Material searches in ChessBase 9 – part four

by ChessBase
8/26/2005 – In the final installment of a series of instructional columns regarding material searches, we examine toggles for pawn structures and other positional considerations. Read all about it in the newest ChessBase Workshop.

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by Steve Lopez

We're coming to the end of the line now -- there's a light at the end of the tunnel. This column ought to about do it for material searches in CB9; there's just a few more tweaks we need to discuss.

Once again, here's the full material search dialogue for your viewing pleasure:

Please allow me to call your attention to a chunk of this dialogue, to wit:

This slick little bit of business provides you with the means to further refine your pawn searches. Note that these toggles are pointless unless you're doing a search for positions that contain pawns (i.e. if you've set the range of pawn values to "0" through "0", there's no point to even using these toggles. Sounds obvious, but you might be surprised at the number of readers who'd miss that).

Here's what the boxes mean:

  • "Doubled" -- at least one pair of same-colored pawns must be on the same file.
  • "Passed" -- at least one passed pawn (unable to be stopped by an opposing pawn) must be in the position.
  • "Connected" -- at least two same-colored pawns must reside on files adjacent to each other.

In the next set of boxes, the exclamation mark ("!") means that the stated conditions do not apply:

  • "!Doubled" -- there must be no same-colored pawns residing on the same file as each other.
  • "!Passed" -- the player must have no pawns which are unstoppable by opposing pawns.
  • "!Connected" -- there must be no same-colored pawns on files adjacent to each other.

There are two sets of these six toggles for a reason which should seem obvious: there are two players in a chess game. Let's look at a couple of examples:

If we've checked the "Ignore colors" box, the search will find games in which one player has doubled pawns while his opponent has no passed pawns, regardless of color. But if we've unchecked "Ignore colors", the search will instead bring up only the games in which White has at least one set of doubled pawns while Black has no passers.

Here's another:

If "Ignore colors" is checked, we'll find games in which one player has no doubled pawns and at least one passed pawn, without regard to the opponent's specific pawn structure. If you uncheck "Ignore colors", you'll see games in which White has at least one passer and no doubled pawns.

It's all pretty easy, but there are still some pitfalls you need to look out for. Here's an example of a dumb search (or a dumb example of a search -- whatever):

Now this is a stupid search but you might not know why at first glance. It goes back to Boolean logic (that again -- you may begin cussing Boole at your leisure). Using these pawn structure toggles creates an "AND" search instead of an "OR" search. If you select more than one of these structure toggles you're telling the program that all of the selected structures must apply simultaneously. It's not one or the other -- it's all of them.

Have another look at the above illustration and tell me why this is a silly search. Right. It's set up to look for positions in which White has any number of pieces and exactly two pawns. But we've also told ChessBase that those two pawns must be doubled and be connected. BZZZZZZT! That's wrong -- they can't be both.

This also illustrates why it'd be dumb to check both, say, "Connected" and "!Connected" for the same side -- the two parameters are exclusive for each other. But the following would be a valid search:

This one works because you're telling ChessBase that one player must have at least one pair of connected pawns, while the other player can't have any pawns connected.

Some searches might seem silly but are at least theoretically possible. For example, you could do a search in which one side has eight pawns with none of them connected. At first glance you might think it's impossible: wouldn't that mean all eight pawns would have to be on the same file? Not necessarily -- there might be four sets of doubled pawns (or a lesser number of sets if some pawns are tripled) on non-adjacent files. Very unlikely, but it's possible (in theory, anyway).

But you get the idea. Use a wee bit of thought before setting pawn structure parameters and you'll be OK.

One last thing to cover and then we'll be through. There's a last set of toggles we've not yet discussed:

These sets of toggles allow you to further refine your position searches. Here's what they do:

  • Opposite Bishops: Each player has one Bishop and they operate on differently colored squares (one has a light-squared Bishop, the other has a dark-squared Bishop).
  • Even Bishops: Each player has a single Bishop; both Bishops operate on the same colored squares (light or dark).

Obviously, these toggles should not be used when either player (or both) has two Bishops. And there's no point to using both of these toggles at the same time.

  • Good Bishop: the definition of "Good" Bishop here differs slightly from the "classic" definition. For a Bishop to qualify as a "good" one in a ChessBase search, the majority of the owning player's pawns must be on the opposite-colored squares as the Bishop while a majority of the opposing player's pawns must be on squares of the same color as the Bishop. In theory (since we're dealing with numerical majorities of pawns here), you can still see games in which the allegedly "good" Bishop might be locked behind a couple of its own pawns (if a majority of the total number of pawns are on differently colored squares). While technically not a "good" Bishop, it does meet the mathematical parameters of the search. But most of the time you should see what you're expecting when you think of a "good" Bishop.
  • Bad Bishop: The majority of the owning player's pawns must be on the same colored squares as the Bishop, while most of the opposing pawns are on squares of the opposite color. Here again, there might be some odd cases which come up in your search: a Bishop on the same color as most of its pawns, but outside the pawn chain.

Unlike the other set of Bishop toggles, you can use both of these in the same search. If you select both, you'll get games in which one player has a "good" Bishop while the other player has a "bad" one.

  • Blocked: All of the pawns of one player are blocked by opposing pawns. Note that this isn't a "symmetrical" thing -- it might be a two pawn vs. three pawn position in which one player's third pawn is a passer.
  • Not blocked: None of the pawns belonging to one player are blocked by opposing pawns.

Guess what? You can click on both toggles here, too, in which case you'll get games in which at least two-thirds of one player's pawns are blocked. And, of course, it's silly to use either of these toggles when searching for pawnless endgames.

  • Symmetric: Another pawn tweak. Games in which both players have the same number of pawns on each file will be uncovered when this box is checked.
  • Not symmetric: There must be a difference between the players' number of pawns on at least one file.
Note that if you're searching for, say, a four pawn vs. three pawn ending, you don't need to even bother with these toggles -- the position has to be non-symmetric by definition.

  • Both wings: There must be at least one pawn on the Queenside (the a- through d-files) and at least one on the Kingside (e- through h-files). Note that the pawns do not have to belong to the same player. For example, if you do a search in which both players must have just a single pawn each and check "Both wings", you'll get games in which one player has a pawn on the Queenside while his opponent has a pawn on the Kingside.
  • One wing: The players have all their pawns on either the Kingside or Queenside, not both sides. And in this case all of the pawns for both players will be on the same side of the board.

That pretty much covers it for performing material searches in ChessBase 9. As we've seen, you can combine material search parameters in literally thousands of combinations. Just remember to do so judiciously -- in other words, make sure that your searches make sense -- and you'll do fine.

Until next week, have fun!

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

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