LiveBook: the Opening Oracle

by Albert Silver
12/15/2014 – Among several groundbreaking technologies ChessBase has introduced in the last years, such as various cloud functions, possibly the most original of them all is the LiveBook. What is it? Imagine every position that was analyzed with an engine being stored in a single giant opening book that everyone could access. That is the LiveBook, and in it you will find a treasure trove of novelties.

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In recent years, ChessBase has introduced several groundbreaking technologies in their software, such as various cloud functions, as well as possibly the most original of them all: the LiveBook. The idea is lovely in its simplicity, and was certainly hard to properly evaluate when it first came out.

What if every position that was analyzed with an engine were stored in a single giant opening book that everyone could access? That pretty much sums up the LiveBook. What you have is not only each and every position, but also the computer analysis that was made with it. If more than one engine was used then the three deepest analyses will be stored with the position in question.

The LiveBook is cloud opening book that everyone can access or contribute to

The key difference here is that even though the LiveBook has access to all the games in ChessBase’s online database, it also includes all the analyzed positions that have yet to appear in a game. When the LiveBook first came out, all the potential it held was well understood, but now, that potential is already fulfilling its promise. Instead of the odd position that has never been seen before, you can find thousands upon thousands of novelties and analysis waiting to be discovered and unleashed.

A simple example: in the first round of the London Chess Classic, Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri both played a rather offbeat Berlin, in which the queens stayed on the board and the last known position was 12…Re8. Until then, both players had been following Motylev-Fedoseev from September this year, and the official novelty was 13.b3. Sort of.

This is the crossroads after 12...Re8. Motylev chose 13.d4, while
Nakamura innovated with 13.b3

It’s true that this had never appeared over-the-board before, but for those watching the games with the new Fritz interface found with Komodo 8 for example, or the flagship ChessBase 12 or 13, the LiveBook showed the position had already been studied in depth long before. In fact, the entire line until 18.Bc4 was already there with computer evaluations and mainlines.

Let’s take a look at how to access and edit this powerful tool:

When you open a game in Komodo 8 or ChessBase 13, the notation pane where the moves are recorded has a number of tabs at the top:

Click on the LiveBook to see what it has for that position. Depending on how you configured it,
you may not see anything at first. If so, you need to turn it on first by click on Connect.

You can have it connect automatically everytime you access the
LiveBook in the settings. If you’d like to do this, click on Settings.

The LiveBook will now show you not only all the moves that exist from this position, but also how many games (instantly telling you if a certain move has never been played before). It will also tell you the evaluation, based on the computer analyses recorded, and the number of visits. This last item is not insignificant, since it tells you if a move is looked at a lot, and potential trends in the opening.

Let’s return to our example, Nakamura-Giri. The truth be told, in this particular case the move
would not have been difficult to predict since the top engines all suggest it. If we turn on
the engine just before the novelty 13.b3, we see the engines all recommending it as best.

It goes without saying that there are far more than two possible moves here, so let's create our own novelty by playing it and letting the engine analyze it. Any move will serve, but let's try something at least reasonable looking: 13.g3!?

Here is the proposed novelty 13.g3 based on the principle: "One
good fianchetto deserves another"

After playing 13.g3 on the board, Komodo 8 suggests 13...Be7 with an equal evaluation.
The depth is in blue, indicating a considerable amount of time spent analyzing. If it were
green, it would mean about 20-40 seconds had been spent, and brown would mean
30-60 minutes. You can also see the first moves of the mainline, the engine, and the date.

Now if we go back to 12...Re8 we can see our move 13.g3 now listed as one of the analyzed
options, unplayed (zero games), analyzed on December 15, and the evaluation is equal

As you can see, the LiveBook is a treasure trove of unplayed novelties and opening preparation galore. The next time you prepare an opening, be sure to check the LiveBook. It might have some good suggestions, and it will certainly save you time running your engine on a move that someone else already looked at.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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Mike Scott Mike Scott 12/16/2014 02:15
But you didn't discover it. Your computer did. Sorry for me the thrill of chess is about the battle between minds, be that the players or mine when following the game. At my low level of the game I think there is a future but as time passes the top end will become almost entirely devoid of human imagination. Sad.
dysanfel dysanfel 12/15/2014 02:13
This is one of the most fun things to do with Chessbase. Predicting what Carlsen might do and being correct, then pointing my engine in the right place, waiting to see the magic words "Discovered by Dysanfel"!!!! I love it!
Mike Scott Mike Scott 12/15/2014 10:58
Great tool from the engineering view point but does no one have concern for the welfare of chess? My fear is that chess will inevitably become a game for those who can not remember preparation or do not have the time to do it. A bit like knots and crosses!

Not sure how ones stops 'progress' or more accurately adapts to it.