Getting the most out of ChessBase 15: a step-by-step guide #11 – Database search basics

by Nick Murphy
10/27/2020 – We have looked at the fundamentals of databases, and how they are a collection of related information. Like a telephone directory is a database of phone numbers. Chess databases are collections of chess games, and that is all they are. But where they come in useful to people like you or I, is that they are SEARCHABLE. Today we are going to look at the basics of searching chess databases.

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Database search basics

Nick Murphy explains the powerful search functions in ChessBase

As we have stated before, a database is a collection of related information. A chess database is a collection of chess games. Just that. There is nothing complicated or confusing about a chess database. You can store literally millions of chess games on your computer. But what do you do with that information when you have it?

You SEARCH it. That’s what.

Just a few decades ago, what could take literally weeks of searching through hundreds of different printed chess publications, can now take SECONDS. By studying the games of the past, we can see ideas, concepts, and patterns that may be applicable in our own games. If you are even a little serious about improving your play, a chess database is an essential requirement.

How to search

So what can you search for? Well, pretty much any aspect of chess games. The search function of ChessBase began many years ago as a relatively basic concept. Searching for particular players, particular tournaments, and particular openings. Now, with ChessBase 15 the search feature is amazingly sophisticated. You can still search by player, or the year in which the game was played, but now you can search for pawn structures, attacking motifs, piece manoeuvres, and even strategic themes. The possibilities are virtually limitless. 

There are a few ways to search in ChessBase 15. You will generally want to be searching your biggest database, as that is the one that contains the most information. But whichever database you plan to investigate, you can do so in several ways. 

From the main ChessBase screen, you can right click the database you are interested in and click search:

You can also double click the database icon to open it, and from that window, click “Filter List” in the ribbon:

Both ways do achieve the same outcome, and “search” and “filter” mean the same thing for our purposes.

Basic search

By default, ChessBase begins by presenting you with a very basic search window, otherwise known as the “Single Line Search Input”.


 
Often, when you are searching within a database, only a few search criteria are required. The basic search allows you the option to enter a few simple words into the box and that will be the basis for your search. 

The “examples” button is a fantastically useful resource, that gives you some typical samples of the type of search that may be helpful:


 
For instance, if I wanted to study the famous rivalry between Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short, I would simply type “Kasparov Short” (without the quotation marks) in the search box and click “ok”.

This starts the search of my mega database, which on my computer takes about 30 seconds to complete (you can see the search progress bar in the bottom right of the search window)

 
Search speeds will vary from computer to computer based on the different hardware components in use, so do not be surprised if yours is substantially slower or quicker than mine.

When the search is completed, you can see in the bottom left corner how many games have been found (in this particular case, 92 games in my database).

 
And you are then presented with a list of those games in the search window, any of which you can click and play through and analyse in the board window

 
It’s important to note that the next time you open the basic search window, ChessBase 15 will have saved the last search you performed.  So, if you are planning on searching for something different this time, you must first begin by clicking the “reset” button. 

This basic search window is incredibly useful and wonderfully efficient. It is well suited to quick, fun searches, general interest searches, or any non-specific search. 

If you want to get more complex and refined with your searching, then you can eschew the basic search window and click on “Advanced”. This opens the detailed search window, which is the window that will be familiar to you if you have used any previous versions of ChessBase software. Of course, if you prefer that the program defaults to the more sophisticated “classic” search interface, you only need to check the box “Always advanced dialog”. This means that in the future you will avoid seeing the basic search window, and ChessBase will always open the classic, more extensive search window. We will look at this advanced search window in future articles (it will take many articles to attempt to cover everything you can do with the advanced search function - ChessBase is simple, but VERY sophisticated!)

Searching databases is one of the fundamental functions of ChessBase15. Mastering it is essential if you want to set yourself on the path to chess improvement. 

Until next time, stay safe, and have fun.

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Nick Murphy is an actor, chess enthusiast, and an acknowledged chess-software expert. Living in London; he has co-authored three DVDs for ChessBase alongside International Master Lorin D'Costa. As well as authoring hundreds of videos on how to get the most from your ChessBase software.
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