by Steve Lopez

ChessBase 8 just keeps getting better and better...

When I first installed and fired up CB8, I was anxious to learn about its ability to search variation lines when hunting for a specific board position (see ETN, November 5, 2000), so the first thing I did was a position search. But when I clicked on the "Position" tab, I noticed a curious entry in the dialogue:

Right above the "get board" button was an odd new check box marked "Sacrifice". I had no idea what this was (though I knew it was something brand new that had been added to the program); I assumed that it was to be used in conjunction with a maneuver search to find sacrifices, but since I was doing a different type of search I figured I'd just come back to it later. Of course, in my typical fashion, I forgot all about it. I'd always see it when I clicked on the "Position" tab but, since I was there to conduct a specific search, I'd always skip it and wind up forgetting it.

Matthias Wüllenweber's article about ChessBase 8, published in ChessBase Magazine 78, jogged my memory and I decided to give this feature a try. I will freely admit to a certain degree of skepticism (much as I felt when first trying the Opening Report in CB7 [ETN, July 5, 1998]); I mean, isn't this kind of a "fuzzy" search?

Well, friends, I have to admit that I was dead wrong. The feature works wonderfully well and that peculiar odor you're detecting is the plate of cooked crow (barbecued, of course) sitting in front of me as I type.

To test out this feature, I took all of the databases on CBM 78 (with the exception of the "78 Demo" database) and merged them into a single work database on my hard drive. I right-clicked the icon for this database to get the popup menu and chose "Search". When the search dialogue appeared, I clicked the "Position" tab to get the dialogue that allows one to set up a board position search:

Now here's the kicker, boys and girls: all you have to do in this dialogue is put a check in the box next to "Sacrifice". That's it. No fuss, no muss, no unsightly stains. Just check the box, click "OK", and let 'er rip.

Be aware that this feature has to search every position in every game in the whole database, so this is not an instantaneous thing. In fact, if you run it on a million-game database, go out to dinner and come back later. In fact, you might want to let it run overnight (but there are ways to cut this down and we'll come back to them in a minute).

When you click "OK", the Search Result window appears and you'll start to see games popping up in it. Keep an eye on the status bar at the bottom of the screen; it'll show you how far the search has progressed.

The first time I ran it (on the games from CBM 78, including the extra databases like Telechess), it ran for a couple of minutes and came up with 298 games. Holy mackerel!

There's one (small) catch: the program doesn't differentiate between sound sacrifices, unsound sacrifices, and outright blunders. Any game in which a player makes a move that gives up material is included in the search. But this does include sacrifices that weren't accepted by the opponent! And that last point is the real beauty of this feature. A guy can set a trap by leaving a Knight en prise, but even if the opponent fails to cop off the Knight, the game still comes up in the sacrifice search. That, friends, is nothing short of freaky the first time you see it. Heck, it's still freaky the twentieth time you see it...

Dr. Chrilly Donninger, the programer of Nimzo, is the brainy mug behind this feature and those of us who are fans of sacrificial combinations owe him a huge "THANK YOU!" for the early Christmas gift. It's never before been easier to find interesting, exciting, and entertaining sacrifices in a new batch of games.

A few paragraphs back, I mentioned that this feature does take a little time to work, as it has to look at every position in every game in the database. But you can cut this down in a variety of ways simply by combining the sacrifice search with other search criteria. If you're looking for middlegame sacrifices, you can limit the move range to, say, 15 to 30 (using the "First" and "Last" boxes in the "Position" dialogue). You could cut the search down a bit by only looking for games that involved players rated 2600 and up (by using the "Elo" boxes under the "Game data" tab). You could do a search for sacrifices that appeared in the games of just one specific player; I'd really like to run this feature on a collection of Tal's games, but I'm too scared to do it -- I'm afraid that I'll see smoke rolling out the back of my computer. In short, the "Sacrifice" box can be used in combination with any of the other searches you can do in ChessBase 8. And keep in mind that when you select a game in the "Search Result" window after the search is completed, the notation pane (and the position on the mini-board) jump right to the sacrifice, so you don't have to play through the whole gamescore to find the sac.

BIG feature. MAJOR feature. GRANDÉ feature. Or, as Jar Jar Binks would say, "Maxi BIG da feature!" I should have included it in the November 5 ETN but, like you, I'm learning about the new features as I go (which, by the way, is half the fun). Please excuse the omission and don't hesitate to try out the "Sacrifice" search. Rudolf Spielmann would love it, and I'm dead certain that you will too.

Until next week, have fun!

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