The new Mega Database 2012 for ChessBase 11 and the Fritz family of playing programs (Fritz, Hiarcs, Junior, Shredder, and Rybka) is here! The ChessBase company updates their master database annually to include new games played over the previous year, as well as to add historical games which have recently been unearthed. The latest version of the database contains 5,154,657 games (an increase of 357,739 games over the 2011 version), as well as 700 tournament crosstables and reports, and an updated Player Encyclopedia for use in ChessBase 11. Among Mega Database 2012′s treasures are more than 78,000 games annotated by titled players.
Over the years, I’ve sometimes heard players say, “Why do I need millions of games? I’ll never play through all of them anyway!” Gee, I don’t know – why do you need a local library? You’re never going to read all of those books. Comments like these illustrate vividly that the point has been missed. A database of five million games (or any chess database of any size, for that matter) is just like a library – you’ll never use everything that’s in it, but what you will use is there for you whenever you want it. Let me show you what I mean with a simple chess example…
Let’s say that you’ve been reading an instructional column in the latest Chess Life magazine describing how a player should handle positions with an isolated d4-pawn blockaded by a Black Knight on d5. It’s a common enough theme (after all, Aron Nimzovich wrote a whole book about such positions back in the day), but plenty of chessplayers aren’t sure how to play these positions from either side of the board.
You’ve read this column and it provided an illustrative game or maybe two games, if you’re lucky – this is a magazine you’re reading, and they can’t devote an entire issue to dozens of examples illustrating a single specific theme. But you find yourself wanting more; you’d like to see additional instructional examples. This is precisely where Mega Database 2012 comes in – you can fire up ChessBase 11 or any of the Fritz family of playing programs to search the Mega Database for games containing an isolated White d4-pawn blockaded by a Black d5-Knight, then play through as many of these games as you’d like.
After bringing up the Search mask and clicking the “Position” tab, you’ll see this:
This dialogue provides the tools we’ll use to specify a particular position search. We’ll start by clicking the radio button next to “Look for board”, then we’ll click the buttons for the pieces and pawns we want to use (in this case a White pawn and Black Knight), then place them on the board by clicking on the desired squares:
So we now have a White pawn on d4 and a Black Knight on d5. That’s a start, but we’re not finished yet. We’re still missing a key ingredient – the most important one, actually. The White pawn needs to be isolated (e.g. no pawns on either the c- or e-files). How do we designate that as part of our search?
Have a look at the radio buttons in the upper right-hand corner of this dialogue – you’ll spot one which reads “Exclude board”. Just as the “Look for board” lets us specify which pieces must be on particular squares, the “Exclude board” gives us the tools to specify which pieces must not be on certain squares.
So we’ll click the radio button beside “Exclude board”…
…and then we’ll place White pawns on the c-and e-files, plus on the d-file for good measure (so that we exclude positions with doubled d-pawns) as shown here:
…to indicate that a White pawn may not be on any of these squares.
We obviously can skip the first and last ranks, as pawns can’t legally be placed on these squares anyway, plus we can safely omit the squares d4 and d5 (because we’ve already specified on the “Look for board” that particular chessmen must be on these squares).
Now we click “OK” and let ChessBase/Fritz do the search. I’m going to use ChessBase 11 for the rest of this post, because I want to show you some things you can do with ChessBase that you can’t do with Fritz.
When the search is finished in ChessBase 11, you’ll have a list of games in which the search criteria (and isolated White d4-pawn blockaded by a Black d5-Knight) occur. Single-clicking on a game in the list loads the game (in the left-hand panes) with the board and notation already displaying the position in which the isolated/blocked criteria apply:
The result is that we’ve now found more than 142,000 games in addition to the couple of games we saw in that Chess Life article. That gives us plenty of examples to play through to reinforce the lessons of that article. Now nobody’s expecting you to review over 100,000 games, but you can easily limit the search further by doing it again with additional search criteria (such the name of a favorite player, White wins, a specific ECO code or range of them, etc.). Heck, you could just scroll to the bottom of the list and play through, say, a dozen or two dozen recent games from the year 2011.
But here’s the cool trick I wanted to show you. Remember when I mentioned that Mega Database 2012 has over 78,000 annotated games? One more click will re-sort the search results so that the annotated games are grouped together at the start of the list. Just click on the column header for the “VCS” column (those letters being designations for various annotation forms), and you’ll now see this:
We now have a re-sorted list, with all of the annotated games together at the top of the list. You can single-click on a game to play through it right in the game list, or double-click on it to open it up in its own game window.
That’s the value of having a large game database for use with ChessBase and Fritz, especially an annotated one like Mega Database 2012. Nobody in their right mind would think that they could review millions of games from such a database. But when we’re studying game concepts (like isolated pawns, opposite colored Bishops, Knight underpromotions, castling on opposite wings, particular opening variations, Rook vs. Queen endgames, and on and on and on), a huge library of games will greatly enhance your chess study by providing much more exemplary material on a specific chess theme than any book or magazine could ever possibly offer.
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And don’t forget — when you purchase ChessBase, Fritz, and now ChessKing Windows PC computer software from uscfsales.com, you can receive free technical support from yours truly. Just e-mail me with your questions (but don’t forget to include your uscfsales.com order number!).
Have fun! – Steve Lopez
Copyright 2012, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.