ChessBase 16 review: "A tool to enjoy and to improve your chess"

by Carl Portman
12/7/2020 – A few weeks ago ChessBase 16 appeared and chess fans all over the world are enthusiastic about it. One of them is Carl Portman. He had a look at the program and concluded: "ChessBase serves not only as a source of enjoyment in trying times but it is a fantastic information management tool to improve your chess."

ChessBase 16 - Starter Package Edition 2021 ChessBase 16 - Starter Package Edition 2021

Your key to fresh ideas, precise analyses and targeted training!


Notes about ChessBase 16

You don’t have to be a professional to be serious about chess. Speaking as a proud amateur I am as committed to getting the best out of my game (and therefore myself) as I can whilst having as much fun as possible. For me, chess enjoyment would be significantly diminished without ChessBase. I say this as a die-hard lover of hard copy books.

One of my chess passions is to promote chess in prisons, but like millions of chess players around the world I have also been ‘locked up’ with the Covid-19 Pandemic and could be for many weeks to come. This can be a seriously testing issue, but luckily, as a chess player I am never bored and there is always something constructive to do. ChessBase serves not only as a source of enjoyment in trying times but it is a fantastic information management tool to improve your chess.

I use ChessBase to assist me in all of my chess tasks. These range from writing chess columns, coaching, editing a chess magazine and storing/analysing my games. Now ChessBase 16 has landed. I am always excited when a new version is issued. Golfers relish a new set of clubs and footballers like new boots. I like my ChessBase upgrade.

Many players from beginner to strong county level are curious about ChessBase and ask ‘What is it and why do I need it’? There is no simple answer apart from ‘it depends’. The first thing I ask is ‘what do you want from chess?’ Well, ChessBase will always be there to help. What do ChessBase themselves say about the product? They assert that it is about fresh ideas, precise analysis and targeted training. I will now comment on some of the new features that I investigated that particularly interested me as a club player.

Opening surveys for every move with a single click

Openings are a key area of expertise and study for many chess players so this is a critical feature. I can see that it will be a very useful tool to use. A simple illustration is this. I opened a new board and played 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 and then 4.a4 for the Sicilian Moscow Variation, and then clicked ‘Build Survey’. I sat back and let the engine do the rest and you can then see the basic lines in the game window.

One can dive much deeper depending upon the opening but this is the idea. For any position in the opening it is possible to create opening surveys, i.e. Repertoire suggestions. The program offers the possibility to generate these for any opening position as a fully structured variation tree. It is now easier to study an opening variation and to memorise it.

Dynamic Folding of notation

This sounded complicated at first but in essence it is a very quick way to view variations either in detail or more simply. If there are deeply nested variations which are too much to absorb, simply click on ‘fold’ and it will hide all those protracted lines that you don’t have time to go into and it will give you the basic information. Simple.

Urgent news about recently played innovations

This is cool. Occasionally a little board will pop up in real time with a diagram of an interesting innovation played. It disappears automatically or you can click on it and investigate! There is no need to trawl your own database. They may or not be significant but at least you will be aware of them.

Innovations and trends as annotations in tactical analysis tab

This is very nice. I put in the game Keres – Verbac and let the engine work. This is very useful for coaching and learning from games.

Tags for the management of games

Tags are displayed in the games list so that it is easy to identify the main ‘theme’ of your game if you need to, such as an opening or tactical aspect for a discussion point.

Slimmed down search booster

This is particularly important – perhaps crucial – if your computer has issues with processing power. ChessBase say that the required hard disk space for this function has been halved.

Playchess Chat Modernised

I tried this and yes it does indeed look much fresher, cleaner and sharper.

After an update to mega database, an overview of important recent innovations and theoretical trends.

I have not been able to verify this yet but it seems like a nice new function, which is again useful for finding information without trawling through games.

Miscellaneous comments

Because of lockdown I am spending more time looking at the training aspects, particularly inserting training notes into games which are tremendously useful when coaching on Zoom or Skype. It’s a great function that I will develop over time.

Also note (below) the new vertical bar on the right hand-side where you can instantly remove annotations, fold and unfold variations, ask training questions whilst replaying the game and change the font (very useful) amongst other. It’s a lovely addition and these are all single click activities.

I never stop learning about ChessBase functionality. One should never underestimate the power of the mouse right-click. This allows you to choose and execute options quickly.  

It is fascinating to explore the various tabs when in the ‘board’ function. Again, they are very intuitive. Don’t worry about making mistakes, just find your way around.

The plan explorer also allows you to look at variations and options and it interrogates the database to show who has played them. This is useful when preparing for a particular opponent or just checking your own knowledge of openings. Mining for information has become much quicker with each version of ChessBase.

You can enhance the experience of ChessBase 16 of course by adding the mega database 2021 package and the correspondence package. Depending upon the package you choose you can receive ChessBase Magazine for up to 12 months, receive up to 500 Ducats (which allow you to use to play masters or make purchases online) and utilise the Endgame Turbo 5 flash drive (at a mind-boggling 128GB) to use as six-piece SYZYGY tablebases which allow for perfect play. It’s your choice.

Budgets are an issue for all of us, so ChessBase have kindly split up the offering into starter, mega and premium packages. Most people will be happy with the starter package – especially those new to chess who want to commit to improving their game. It’s easy to visit the ChessBase website to see the components of each package.

Mega Database 2021

This has over 8.4 million games, of which some 85,000 are annotated. There are over 400,000 games from the previous version. You can find all the World Championship games throughout history in a simple click and this is my favourite new development. You can find a history of top tournaments and prepare against an opponent much quicker by putting in their name and the engine will do the rest.

Mega Database 2020

The ChessBase Mega Database 2020 is the premiere chess database with over eight million games from 1560 to 2019 in high quality. Packing more than 85,000 annotated games, Mega 2020 contains the world‘s largest collection of high-class analysed games. Train like a pro! Prepare for your opponents with ChessBase and the Mega Database 2020. Let grandmasters explain how to best handle your favorite variations, improve your repertoire and much more.

Correspondence Database.

Correspondence chess is criminally underrated. The games are important because the players will have spent a lot of time and effort on their games, and it is here that some really interesting novelties can be found. There are a few opening videos relating to some games and also endgame videos with the legendary endgame expert Karsten Müller in the package and it is so much easier to find the top games.

CORR Database 2020

The new Corr Database 2020 is a large ChessBase collection of correspondence games from the period from 1804 to 2019. With more than 80,000 tournaments and over 1.6 million correspondence games.

Publishing online

This is something I am still learning about but it is very easy for example to upload your latest win on Twitter or Facebook! It has never been easier to share your chess with the world. All of the usual options for printing and sharing are there too.

Final comment

Whatever package you opt for you’ll get the ChessBase 16 program, online database access, ChessBase magazine for at least 6 months and ChessBase Premium membership on Playchess for at least 6 months. With online chess being ever more popular, and the likelihood of visiting ‘real’ chess clubs still so uncertain there has never been a better time to purchase ChessBase in my view. You should use it a lot to get your money’s worth and to build your understanding of the many options available for you in the program, but that’s all part of the fun and creating your own journey. As they say interest is where you find it.



Carl is retired from the Civil Service and now coaches and writes about chess, walks his border collie dogs and generally enjoys life with his wife Susan. He is an amateur arachnologist and has written two books about his rainforest experiences. He volunteers to work with chess in prisons and wrote ‘Chess Behind Bars’ on that subject. He is also the author of ‘Chess Crusader, confessions of an amateur chess player’, and he is a chess columnist for Chess Magazine of London and Inside Time prison newspaper. Whilst confessing not to be a particularly strong player he has been school, club and county champion and also represented his country (twice as Captain) in the NATO chess Championships. In April 2024 he became the UK Armed Forces Chess Association veteran Champion. The highlight of his chess ‘career’ was a simultaneous game against his hero Anatoly Karpov in Chartres, France in 2019. Whilst he lost, he was the last to finish in a creditable fight. His life motto is ‘Don’t complain about the darkness, light a few candles’.


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