by Steve Lopez

Keys are a good way to find information in your databases. What are "keys"? Think "indexes" (or "indicies"; either is correct according to my copy of Funk & Wagnalls, so hold the e-mails please). Opening keys are like the "Index of Openings" you often find in the backs of chess books. You look up the opening name and it'll tell you the page numbers or game numbers for games which used that opening. Likewise, opening keys will give you a list of games in which an opening was played.

Some basics about keys were given in ETN for March 11, 2001, so there's no need to repeat the information. However, a lot of folks don't know that you can have Fritz6 automatically generate an opening key for databases that don't already have one (I frequently find myself fielding questions about this feature). Just activate the database window (by hitting F12 on your keyboard while in Fritz' main chessboard screen), click the file tab marked "Openings", and you'll see this:

This popup is pretty simple -- the program just wants to know whether or not you want to create an opening key. It's a simple "yes" or "no" question. The severely undecided can flip a coin (but if it stands on edge, they're sunk).

Assuming that you clicked "Yes", you get a second popup with additional choices:

Here's where it gets a bit trickier. Fritz can create two different kinds of keys. The "Coarse" key gives verbal names of opening, while the "Fine" selection gives you keys that use ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) codes.

Which key should you use? The "coarse" key isn't as comprehensive as the "fine" one -- there are a lot of openings which don't have entries in the index. The "fine" key is much larger: there are many more index entries, but using consequently produces much larger files (in terms of hard disk storage) as a result. In fact, if you use the "fine" key on a small database of a few hundred games, the key files alone will be many times larger than the remaining database files combined. So, in general, use the "coarse" key for small databases and the "fine" key for your whopping great databases.

After ytou make your selection and click "OK", Fritz will work for a few minutes (seconds, actually, for a "coarse" key on a small database) and present you with the initial screen for your opening keys. For the "coarse" selection, this will be a list of the major openings. Double-clicking on an opening name will often give you some sub-keys: variations within that opening system. If you see a list of such sublines with some games listed below them, those games are ones that didn't fall into any of the subkey categories listed above them.

The "fine" key uses ECO codes. It's actually pretty easy to figure out the major classifications, but here's a basic list to get you started. ECO is divided into five volumes; each volume covers a large category of openings. It's easier to understand if we look at them out of alphabetical order:

So your choice of keys really depends on a combination of your personal preference and the size of your database. Because of the "fine" key's size, you'll end up with fewer unclassified games, but the sheer size of the key makes it a case of overkill on smaller databases. Using the "coarse" key results in more "loose" unclassified games, but this isn't a major issue when using it on a small database. Play around with the feature and see which key you prefer. If you attach a key to a database and later decide to change to the other key, making the switch is easy to do (provided you have a minimal amount of Windows knowledge). Just exit Fritz, go into Windows Explorer or My Computer, and delete the .CKO and .CPO files for that database. The next time you open that database and click the "Openings" tab, you'll again get the popups shown earlier in this article. You can then select the other key that you didn't use before.

Until next week, have fun!

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