by Steve Lopez

It seems like dang near every ChessBase user I talk to can't read a chess book anymore without being in front of a computer. It's so much easier to follow variations and subvariations in chess books by using ChessBase than by using standard chessboards. If you're like me, you always needed three boards to read a chess book: one for the main line, one for the variations, and one for the subvariations. If you were trying to follow Patrick Wolff's endgame analyses from Chess Life magazine (circa 1992), you needed a roomful of chessboards.

Many of us love to use ChessBase to help us read chess books much more quickly than we ever could before. And many of us save the games into a database as we complete each game. That way, if we ever decide to read the book again, we have the games on a disk ready for our perusal.

But it gets confusing trying to remember which file goes with which book. Was endwin.cbh the file for How to Win in the Chess Endings by Horowitz or Winning Endgame Technique by Beliavsky? Short of creating a .DOC file for each floppy disk, how can you tell them apart?

I use ChessBase's new text format to create an interactive title page/table of contents for each database. It's easy to do; if you can use a word processor, you can use the text features of ChessBase 6.

The first step is to start a new database ([CTL-X]) for the book you're reading. Then, before you enter any games, hit [CTRL-ALT-N] to create a textfile for the database. You'll get a text entry screen that looks like this:

This is where you'll do all of your work on your text file. If you go to the game list for your database, you'll see the empty text file as the first entry.

Next, click on the blue "info" icon (the letter "i" inside the blue dot). A window appears in which you can edit the header information for your textfile:

You can fill this out however you'd like. I put the book's title in the "Text title" field and the author's name in the "author" field. I also put the year of publication in the "year" field.

Now you can start entering text. What I do is put the book's title at the top of the page, use the font button (at the bottom of the screen) to enlarge the title, and use the "define text" button to define the title line as "Header 1".

On the next line, I placed the author's name and on the third line I entered the ISBN number (the last is not terribly important, but I'm sort of a completist).

Once I entered the headers the way I want them, I clicked on the "piggybank" icon to save what I did. This is very important: save your work frequently! Trust me on this. I'm a writer -- I do this for a living (well, part of a living, anyway). The save button is one of my best friends. Don't wait (like I once did) until a power outage wipes out ten or eleven paragraphs of hard work!

Next I skipped a few lines and typed in the title of the first chapter. Just to jazz things up a bit, I used the "color" button to change the text to a nice dark blue. I skipped another couple of lines and typed in the name of the first section of Chapter One.

Then I saved my work, minimized the text window, and entered the first game from the book. After I was finished, I saved the game into the database.

Now here's the really neat part about ChessBase text: you can add links to games right into the table of contents, making the TOC interactive. Here's how you do it. Once you've saved the game into the database, maximize the text window and position the cursor to the point where you want the link to appear. Click on the "links" (also called "jumps") button. A menu appears which allows you to select from a variety of link types. In this case, you would select "Game". BAM! A link to the game you just entered appears at the point where you positioned the cursor.

On the same line, a couple of spaces after the link, I type in the page number in the book where the game appears. Now it looks like a true table of contents. I have a reference that guides me to the proper point in the book, as well as a functional game list that allows me to jump right to any game in the database. Here's a sample one from a book I've been reading:

This is some pretty handy stuff. Now, if I'm ever confused about the contents of a floppy disk on which I have several book databases, I can just pop the disk into my floppy drive, click on the "disk" icon, and I'm a couple of sets of clicks away from a title page/table of contents for any database on the disk.

Here's a couple of tips and tricks you should know about:

1) You can't change the color of the links themselves; they always appear in green. This is done for standardization's sake. If the links were always different colors, you'd never be able to recognize them as links.

2) When you finish the book and plan no more changes to your text file, you can "write-protect" it by clicking on the slider (below the "E" button in the top left corner). This prevents you from accidentally making unwanted changes to the text.

3) You can edit text to you heart's content (just like in a word processor), but you can't edit the text in links themselves.

4) You can create jumps to other text files, so if you're really creative you can create separate title and table of contents pages, and link the TOC to the title page.

5) There are a ton of keyboard shortcuts available in the editor (see your manual for the complete list).

6) Remember to save your work frequently! When you click the "save" button, it saves the text page right into the database and you'll see it in the game list. You can open a text page just by clicking on it in the game list.

7) You can save all kinds of things and create all kinds of jumps in your text files. Check your manual for more on these.

Next week, if all goes well, we'll take a closer look at ways correspondence chessplayers can use ChessBase. Until then, have fun!

You can reach me by e-mail with your ideas and suggestions. Hammer me with them! I'm listening!