MegaBase 2023: Modern master play

by Nagesh Havanur
9/13/2023 – MegaBase 2023 is Chess History in action. Regularly updated every month, the Main Database currently offers 10 million games, many of them annotated. Our columnist offers a review with focus on modern master play. There is a lot more to discover in this treasure trove: grand battles, opening novelties and exemplary endgames.

Mega Database 2023 Mega Database 2023

The ChessBase Mega Database 2023 is the premiere chess database with over 9.75 million games from 1560 to 2022 in high quality.


Five centuries of chess before you

When MegaBase came my way at the end of last year there were more than 9.7 million games. Today, with updates, there are as many as 10 million games in this database. The first of them, Francisco De Castellvi - Narcisco Vinoles, was played in Valencia, Spain way back in 1475. The last of them with updates in my database is Sergiy Zavgorodniy - Peter Roberson from the World Team Rapid Championship played on 28 August 2023.

The number is still growing. So when you see this MegaBase on your screen, you have more than five centuries of chess before you. It’s impossible to do justice to this kind of work in one review. So here I shall deal with one theme: modern master play.

The first question that a reader would ask is about the world champions and their games in this century. For starters, Magnus Carlsen has more than 3000 games and Ding Liren more than 2000 games in this database. As the newly crowned world champion, Ding Liren, is yet to open his innings (now that is a cricket analogy!). So first, we shall focus on Carlsen and his rivals. On merit and sporting success, his World Championship games with Karjakin and Caruana here are important. The stakes were high, and the challengers also performed very well. They deserve as much credit as the world champion (well, almost).

The first of them, Carlsen - Karjakin, World Championship 2016, was a fierce struggle and the games here are annotated by John Nunn, Yasser Seirawan, Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana, among others. Karjakin came close to a victory in the following game, but it was not enough.

Then Carlsen struck back in the next game:

Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin

Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin | Photo: Albert Silver

The next World Championship match, Carlsen - Caruana, was relatively a staid affair with a number of nuanced draws. The games here are annotated by Anand, Adams, Gelfand, Duda and Wesley So, among others

The challenger was not without chances in this match as seen in the following game:

Carlsen struck back in the tie-break games and only here managed to prevail over his opponent:

Magnus had a string of successes in tournaments — time and again he proved himself in World Rapid and Blitz Championships.

Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Nikolai Donaevsky / World Chess

Veterans, Anand and Kramnik

What about veterans like Anand and Kramnik? One may ask. Anand has more than 4000 games and Kramnik has more than 3000 games in this database. These friends and rivals have played a whole World Championship match between them and continue to compete. In recent years it was this epic encounter that made waves in the chess world:

Vishy Anand, Vladimir Kramnik

Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik | Photo: Frederic Friedel and Wolfgang Rzychon

Young talents

This brings us to the young talents in the world arena. Currently the Indian trio, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and Arjun Erigaisi, have taken the chess world by storm and rightly so. The MegaBase has a number of their games, both annotated and unannotated.

Among others, Abdusattorov, Duda and Firoujza deserve special mention. Abdusattaorov has had a big rivalry with Gukesh and the dramatic clash here helped the Uzbek Team to win the Gold Medal in the Chess Olympiad and pushed the Indian team to claim the Bronze Medal.

In fairness to Gukesh, he has fared better against Abudusattorov in recent days, beating him on occasion. Gukesh is an intense, passionate player with great determination to win. On occasion he overreaches himself in his turbulent quest for victory.

Dommararju Gukesh, Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Dommaraju Gukesh and Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Praggnanandhaa also has great determination to win. Besides, he has strong nerves and can withstand pressure. He finds resources in desperate situations, as shown in this game:

One point about these young Indian players is that their play is constantly evolving and their opening arsenal keeps on changing. This makes it difficult for the opponents to prepare against them. As of now, only Carlsen seems to get the better of them, and that, often in the endgame, in which he is a virtuoso.

Last, but not least, is Daniil Dubov. He is a daredevil and his play is, especially, reminiscent of young Tal. The following game made waves in the chess world for its imaginative play and tactical fantasy:

Dubov is a hit-or-miss player. You can learn from both his wins and losses in this Database.

Daniil Dubov

Daniil Dubov | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili


This brings me to the subject of annotations in this database. The games in recent years are annotated in detail, thanks to their main source, ChessBase Magazine, right up to November 2022. Not so with games from the past. A number of them are unannotated. Others have annotations of varying length and quality.

Which annotations are best? Those that offer a judicious blend of explanation and analysis. Currently Anish Giri sets an example. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find annotations by Carlsen, Caruana, Karjakin and Ding Liren to their games. This was in the years before they contested the World Championship title on their own.

System Requirements

Currently the system requirements for the MegaBase 2023 are Windows 10 and ChessBase 17 Program. On older programs, the search function is slow and results are not always accurate.

The number of games in MegaBase has now exceeded 10 million, and it is still growing. So at some point or the other, use of ChessBase 17 would become inevitable. Young readers are tech-savvy and they don’t need this advice. Older readers may try and see if they can run the MegaBase 2023 with the program they already have. If not, ChessBase 17 would have to be used. In the long run it would accommodate other big databases.

Seeing the games in the MegaBase is the first step. Thereafter one has to supplement one’s understanding with some good reading and, importantly, practice over the board.


  1. In a previous review of the MegaBase I had dealt with its treatment of three world championship matches:

  1. A detailed commentary on this game may be found here:

Gukesh’s own account of this traumatic experience may be found in his interview in New in Chess Magazine, 2022 #6.

  1. Praggnanandhaa has analysed this game with Carlsen in CBM 212. Worth a look. Readers may also see his interview in New in Chess Magazine # 6.

  1. I did annotate the Dubov – Karjakin game before:

  1. However, his own annotations to the game in New in Chess Magazine 2021 #1 are important. They offer an insight into the mind of this gifted player.

Further reading

  1. Carlsen versus World Championship 1916 by Lev Alburt and Jon Crümiller, with round by round game analysis by Vladimir Kramnik. Chess Information and Research Center. 2017.
  2. Carlsen vs Caruana, Duel of Giants by Niclas Huschenbeth. Independently published. 2018
  3. The Magnus Method by Emmanuel Neiman. New in Chess.2021

Mega Database 2023

The ChessBase Mega Database 2023 is the premiere chess database with over 9.75 million games from 1560 to 2022 in high quality.

Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.