MegaBase 2024: Chess marches on!

by Nagesh Havanur
2/8/2024 – MegaBase 2024 is Chess History in action. Regularly updated every month, the Main Database currently offers 10.6 million games, many of them annotated. Our columnist Nagesh Havanur offers a review with focus on chess in the 21st Century.

Mega Database 2024 Mega Database 2024

The ChessBase Mega Database 2024 is the premiere chess database with over 10.4 million games from 1475 to 2023 in high quality.

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Carlsen, Ding Liren and rivals

The ChessBase Mega Database 2024 is the premiere chess database with over 10.6 million games from 1475 to 2024 in high quality.

There are more than 10.6 million games in this database. The first of them was played in Valencia, Spain way back in 1475. The last of them updated in my database is Wei Yi-Gukesh, Tata Steel Playoff, from 28 January 2024. On my last count I have had 10,636,228 games. The number is still growing. So when you see this MegaBase on your screen, you have nearly six centuries of chess before you. It’s impossible to do justice to this kind of work in one review.

Suppose, I ask the readers here, “What would you like to see from this new edition of MegaBase?”

  • A young player might say, “Show me the latest games and no draws, please. I want to win”.
  • A player of my generation might say, “Show me games of great masters and remember that I love combinational play”.

That places me in a dilemma. Whose demand may be met first?

Young players do not like to wait. So let me make them happy first.

I have something else to share with you, older friends. Rest assured that you don’t have to wait for long.

The first question that a young reader here would ask is, “What about Carlsen? How many of his games are in the new database?” As of now, the MegaBase here has more than 4,000 games played by Magnus. He has himself analysed about 26 games during the period 2006–2016. Thereafter, Peter Heine Nielsen, his long-time second, has annotated about 50 of his games to date. Why not Magnus himself? He is too busy playing, hopping from one tournament to another. Besides, he is not all that anxious to reveal his mind to his rivals!

To return to the present, Magnus represents the ultimate test for both his peers and younger rivals. As for his own generation, Hikaru Nakamura has offered him the longest competition.

Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura

Magnus Carlsen playing white against Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: FIDE / Fischer Random World Chess Championship

In the MegaBase there are about 240 games between them played at various levels, classical, rapid and blitz. Not all of them will stand the test of time. Still a number of them are outstanding.

The following game is a memorable encounter, and I have annotated it for our readers:

Nakamura also shone in saving hopeless positions, finding magical resources when all appeared lost:

Nakamura has been a wonderful street fighter and here he beats Caruana, a major rival:

Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana

Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Norway Chess

These two players will face each other in the Candidates’ Tournament in April.

This brings us to the young talents in the world arena. Currently the Indian quartet, Praggnanandhaa, Vidit Gujrathi. 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.

Perhaps the strongest among them is Praggnanandhaa. Here is an incredible game that deserves greater recognition.

Pragg’s performance close on the heels of Carlsen did not go unnoticed:

Even when Pragg is in poor form, he is not easy to beat, as Carlsen found to his cost last year:

Magnus Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa

Magnus Carlsen playing white against Praggnanandhaa in Wijk aan Zee | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Among other young players, Abdusattorov, Firouzja, Duda and Abasov deserve mention. As is known, Abasov became a candidate on account of Carlsen’s non-participation in the World Championship cycle. Here is a game in which he came close to beating Magnus, but lost:

For some inexplicable reasons this game appears in the MegaBase without annotations. However, it appears with a detailed commentary in CBM 216:

One player who deserves special mention is Daniil Dubov. He came second, right behind Carlsen in the World Blitz Championship 2023. Dubov is a daredevil and his play is especially reminiscent of young Tal. However, he is a hit-or-miss player. You can learn from both his wins and losses in this MegaBase. The following game is a duel between him and Alexei Shirov, who was also once seen as the successor of the great Latvian player:

Alexei Shirov, Daniil Dubov

Alexei Shirov playing Daniil Dubov in 2013 | Photo: ChessPro.ru

Last but not least is Ding Liren. As is known, the World Champion has had a modest score (+2 -3 =8) in the recent Wijk aan Zee Tournament. However, he is expected to do better in the coming days. The MegaBase has nearly 2000 games played by him. Here is a dramatic contest from the World Championship Match that he won last year:

Annotations

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 2024. Not so with games from the past. A number of them are unannotated. Others have annotations of varying length and quality in Informant style.

Which annotations are best? Those that offer a judicious blend of explanation and analysis.

Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri

Magnus Carlsen congratulating Anish Giri for his victory at the 2023 Tata Steel Masters | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Here Anish Giri sets an example. He is among the professional elite, actively playing in tournaments. He has personally known fellow grandmasters and understands how they think during the course of the game. His commentary is lucid and offers a very good introduction to the game. As of now, he has annotated 126 games in the MegaBase.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find annotations by Caruana, Karjakin and Ding to their games. This was in the years before they contested the World Championship title on their own.

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.


Notes

  1. Anish Giri’s annotations appear in both New in Chess Magazine and ChessBase Magazine.
  2. Leading GMs as annotators in MegaBase:
  • Caruana: 47 Games
  • Nakamura: 6 games
  • Ding Liren: 5 games
  • Praggnanandhaa: 17 games
  • Vidit Gujrathi 35 games

Mega Database 2024

The ChessBase Mega Database 2024 is the premiere chess database with over 10.4 million games from 1475 to 2023 in high quality.


Links

  1. In a previous review of the MegaBase I dealt with its treatment of three world championship matches: https://en.chessbase.com/post/megabase-2022-three-epic-matches
  2. In another review I have dealt with the coverage of Carlsen and his peers along with the play of veterans and young talents in the MegaBase: https://en.chessbase.com/post/megabase-2023-modern-master-play

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 nearly three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.
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