by Steve Lopez

There are times when you'll remember partial information about a game, but it's not quite enough to get you where you want to go in a database. You might remember the name of one of the players (especially if he or she is one of your favorites), the opening used, and have a general recollection of the characteristics of the position, but that's all. So how do you locate the game under these circumstances?

Here's an example. I remember going over a Richard Reti game in which he played the White side of the Danish Gambit. I was struck by a really unusual piece configuration. Reti's King gets stranded in the center but he controls a couple of open or half-open files with his Rooks. I have no idea who his opponent was, the tournament, the year, the result, or even what the position fragment looks like (Which file was his King on? Was it d or e? His King was flanked by his Rooks, but did they control the c- and e-files, or was it the d- and f-files? Obviously I can't do a position search). How the heck am I going to find this game?

ChessBase 7 provides an interesting but very underused tool for "fuzzy searches" such as this one. The first step is to do a search for as much as I can remember about the game in question. I know Reti had White in a Danish Gambit. Normally I would do a search for Reti as White (remembering to uncheck "Ignore colors") and type "C21" in the ECO field. However, since I'm an irrepressible Danish Gambiteer, I've already created a separate Danish Gambit database. This makes my task a bit easier. I open the game list for my Danish Gambit database, click "Install a filter" (to bring up the search mask), and do a search for Reti's games as White:

Dang -- that was easy! There are only two games. In theory, I could just play through both of these games until I spotted the position I want; however, in practice, there's an easier way to find it.

Let's have a look at the icons at the bottom of the game list window:

I've taken the liberty of circling the second button from the left. When you move the mouse cursor over it, you'll see a popup that reads "Overview selected game in many diagrams". I just highlight the first game in the list and click on this button to get the following display:

This display allows me to see at a glance a variety of positions from the game. It provides fifteen board positions with an equal number of moves between each position (two in this case). I can see immediately that White has castled Kingside, so this isn't the game I want.

Let's take a look at the board overview for the second Reti game:

There we go! Look at the position that's in the dead center of the display (the one for 15.Rac1). That's not the exact position I remember, but it's awfully close. In fact, the next position in the display (after White's 17th move) shows that the King has moved out from between the two Rooks. The position I remember has to be the one after White's 16th move (and we can deduce from the diagrams that it must have been 16.Rhe1).

Another neat feature of these overview diagrams is that you can jump directly to a position just by clicking on it. In the example I'm citing, I can just click on the diagram for 15.Rac1 -- this will jump me directly to that point in the game. I can then click on the VCR buttons below the board a couple of times to get to the position after 16.Rhe1:

And there it is! Now that's a setup you don't see every day (which is probably why it stuck in my memory)!

With the limited information I had concerning this game (the name of one player and the opening), I was able to locate this game in less than a minute by using the board overviews. That speed, as well as its ease of use, make this a pretty handy feature of ChessBase 7.

You can also change the display itself by clicking on the "Board" button at the bottom of the display window. Clicking repeatedly on it will cycle through a number of display patterns:

Note that in the above display, my target position of 16.Rhe1 is one of the choices.

In using this feature, your mileage may vary depending on your screen resolution. Higher resolutions will provide more boards in the display (in the screen shots for this article my computer is set for 800x600 -- any higher and I'll go blind trying to see my desktop icons).

Also be aware of a nice shortcut to this feature. In the game list, highlight the game for which you want to see an overview display and whack the letter "o" (for "overview") on your keyboard. In fact, the "o" key is the only way to get to this feature in Fritz5.32, Hiarcs7.32, Junior 5, and Nimzo7.32.

To close the display after you're finished (assuming you don't click on a board to jump to a position) just click the "OK" button at the bottom of the display or else the "x" button in the upper right corner of the window.

Until next week, have fun!


You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes. If you love gambits and sacrificial play, stop by my Chess Kamikaze Home Page and the Yahoo Chess Kamikazes Club.