Postion search shortcuts in ChessBase 8

by ChessBase
9/2/2003 – Have you ever been playing through a game in ChessBase 8, seen an interesting position, and wondered whether or not it appears in any other games in your database? That information is just a right- click away -- we'll show you how to do it in this week's ChessBase Workshop.

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by Steve Lopez

You can perform a near-infinite variety of game searches in ChessBase 8, but these can be divided into a few general categories. One of the most common of these (especially for correspondence chessplayers) is a position search, in which you search a database for a specific board position.

A quick note before we begin: I often get questions from users about a specific board position not showing up after a position search. These questions generally fall into one of two categories: searches on positions arising from offbeat openings and middlegame/endgame positions. For some reason, the first question usually comes from players of the Grob. "I have a position six moves into the Grob and a search of Mega Database shows no games! I can't believe that this position isn't in there!" Believe it. I'll usually double-check the position using my Mega Database and confirm that the position is indeed absent from the database. I'm certainly not looking to slam anyone else's choice of opening here (especially in light of the weirdo openings I play), but the fact is that the Grob isn't often seen at the higher levels of chess play -- and such games are the primary source of material for Mega Database. So that's why searches for such positions return no "hits".

The second situation arises simply from the nature of the game. I've often heard it said that there are more possible positions in chess than there are atoms in the universe. I don't know whether or not this is true, but I do know that there are a lot of possible positions (Billions? Trillions? More?). The farther you go into a game, the more likely you are to arrive at a unique position, one that's never before been played (or at least one that's never appeared before in a top-level tournament game). That's why late-middlegame/endgame searches for a specific board position aren't terribly fruitful -- the odds are pretty good that you're looking at a position that's never been seen in another game (and, as a longtime correspondence player, I'll confirm that I rarely get a game that goes more than twelve or fifteen moves into established "book" lines and have done only one late middlegame position search on one of my own games that returned a hit). So you'll most often be doing a position search in the opening.

ChessBase 8 gives you a really handy shortcut for searching out any board position you're currently viewing. You'll need to do a bit of preparation first, though, to make full use of the shortcut.

Your first step is to designate a database as your reference database. This will typically be your largest database. Unless I need to change it (and there are cases in which this occurs), I typically have Mega Database designated as my reference database. But, as I said, you'll want to use your "master" database (regardless of which one it is) as the reference database. Right-click on that database's icon in the Database window (the first window you get when you start CB8) and select "Properties" from the popup menu:

You'll see the above dialogue appear. Check the box next to "Reference database" and then click "OK". That database is now designated as your reference database.

As you play through a game from a database (or are entering moves in a game window), you might come across a position you want to search for. Just right-click on the chessboard itself to get the following popup menu:

This popup provides some handy choices for performing position searches. (Note that your popup won't look exactly like this one; we'll explain this as we go along). Going to the second section from the top of this dialogue, you'll see three search choices.

The first of these allows you to search your reference database. My dialogue says "Search in Mega Database 2003"; yours will say "Search in..." followed by the name of whatever database you designated as your reference database. Clicking on this menu option will cause CB8 to perform a search of your reference database to find all instances of the current board position. A new pane will appear in your board window and will display the headers of all games in which that board position appeared. Double-clicking on any of these games will open that game in a new board window. Single-clicking on a game will change your current board window to display that game (with the desired position already loaded); to return to your original game, click the "Restore game" button in this small search results pane. You close the search results pane by clicking on an empty space in the pane's "header" and clicking "Close" in the popup that appears.

The second option allows you to search a specific database. Note that you will get this option only if a database other than your reference database is the one highlighted in blue in your Database window. As an example, I'd loaded a game from my Ruy Lopez Steinitz database (a database I'd created myself) by double-clicking on its icon to get a game list, double-clicking on a game from that list to open it, and then searching on a position from that game. My Ruy Lopez Steinitz database was still highlighted in the Database window (from my having double-clicked on it), so this database is displayed as the option for the second "search" command in the graphic above. Note that you can easily change this option by going to your Windows Taskbar, clicking on the button for ChessBase 8 (to bring your Database window back to the top), single-clicking on another database, then clicking the Taskbar button for your game and right-clicking on the chessboard.

Clicking this option to search a specific database works just like the option to search your reference database: you'll get a new pane containing your search results, with all of the same functions and options as described above for the reference database command.

The third search option lets you search for a board position in ChessBase GmbH's online database ("Search in"). Obviously you'll need to be connected to the Internet for this search to work. Here again you'll see a search results pane open up and display the headers for the games that contain your board position, with the same functionality as the two other search options previously described. Note, though, that this will necessarily be somewhat slower than searching a database stored locally on your hard drive (even if you have a broadband connection) due to connect, communication, and lag times. The online option is a great way to get any new games containing that board position, since the ChessBase server database is updated constantly.

There's another choice in this dialogue (in the third section from the top) which allows you to search your repertoire database (assuming, of course, that you've created one). It's the same story as with the other search types (and the repertoire database is itself discussed in one of my old T-Notes articles from 1998).

Until next week, happy hunting -- and have fun!

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

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