OPENING LINES

by Steve Lopez

I'd like to open this issue of Electronic T-Notes by saying "thank you" to those who have written to me regarding our Internet revival of the old T-Notes newsletter as well as Battle Royale, my serialization of the New York 1924 tournament. And, no, you're not going crazy -- my web pages do change from week to week! As I've learn more about HTML tagging I've been able to go back and correct some formatting errors on my pages.

For example, if you bookmarked the main Electronic T-Notes page or the intro page to Battle Royale prior to last Sunday you probably noticed some HTML formatting characters in your bookmark listing, as well as in the title bar of the pages. I corrected that last week. A paragraph in an HTML tutorial book led me to believe that a page's title as it appears in the bar is the same as the title as it appears at the top of the page proper. This was incorrect; they're two separate entries on the page. So please delete your old bookmarks and replace them when you go back to the main pages for ETN and Battle Royale.

I've also added links to the main Battle Royale page to allow you to download the CBWin demo and ChessBase Access programs (if you've not already done so). And each of my pages now has a "return" link to get you back to where you started.

I'm sure that there will be more tweaks to my pages as time goes by. Meanwhile, thanks for your patience and your comments!




THE ULTIMATE OPENINGS GUIDE

THE CHESSBASE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHESS OPENINGS

by Steve Lopez

Our friends at ChessBase International in Germany have been puting out some amazing stuff lately. I was really impressed by the 1997 version of the Mega Database and figured that they'd never top it. Boy, was I wrong!

A new CD has just been released by ChessBase and these guys have really outdone themselves with this one. They've taken all of the games from the Opening disks, Author disks, and Fritz Power Book disks, put them all on one CD, and titled it The ChessBase Encyclopedia of Chess Openings.

First of all, let's make something clear: no, this is NOT the Informator Encyclopedia of Chess Openings in disk form. But before you groan in disappointment, let me tell you: this CD is even BETTER!

The Informator E.C.O. is a wonderful reference tool, make no mistake. But one thing about it that I personally find unsatisfying is its lack of depth. Typically the lines presented end after about twenty moves with a commentary symbol denoting which side is ahead. No text, no explanation, just an evaluation of the position.

This is where ChessBase's opening encyclopedia really shines. You get critical analysis by top masters and grandmasters in the form of "survey (or overview)" games, which are game trees of analysis similar in approach to E.C.O. But (unlike E.C.O.) you also get complete games -- many of which are annotated by top-notch players!

The disk is truly amazing. The database is presented twice, in both "old" ChessBase format and the new ChessBase 6.0 format. Any owner of a Windows version of ChessBase, as well as Fritz4 owners, can study the material presented on this CD.

And there is a TON of material! The database contains 204,868 games -- the combined total of all of the ChessBase opening disks from the last 11 years. The material in many cases has been updated and expanded, and new material has been added. Every E.C.O. code is covered on this CD -- even ones that ChessBase had not yet covered on an Opening disk! As a player of the Ruy Lopez Worrall Attack, I found this to be great news. At last I have some major reference material for C86 all in one place!

The disk opens with a brief hypertext introduction, outlining various ways to utilize the material on the CD. Following this there are 2905 survey games covering every E.C.O. code. After this we find over 25,000 annotated games! The balance of the database is unannotated supplementary material.

Games aren't all you'll find on this CD. It also contains the mother of all opening keys! What ChessBase has done is to take the opening keys from all of the individual opening disks down through the years and combine them into a single mammoth opening key. Name a variation and you'll probably find it here -- and with it, a shortcut to locating all of your favorite variations in your preferred openings.

To complete the picture, the ChessBase 6.0 format database contains a player index, a tournament index, an annotator index, and a publishing sources index. To give you an idea of the quality of this disk, I used the indices and the search mask to check up on a few statistics:

As you can see, I had all kinds of fun just horsing around with the indices on this CD before I even got to the instructional material!

How much material can you expect to find on this disk for a given opening? Of course, this will depend on what you're researching. To illustrate, let's take a high end and low end example. For something like the Dutch Defense, (1.e4 f5) which comprises 20 different E.C.O. codes (A80-A99), you'll obviously find a world of material. In this case there are 5496 games. Of these, 28 are survey games, 526 are annotated, while the remaining 4942 ganes are unannotated. For something very specific, such as the Cochrane Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7), you'll find 38 games. Included are 3 survey games among the 38 total.

Now comes the best part. At the risk of sounding like a late-night infomercial, how much would you pay for this CD? Think about it for a minute: almost 3000 opening analysis surveys, over 25,000 annotated games. Not to mention over 175,000 supplementary unannotated games.

How much? $500? $600? $700?

Try $130.

As soon as you get done laughing, I'll tell you again.

Just $130.

For this laughably paltry sum, you can have in your possession enough opening knowledge to blow any player off the face of the planet. For the price of 5 or 6 printed opening books (Winning with the Elephant Gambit, etc.) you can have at your fingertips an electronically searchable, easily playable, complete opening library.

Just six months ago, this same material would have cost thousands of dollars to purchase as individual disk titles. But now you can get all of this stuff (plus ALL-NEW material thrown in) for just $130.

Enough of the hard-sell. I'll tell you a personal story. A few weeks ago, I was visiting with Don Maddox. He told me about this CD and I began to salivate noticably. Then he told me the price. My jaw dropped. My eyes glazed over. I was blown away! I was already familiar with most of the material; I had 90% of it in my collection from when I was a full-time ChessBase staffer. I knew that it was great stuff. But the prospect of getting even more material, with all of the former holes filled in, the missing openings included, on a single CD was almost too much to comprehend.

And I'll be blunt with you: now that I have a copy of this bad boy, I can honestly say that it exceeds my wildest expectations.

I will absolutely never part with E.C.O. or any of my other chess books. But my research and training library became infinitely more valuable with the addition of just this one CD. Instead of being puzzled at an E.C.O. evaluation at the end of the line, I can just make the moves in ChessBase and hit [Shift-F7] to find all the games in the database that reach the same position. By playing through these complete games (particularly the annotated ones) I'll be able to avoid the bewilderment that I previously felt when researching opening lines.

In a few weeks, I'll tell the story of how I used a ChessBase opening disk (now a part of this CD) to completely blast an opponent off the board in a tournament a few years ago. I'll show you a few pointers on how to get the most out of either this CD or an individual ChessBase opening disk.

In the meantime, give some thought to acquiring the ChessBase Encyclopedia of Chess Openings. I'm not kidding -- I think it's the single greatest disk that ChessBase has released in the eleven years that the company's been around. It's going to be a TOUGH act to follow.