by Steve Lopez

We'll start this week with a couple of brief items. First, ChessBase USA will be closed Monday, July 5th (Independence Day weekend). We'll reopen at the usual time on Tuesday, July 6th.

Second, ChessBase programmer Mathias Feist sent along a correction to last week's ETN on the subject of generating endgame tablebases:

If you use the program TBGen, you don't have to edit chssbase.ini for the path. Just enter the correct path into TBGen, it will then do the rest for you.

Thanks, Mathias! Also on the subject of tablebases, their creator Eugene Nalimov posted on the Internet that the .tbs files which are created when you use the tablebase generator program are just a form of log file that can be safely deleted without affecting tablebase performance.


by Steve Lopez

ChessBase has recently released three new CDs for use with ChessBase and our playing programs (Fritz5.32/Junior5/Nimzo99/Hiarcs7.32). Two of them will be of particular interest to English-speaking users.

The first of these is a new edition of the ChessBase Opening Encyclopedia. The new edition is greatly expanded and contains a lot of new material from late 1997 through early 1999.

Over 250,000 games have been added to the Opening Encyclopedia. The first edition appeared in 1997 and many important games have been played since then, so the new 1999 version more than doubles the size of the database (from 204,867 games t0 475,586 games). The database still contains nearly 3000 opening surveys and the annotated games from the 1997 version. But the new additional games include over 3000 annotated games from 1998 and 1999, including a lot of opening surveys that were originally published in ChessBase Magazine.

As an extra bonus, the CD contains an opening tree generated from all of the games on the CD. This can be used as a study tool in both ChessBase and our playing programs (providing statistical information on each position in the tree), as well as an additional opening book for our playing programs.

The database is on the disk twice, in both .CBH and .CBF format so users of older ChessBase programs (including CBMac) have access to all of the games. However, please note that the opening tree will only be available to users of ChessBase 7, Fritz5.16 or Fritz5.32, and Junior5, Nimzo99, and Hiarcs7.32.

It's easy to see that the ChessBase Opening Encyclopedia is bigger and better than the previous version and is a valuable resource for opening study.

Our second new CD of interest to English-speaking users is a real humdinger. It's by Professor Aleksey Bartashnikov and is the first of a three-volume set. It's called The Basic Principles of Chess Strategy, Vol. 1.

You'll recall a few weeks ago in ETN, I wrote a preview of Gary Gauthier's disk The ABC of Chess Middlegames, which I characterized as a great introduction to middlegame tactical and strategic concepts. Prof. Bartashnikov's disk is an excellent followup to it, concentrating on the strategic elements of chess.

The disk contains 88 textfiles and games covering many aspects of chess strategy. This first CD of the series presents instruction on opening and middlegame strategy. The first section, Opening Strategy, gives a short text overview. From there, you'll go to chapters on "Struggle for the Center", "Fast Development of Pieces", "Efficient Deployment of Pawns", and "Safety of the King". Each chapter starts with a text screen containing introductory material (with great use of diagrams!), followed by links to example games illustrating the concepts in action. Each chapter contains from two to five of these illustrative games. The games are well annotated (in both English and German) and contain a lot of graphic annotations (colored arrows and squares).

After you've finished the section on Opening Strategy, you'll move on to Middlegame strategy. There's a brief chapter on planning and positional evaluation in which we learn that to come up with an effective plan we'll first need to understand strategic themes. That's what the remainder of this CD (and the next two CDs in the series) focus upon: teaching the various elements of strategic chess.

The rest of Volume One is about pawn structures. Bartashnikov teaches us about backward, doubled, isolated, and connected pawns, as well as passed pawns, the pawn nail, the pawn wedge, and pawn chains. Each concept is described in a text screen and is illustrated by a number of games. Unless your name is Philidor, you'll likely learn a few new things about pawn handling from playing through these games.

Once this section is completed, we come to the scary part: the self-tests. There are ten test games on the CD, each one containing timed training questions in which you're given a time limit to find the best move. You can guess more than once, but each guess reduces the number of points you can receive for that answer. You can also receive hints, but these will also lower your maximum point count. Once you've completed these ten games, you can look up your score on a chart to see how well you did.

Each of the ten games is also presented in a separate section, in which Bartashnikov examines the games in detail and explains the answers to the test questions.

The Basic Principles of Chess Strategy, Vol. 1 is a terrific disk (in fact, it's one of my three favorites, along with Daniel King's Check and Mate and Gary Gauthier's ABC of the Chess Middlegame) and I'm anxiously awaiting the remaining two volumes in the series (which will cover weak and strong squares, open lines, piece activity, attack and defense, initiative, positional sacrifices, endgame strategy, and a host of other concepts). If Ludek Pachman would have had the opportunity to work in the electronic medium when he wrote Complete Chess Strategy, the end result would have been very similar to what we have with this CD (and I'm a huge fan of Pachman's, so that's pretty high praise for this disk!). I'm convinced that any chessplayer from about 1350 USCF up through USCF Expert can learn a lot from this CD. Note that this disk only comes in .CBH format, so users of CBMac and our older programs won't be able to access the database on it. However, the disk contains the ChessBase Reader program, so PC users who don't have our other programs can still use this CD.

Our third new CD is very tough for me to preview, as I don't speak a lick of German. Alexander Bangiev's CD on the Queen's Gambit Tarrasch is completely impenetrable unless you understand German. It contains 41 German-language textfiles explaining the ins and outs of this opening (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 [or Nf3] c5) and nearly 8000 games. The disk does contain 352 annotated games and most of the notes are in the form of variations and Informant-style symbols, so the braver non-German speakers among us might want to give this disk a try. It's a pretty impressive game collection even if you can't understand the instructional texts -- particularly useful for players who are already experienced in this opening. There's also a training database of 20 games and a complete opening tree for the Tarrasch, able to be used as an opening book for our playing programs. This CD, too, is available only in .CBH format and contains the ChessBase Reader program for PC users.

If you're fluent in German or just looking for a good game collection on this opening, then give Bangiev's Queen's Gambit Tarrasch a try.

LAST MINUTE NOTE: Literally as I was about to post this column to the web, Don Maddox informed me that he will soon have English translations of the German textfiles for Bangiev's Queen's Gambit Tarrasch available for download at the ChessBase USA web site. Watch the page for details!

Until next week, have fun!

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