Variation colors in ChessBase 9

by ChessBase
10/1/2005 – In the latest ChessBase Workshop, we show you how to use a little-known ChessBase 9 feature which can really make game variations come alive: color-coding individual variations. Have a look at the new column and learn how to add color to your game (or at least to your gamescores). Workshop...

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by Steve Lopez

I've been receiving a fair bit of interesting e-mails from readers lately (witness the previous two ChessBase Workshop columns which were based totally around user responses); I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to write.

One e-mail (which I received a month ago as I write this; probably more like two months by the time you read this column) came from a long-time correspondent: Bob Durrett of Alabama. I don't remember when we first began corresponding but, trust me, it was years back there somewhere. Bob always offers a lot of good observations and suggestions. This week's ChessBase Workshop was prompted by one of his e-mails.

I won't reproduce his lengthy letter in full but will instead concentrate on some key points he makes. From Bob:

"Subject: Request for an article on the use of color in CB9.

"I suspect you have written a bit here and there on the use of color in CB9 but I, at least, have an insatiable thirst for more, more, and more information on this topic. Maybe others are interested too.

"If you do a search on Megabase 2005 for games with annotations you get quite a few games. If you saved that database and then [after sorting by amount of annotation and fixing the sort order] did a search on it for color you would get quite a few games with extensive annotations using color. A subset [database] of this uses at least four different colors in every game as seen in the notation window for each game. [I have not yet found an efficient/quick way to cull out games whose notation uses fewer than four colors.]"

OK, let's pause here. In case you're not familiar with the feature, ChessBase 9 allows you to use color in the notation pane. I'm not talking about the "Critical position" annotation features here, but rather a little-used feature which lets you color code entire variations.

Let's see an example of how this is accomplished. Launch ChessBase 9 and open an annotated game which contains variations (for the purpose of this example, I've manually entered a random bit of analysis from a chess book but omitted diacritical marks and annotation symbols so as to avoid violating any copyrights):


This is the plain "vanilla" version of the main line and variations; all of the notation appears in black. But let's say that we want to emphasize the first variation as being particularly important. One way to do this is by using color.

Right-click on the first move of the variation (5...dxe4) to get a popup menu. Select "Special annotations" to get a submenu, the last item of which will be "Variation color":


Select "Variation color" and you'll see the standard Windows color palette dialogue appear on your screen:


We won't go into all of the features of this dialogue; any standard Windows reference will give you all of the details. The short and sweet version is that this dialogue lets you select from thousands of colors (including ones you create by using the dialogue's various tweaks and toggles). We'll go easy here and choose one of the dialogue's "presets": bright screaming red (in the second row, first column on the left).

After we've selected this color, our notation window looks like this:


And now the whole variation is colored in red, immediately drawing our attention to it. (Note that the first move of the variation looks different, but this is only because the black cursor bar is currently on it). We could conceivably do the same thing for the remaining variations, making each one a different color (but we're getting ahead; more on this in a minute).

In his e-mail Bob mentions the ability to search a database (in this case Mega Database 2005) for games which contain these colored variations. To do this, you just right-click on a database symbol and select "Search" (or invoke the Search mask via any of the other numerous methods), click the "Annotations" tab, and check the box next to "Colours". Note, however, that there's a slight hitch: if you've chosen to display text annotations or secondary variations in colors (by using the "Options" dialogue) these games will also appear in your search -- so you'll need to turn this feature off to search for annotator-colored variations.

Now that we've seen how to color individual annotations, let's go back to Bob's e-mail:

"I did the above [the hard way] and then decided to try to DUPLICATE the color accomplishments of the annotators. [!!!!!] This remains a work in progress inasmuch as I am doing other things too so it may be awhile before I have discovered ALL of the hidden color secrets of CB9."

(If there are any "hidden" ones, I've not found them. Aside from the Options menu selections for text/secondary variations, colored arrows & squares, Critical positions, and medals, I'm not aware of any others off the top of my head).

"Color is used in other ways, too, such as coloring squares and arrows. My primary interest, however, is in finding ways to improve the quality of annotations by use of color. Both moves and annotation text can be colored using many different colors....Incidentally, people who use CB9 to create training materials for their students can use colors in a variety of ways to enhance the pedagogical value of the lessons.

"I am also 'into' using top-level [heavily annotated] published games for solitaire chess. I prefer to enter my candidate and chosen moves and comments in an unusual color to distinguish them from the other annotations. The best way seems to create an unannotated copy and add my annotations to that as I play solitaire chess. Then my version is merged with the original annotated game. [The original should be at the top of the list of games to be merged. Otherwise, havoc.]"

That's a pretty cool suggestion and, I'll confess, one that I never thought of. Realistically, the uses of colored variations are as varied as the number of individual users. The possibilities are near-infinite. Here's one that I cooked up after a minute's thought. I often manually enter variations and commentary from printed sources into my databases. Up until now, I've always entered author or source citations as a text entry (either as a pre-move text annotation at the variation's first move or as a post-move annotation after the variation's final move). But by using colors, I can just color-code the variations according to author and/or source (remembering, of course, to include a color key as a text annotation at the game's start so I'll remember to which source each color corresponds; it'll still require some text entry, but it'll be a lot less work than entering a source at each variation). Using our previous example (and using fictitious sources, by the way), I'd wind up with something which looks like this:


Now here's another trick. You can also partially color variations (instead of coloring the whole thing). Just click on a later move (instead of the first move) in a variation and select a different color; the move you right-clicked on (as well as all subsequent moves in that line) will now appear the color you chose. For example, I could add moves (starting with ...Bc5) to the end of the first variation and color them in a fourth color simply by clicking on ...Bc5 and selecting a color I've not yet used (and adding another "color key" reference at the game's start, citing myself as the source).

The main trick to using colors in variations is to remember later what each individual color signifies. That's why I suggest adding a text annotation containing your "key" at the start of each gamescore.

Thanks for a great e-mail, Bob! I appreciate your (as always) helpful suggestions.

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.

© 2005, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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