns wasn't to discuss how to temporarily bookmark games, although this is certainly related to my main point. My idea was to show you how to permanently mark games you find of special interest and then easily locate them later.

Let's face it -- very few of us are blessed with prodigious memories. I'm worse than most; I have a mind like a sieve (I could tell you a very embarassing story about trying to introduce a lovely lady friend to my bandmates back when I was a musician and suddenly blanking on her name, but the memory's too painful. Best to let me shed a quick tear and just move on. Sorry, Traci. Or Bambi. Or Tori. Or whatthehellever your name was. Wait! TAMMY! That was it! Too bad I'm remembering it seventeen years too late. Oops, sidetracked again -- sorry. Onward...).

We're always coming across games that are tres cool and which we want to replay later. It might be a pure King and pawn ending in which White masterfully pushes a 4-3 Queenside pawn majority and beats the opponent's 2-1 Kingside majority to promotion. Stuff like that isn't just cool, it's useful. One of the keys to chess is pattern recognition, the ability to see patterns in our own games which are similar to patterns we've encountered before; replaying the games of other, stronger players is a great way to gain such experience and exposure to patterns. But for a lot of us, though, it takes multiple exposures to a "concept in action" (like the pawn race I described above) to reinforce the specific pattern. That's why it's a good idea to replay games more than once which you find especially interesting or instructive: to hammer home the important points. "Bookmarking" such games with medals is a great way to find them later, especially when you're working with a database of more than three million games.

However, there always seems to be a fly in the ointment. Marking games in a master database like Mega Database might be a dicey proposition for a reason which I'm about to explain. I try not to add annotations or comments of my own to Mega, the Opening Encyclopedia, the Correspondence Database, or any of the databases I own which are periodically updated with new editions. It makes "housekeeping" super easy; when a new version hits my mailbox, I just delete the old version and replace it with the new one. I don't have to worry about losing any commentary I've added if I don't add any in the first place.

So how do I get around this? How do I bookmark games I want to come back to at a later date and replay again and again, either for their instructive value or just for their sheer "cool factor"?

That's easy for me, and you can just as easily do it too. Simply create a new separate database to store the games you want to keep coming back to over and over. You can name it whatever you want: "Important games", "Study games", just plain "Critical", or even "COWABUNGA" if that suits you. The main criterion is to make sure you remember the main purpose of that database and can identify it in your database window (the one displaying the icons for all of your databases). When you're replaying a game in Mega (or any other commercial database you intend to update later by replacing it) and come across a game you want to keep as one of your important examples, just copy the game into your separate smaller database. Then open the game in that database (it'll always be the last one in the game list), add your medals and any other commentary you wish, and then use "Replace game" to save the medals and commentary.

Over time, you'll be creating a separate personal library of chess games you view as especially important and/or instructive, unique to you. It'll be fully searchable, even at a glance in the game list if you remember what the different colors of medals signify. Remember that game you played with that awesome double Rook sacrifice? Can't remember the player or tournament names, though? Hmmm...just do a search in your "personal library" database for the "Sacrifice" medal you remember marking it with and this'll narrow down the choices; if the citation doesn't just jump off the list and poke you in the eye, you can easily open the games individually to find the double Rook sac (especially if you attached the medal to the specific move at which the second Rook was sacked).

That's a really awesome concept: a personal library of chess games you find significant. And I have a pretty good hunch that many top players use the same technique, especially if they're preparing a chess book of their own. Instead of laboriously searching through gobs of games to find ones that fit their intended theme, they just pull up games that they previously archived for their own personal use, a personal library that might even have been years in the making.

Next time out we're gonna hit the books -- real ones. You know -- the paper kind? None of that hateful destructive "page corner folding" for us. We'll look at a better way in the next ChessBase Workshop. Until then, you know what to do.

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.

© 2006, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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