by Steve Lopez

Early this week, ChessBase programmer Mathias Feist sent me some clarifications and corrections regarding the use of the endgame CDs in ChessBase 7:

I think you missed several subtleties in your description of the endgame databases.

1. M0 doesn't mean draw!!! It means the stronger side doesn't win! That may well be a loss. This point has to be mentioned again and again since people forget about it. See also point 2 for a more detailed description.

2. In your example of Q-RR you mentioned that you may input cd's 1-3. It *does* matter which one you chose. cd1 and cd3 both contain the endgame Q-RR whereas cd2 contains RR-Q! By definition the left side of this name is the stronger side, the one which tries to win. So cd's 1 and 3 only contain evaluations where the Q wins or not, whereas cd2 contains only evaluations where the RRs win or not. The difference is: if in Q-RR the Q loses, the evaluation will be M0! If in RR-Q the RR's lose, the evaluation will be M0! (Both cases are not necessarily true if the loss happens within the next move. Then the evaluation may be either M0 or some mate value). This is the point which causes the most confusion with the use of the cd's.


4. If you copy all the endgames to the harddisk (and use cdrom complete instead of cdrom 1-4), you'll get better results apart from the speed advantage. For example: if you have both files Q-RR and RR-Q in this directory, then M0 always does mean draw in this endgame! If one of these files is missing (as is the case on the cd's due to lack of space), then M0 may mean a loss for the stronger side. I think these points are rather important since we keep getting questions about it. They definitely have to be used with the brain switched on or the user may get nonsense answers. Using an analysis module almost is a no-brainer, using the cd's is not.

Thanks, Mathias! Point #4 above also clarifies a commonly asked question -- the difference between "CD ROM 1-4" and "CD ROM Complete" in ChessBase 7's engines list. Use "CD ROM 1-4" if you're running the endgame databases off of the CD and use "CD ROM Complete" if you're running them from the hard drive.


by Steve Lopez

Back when a was a kid who was trying to learn something about chess, every chess book seemed to concentrate on the endgame early in the book. Just about every beginner book on chess that was available during the 1960s to mid-1970s taught endgames before they taught anything else. There is a certain logic to this approach; after all, endgames are simpler for newcomers to grasp since there are fewer pieces on the board.

I remember reading Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess from cover to cover in a couple of days. When I was finished, I felt ready to take on the world. It was a great little endgame book that taught lots of useful mating patterns. The problem I had was in getting anywhere near those patterns. It seemed like I was getting creamed game after game in just a few moves.

The problem with getting to the endgame is that you have to survive the opening and middlegame first. Gary Gauthier teaches you how to not just survive, but thrive in the openings with his new CD ABC of the Chess Openings.

This is not a Reuben Fine-like compendium of the strategies for specific openings. This is a good general introduction to what you're trying to accomplish in every opening, applicable to every game you play.

Contrary to popular belief, the average club player doesn't need to memorize endless pages of opening variations. Understanding a few basic concepts will do very nicely to get most players out of the opening in one piece. This CD presents these concepts in an interesting and entertaining manner.

There are three databases on this CD. Start with "Opening Strategy". This database begins with a section called "The Chess Player's Goal in the Opening". Grandmaster Daniel King presents a short multimedia introduction and then we have a two-game introduction to the basic elements. Then comes "Chess Strategy", with more from GM King, and some more selected games illustrating the fundamentals of opening strategy. Finally, Gauthier gives us some sample games from selected openings so we can see this ideas in practice. There are a total of 62 annotated games in the Strategy database, with an opening key and theme key.

Next we move on to the "Opening Tactics" database. GM King describes to us the importance of tactics in the opening, and then we're treated to some terrific examples of tactical shots and tactical blunders right in the opening. Gauthier has selected some really entertaining and instructive miniatures to show us some important tactical opening concepts. After this, we again see some sample games from selected openings. There are 81 annotated games in this database, as well as opening and theme keys.

Then we get to the fun part: the "Training" database, where you get to practice and show off what you've learned. Once again GM King gives us a multimedia introduction and then it's time for the pop quizzes. Thirty-two games with training questions let you find out whether or not you've learned the lessons on the disk.

This is a really fun disk. GM King's presentations are entertaining (as always) and Gauthier's annotations are written in a very conversational manner. He also makes excellent use of the graphics functions in Fritz and ChessBase.

However, no additional software is required to use this disk. The inclusion of ChessBase Light makes the CD a complete standalone training package.

ABC of the Chess Opening is designed for beginning to low intermediate players (up to 1450-1500 USCF), but I'm sure there are a few higher rated players who could use a refresher course in opening concepts. This CD isn't an encyclopedic review of openings and won't teach you the latest theoretical novelties, but it will give you a strong grounding in opening fundamentals so that you need not worry about whether you'll make it out of the opening alive. Follow the advice on this disk and you'll have no problems getting to a playable middlegame in nearly all of your games.

It requires Windows 95 or higher, a CD ROM drive, and a sound card. The package also says that a Pentium 166 is required, but the CD ran fine on my Pentium 133 with no problems.

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.