by Steve Lopez

There's always more than one way to skin a cat. And, contrary to the beliefs of a small handful of folks, I do not know everything about ChessBase software -- I'm learning new things all the time.

Many moons ago (the October 10, 1999 issue of ETN, to be exact), we looked at how to "bookmark" games in ChessBase 7. The recommendation was made to use "medals" to mark a game in the database so you could exit the program, come back later, and return to the point where you left off in the same game.

I was fooling around with ChessBase 7 the other day and stumbled across another way to do this. At the point where you're leaving off in the game, click the Special Annotations button and select one of the "Critical position" commands:

You'll see the move in question change to a different color in the notation window: blue for openings, red for middlegames, green for endgames. You've just labeled that position as a "critical position" in the game. Next use "Replace game" to save that notation into the game (note, as always, that you can't do this with a game from a database on CD).

When you come back to ChessBase 7 later, click once on the database's icon in the Database window (to highlight it with the black box around it), and click the "Binoculars" button to bring up the search mask. Click the Annotations button (and by this I mean you have to click right on the word "Annotations", not just the check box next to it). In the new window that appears, put a check in the box next to the critical position type you used to mark the game (opening, middlegame, endgame). Click OK to return to the search mask and then click OK again to start the search. The Clipboard will open and display all the game that contain that type of critical position notation -- your game will be on the list.

Once you've opened the game to replay it, you can easily get rid of the critical position notation. Just click on the move, click the Special Annotations button, and select "No critical position". The move will again be displayed in black in the notation window, and you can once again use "Replace game" to save the change into the database.

You'll often see annotators use this feature in games published in ChessBase Magazine. It's a pretty good way to call a reader's attention to an important point in a game. It's similar to a paper publisher providing a diagram at a critical point in the game. But since you have a diagram for every position in a game when you're using ChessBase (after all, that is a main point of the program), there had to be another way to call attention to a position. So this is the way you do it -- by changing the color of the move as it's displayed in the game notation. Subtle and effective.

We can use these notation tools ourselves in games. For example, there's a great Morphy Queen sac that I can never seem to find in a database -- I always forget who he was playing. So the next time I'm playing through a few Morphy games and I stumble across that sacrifice, I'll just click on the move right before the sac and select "Critical position -- middlegame", then use "Replace game". Then when I want to search for it later, I'll just type Morphy's name in a "player" box and select "Critical position -- middlegame" from the annotation search options. My search will bring up all of Morphy's games in which a middlegame position was marked as critical -- and I'll have that swell Queen sac available for my viewing pleasure.

Any position you want to remember as being special in some way can be so marked. If you're playing an ongoing e-mail game with a friend and can never remember where the actual game moves leave off and your analysis begins, you just tag the last actual move with a "critical position" annotation to separate it from your later analysis.

And here's another example of Stevie not knowing everything about chess software. I've been e-mailed a half-dozen times by people who want to know what those "colored moves" are that Fritz provides in its analysis. "It changed my move 11.Nd5 to a red color -- why?" I invariably wrote back that I didn't know. Duh! [writer slaps forehead here] Now I know -- Fritz is marking the position as a critical position to call your attention to it. It does this because it's numerical evaluation changes drastically on the next move. It's Fritz' way of saying "Pay attention now! Something big is about to happen!"

Live and learn, I guess...

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.