LEARNING A NEW OPENING

PART 3

by Steve Lopez

We've already spent some major time working on a new opening: learning the basics and doing some preliminary training. Now it's time to move on to more advanced studies.

For our example, we're going to use the ChessBase Openings Encyclopedia (see Electronic T-Notes for 4/27/97). I've been deluged with questions about its use and I hope to answer many of them now. However, these tips and principles also apply to any ChessBase Opening, Author, or Fritz Power Book disk (all of which have been incorporated into the ChessBase Openings Encyclopedia).

The first step is to figure out the ECO code for our opening. You'll recall from last week that I was studying a particular line from the Scotch. To determine the ECO code, I first open up my analysis game that I constructed (in our last issue). Next, I go to the "Window" menu in ChessBase and bring the "Databases" window back on top. I click once on the icon for the ChessBase Openings Encyclopedia to highlight it (making sure the CD is in the drive, of course). I then return to the "Window" menu and bring my game back up on top.

At this point, I go to the "Game" menu and click on "Opening Classification" (please note: this is not the same command as the one in the "Technical" menu). After clicking on the command in the "Game" menu (or hiting [ALT-C], which has the same effect) I suddenly see a list of games appear in a new window (with "12.Rae1" showing in the window's title bar). All of the games show the ECO code "C47". So I now know what the ECO classification for my opening is -- C47.

What exactly did I just do? By clicking on the icon for the Openings Encyclopedia, I was telling ChessBase that I wanted any searches that I asked for to be performed on that database. By clicking on the "Opening Classification" command in the "Game" menu, I caused ChessBase to play through my game backwards, searching for a position it recognized from within the opening key to the Encyclopedia. Once it found a position it knew, it stopped searching and displayed a list of games in which the opening from my game was played. Then I can see the ECO code displayed on that list.

The next step in the process is to figure out if any other ECO codes qualify as being part of the opening system I'm studying. Going back to the "Databases" window (bringing it up on top by clicking on its listing in the "Window" menu), I double-click on the icon for the Openings Encyclopedia. This brings up the game list for the Encyclopedia. The first several hundred games on the list are the game trees for the various openings, ordered alphanumerically by ECO code. I hit [Page Down] on the keyboard repeatedly until I see C47 displayed. There are three surveys for this opening, all listed as "Scotch Opening".

Looking up and down the list a bit, I check for more games listed as the Scotch. I see that C44 is listed as the "Scotch Gambit", but I'll skip these as I have no intention of playing the gambit lines. C45 is listed as the "Scotch Opening", C46 is the "Three Knights", and C48 and C49 are the "Four Knights". Taking a look at some survey games, I can see that C46, C48, and C49 have nothing to do with the opening line I've been studying, so I can skip them. I'm only going to be concerned with C45 and C47.

You should do the same thing for the opening you've selected. After finding the ECO code, get the games list for the Openings Encyclopedia and find the survey games for the code of your opening. Check up and down the list for games from the same opening. And be reasonable about your findings; if you're studying the Scheveningen Sicilian, you don't need every Sicilian variation known to mankind. Just stick with the Scheveningen (you'll have your hands pretty full as it is).

Now that I have the ECO codes I need, I close the game list for the Openings Encyclopedia. Going back to the "Databases" window, I click on "New" in the "Database" menu. I'm going to create a new database for Scotch games. There are several reasons for doing this, among them being that accessing a small database of Scotch games on a hard drive will be much faster than accessing the whole Encyclopedia on a CD, plus having the games on my hard drive will allow me to add notes to the games later.

After clicking "New", a window appears allowing me to create a new database anywhere on my hard drive. I select a directory where I want the new database to reside. In the "File name" box, I type "Scotch.cbf" if I want the database to follow the old ChessBase format, or "Scotch.cbh" if I want the database to be in the new ChessBase 6 format. If you have ChessBase 6, go ahead and use the new format at this point if you'd like. After the new icon appears, click on the "information" icon (the white letter i inside the blue dot) at the bottom of the screen to select a picture for your new icon and to type in a descriptive name. For example, I chose "opening disk" for the icon (giving me a picture of a hand pushing a pawn) and simply typed "Scotch" for the database title.

Here's where the ECO code for your opening will come in handy. Click once on the icon for the Openings Encyclopedia to highlight it. Next click on the "binoculars" icon at the bottom of the "Databases" window, click "Search Games" in the "Database" menu, or just hit [ALT-M]; any of these procedures will cause the Search Mask to appear. Click on the ECO box and then type in the ECO code (or range of codes) that you want ChessBase to search for. In my case, I'll do two searches -- one for C45 and another for C47 (if I type the range "C45-C47", I'll wind up with unwanted C46 games). When you've typed in the code or codes you want, click the "OK" button. (By the way, if you're searching for a single code, be sure to type it in both ECO boxes).

ChessBase will now search for the games you've indicated and put them on the Clipboard. In my case, the program went out and found 1156 Scotch games classified under C45. Take a minute to scroll back up the Clipboard. You'll notice that the first group of games on the list are the Survey games, followed immediately by annotated games. The list ends with unannotated games. This is becuase of the structure of the master database on the CD. The Surveys for all 500 ECO codes are presented first, followed by annotated material, with unannotated games bringing up the rear.

Bring the "Databases" window back up on top. Click on the "Clipboard" icon, holding the left mouse button down. You will see the cursor change to an arrow pointing to a stack of papers. Move the cursor over your new database that you just created ("Scotch" in my case). Let your finger off the left mouse button. ChessBase will now copy all the games from the Clipboard into your new database. A window called "Copy Games" opens up; don't change any settings in this window. Just click "OK". ChessBase will now copy the games.

Repeat the process (if necessary) for each ECO code you want to have appear in this new database, clearing the Clipboard between each search (in my case, I perform the process twice: once for C45 and once for C47).

You should now have hundreds or even thousands of games in a brand new database. But you'll still need a way to index these games by opening variation. You'll still need an opening key for your database.

What we'll do now is cut and paste small sections of the Opening Encyclopedia's huge opening key into our small database's opening key. The first thing we need to do is designate our small database as the work database (click once on the database icon to highlight it and then click the "flame" button, giving our new database a red background). Then click on the button that looks like a yellow key (at the bottom of the screen). In the box that appears, click on "Create Empty Key" and click the "OK" button. Once you've done this, click on the yellow key button again. You should get a new window with a single entry: "Key is empty".

Click once on "Key is empty" to highlight it. Next, bring the "Databases" window back on top, click once on the Openings Encyclopedia icon to highlight it, and click the yellow key button. You'll see the first opening key window for the Encyclopedia, listing the five volumes of ECO, A through E.

The best way to show you what to do next is to give you an example of what I did. Remember that I'm studying the Scotch Opening, codes C45 and C47. I double-clicked on the "C" line. The key window changed to show me ten entries, C0-C9. I next double-clicked on "C4". I again got a list with ten entries, C40-C49. I clicked once on "C45" to highlight it. I next clicked on the second button from the right at the bottom of the "Key" window (the button resembles a blue arrow with some branches coming off of it). In the small menu box that appears, I clicked on "Transfer". A small box opened up with the line "Transfer -> Scotch". This box is asking me if I wanted to transfer (copy) the C45 key (with all its subkeys) over to my Scotch database. I clicked the "OK" button and after a few moments, the deed was done (watch the message box in the lower left corner of your screen to see the keys actually being transferred).

If I bring the "Key" window for my Scotch database back up on top, I can see that "Key is empty" has been replaced by "C45". I then just repeated the process for the "C47" key and wound up with an openings key with two main entries: C45 and C47.

You should follow this procedure, too, performing the process once for every ECO code that you want to have as a part of your opening key.

The final step is to go back to the "Databases" window, click once on your new database to highlight it, then click on "Opening Classification" in the "Technical" menu. You'll see a smaller submenu open up off to the right of the "Technical" menu. Move the mouse cursor over to "Whole database" in this submenu and release the left mouse button. A box called "First game" appears. Type the number "1" in this box and click the "OK" button. ChessBase will now sort all of the games of your new database according to the variations found in your opening key. Now you can use the opening key to find games within your new database.

What we've done up to this point is plenty, so we'll stop here. If you're feeling energetic, go ahead and take a look at the Survey games from your new database between now and next week. In our next issue, we'll look at some "stupid database tricks". Until then, have fun!

I'm very interested in reading your opinion of this (or any other) issue of ElectronicT-Notes, as well as my book Battle Royale. I invite you to post comments to our ChessBase Users Group or else you can e-mail me directly.