by Steve Lopez

We have four new CDs for use with ChessBase and Fritz; this week we'll take a look at each of them.


The annual update of the master database has been completed and it's available in two forms. The Big Database 99 contains over 1,100,000 games spanning the years 1625 to late 1998. All of these games are unannotated. Over 200,000 games have been added, including a lot of historical material: more than 2,000 games have been added from the period before 1900 alone.

The database includes the entire run of ChessBase Magazine and Extra/Express (minus the annotations of course) up to CBM 67.

The game headers are standardized (player names are always spelled the same way) and is extensively indexed. You'll find the complete range of keys here: opening, tactics, themes, strategy, endgame, player, tournament, publishing source, and annotator keys (annotator in this case refers to the writers of the text tournament reports that are included on the CD).

The opening keys have been expanded -- there are over 2,000 new variation keys in Big Database 99, with a total of 54,000 individual variations now indexed.

The difference between Big Database 99 and Mega Database 99 is that the Mega Database contains over 30,000 games annotated by the world's top players. Let's look at a few names and totals:

Kasparov - 36
Yusupov - 140
King - 464
Kortchnoi - 145
Kramnik - 52
Svidler - 72
Shirov - 126
Yudasin - 187

Trying to round up books containing this many annotated by these top players would cost considerably more than the price of the Mega Database CD.

Both the Mega and Big Databases are top-notch reference sources for top-level games from throughout chess history.


The first thing you'll notice about the new Power Book CD is that the game tree is smaller. How can this be?

The original Fritz Power Book contained a lot of opening theory. Some was great, some not so good. The danger of taking a large batch of games and creating a tree from them is that some of the lines you get will be less than wonderful, even though they were played in professional chess events. Using the old Power Book was a terrific way to train in the openings, but you did occasionally see Fritz play moves that were less than stellar (even though they'd been played in professional chess events).

Power Book 99 takes a different approach: short draws and short wins were thrown out, as well as games by players below master strength. What remains is a set of 450,000 games by strong players, merged into an opening tree. You can use this tree for statistical study or as an opening book for Fritz and its related engines.

There are some other new and interesting items on the CD as well. The database of 450,000 games from which the tree was generated is included. Now you can set this database as the reference database, go to a position in the opening tree, and easily call up a list of games in which that position appeared.

You also get some interesting smaller opening books: Kasparov's White and Black repertoire, as well as Anand's. Now you can load these opening books and have Fritz play just like Gazza and Vishy (until you leave the opening, that is -- after that, Fritz is on its own!).

Power Book 99 gives Fritz a world-class opening repertoire. It's a great tool for high-level tournament preparation, as well as a terrific learning device for those of us still mired down here in the fishpond.


I have an enormous amount of admiration for amateur players who regularly play the Black side of the Sicilian Defense. There are many, many White options and side lines that can be thrown at you. Keeping up with the latest theory in the Sicilian is a full-time job!

Cuban GM Amador Rodriguez takes some of the load off of your shoulders with his new CD: Modern Ways of Playing the Sicilian. GM Rodriguez tells you up front that the CD doesn't cover the myriad sidelines like 2.b4, 2,c3, and 2.d4. The disk is concerned with various Black options after the more standard 2.Nf3.

Six Sicilian variations have been selected for inclusion on this CD, all chosen with the idea of decreasing the amount of study you'll need to do to play the Black side of the Sicilian:

This is a wonderful CD for amateur and professional alike. The ideas in the openings are spelled out in plain language in the textfiles (using the "wysiwyg" text format used by both CB7 and the Fritz5 family of playing programs). Instead of wading through comments sprinkled throughout a bunch of database games, GM Rodrigiuez gives you the ideas in the textfiles with hypertext links to the relevant games from the database. The effect is very much like that of reading a chess book, with the additional ease that playing through on-screen games provides.

There are also many direct links from the text to the opening keys, so that you can jump right to a complete list of games of the variation being discussed.

The text is well-written and nicely linked. You're treated to several introductory texts on how to best use the CD. Then, after selecting one of the six main variations for study, you get an introduction to that variation, including passages on its historical development, statistical information, advantages and disadvantages of the line, and possible transpositions that may arise from the use of that variation.

Following this introduction, there is a link to a text that covers the variation in more detail, with specific move alternatives at various points covered for both sides. Once you've studied the text material, you can use the links provided to go either to specific games suggested by the author or to keys listing all the games of the specific line.

At the end of the text section are links to games conatining multimedia. At critical points in the games, you'll hear GM Rodriguez's voice explaining important points about that position.

On the disk you'll find the instructional texts, over 5000 games (265 of which are annotated), an extensive opening key, special theme keys, and the regular player, tournament, annotator, and publishing sources keys. There's also an opening tree for the variations covered on the disk (excellent for staistical study and catching transpositions, as well as for use as an opening tree for the Fritz family of playing programs). The CD also includes a database of games containing timed training positions so that you can be tested on what you've learned.

The text files on the CD are provided in both English and Spanish, as is GM Rodriguez' spoken commentary. The new ChessBase Reader program (essentially a demo of ChessBase7) is also included, so this is a standalone CD -- no other programs are required. However, if you own CB7 or one of the Fritz family of programs, please use those by all means.

My overall impression of Modern Ways of Playing the Sicilian is that it's one of the two best training CDs ChessBase offers (Daniel King's CD on attacking chess is the other). GM Rodriguez has constructed a wonderful training tool for players interested in playing the Black side of the Sicilian but who don't want to make keeping up with opening theory their life's occupation.

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.