Finding variations on training disks - part 1

by ChessBase
5/18/2005 – One of the beauties of ChessBase 9 is that it provides you with multiple ways to tackle your learning tasks. In Part One of a two- part ChessBase Workshop series, we examine two ways to find a specific variation on a ChessBase opening training CD. Workshop...

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by Steve Lopez

I was reading posts on The Chess Exchange Forum not long ago and came across a pretty interesting question regarding ChessBase opening training disks. As you know, ChessBase offers a pretty wide range of training CDs about various openings (many of which have been previewed in my previous columns). A Chess Exchange poster asked how to find a particular variation on a training disk. That's a good question -- and one which never occurred to me to address here. So in this ChessBase Workshop column (and the next) we're going to examine different methods for finding a particular opening line when using a training CD.

In the Chess Exchange I was able to give just a short answer providing four separate (but sometimes related) ways of finding a particular variation. You can't get too awfully detailed in a Web message board post, and I thought the question deserved a more complete answer in ChessBase Workshop. As with many ChessBase tasks there are multiple ways to tackle the task. Here's a brief list; each item will be described in more detail later:

  1. Use the text files written by the disk's author;
  2. Use the opening keys provided on the disk;
  3. Do a position search manually;
  4. Use the opening book to find the position and then use the "Search" shortcut.

None of this is especially difficult to do. The trick for you will be to try them to discover which works best for you. The method you choose might even vary; the exact position you're searching for might require you to adopt different methods depending on how the author has structured his CD and the amount of material your quest uncovers.

For these articles we're going to use as our example the CD Caro-Kann Panov Attack B13-B14 by Zoran Petronijevic, but any of these methods should work with any other ChessBase opening training CD. The exact variation we'll use as an example is 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Qd7:


ChessBase opening CDs contain text files written by the author. The exact content and structure of these files will vary from author to author, but the majority of authors will use these texts to outline important variations in the opening they're discussing. And they'll frequently provide a shortcut button to the opening key for the variation discussed. On the Caro-Kann CD the author provides a lot of these opening texts. Looking at the list of them will show a text on the variation we're looking for:

Double-clicking on that text file will open it and we can look to see if the author has provided a key shortcut button:

You can see two of these yellow key buttons in the illustration. However, clicking on one will take you to games played using a subvariation of the line after 7.Qb3 Qd7:

In the illustration we see that the key button after the game Burehall,A - Horberg,B ½-½ takes us to the key for just the games containing oddball eighth moves for White. So on this particular CD we'll need to use another method for finding our desired variation. You'll find, however, that this method works well for a lot of CDs depending on the variation you're searching for. If we'd been looking for a longer variation (extending several moves beyond 7...Qd7) we'd likely have found a button leading us straight to the games of our desired variation.


Go back to the database screen and double-click on the icon for the main database on the CD you're using. You'll see a list of the games contained in that database. Note the file tabs running along the top of the game list. Click on the "Openings" tab; this will take you to a screen displaying the opening key for the database you're using:

On the Caro-Kann CD you'll see two initial entries on the list. The first contains moves in parentheses -- these mean "without the parenthesized moves". So the first entry means that the parenthetical variation isn't contained within that key. Since the second key (for ECO code B14) has the move 4.c4 instead of our desired move 4.Bd3 we know that the variation we want is contained in the first key (the one for code B13).

If you're using a version of ChessBase prior to ChessBase 9, you'll need to double-click on this key to expand it and see further subvariations (which will be displayed in a new screen). You'll need to keep "drilling down" through further subkeys, following your variation's move order, until you come to the key you want.

But ChessBase 9 (and the lastest version of ChessBase Reader) makes this much easier in a very familiar way, similar to the folder/file display in Windows Explorer. Just click on the plus sign to the left of B13 to expand the opening key and see deeper into the "tree" of variations:

You'll notice that the first entry (after 3.ed5) has three dashes for Black's reply. This means that the key contains the games in which Black didn't play the move shown in the next key below it (i.e. 3...cxd5). Then there's a key for 3...cd5 with three keys for White fourth move listed immediately below it. We can (correctly) infer from this that selecting the 3...cd5 line will contain games in which White selected a fourth move that's not on the key list.

Notice the plus signs to the left of each key entry. We can click on any of these to further expand the tree to see deeper subvariations. Since our desired variation contains the moves 3...cxd5 4.Bd3, and 4.Bd3 is one of the listed moves, we'll click on the plus sign next to 4.Bd3 to expand that part of the key:

Here we have a big whopping (but thankfully scrollable) list of subvariations. Since our desired variation continues with 4...Nc6 5.c3 we'll need to scroll down and see what we can find:

And sure enough we see that 5.c3 is listed, again with a plus sign next to it. Click on the plus sign to expand the tree again.

We'll dispense with the graphics for bit and provide a verbal description. The tree after 5.c3 expands to another long scrolling list; at the bottom we see 5.c3 Nf6 with a plus sign next to it. Clicking on the plus, we see another scrolling list; at the bottom we see our desired 6.Bf4 Bg4 with yet another plus sign. Clicking on the plus, we finally come to entry that signals the end of our variation (i.e. 7.Qb3 Qd7):

But uh-oh -- what's this? Another plus sign next to 7.Qb3 Qd7! What's this all about? We can get a clue by looking at the number at the far right of the display. This number indicates that there are 550 games in the database which contain this variation. It's therefore only natural to expect that we'll find further subkeys as a means of organizing all of those games. Clicking on the plus sign next to 7.Qb3 Qd7, we find the following:

Looking at the far right of the display to see the number of games per variation, we see that each contains a more manageable number of games (with the exception of the last key for 9...Bf3 10.Nf3 which contains 295 games and further subvariations). So we now realize that we're need to either specialize in one variation (at least for the moment) or spend a lot of time looking at all of the possibilities listed here. Let's say that we decide to concentrate on 8.Nd2 g6. If you single-click on that key and wait a few moments, you'll see those six games listed in the lower pane of the display:

You can double-click on any of these games to open it up in a board window and replay it.

All of this sounds more complex than it really is -- I scrolled down to the 8...g6 variation in about ten or fifteen seconds. Once you've done this a time or two the process becomes second nature.

One thing we've learned for sure is that we sometimes get a whole lot of information when we're looking for a certain opening variation. That's why I started this column with the method of using the author's texts as a means of locating games. An opening CD's author will often give you advice on variations, telling you why certain lines are good or bad; you can use this advice as a guide as to what you want to study. It's going to be pretty hard to review all 550 games containing 7.Qb3 Qd7, especially if we're not sure what to play next. The author's advice will prove to be immensely valuable in this regard, not only in cutting down the number of games we need to review but also in helping us to understand the deeper subvariation we'll eventually settle on playing.

There's another way to get some interesting, valuable info on opening variations. That'll be discussed in one of the remaining two methods we'll examine in the next ChessBase Workshop. Until then, have fun!

© 2005, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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