The save/replace game dialogue - part 1

2/19/2009 – ChessBase 10 contains a large variety of fields into which you can input player and tournament information when saving a game. Some of these can be confusing for new users. In this week's ChessBase Workshop, learn the important difference between saving and replacing a game, and get a first look at the most commonly-used game header fields. Workshop...

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This week's ChessBase Workshop is going to focus on an old program feature which still proves troublesome to new users: the save game/replace game dialogue. Although we've discussed this before in a previous column or two, it's one of those areas which really can't be stressed enough; understanding it fully can save you a lot of grief later on down the road.

To begin our discussion, let's look at the important differences between saving and replacing games in a database. In its simplest form, the main difference can be boiled down to a couple of rules of thumb:

  • If you're manually entering a new game move-by-move into a database, you'll want to use "Save game" when you're finished.
  • If you're adding commentary/variations or making other changes to an existing game, you'll want to use "Replace game" when you're finished.

It's that simple. Of course, there are always exceptions, among them being cases in which you might annotate a game contained in one database and wish to save the finished product in a different one, or you may add notes to a game which already contains commentary by someone else and wish to save yours as a separate copy (in order to preserve the other guy's original work in an unaltered form), etc. But the two bulleted cases listed above will serve as general rules of thumb.

Saving a game means that a separate copy will be saved into the database (and which, by the way, will appear as the last game in a database's game list). Replacing a game means that the original game in the database will be replaced by the version you just altered (and the newly-altered version will appear in the same spot in the game list as did the original unaltered version).

There you have it -- the basic difference between the two actions.

Regardless of whether you're saving or replacing a game, you'll see the same dialogue appear on your screen. If you're saving a game, the dialogue won't contain any information (most of its fields will be blank):

If you're replacing a game, the existing information (from when the game was originally saved) will appear in the dialogue:

In both cases, you can add or change information in this dialogue before clicking "OK" (which completes the process and either saves or replaces the game).

Let's look now at the specific dialogue information and how it should be recorded. We'll assume for the sake of the discussion that we're "starting fresh": entering a game by hand and saving it into a database (as opposed to adding information to, and replacing, an existing game). We've entered the moves of the game and are ready to save it. We click "Save" and get our "blank" dialogue:

"White" and "Black" refer to the respective two players. Note the small comma between the two "blanks" after 'White"; this gives us a valuable clue as to how this part of the dialogue should be filled in. The comma tells us that the leftmost blank should contain the player's last name, followed in the rightmost box by the player's first name. The boxes for "Black" work the same way:

If you're hand-entering a game played by professional players (perhaps from a chess book or magazine), you can use the "question mark" buttons to the far right of both "White" and "Black" to search for the player in the Players Encyclopedia and automatically enter the information contained therein.

We're going to skip over the "Tournament" field temporarily, though we'll come back to it. We're going to devote a whole column to the options for just this field. For now, you can just enter a geographic place name or an actual tournament name here.

The "ECO" field will already be filled in for you. The software will already have identified the proper alphanumeric Encyclopedia of Chess Openings code and will automatically place the information in the box.

"Elo White" and "Elo Black" are where you'll enter the players' ratings (if known). Once again I'll remind you that Arpad Elo's rating system for games and sports wasn't adopted internationally in the chess community until the early 1970's; chess games played prior to this will not have rating information available.

You can enter "Round" and "Subround" numbers if known (and if applicable). Why "Subround"? You'll occasionally see chess events in which the players might play one game as each color as part of a "round" (i.e two -- or three, if tiebreaks are involved -- games per round); the "subround" field gives you a place to enter such information.

"Result" allows you to enter a variety of game results, including a number of different evaluation symbols (via the "pulldown" arrow, which you would use when entering some analysis instead of an actual game). "Date" will typically default to the date you're manually entering the game, so you'll often change this to the date the game was actually played.

When you're finished, just click the "OK" button to complete the process of saving the game into the database.

There's an important difference of which you should be aware when replacing a game. There will be several bits of information already filled in, consisting of the existing game header info:

Note that some information contains a check in a box beside it (in the above illustration, it's "ECO Code", "Round", and "Year"). Other information, while filled in, doesn't have a check in the corresponding box ("Month" and "Day" in the illustration). It's important to note that even though some header info might already be filled in, it won't appear in the actual replaced game header unless the corresponding box is checked. Going back to the illustration, you don't need to worry about the wrong month and day being saved in the header; even though there are values in the boxes, there's no check in the boxes -- the info isn't saved when "OK" is clicked.

There are a couple of other observations which should be made before we leave off for another week. First, you're not required to put something in every single field in this dialogue. If you don't know a round number or the month and day a game was played, just leave those fields blank; the software will still save the game anyway.

You can also put pretty much anything you want into a field. For example, you've entered the moves of a line of analysis taken from an opening reference; you want to save it into a database, but you don't have any player or tournament information available. How do you complete the game header?

I do this sort of thing all the time. Typically I'll just type the word "Analysis" in the box for the White player's last name, while leaving the first name field blank. In the Black player's last name field, I'll type either the verbal name of the opening or the moves of a brief identifying variation line. In the "Tournament" box, I'll type the name of the opening reference from which the analysis came (so I know the source later). For "Result" I'll use the evaluation given in that source material. For "Year" I use the year the source material was published (and I'll even include a month number if the analysis came from a chess magazine).

You can enter any information you want, but the important thing is to be consistent. Don't input one game with the word "Analysis" in the White player field and then put that word in the Black player field the next time around. Don't use the year of publication one time and then use the year you saved it in your database for the next bit of analysis you enter.

And whether you're saving games or analysis, be as thorough as you can with your game headers. For player names, use a player's full first name if you have that info available, not just an initial or (worse) a blank in the "first name" field. If you have the exact date a game was played, there's no reason to not enter the whole thing in your saved game header.

Be thorough and be consistent, and this will save you a lot of aggravation later.

Until next week, have fun!

© 2008, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

Topics: ChessBase 10
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