ChessBase Complete: Manual and reference guide

10/30/2014 – "Players new to ChessBase 12 should seriously consider buying a copy of ChessBase Complete, and long-time users might want to as well," writes John Hartmann. "It is a sturdy tutorial to the various features of the program, and it doubles as a user-friendly reference guide. I suspect that about 90% of what you need to know about ChessBase can be found in these pages." Review.

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The Missing Manual

By John Hartmann

Edwards, Jon. ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age. Milford: Russell Enterprises, 2014. 350 pp. ISBN 978-1936490547. PB List $34.95.

In my previous review, which focused on the top three chess engines currently available, I said that ChessBase 12 is a nearly mandatory purchase for improving players. In this review I continue in that vein by reviewing a new book about ChessBase 12, a book that fills a real need in the literature.

Fun fact: I proofread and edited the English help files for ChessBase 8 way back in 2000. Even then, the manual for the ChessBase program seemed something of an afterthought, something that the authors of ChessBase put together out of necessity and nothing more. The ChessBase program has been, and continues to be, difficult to master, and the manual has never been particularly helpful to the neophyte. Some third parties, most notably Steve Lopez with his T-Notes column, tried to remedy this situation, but on the whole there has never been a truly comprehensive, user-friendly introduction to the ChessBase GUI. Until now, that is.

Jon Edwards is an ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation) Senior International Master, a USCF OTB expert, a chess teacher and an author with multiple chess related titles to his name. He is is a long-time ChessBase power user, having used the program to research his books and his openings for correspondence games. Edwards also created very early e-books for the ChessBase platform.

Edwards’ new book, ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age, is a careful and systematic introduction to the ChessBase 12 GUI and its capabilities. Over the course of 14 chapters or ‘scenarios,’ Edwards clearly explains to his readers how to use ChessBase, how to manipulate and maintain data, how to play on the Playchess server, and much more. I reproduce the chapter list from the book below:

Scenario  1  The Future of Chess Books (And some very simple searching)
Scenario  2  Maintaining Quality Data (Garbage in, Garbage out)
Scenario  3  Working well with ChessBase (Organizing and viewing your chess information)
Scenario  4  Preparing for an opponent (Because they’re preparing for you)
Scenario  5  Playing (At any time of the day or night)
Scenario  6  Playchess Tournaments (Competing for fun and profit)
Scenario  7  Preserving and annotating your games (Because you must)
Scenario  8  Honed opening preparation (No more surprises)
Scenario  9  Engines and Kibitzers (Subjecting your games to unbiased scrutiny)
Scenario 10 A Grandmaster by your Side (Complex searching made easy)
Scenario 11 Watching Grandmaster Chess (It’s better than baseball)
Scenario 12 Training and Teaching (Lighting up the board)
Scenario 13 Competing at Correspondence Chess (It’s not dead yet)
Scenario 14 Writing about Chess (With tips on printing)

Five Appendices are included, including a summary of all the features available via the GUI and – very usefully – a list of all the keyboard shortcuts used in ChessBase.

Edwards (left) is a clear and engaging writer. He makes use of copious screenshots to assist with his tutorials, and numerous ‘tips’ are strewn through the text to remind readers of essential points. Readers are often asked to ‘learn by doing,’ and Edwards carefully leads his pupils through the tasks described in the book. And he takes the time to explain opaque terms and titles, like the ranks of players on the Playchess server.

I have been using ChessBase since the days of DOS, so most of what Edwards had to say wasn’t entirely new to me. Still, I found his discussion of constructing one’s own keys instructive, and as I’ve never played correspondence chess via ICCF, Scenario 13 was rather interesting.

Relatively few typos made it into the final text, although I did find one or two along with the occasional verbal oddity, i.e., “…an inexorable quality to [Morphy’s] games…” (210). The ChessBase one-click web publishing service is not a joint venture with Facebook (243), and it was surprising to see that Edwards only allocated 1 to 2mb to the tablebases in his screenshots (318). For a book of this length and with this many technical details, I do not find these shortcomings unacceptable.

Players new to ChessBase 12 (or, soon, ChessBase 13) should seriously consider buying a copy of ChessBase Complete, and long-time users might want to as well. It is a sturdy tutorial to the various features of the program, and it doubles as a user-friendly reference guide. I suspect that about 90% of what you need to know about ChessBase can be found in these pages. For that last 10% I would recommend Axel Smith’s Pump Up Your Rating, which has the finest discussion of professional level ChessBase use in print. See my review of Smith’s book for more.

About the author

John Hartmann is an award-winning chess book reviewer, a chess teacher, organizer, and tournament director in Omaha, Nebraska. Currently he writes for Chess Life, the British Chess Magazine, and his own website, Chess Book Reviews, where the above article originally appeared.

John is a coffee aficionado, a weekend baseball player, a Cardiff City supporter, and a soon-to-be father. He also tries, from time to time, to fit in some work on his dissertation in philosophy.

ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age

By Jon Edwards

Published by Russell Enterprises, 2014,
ISBN 978936490547
Paperback, 356 pages
Price: €29.95 / $34.95

Imported in Europe by New In Chess, Holland
Available at your local (chess) bookseller or
at New In Chess and Amazon



Topics: ChessBase
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Truffaut Truffaut 10/31/2014 06:23
I read this book in a week and I don't even own ChessBase. The book is easy to understand and teaches the novice how to use and navigate in ChessBase effectively. It has a lot of information and tips that will save the user a tremendous amount of time. I highly recommend the book. Also, I don't understand all the comments claiming that ChessBase does not provide a manual. As I said, I don't even own ChessBase (I'm waiting for CB 13 to be released), but even I found and downloaded ChessBase's digital manual in less than sixty seconds with a simple internet search.
Boye Boye 10/31/2014 09:29
Well I think Jon Edwards really wrote a fine book. I found a lot of information in the different scenarios.
Jimliew58 Jimliew58 10/31/2014 01:58
Chessbase is the only software company that charges high price for their product and yet does not include a comprehensive manual or help file. And now we are expected to buy a book to find out how to best use the features?
Jrcasablanca Jrcasablanca 10/30/2014 09:30
you have been publishing chess base and Fritz for years so given the price of that software it would be nice if you could give customers these tips in your own manual
Rama Rama 10/30/2014 09:22
For the amount of money they charge for Chessbase couldn't they have included a digital manual?
firestorm firestorm 10/30/2014 01:58
Thanks for the review, and I hope the impending fatherhood goes well- you might want to get that dissertation finished soon ... :)
KevinC KevinC 10/30/2014 01:27
Wow, $35 for a manual. Don't count on selling a lot of those.
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