The two Q's guarantee

2/1/2008 – What novelties are there for your repertoire? What does your next opponent play? In order to get sound and reliable answers here you must have a database that guarantees both quantity and quality. Mega Database 2008 is the number one in this respect. More than 3.8 million games that have been collected and carefully edited for over ten years. Buy it now or read more.

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Megabase 2008 - Starting Off the New Year with the Best

Review by Michael Jeffreys

“For a number of years now serious chess players have recognized the value of using chess database programs to improve their game. In my opinion, databases are partly responsible for the growing number of young world-class players.” –GM John Emms

If you were to ask most top chess players what their number one piece of software is, most would tell you it was their database. In fact, it is considered such an important tool, that back in the late eighties and early nineties, before most grandmasters had them, GM Lubomir Kavalek was rumored to keep his, which contained notes on all the top players and their games, under lock and key! One of the benefits of hiring him as your second, as Short did during his match with Kasparov, was that you got access to his highly valuable, and at that time unique, database.

Well, fortunately you no longer have to hire a GM to get your hands on a world-class database. For many years now Chessbase has been offering both Megabase and Bigbase to its customers. This review will focus on Megabase 2008, since that is what I have, but everything applies to Bigbase with the exception that Bigbase does not have the 61,000 annotated games that Mega contains. I should also mention that I am using Chessbase 9, which is required as it is what allows you to manipulate the data in Mega/Bigbase 2008.

Quantity and Quality

The two things that make a database valuable are the two Q’s: Quantity and Quality. If the games are riddled with errors or duplicated, or if the players names are misspelled or spelled more than one way, it doesn’t matter how big the database is, as using it will be a frustrating proposition at best. Likewise if the games are all “clean,” but the database only covers up to 2001, you aren’t going to have a clue as to what your opponents are playing nowadays.

ChessBase has been around long enough that their databases are both clean and huge. What blows my mind I have at my finger tips just about every important game of chess played up until a little more than two months ago! All told, Megabase 2008 contains 3,803,334 games—that’s close to 4 million!

I attended a lecture by GM Boris Kreiman a few years ago where he said that using a computer to improve at chess was the only way to go, that it was what all the top players use, and that chess books were now obsolete! While I find this a bit over the top, as I still enjoy going through my books, I do think he has a point. The fact is that you can go through many more games/positions in one hour on a computer than you can using a chess set and book.

Besides being faster, the information within a database is much more flexible than that which is inside a book. For example, the final game in Megabase 2008 is from 11/22/07, Savchenko vs. Gelfand from the World Championship Blitz tmt. from Moscow. Curious to see how Gelfand did as well as who won this event? No problem, all you do is right click on the game, select cross table, and Voilà:


2007 Moscow Blitz Cross Table

Sweet! With the click of a mouse you get a cross table (complete with colored flags from each player’s home country) from the event that gives you lots of information:

Ivanchuck, rated 2787, finished first and turned in a performance rating of +43 (in other words, his finish is what someone rated 43 points higher would be expected to produce). Gelfand, on the other hand, finished 15th with a poor performance rating of -63. Note that Bacrot had a truly miserable tmt. with a -118 performance rating. At the bottom left you see that the average ELO of all the players was 2710, making this a Category 19 event, which is extremely strong. gm=13.68 means that this was the score necessary to earn a GM norm - if this had not been only a blitz championship -, and a score of at least 6.08 was necessary to make an IM norm. Lastly, there were a total of 380 games played in the tournament.

One of my favorite features of using the database is getting to see the player’s photos. Megabase 2008 contains a new playerbase with 220,000 names and 30,000 photos. All you do is click on the little icon of a camera at the top of the Chessbase 9 (or go to window-panes-players photos) and then whenever you bring up a game, if a photo or drawing exists of the two players in the playerbase, they will appear on your screen next to the game. For me, seeing photos of the players while I am playing through their games really adds to the experience. What’s more, if the player has several photos within the playerbase, Chessbase 9 will automatically select the photo that was taken closest to the year the game was played.

By the way, the earliest picture in Megabase 2008 is from 1560 and is of the one and only Ruy Lopez. I would guess that while you may have played his famous opening, you probably have never seen what he looks like. So, here is his picture:

Of course, I much prefer to look at more current player’s pictures, like that of Alexandra Kosteniuk.

 

Another cool feature is to click on the Players tab, which then instantly sorts all the games in the database by last names. What’s more, you don’t even have to be a titled player to have your games appear in the database. I am a class A player, and was happy to find five of my games in Megabase 2008:


Finding “Jeffreys” games using the sort by Players tab

In the window on the left, between the two thin lines is my name, followed the number of games I have in the database (5), followed by an m (man!), followed by the U.S. Flag. In the upper right window, you can see my 5 games, including the players I faced, the result, # of moves the game lasted, ECO code, and the tournament. The window on the bottom right gives more info. about the tournament, including the city it was played in, the date, the type, etc.

Another feature is to be able to sort games by the ECO Opening classification. Just click on the Openings Tab and this is what you get:


Openings Tab

On the left is the ECO code, in the center are the moves, on right is the name of the opening, and on the far right are the number of games where those opening moves were played. Clicking on an opening will bring up a more refined list of moves that take you deeper into whichever variation you are interested in.

Moving one tab to the right, if you click on Themes you get:


Themes Tab

Just read down the column on the left side to find many interesting games with that theme. The number of games with each particular theme is on the right.

Moving one tab to the right, if you click on Tactics you get:


Tactics Tab

Just read down the column on the left side to find a particular tactic. On the right are the number of games with that tactic.

Moving one tab to the right, if you click on Strategy you get:


Strategy Tab

Simply go down the column on the left side to find a particular strategy/pawn structure. On the right are the number of games with that strategy/pawn structure.

Moving one tab to the right, if you click on Endgames you get:


Endgames Tab

On the left and left-center is a list of all different kinds of endings. Just click on the one that interests you. On the right are the number of games with that ending.

Time to Wrap Things Up

Whew! That’s a lot of things you can do with Megabase 2008, and yet there are so many more. Unfortunately, I need to wrap up this review.

Is Megabase perfect? No. Unfortunately they still use some rather strange spellings of certain player’s names. For example, good luck finding any of Victor Korchnoi’s games… unless you happen to know that the database spells his last name: Kortschnoj!? Also, American IM Jack Peters is still listed as John Peters even though he hasn’t used John in decades. However, in the big scheme of things, these are certainly very minor quibbles.

The Bottom Line

Needless to say, I highly recommend Megabase 2008. However, for those that find it a bit out of their budget, Bigbase 2008 is certainly a very good alternative. For those of you that have Megabase 2007, I should mention that Megabase 2008 contains almost 300,000 more games than Megabase 2007. Also, whereas the earliest game in Megabase 2007 is a Kings Gambit from 1560, the earliest game in Megabase 2008 is, believe or not, a Center-Counter from 1475! (I wonder where they found this game!?)

Finally, I want to encourage those of you that purchase Mega/Bigbase 2008 to take your time and really explore it. There is much more to it than first meets the eye. If you’re not sure what something is, go ahead and “click” on it… that’s the only way you will learn. I think you’ll find that the more time you spend with it, the more impressed you will be with this amazing product. On a scale of 1-10, Megabase2008 gets a 9. 5

Big and Mega Database 2008

The DVD MegaDatabse 2008 comes with the up to date ChessBase Players Encyclopaedia with more than 200 000 players‘ entries and 30 000 pictures.

The ChessBase Big and Mega Database 2008 can also be used with Fritz 10 /11 or with the ChessBase 9.0 Reader that comes with the DVD but only ChessBase 9.0 gives access to the Playerbase.

Prices

Big Database 2008  € 49.99.

Mega Database 2008 € 149.90.

Update from Mega 2007 to 2008 € 49.99.

Update from Big 2007 or older Megas to Mega 2008  € 99.99.

System recommendations for ChessBase 9.0: Windows XP or better, 1 GB RAM, 2 GHz or better, DVD drive,. New graphics adapter for a fast 3D board.
 


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