Making your own playbook -- part three

by ChessBase
5/4/2005 – In the final installment of our ChessBase Workshop series on building and maintaining an opening "playbook" database, we tend to a bit of housecleaning. We'll show you how to organize and trim analysis lines that may become a bit unwieldy after numerous game additions. Workshop...

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by Steve Lopez

part 1
part 2

ChessBase 9 has a lot of features to help you in your chess studies; the program is unmatched at helping you to quickly and easily locate information. But what you do with that information is largely up to you; ChessBase 9 can't think for you. Thinking is what this last installment of our "playbook" series is all about.

Creating and using your playbook isn't a "one shot" deal -- it's going to be a continuous process. Consequently there's going to be some thought required, especially when it comes to adding games to your playbook and doing some periodic "housecleaning".

In the last ChessBase Workshop we took the initial steps in adding games and analysis to our playbook entries. We learned how to add games to a particular opening line. But we're going to be doing this more than once; in fact, we'll do it every time we obtain a new game collection. In this column I'll offer a method for keeping up on playbook maintenance.

Let's assume that since last week's column we've obtained a new game collection (oddly, though, in reality I'll be working backwards -- I used CBM Extra #104 for last week's column; this week I'll be working backward a month and using CBM #104). The first thing we should do is open a game from our playbook and be sure to highlight the move we've marked as a "critical opening position" by single-clicking on it. This ensures that CB9 will do a position search for the proper position. Next we'll click on the "Reference" tab to see if the search scares up any games:

Good! The database contains two games. Looking at the players' ratings, I decide to omit the first game from consideration. But the second game was played by two players rated 2500+, so I want to add it to my playbook.

But I've had a sudden thought -- how will I easily pick it out in the variation "tree" I've created, especially if I close the game and return to it in a day or two?

The answer involves a little bit of work. I'll first want to remove any medals I've previously added to the game; I'll need to return to my playbook game, right-click on any move marked with a medal, select "Special annotations/Set medal" from the popup menu, and then use the "Reset" button in the Medals dialogue to remove the medal from the game. After replacing the game, I'll then click again on my "critical position" and then the "Reference" tab.

Taking note of the players' names in the 2500+ rated game, I right-click on it and select "Copy to notation". Then I'll go back to the gamescore in my playbook, find the first move of that game's variation line (by looking at the game citations), right-click on it, and set a medal for that move:

After remembering to replace the game, I can come back to this game at a later time or date and instantly pick out the analysis I've just added to this line in the playbook.

It's already plain to see that maintaining a playbook database consists of more than just popping in new material as it becomes available; we'll also need to do a bit of work to mark the new material to be able to identify it later.

After several cycles of adding new material to a playbook entry, we're going to wind up with a big honking game full of variations, subvariations, sidelines, etc. And we're probably not going to be able to easily read it after a while -- there'll be just too much stuff in there. So we're going to need to prune our game tree a bit -- and that's where thought plays a big role.

You'll recall a few weeks ago a short series on analyzing your opening choices. Those same techniques will come into play now. You'll need to objectively look at your game tree and decide what to keep in it and what has to go away. You might consider the quality of the games themselves; if a player makes a major middlegame or endgame blunder, that game might not be too important to keep as part of your overall analysis tree. You might look at overall statistics from a large opening book and/or database. You might want to have a chess engine chew on a position to see what it thinks the best move is and then adjust the tree accordingly.

Ultimately, though, you're going to have to decide how best to adjust your game tree. The rest of this column will show you the "how to's" for making these adjustments.

You might decide that a particular subvariation is more important than its present physical position in the gamescore indicates, so you want to "bump it up". For example, in the above graphic I might decide that the medalled position after 10...Bxd2 should be swapped with the move 10...d6. That's pretty easy to accomplish. After right-clicking on 10...Bxd2 I'll select "Promote variation" from the popup menu. Then my gamescore will look like this:

You can see that the two games have swapped positions in the gamescore -- 10...d6 now starts the parenthesized variation (instead of 10...Bxd2 as before). After some further consideration, I decide that most of the game following 10...d6 isn't really necessary at all -- I can cut out everything after 15...dxc5. So I'll right-click on 15...dxc5 and select "Delete" from the popup menu and then "Delete remaining moves" from the submenu. My gamescore will then look like this:

And we can see that everything after 15...dxc5 in that variation has been deleted. The game citation is helpfully retained, though, but it still contained "1-0" at the start of the citation. Since this is no longer a complete game, I hit CTRL-A to open the annotation window and deleted the "1-0" from the citation entry.

We can kill whole variations the same way. If I decide that the whole 10...d6 variation is no longer necessary, I can right-click on that move, choose "Delete" from the popup menu, then "Delete variation" from the submenu, and get this:

Now that whole variation is gone.

Another way to "cut down" is to make a separate entry in your playbook (e.g. another game in the database) if you discover that a later "break point" is getting a lot of action. As an example, we can make a new database entry based on our example game but which ends with 7.a3. We'd:

  1. Delete the variation starting with 7.e3;
  2. Delete all moves after 7.a3;
  3. Delete the game citation annotation (CTRL-A);
  4. Remove the "critical position" highlighting from 6.Nbd2 ("Special annotation/Delete critical position");
  5. Designate 7.a3 as a "critical position";
  6. Use "Save game" and modify the game header:

There are plenty of other ways to manipulate the data within your playbook, but this sampling should provide you with some ideas.

It's not been my intention to scare you away from creating a playbook a la Kasparov, but I do want you to understand that there's some degree of serious effort involved. Maintaining a playbook database is like owning a pet ferret: the damned things are a lot of work to take care of, but owning one can pay off later (such as when somebody breaks into your house and isn't prepared for all the ear-splitting screeching). Playbooks are lots of work, too, but the payoff comes when your opponent thinks he's "springing something on you" in the opening, and it winds up being a move you've seen before -- in your own playbook database.

Until next week, have fun!

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

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