by Steve Lopez

The ability to merge a bunch of games into a single game in ChessBase 8 is a really handy tool. You just find the games you want to merge, highlight them in the game list, and hit the Enter key. Boom -- instant merged game, with the first game from the list being the main line and the other games appearing as annotations. Swell!

But sometimes you'll merge a whole heap of annotated games together and wind up with something that looks like this:

Uh-oh. Seeing a subvariation that's numbered "D2c232323" is enough to make even the most hardcore chessplayer run screaming from the room. Such a tree can be very difficult to navigate through, even when using a powerful database program like ChessBase 8. So how to you make such a huge variation tree more manageable?

A way to accomplish this is by using folded notation. The concept is similar to the one used to display folders in Windows Explorer, in which subfolders are hidden until you choose to display them by clicking on the plus sign next to a folder name. The same idea applies to folded notation in ChessBase. Subvariations are hidden away until you choose to display them by clicking on a special plus symbol displayed in the notation. It's called "folded" notation because nested subvariations are "folded away", invisible to you, until you choose to "unfold" the notation and display these deeply nested variations.

It's an easy feature to activate. If you guessed "right-click in the notation pane" here, move to the head of the class -- you've been paying close attention to ETN over these last several months. Many, many features of ChessBase 8 are activated by right-clicking.

Right-clicking in the notation pane displays a menu of various commands and items. The second of these is "Fold". Selecting it displays a submenu containing more options. To hide this extremely hairy massive tree of subvariations, select "Fold all". This changes your notation display to something much more manageable (shown below):

Note in the illustration that several moves of the game are preceded by special symbols containing a blue plus sign in the upper left corner. These are buttons that allow you to unfold the notation. Click on one of these buttons and the notation "unfolds" to display the hidden subvariations. The button is then replaced by a new one that shows a red minus sign. Clicking this new button folds the notation back up again so that the subvariations are once again invisible.

The net result is that you can simply unfold or fold variations at will to display (or hide) them as you need them, which makes a heavily-annotated game much easier to follow compared to an endlessly scrolling gargantuan tree of variations in which it's easy to get hoplessly lost.

Let's give this a whirl to demonstrate how easy the feature is to use. In the illustration to the left, note the folded notation button which appears just prior to White's fourth move (4.Bd3). Clicking on this button will unfold the notation to display the nested subvariations that are alternatives to 4.Bd3 (illustrated below):

Ba-da-bing! Suddenly we see a whole bunch of White alternatives to 4.Bd3. Now if we were concerned with just the main line move provided (i.e. 4.Bd3), we'd never have clicked on this button and would not have to be troubled by the mass of variations that appear at this point in the gamescore. But for those of us who are terminally curious, we can now do further exploration into alternatives to White's fourth move.

Note that some of the previously-hidden variations which we just unfolded contain further "folded" subvariations, each designated by the special folded notation ("plus sign") button. We can dig even deeper into any of the displayed variations by clicking on these buttons to unfold the hidden nested subvariations. For example, as a devotee of the unorthodox, I'd likely do some further examination of the lines following 4.g4 -- the Bayonet Attack. Clicking on any of the folded notation buttons in the variation starting with 4.g4 will display the moves and commentary that are presently hidden (and, while I won't burden you with yet another graphic, there's a pretty fair amount of commentary to this variation -- all of which is presently hidden but can be unfolded as desired).

And, when we're finished with a set of folded variations and we want to hide them again, we just click on the button presently displayed before 4.Bd3 (the button showing a red minus sign) to fold the notation back up again and proceed with the main line moves of the game.

If you want to unfold all of the notation (to return the gamescore's appearance to the horrendous display we saw back at the start of this article), you just right-click in the notation pane and select "Fold" from the menu and then "Unfold all" from the submenu. This displays all of the variations of the game.

So the next time you're confronted with a game containing an enormous tree of variations, you don't need to flee in terror or suffer through near fatal brain-busting mass confusion. Just fold that sucker up and then unfold only the relevant bits that you need. This not only eliminates confusion, eases comprehension, minimizes eyestrain, quells fear, and cures acne, but also gives you yet another cool toy to play with in your ChessBase 8 program.

Until next week, have fun!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: As of Nov. 1st, 2001, I will have a new e-mail address. The old e-mail address given in previous ETN issues will no longer be active. From now on, you can e-mail me here with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes.