ELECTRONIC T-NOTES


CHESSBASE USA'S WEEKLY ON-LINE NEWSLETTER


FOR THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 6, 2000


A USER'S GUIDE TO FRITZ6 -- PART 5 (BASIC DATABASE FUNCTIONS I)

by Steve Lopez

Once you've leanred to set up and play some games against Fritz6, the waters become a bit murkier. The next step logically is to learn how to have Fritz analyze your games. The problem is that to do this effectively, you also need to understand databases and opening books. So we've come to a fork in the road -- and both paths lead right back to Fritz' analysis functions. Over the next couple of weeks, we're going to look at the basic database functions of Fritz6 before getting into the opening books later. After that, we'll come back around to the analysis features in Fritz6.

A lot of people ask me, "What is a database?" The basic definition of a database is that it's essentially a collection of information. The database most people are familiar with is a telephone book. It's a database of phone numbers listed in alphabetical order by the last name of the people who've opted to have their number listed in the book. You want to call up your friend Joe Patzer to see if he wants to come over for a game, so you open the phone book, go to the "P" section, look him up and find his number.

A computer chess database works pretty much the same way. You open a database, bring up a search window, enter the description of what you're looking for, and the program does the rest. The advantage to an electronic database (as opposed to a printed one) is that the material can be tossed into the database in any order; it doesn't have to be alphabetical, chronological, or in alphanumeric order by ECO codes. Any order is acceptible -- the program itself does the work of finding the requested material and does it much more quickly than you could do it by hand.

The first step in using a database is loading it (in other words, telling the program where the database is located). In Fritz6's main chessboard screen, click the File menu, then "Open", then "Database" (the shortcut for this is F12). This brings up the Database window. You'll see a game list for the currently-loaded database. If you don't see a game list, you'll need to "show" Fritz where the database is located. Click the File menu in this screen, select "Open", then "Database" (the shortcut in this screen is CTRL-O). You'll get the standard Windows file select dialog that lets you go to any file in any folder on any drive (as always, I'm not detouring to give you a step-by-step on how this dialog works; consult your Windows help files or any basic book on Windows for more info). If you want to load the database that comes with Fritz6, it's located on the CD in a folder called "Database". The file itself is called "Fritz6.cbh".

Once you have the database's game list on your screen, you may decide that you want to copy the database to your hard drive. Just go to the Tools menu and select "Install to hard disk". You'll get a window called "Browse for Folder"; this lets you select what folder to store the database in on your hard drive. The key here is to remember what folder you stored it in (that way you'll be able to get back to it if you change to a different database later and then want to come back to the original databas), so put it in a folder that makes sense to you. Fritz doesn't care what folder you put it in -- it will access databases in any folder on any drive.

Fritz6 comes with a database of 319,900 games. So how do you find specific games in the database? To do this, you use something called the search mask. It's a means of telling the program what games you wish to view. We're going to take a look at these search mask items in this article. Another ETN issue (January 24, 1999) covers common search questions; please go back and have a look at it after you finish this article.

To bring up the search mask, click the "Filter games" button at the top of the database window. This brings up the search mask:

Notice the four file tabs at the top of the window. We'll start with "Game data" since this is the one you'll likely use most often.

One of the most common searches is a player search. For example, I want to find all the games of Max Euwe, regardless of whether he was playing White or Black. In the first blank after "White:" I type in "Euwe" and check the "Ignore colors" box. I click "OK" and the program pulls up a list of all of Euwe's games that are in the database. There are several variations on a player search:

Some additional tips for doing player searches:

The Tournament blank (or "field") works pretty much the same way as the Player fields. You can type in a tournament name and do a search for it (this, too, is case sensitive). The trick here is that a tournament name can be listed in the database in a number of different ways. For example, the tournament that just ended in Wijk aan Zee could be listed in several different ways once it gets entered into a database:

So there are a few pitfalls that might snag you along the way when doing a tournament search. In most cases, though, you should be able to use this with no problems (for example, "Linares" is a pretty good bet for a successful search).

"Annotator" is another name field; the same caveats for typing player names apply here. Stick with just the last name when doing an annotator search.

"Year" is pretty self-explanatory -- you can enter a single year (by putting it in both boxes) or a range of years (by putting the earlier year in the first box and the later year in the second box).

Some people find "ECO" to be a bit tricky. This is a way to search for specific openings by ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) codes. If you don't know a code and want to find it out, you can use the Openings key for the Fritz6 database (accessed by clicking the "Openings" tab in the game list) and step through the hierarchy of moves until you find the code for the variation you want.

To do a search for an ECO code, just type it in both "ECO" boxes. To search for a range of codes, put the lower code in the first box and the higher code in the second box (for example, to find all Ruy Lopez Exchange games, type "C68" in the first box and "C69" in the second box).

"Moves" allows you to enter a range of move numbers. If you want to find all the miniatures in the database, type "1" in the first box and "20" in the second box.

Checking the "text" box allows you to search for all games that contain any kind of text annotations.

The "Elo" boxes let you search for games by player ratings. You can type in a range of ratings (like "2600" to "2850" for all games played by "super GMs"). "One" means that either player's rating must fall into this range for the search to be successful. "Both" means that both players must be in this range for a game to qualify. "Av" means that the average ratings of the two players must fall into the specified range.

Note that the Elo system is a relatively recent development (from around 1970 onward), so don't go looking for Capablanca games in which one player was rated 2300+ or you'll be doomed to disappointment.

The "Result" box is pretty self-explanatory. You can search for White wins ("1-0"), Black wins ("0-1"), draws, checkmates, stalemates, and games that contain checks.

Note that you can combine search criteria. You could enter "Karpov" in the "Black:" box, leave "Ignore colors" unchecked, select "B10" through "B19" in the ECO field, enter "1975" through "1995" in the "Year" field, and check the "0-1" box to find Karpov's wins in the Caro-Kann Defense between 1975 and 1995.

There are some other useful search criteria that can be found by clicking the other tabs at the top of the search mask. "Medals" are a special form of annotation. An annotator using ChessBase 7 can "flag" games with a colored box that is displayed in the game list. There are a variety of colors to designate a variety of important chess ideas. These colored bars are called medals. You can do a search for games that contain a specific medal by clicking the "Medals" tab and selecting one of the themes listed (for example, you can select "Tactical blunder" and pull up a list of all the games in which the annotator wanted to call your attention to a tactical mistake made by one of the players -- you'll find a lot of these in my personal database).

Here's a list of medal colors and what each color represents:

The "Position" tab lets you set up a board position or position fragment and search the database for it. This feature deserves an article or two all its own; right now we'll just look at the basics:

There are two columns of buttons to the right of the chessboard. Click on a button for the piece you want to place on the board. You'll see the mouse cursor change to a depiction of that piece. Click on the square on which you want to place that piece and the piece will be dropped onto that square. Think of it as you would a set of chesspieces sitting on the table next to the board -- you just pick up a piece and set it into place on the board. It's as simple as that.

There's also a handy shortcut for grabbing a position from the main chessboard in Fritz6. Let's say you're looking at an opening position from one of your own games and you're wondering if that position was ever played in a master game. Just go to the database window, open the search mask, click the Position tab, and click the "Copy board" button. You'll instantly see the position appear on the board -- the program has copied it from the main screen into the position search window.

As I said, there are other ways of doing position searches but describing them would require a separate article, so we'll save that for another time. But you now know the basics (which will get you started so that you can fool around with the feature and discover for yourself some of the other uses).

The last tab is for "Annotations", in which you can search for specific words in the text accompanying a game, individual Informant symbols, and other special annotation functions (most of which are created using ChessBase 7). This type of search was descibed in detail in a previous ETN issue (July 25, 1999) so there's no need to repeat the information here.

Once you've defined your search criteria in the various tabs of the search mask, you simply click the "OK" button and Fritz6 scans the database and digs up the requested material. It "filters" or blocks the games that don't meet the requirements of your search so that all you see in the list are the games that match your search (this is why the popup for the button you use to bring up the search mask reads "Filter games" and why the button depicts the electronics symbol for a filter). Once you've filtered the list to show only the games that match your search, double-click on any of them to return to the main screen of Fritz6 and play through the game on the main chessboard. You can use the VCR buttons located below the board (if you have this option selected: "Tools/Board design/Replay Arrows Below Board") or use the cursor keys on your keyboard to step through the moves.

A frequently asked question is whether or not a set of search results can be saved in Fritz6 to avoid having to repeat a search. Yes, they can -- you just copy the games into another database for future reference (and we'll look at this procedure later).

The next time around we'll look at some additional database features in Fritz6. Until then, 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.