BASE BASICS 2

by Steve Lopez

A chess database is really just a form of "chess book on disk", a giant volume of chess games. One of the advantages a database has over a book is that a database can continually grow as more games and information are added to it, while a book has a finite number of games in it.

Some databases, however, should not be altered. These are the databases that come with Fritz5 and ChessBase 6. The reason why you don't want to add information to these bases is because you may end up losing the info you've added if you need to reinstall the program. I remember one customer several years ago who had added 100,000 games to the database that accompanied ChessBase 4. He had to reinstall and his huge database was overwritten by the 1,000 game one that came with the program. With some work, we managed to reconstruct most of his database. He could have saved himself a lot of tears and sweat by starting a new database for the games he collected, rather than adding them to the database that came with the program.

How do you create a new database in Fritz5? It's really pretty simple. From the main screen, you just click on the "database" icon. Find the button marked "New" in the group of buttons at the bottom of the screen. Click on it and a dialog box will open, allowing you to create a database in any directory ("folder") on your computer. You can create a database in a variety of formats: .CBF (the old ChessBase format), .CBH (the current ChessBase format), or .PGN (Portable Game Notation, the current ASCII standard for chess notation). Select a directory and a file format, then type the name of your database in the "File name" box. Click "OK" and you have a new (albeit empty) database.

Next you must put games into the database. You can do this one of two ways. The easy way is to simply download a database from the Internet and copy it to your new database. Check out our links page to find a link to the University of Pittsburgh site, a treasure trove of downlaodable data in both .CBF and .PGN format. Once you've acquired a database of games, copy them into your new database like this: click on the "Open" button in Fritz5's "database" screen. A dialog box appears which allows you to choose your newly downloaded data file. Click on the file and then click "OK". You'll see the games of this database appear in the game list. Click on the first game of the list. Next hold down the [SHIFT] key and hit the [END] key. This will highlight all the games in the list, selecting them for copying.

Next click on the "Copy" button. This opens another dialog box that allows you to select the database to which the selected games will be copied. Choose the new database that you created in the first step of this process. Click "OK" and zing, all of the games will suddenly appear in your new database. Don't worry if the downloaded database is in one format and your new database is in another; Fritz5 will handle the conversion.

The second way to add games to your database is by hand. You simply make sure your new database is the one with games appearing in the game list. Then click "Board" to return to the main screen. Click the "Game" icon, and deselect "Play against Fritz" (making sure there is no check next to it in the menu). Enter the moves for both sides. You can add symbols and commentary to the game as you wish. When you're done, click on the "Game" icon again and then click "Save". Fill in the information boxes with player names, tournament, year, and other appropriate header information. Click "OK" when you're done and the game will be added at the end of your database.

This is a good time to bring up the crucial difference between "Save Game" and "Replace Game". I used to be asked this at least once a week when I did tech support for ChessBase USA, so it's worth going over.

"Save Game" is used when you want to add a new game to the end of a database, just as we saw in the preceding example. "Replace Game" is used when one wants to add or change information in a game that is already in the database. For example, you receive a chess magazine in the mail. You spot an annotated game in one of your favorite openings. Chceking your database you find that the game is already in there. Double-click on the game in Fritz's game list and the program will kick you to the main screen with the game already loaded. Add the commentary from the magazine to the game from the database. Then click on the "database" icon. In the game list screen, click on the "Replace" button. The header information box appears; the header will already be filled out. You can change any information you like at this point (such as adding the annotator's name). Then click "OK". The old (unannotated) game in your database is replaced by the new annotated version.

It's pretty easy to remember: "Save Game" saves a game at the end of the database, while "Replace Game" overwrites the old version of a game with a new version.

We've seen how to start a new database and how games get into the danged thing. Next time around we'll look at some of the neat stuff you can do with a database once you have it put together.



CHESS EMBITTERMENT

by Steve Lopez

For your culinary delight, here's my latest whine with plenty of cheese.

WARNING: Readers of a puritanical nature may find certain passages of the following article somewhat offensive. You wuz warned, pardnuh!

It's said that, back in the days before playing conditions were as pristine as we've come to expect today, Botvinnik used to prepare for tournaments by playing practice games in a room where loud music was being played and people were blowing smoke in his face. Richard Reti learned to play strong chess by playing in cafes for money.

While these techniques may have worked for the big boys, they're somehwat less effective for the average class-level player (particularly those as lazy as myself). Playing under these conditions tends to dull one's game rather than sharpen it; weak opposition encourages laziness, bad technique, and a lack of seriousness. A player rated 1200 can beat 80% of the people in the world who know how to play chess (that is, 8 out of 10 people who know which way the horsie moves); however, regardless of what nutritionists say, a steady diet of these fish can make one chessically fat and lazy. Plus, when you occasionally run across somebody who knows what he's doing, it's danged embarassing!

Last night, I was at the usual place playing against the usual cast of characters. The players there tend to be a bit mangier than most, but the joint has one of the better jukeboxes around (Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love" being a good example of the treasure it contains) so I have fun going there. However, on this particular occasion, I was about to discover just how distracting a place like this can be.

I arrived early and found a good crowd. I unrolled the board, grabbed a frosty one, and dropped some quarters into the jukebox. Unbeknownst to me, however, the pool players had beat me to the punch. Someone had decided to relive the days of his youth by pumping around $73 into the box to listen to the new Fleetwood Mac live album 15 times in a row.

Two frosties and about six plays of "Rhiannon" later, I finally got a game. I grinned as I drew White and threw out the first pawn. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent).

S. Lopez - Joe Fish
Casual game, Hagerstown, 1997

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2

Here's where I first felt the need to surpress a giggle. I spent over a year researching the Worrall Attack for a writing project. I'm no expert but I'm on pretty solid ground with it. Grinning, I wait for his inevitable pause, followed by something doofy like 5...h5.

5...b5

Dang! The guy does know a little something about chess, after all!

6.Bb3 Be7 7.c3 0-0 8.0-0 d5

Not only does he know a little something, but he plays aggressively, too. I'm waiting for the "I was school champion back in 1981" story that I know is coming. I'm also waiting for my songs to come up on the jukebox. I need a soul fix badly, and "Who's Making Love" by Johnnie Taylor would be just what the doctor ordered.

9. d3 Re8 10.Rd1 Bb7 11.Nbd2

The idea of this move is to reposition the Knight to f1, followed by a jump to e3 or (less often) to g3. Keep this idea handy; single-minded devotion to it causes my downfall (with a little outside help).

11...Na5 12.Bc2 c5

Believe it or not, this of is all book stuff so far and, despite the Black pawn phalanx, a statistical draw.

It was about here that "Don't Stop" hit the jukebox for something like the seventeenth time. I tend to be pretty apolitical, but I begin thinking that the Republicans should lay off of Bill Clinton over Whitewater. Instead, they should be leaning on him for using this song in his 1992 campaign and resurrecting this band that is preventing me for hearing Smokey and the Miracles.

I'm starting to get pretty torqued now. I can't hear my songs, my tall frosty one is getting warm, and I'm stuck playing somebody who actually knows his schtuff. I thought Saturday nights were supposed to be relaxing! I figured I'd better buckle down and find some Morphyesque finish to the game. But before I can deliver my coup-de-grace, Fate delivers hers.

There is a certain gorgeous brunette who frequents the establishment where this game took place. I've noticed her there but never had occasion to talk to her. She is hard to miss though because of certain "attributes". Let's just say that she could push all eight pawns to the eighth rank by simply altering her posture and never even use her hands.

It was at this precise moment, the moment in which I decided to get serious about the game, that I felt a presence behind me. A slender arm slipped around my shoulder and a sultry voice breathed in my ear, "I just love a man with a brain."

Yes, friends and neighbors, it was her. And how did I respond to her comment? Boneheadedly I answered, "Take a look at my position and you'll see that you might be mistaken about that." With a cavalier flick of my wrist, I reached out and played:

13.Nf1??

Continuing with my plan to reposition the Knight. The lady "Hrummphed" and retured to her table. Just then I reexamined the board and saw that the e5 pawn had been hanging and that I should have played 12.Nxe5 instead.

And that, friends, is how I made chess history last night, by being the first chessplayer ever to destroy winning chances both on and off the board simultaneously.

13...Ng4?

My opponent seems hell-bent on intensifying my embitterment. He's played brilliantly so far, but he's now changed his plan: he will now drive me insane by playing the stupidest moves possible. Infinitely better was 13...Nc6, defending the hanging pawn the right way, instead of trying to do it by this ridiculous advance.

14.h3 Nf6 15.Nxe5 Bd6?

Instead of using his pawns to exploit his development advantage by playing 15...dxe4.

16.Nf3?

Doofy move follows doofy move. 16.Ng4, followed by Qf3 and Nfe3, was the way to go.

16...dxe4 17.dxe4 Nxe4 18.Bxe4 Rxe4 19.Qc2 f6 20.Ng3 Rc4??

Oooooooo, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby!!! All thoughts of the jukebox are gone now.

21.b3 Bxf3

And, of course, my opponent (who has been playing like a moron for the last twenty minutes) suddenly has an attack of acute lucidity and finds the only move that saves the Rook.

22.gxf3 Rh4

Now I must needs devise a clever stratagem to insure my foe's demise. It was at this instant, after what seems like several years of Fleetwood Mac ringing in my ears, I hear Johnnie Taylor's scream as he rips into "Who's Making Love". Finally!!! Of course, my concentration goes sailing out the window...

23.Kg2??

...and my position, winning after 23.Nf5, merely becomes an OK position.

23...Nb7 24.Nf5

I'm obviously living in a time warp, as I'm seeing moves two or more tempi too late.

24...Rh5 25.Nxd6

In the words of the immortal Little Walter: "Too late, too late, too late..."

25...Qd7

Of course, my opponent messes with my head by declining to play 25...Nxd6. So I, being inspired and motivated by the kicking horn part in Johnnie's soul classic, I deftly cop off the Knight...

26.Nxb7?? Qxh3+

Leading to unstoppable mate in two: 27.Kg1 Qh1#. In my only clearheaded moment of the game, I spot this and flip my King. And then, adding insult to injury, the cake was iced: appropriately, my next song came on the jukebox -- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "The Tracks of my Tears".

What can we learn from this game? There are several lessons here:

1) After a couple of cold ones, keep the position closed.

2) Play the board, not the man. If an attractive woman comes along, examine the board: if you're at least a minor piece ahead, play both. If you're dead even or a pawn ahead, consider flipping a coin.

3) If you want to play chess, but also need to hear a particular song very badly, stay home with Fritz and your record collection.

Your tales of shame and degradation are also welcome for publication in Electronic T-Notes. Send your tales of misery, questions, and comments about Electronic T-Notes and Battle Royale to our ChessBase Users Group or you can e-mail me directly.