The “piece path” special annotation in ChessBase 11

I’ve recently been editing some pre-1930 chess games for publication and came across this interesting one from the 1914 St. Petersburg tournament. It involves an unusual amount of Queen maneuvering, which will also give me an opportunity to demonstrate one of the special visual annotation forms available to ChessBase 11 users.

The game was contested by Aron Nimzovich against José Capablanca, with Nimzo playing the White pieces. The opening moves went as follows:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 d6 5. d4 Bd7 6. Bxc6 Bxc6 7. Qd3 exd4 8.Nxd4 g6 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Qa6 Qd7 11. Qb7 Rc8 12. Qxa7 Bg7 13. O-O O-O 14. Qa6 Rfe8 15. Qd3

…which resulted in the following board position:

Nimzovich Vs. Capablanca, St. Petersburg 1914

Nimzovich Vs. Capablanca, St. Petersburg 1914. Position after 15.Qd3

If you’ll play through these moves, you’ll notice that Nizmo has moved his Queen a lot: six of White’s first fifteen moves have been with his Queen. The result is that Black has developed his whole army, while White has pieces which are still untouched on his first rank. This is pretty significant (as illustrated in Capablanca’s notes to this game, in which he emphasizes the number of times the Queen has moved).

Now let’s say that I’m writing some notes to this game for my own benefit (and, by the way, annotating master games is great practice for the developing player and has been recommended by chess instructors for many years now). I could (and should) make a text note pointing out the “lively” (e.g. numerous) movements of the White Queen. But there’s a second annotation form I can use which will visually illustrate the same point; it’s called the “piece path” annotation.

To use this annotation form in ChessBase 11, you’ll start by right-clicking the move at which you want the visual annotation to appear (in this case 15.Qd3) to bring up a pop-up menu. Select “Special annotation” from the pop-up and then “Piece path” from the sub-menu which opens off to one side: - ChessBase 11 "Piece path" annotation

Click the picture for a larger view

When you click on the “Piece path” command, you’ll see a small colored box appear in the notation directly after the move on which you’d right-clicked: - ChessBase 11 "Piece path" annotation

Click on the picture for a larger view

This box indicates that the “Piece path” special annotation has been appended to this move. But what the heck is the “Piece path” annotation, anyway?

“Piece path”, as mentioned earlier, is a means of calling a reader’s attention to the number of times a particular piece has moved (or the specific squares to which it moved) in a visual way. When you (or another reader) either encounter that move while replaying a game or click directly on that move, a special “inset” chess board appears. This board contains colored arrows which show every move of that piece from the start of the game onward.

This “inset” board will pop up automatically as part of the ChessBase 11 Notation pane, as seen in this illustration (which shows the piece path for Nimzo’s Queen in the game with Capablanca): - ChessBase 11 "Piece path" annotation

Click on the picture for a larger view

It’s one thing to write a verbal comment to the effect that Nimzo has frequently moved his Queen, but it’s quite another to actually see the Queen’s path graphically illustrated (for impact, emphasis, and instructional purposes) as we see in the above illustration. The ability to see the piece’s path across the board, shown by numerous arrows, can really drive a point home.

To “clear” the piece path inset board (that is, remove it from view), just click on it with either mouse button. The inset board will reappear anytime the move in question is clicked on or encountered during a game replay.

As always, if you want to save a piece path annotation (or, for that matter, any annotations you’ve added) to the game, be sure to use the “Replace game” command from ChessBase 11’s Application menu (the round button in the screen’s upper left-hand corner): - ChessBase 11's Application Menu

Click on the picture for a larger view

The “piece path” annotation form is useful in a wide variety of chess situations, including very common ones (such as illustrating the King’s movement toward the center in a late middlegame or endgame) and less-common occurrences (such as a a-pawn which, though repeated captures, makes its way over to the c- or d-file). While it’s not an annotation tool you’ll necessarily use every day, the ChessBase 11 “Piece path” visual notation is handy to know for those special instances when an additional chessboard graphic will really help to emphasize a point or principle.

Have fun! – Steve Lopez

Chessplayers who have purchased their ChessBase brand software from USCFSales can receive free technical support and advice on their purchases straight from me; just shoot me an e-mail (, but please remember to include the USCFSales order number from your ChessBase software purchase. – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


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Filed under chess, Chess software, ChessBase, ChessBase 11, Database software

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