Notation options in ChessBase 8

by ChessBase
9/18/2003 – ChessBase 8 allows the user to configure the Notation display in myriad ways. This week's ChessBase Workshop explains the various options for the Notation display. More...

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by Steve Lopez

Every so often I get into something of a predicament when writing these articles. You've doubtless heard rumors of a ChessBase 9 on the way and, of course, it's getting close to end of the year, which indicates the annual Fritz release. If I start a major series of articles about a particular program feature, it's a surefire bet that feature will be completely revised in a new program making the article series superfluous. Consequently, we're going to be examining relatively minor features in the next several ChessBase Workshops; however, I'll be basing them on questions I receive and those I see in various Interrant message boards.

Such questions sometimes involve the notation options in the various programs. This week, we'll look at the ChessBase 8 notation options; keep in mind that many of these also apply to Fritz and the other playing programs.

The first step is to bring up the notation dialogue. In the Tools menu, select "Options", then click the "Notation" tab:

This is the dialogue in which you can set a variety of notation forms and options. The first thing you'll want to do here is make sure you have a Figurine font loaded, even if you don't intend to display piece figurines in the Notation pane. There's a valid reason for this: if you don't use a figurine font, any Informant-style notation symbols in a game will be displayed as High ASCII or superscript characters -- in other words, they'll look wrong. So click the Font button to get a list of the fonts installed on your computer, scroll down to the F's, and choose a font that starts with the word "Figurine".

Next you should determine whether you want the piece abbreviations to be displayed as letters or figurines. There are two large buttons for this, one displaying the abbreviations as letters and the other containing the word "Figurines". Please note that after you've selected a Figurine font, you can still use letter notation; as noted above, the reason for selecting a Figurine font is to make evaluation symbols appear properly in the notation.

ChessBase 8 gives us three different styles for the way moves are shown; the means for selecting them are provided as radio buttons. They're self-explanatory, but please allow me to waste some electrons by explaining them anyway:

  • 1.d4 -- standard algebraic notation
  • 1.d2-d4 -- "computer" algebraic notation (displaying both the starting and ending squares for the move. Older software used to use this form exclusively, and I've even seen a few chess books that use it)
  • 1.P-Q4 -- descriptive notation (just the way grandaddy used to do it)

As yet another side note: you can combine the use of piece figurines with descriptive notation. I've seen a couple of chess books that did this; personally I think it just looks silly but (as always) your mileage may vary.

There are two large buttons for Text color and Variation color. Both buttons will bring up the standard Windows color palette dialogue in which you can choose a color option. Changing the text color will display any text annotations in the selected color (instead of basic black). If you change the variation color, the first level of variations will still appear in black, but variations nested within variations will appear in the chosen color. There are a few twists to this and it mostly depends on how many levels of variations/subvariations you've "nested" within a game -- the overall rule here is that the deepest level of subvariation will be displayed in parentheses and in the color you've selected in this dialogue.

Finally, we come to the various check boxes in the Notation dialogue. These allow you to further refine the notation display. Nothing I suggest here is etched in stone -- I'll mention my own personal preferences just as a reference point (so please hold the outraged e-mails if you like another notation display better).

The first box is "Justify"; this comes from a publishing term which refers to the spacing out of printed characters to make the left and right margins line up perfectly. Here are two examples; upper display is not justified while the lower display is justified:

You can see that the lines in the justified version end nice and neatly in an even right-hand border, which is accomplished by increasing the spacing between moves. My personal preference is for an unjustified display (I've noticed that justification does some quirky things to text annotations if a line contains long words or hyphenated expressions), but try them both and see which you prefer.

These graphics also nicely illustrate the Text and Variation color options. I've chosen dark blue for the text notes and maroon for the parenthesized "deepest" level of annotations.

Selecting "Paragraphs" breaks variations out into separate paragraphs -- in other words, variations begin on a new line instead of being embedded in the main block of main-line moves. Here are examples to illustrate this; the upper example has "Paragraphs" switched on, while the lower display has it switched off:

For my money, switching "Paragraphs" on makes the game notation infinitely easier to read.

"CB6 format" makes changes in the display of game variations. ChessBase 6 was very big on assigning alphanumeric prefixes to subvariations, while later versions made greater use of color to display the start of subvariations. Here are some examples; the upper display has "CB6 format" switched on, while the lower display shows the game with it switched off:

The differences aren't glaringly obvious, so we'll point them out. With the "CB6 format" toggle switched off (the righthand display), White's alternate fifth move variations start with a move displayed in violet, which is not displayed in the lefthand graphic. However, look near the bottom of each image. With "CB6 format" switched on, the variations get alphanumeric designations (like "C1a") while these variations are merely indented with the feature switched off. Also, the move 5.a3 is displayed in different places in the displays -- it's at the top in the righthand (non-"CB6 format") display, while it appears as the start of a subvariation in the display with the toggle switched on. So you get your choice here. As a long-time ChessBase user, I have it switched on since that's what I'm accustomed to seeing.

The "Material" box toggles on/off a display showing the material balance in a position, which appears at the bottom of the notation pane:

In this game, Black has just captured a Knight, so a Black Knight is displayed -- this means that Black is a Knight ahead. White recaptures on the next move; if you were to play this next move in the notation you'd see a blank white bar here -- the Black Knight would vanish and the bar would be blank since the material is again even.

Note that this is not the same thing as "captured pieces" (which is usually what's displayed in other chess software). This display shows the material balance (or imbalance) which is much more useful information than merely a count of captured material. You can see at a glance, for example, that White is ahead a Rook for a Bishop and pawn, instead of trying to figure that out yourself from a captured pieces display.

The last toggle is for "Beep at end of variation". As you're stepping through a game using either the VCR buttons or the cursor keys on your keyboard, your computer will make a sound when the end of a variation line is reached if you have this feature toggled "on". (And the actual sound may or may not be an actual "beep" depending on how you've configured your Windows sounds. My computer makes the sound of Chewbacca roaring [from Star Wars] when I reach the end of a variation.)

Please note that these check boxes aren't mutually exclusive; you can combine them as you see fit. Thus the graphics in this article are just the tip of the iceberg in the various ways you can tweak up your notation display to suit your own taste.

So what are you waiting for? Commence tweaking!

Until next week, have fun!

© 2003, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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