In the last post we discovered how to associate an opening with an ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) code using ChessBase 11. It was a quick way to do it, but it’s also not entirely accurate for extremely short variations. However, we have another tool for learning the ECO code for a specific opening variation: the “Superkey” opening index which is a part of ChessBase’s Mega Database (as well as the other large databases offered by ChessBase).
To get to the Superkey, launch ChessBase 11 and double-click on the database icon for Mega Database to open its game list. Click the “Openings” tab to the top of the game list to display the first screen of the Superkey:
What you’ll see is a list of ECO codes, their corresponding defining moves, and a verbal name of the opening (where appropriate). To the far right you’ll see the number of games contained in each of these index classifications (which are called “keys” in ChessBase terminology). It’s easy to think of this large opening key/index as the “Index” section of a book. Lots of chess books have an “Index of Openings” at the back of the volume, which will give an opening name or move sequence followed by the page number(s) on which you’ll find the corresponding games. That’s pretty much how a database’s key works, but instead of page numbers you’ll see a list of games (and you can double-click on any game in this list to open it in its own window).
Here’s how it works. For our example we’ll look at “C20-C99”, labeled as “Open games”:
The Superkey is a hierarchal index, meaning that the openings are arranged in an orderly manner with variations of increasing length appearing below their shorter “parent” variation. We can see an example of this already: anytime you see four dots (“….”) as part of a variation, you need to look upward, higher in the list, to see what those dots represent. Since the “C20-C99” variation is listed as “…. e5 —”, we can look above the dots and see that “1.e4” is the first move; thus the Open Games start with the moves 1.e4 e5.
Note the box containing a plus sign, located to the left of “C20-C99”. If we click on this box, we’ll expand the view and thus go deeper into the Superkey to see a list of openings that start with the moves 1.e4 e5:
We can already see ranges of ECO codes for specific opening systems (for example, the King’s Gambit covers ECO codes C30 through C39). Since we were looking at Ruy Lopez variations in our previous blog post, let’s stick with the Ruy this time around. Looking at the above illustration (and following the displayed hierarchy of moves) we see that the Ruy Lopez is defined by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5. Below the listing for the Ruy, we see a list of its subvariations:
Remember, this is an index, just like in a book and should be regarded in the same way. The top line of the Ruy reads “3.Bb5 —”. The three dashes indicate that the moves displayed farther down the list weren’t played. So we see that the codes C60 to C62 cover moves other than 3…f5, 3…Bc5, 3…Nf6, and 3…a6.
Let’s say that we want to find the ECO code (as well as some games) from our favorite variations of the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation. We’d want to look at 3…a6. Since the next move of the variation is 4.Bxc6, and none of the entries below the 3…a6 line show this move, we’d know to click the box with the plus sign on the “3…a6” line to expand the view and go deeper into the key:
Notice that we’ve already learned some ECO code information here: the Ruy Lopez Exchange is classified as either C68 or C69 in ECO, depending on the specific variation.
Let’s say that we’re interested in the continuation 4…dxc6 (since 4…bxc6 is just plain awful) 5.0-0 (the Fischer Variation) f6 6.d4 exd4 and then variations in which White doesn’t play 7.Nd4. We look farther down the index and find the line highlighted in the following illustration:
The 7.Nd4 is parenthesis means that line deals with variations in which 7.Nd4 wasn’t played or will also contain “side” variations which are not listed below that line. The lines listed below the highlighted one on the list are the main variations in which 7.Nd4 was played (that’s why they have the four dots). Since we’re looking for variations in which this Knight move wasn’t played by White, we’ll click the “plus sign box” off to the left in the highlighted line and go deeper into the key:
And now we finally come to a list of variations (all of which are classified in ECO as C69, so we’ve answered that nagging question) which don’t have a “plus sign” off to the left. That means we can’t “drill down” into longer variations as we’ve been doing, but we can get a list of games for each of these listed variations: just click on a variation and you’ll see the game list appear in a separate pane:
Double-clicking on a game in this list will open it in its own game window, where it can be studied, annotated, etc.
Through this process in ChessBase 11 we’ve seen the two main functions of the Superkey: to help us identify the ECO classification code for a specific opening variation, and to locate games for study in which a specific opening variation was played.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), but please remember to include the USCFSales order number from your ChessBase software purchase. – Steve
Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.