Getting the most out of ChessBase 15: a step-by-step guide #7 – Databases

by Nick Murphy
7/1/2020 – ChessBase 15 is a most sophisticated chess software. But today we are gonna take it right back to the original function of ChessBase: the very reason that ChessBase was developed in the first place – Chess Databases. Nick Murphy takes you through this beginner's guide to chess databases.

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Databases

In this tutorial Nick Murphy talks about databases: what they are, how to use them and why they help you to become a better player and have more fun with chess.

So, what is a database? 
Just the word "database" can put some people off, but the concept is incredibly simple.
A database is a collection of related information. A phone book (if you are old enough to remember those things!) is a database of phone numbers. For our younger readers - your contacts list is a database.

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, find the ones you want in just a few seconds, then play through them right on the screen.

Where ChessBase 15 comes in, is that you can use it to search a chess database for anything from the names of the players to recurring middlegame strategic themes.

Why?
Why do we want to look at old games of chess? There are two answers*. The first answer is "to get better at chess". 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.

In the old days, before computers became commonplace, chess players could spend weeks or even months scouring books and magazines for ideas that would assist them. A chess author might introduce a concept and give an example or two, but sometimes two examples just aren't enough. Or worse yet, maybe they give some bad examples!

A chess database allows you to find and replay exactly what you want to see -- whether it is a specific middlegame motif, the latest game from your favourite Super Grandmaster, or even some obscure 1800's game that makes you smile. And you can find this stuff in seconds.

Databases included with ChessBase 15
If you purchase the Starter Package of ChessBase 15, you get the Big Database 2020 included in the price. If, however you decide to go with either the Mega or Premium package, you get the Mega Database 2020. It is worth nothing that both versions include exactly the same GAMES, although in the Mega, more than 85,000 of them are annotated, which while not essential, is well worth the extra money. That’s not counting the free update service that comes with the Mega Database.

You don’t actually get a database with the ChessBase 15 download version, but obviously there is the option of purchasing the Big or Mega separately if you like.

It’s also worth noting that if you buy any of the recent Fritz-Family playing programs (like Fritz 17 or Komodo 14) then they come with a database of around 1.5 million games included, which is more than enough to keep most people busy for a little while at least!

Accessing databases
If you download and install a database, or install one from a DVD disk, then the icon for that database should appear automatically in your "My Databases" folder on the ChessBase 15 main screen. 


If not, then you will have to open the database manually. This is the same process for any other databases you have purchased / downloaded etc, whether they are databases produced by ChessBase or not.

Go to the main ChessBase 15 screen, click on the Home tab in the ribbon, and click open.

[You can also go the File Menu => Open => Database for the same result]

This will open a Windows Explorer window, and you must locate the database file that you installed. The default installation path for ChessBase databases is in your Documents folder, then the ChessBase sub-folder, and then Bases sub-folder. If it’s one you downloaded yourself, you will need to check where you downloaded the database to [common locations are your "Downloads" folder or your "Windows Desktop" – but ultimately they will be wherever you put them – so pay attention!]

In the "Bases" folder, you will see a file called "Mega Database 2020.cbh". Click to select it, then click "Open".

This opens the welcome text of the Mega Database 2020 (If you are opening a different database, it may go straight to the game list).

Just below the ribbon, you will see some more tabs. Clicking on the "Games" tab will take you to the list of 8 million + games that the Mega Database 2020 contains. 

The games list is made up of a variety of columns. Player Names (with ratings if ratings are available), the final result, the total number of moves, the ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) code of the opening that was played, the tournament name, date etc. You can sort or search by any of these for starters. But crucially you can click on any of the games and play through them instantly, or even analyse them with a chess engine if you like. 

The important thing to realise is that what could take literally weeks of searching through hundreds of different chess publications, just a few decades ago, can now take SECONDS. You have the history of chess at your fingertips. And if you have either the Big or Mega Databases, that is plenty to keep your fingertips occupied.

We will of course look in more detail at databases in future articles. But that at least gives everyone a jumping off point to explore chess databases, and chess history. 

Which brings me back to the question with two answers that I mentioned at the start.
Why do we want to look at old games of chess? There are two answers*. The first answer is "to get better at chess".

*The second answer is to have fun.

Until next week, please do.




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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Derek McGill Derek McGill 7/1/2020 02:52
Is there any way to turn off the "Variations" ..........."Endgames" display at the bottom of the Reference tab ???
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