ELECTRONIC T-NOTES


CHESSBASE USA'S WEEKLY ON-LINE NEWSLETTER


FOR THE WEEK OF MARCH 11, 2001


LEARNING A NEW OPENING -- PART 6

by Steve Lopez

After you've played a huge pile of practice games against Fritz in which you use your new opening (see last week's ETN), it's time to take the big plunge and try it against human opposition.

Head on down to the chess club and, when your opponents give you the chance, hit 'em with your new opening. You'll almost certainly immediately notice and odd thing: they'll go into a variation you've never seen before. Oops...

For example, we've been looking at the following line of the Queen's Gambit Accepted:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.a4 Nc6 8.Qe2 cxd4 9.Rd1 Be7 10.exd4 0-0 11.Nc3 Nd5

But what happens when my opponent plays, say, 4.Nc3 instead of 4.e3? Well, during that game I'll wing it. But (win or lose) after I get home I'll need to fire up the computer and see what I should have played against it. This is the part of the process where the ongoing research starts, the part that really never ends.

The fact is that nobody can possibly know all the variations of the Queen's Gambit Accepted. It's just too vast. So what you have to do is learn a little of it at a time and study each variation as it comes up in your own games. Every chess position you understand adds to your chess knowledge. Even if you never see that exact position again, you'll often see important elements of it in future games and you can transfer the knowledge and understanding of one position over to another position. It's a bit like being a detective. No two crimes are exactly the same, but a detective draws on prior experience when looking for and interpreting clues to a new case. You'll do the same thing in chess (either consciously or unconsciously).

The first thing to do is build a database on a particular opening. The easiest way to do this is by doing a header search for specific ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings) codes. Don't worry if you don't know all of the codes -- I've got you covered there. Have a look at the game list for your work database, into which you input the moves of the variation you started studying back in Part Two of this series. You'll see the ECO code for that opening in the game list -- in this case, we see D27 listed. That gives us a valuable pointer as to where to go next.

In ChessBase 8, double-click on the icon for either the Big Database or Mega Database (depending on which flavor you're using -- you can also do this with the ChessBase Opening Encyclopedia) to get the game list. Click once on the "Openings" tab to get the top level of the ECO hierarchy:

A - 1. --- 
B - 1. e4 --- 
C - 1.e4 e6 / 1.e4 e5 
D - 1.d4 d5 / 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 (3.Nc3 Bg7) 
E.- 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 / 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7

This gives the basic hierarchy of which openings are in which of the five volumes of ECO. If you see moves in parentheses, it means "without those moves being played". So, for example, we see that the D volume contains 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 without 3.Nc3 Bg7 being played. We already know that the QGA is code D27, so we need to go to the D volume. Double-click on the D line to get the next level of the hierarchy:

D0 - 1.d4 d5 2. --- 
D1 - 	     2.c4 c6 
D2 - 	     2.c4 dc4 	
D3 - 	     2.c4 e6 3. --- 
D4 - 	     	     3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 
D5 -			       4.Bg5 
D6 -			       4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Nf3 Nbd7 
D7 - 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3. --- 
D8 - 		      3.Nc3 d5 4. --- 
D9 -			       4.Nf3

It's easy to see that the D2 series of codes takes in all of the QGA (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4), but if we want to check this, we can double-click on the D2 line and see that everything from D20 to D29 starts with those two moves.

We now know that the Queen's Gambit Accepted covers ten ECO codes from D20 to D29. So we're ready to build a database of these games. To create a new database in ChessBase 8, first go back to the database window. Go to the File menu and select "New/Database". You'll see the Windows file select dialogue appear. Make sure you use the default database type of .cbh (the latest ChessBase format) and change the database name from "New database" to something more relevant (such as QGA in this example). Also make sure you've selected the proper folder where you want to store this database. Click "Save" and you'll have a new icon for the database. Right-click on this icon and select "Properties" from the popup menu to get a dialogue which allows you to set a picture for this icon ("Openings" would be the logical choice here) as well as change the database's name as it appears in the database window (I changed "QGA" to "Queen's Gambit Accepted").

Now you're ready to start searching games and copying them to the new database. If you're like me, you have multiple databases that can be searched. My personal preference is to start with the ChessBase Opening Encyclopedia. If you start with this database, all of those wonderful opening theoretical surveys will be the first games in the game list of your new database. This allows you to access them quickly and easily without doing a search. I just highlight the Opening Encyclopedia icon, right-click on it and choose "Search" from the popup menu. I type "D20" and "D29" (minus the quotes) in the "ECO" field and wait a few moments for the results.

In the search results window, I right-click on the first game and select "Edit" from the popup menu and then "Select all" from the submenu. This highlights all of the games in the list. I then right-click again, go to "Edit", and select "Copy". I then close the search results window to go back to the database window. I click once on my brand new database to highlight it and then right-click on it to get a popup menu. I select "Edit" and then "Paste" from the submenu, and I see the "Copy games" dialogue, asking if I'd like to copy all 5892 games to the new database. Of course I click "OK" and watch the progress bar as the games are copied.

I then repeat the process for my other databases (Mega 2001, the Gambit Lexicon, the Correspondence Database, and the myriad other databases I keep). A handy trick to know is that if you don't care about what order the games are copied into the database, you can hold down the CTRL key, single-click on each of your databases to highlight them, right-click and select "Search", and do a search on all of your databases at a single pass.

In Fritz6, you copy the games this way: first hit CTRL-A on the keyboard when the search is finished -- this will highlight all of the games found in the search. Then go to the Edit menu and select "Copy to". This brings up our old pal -- the Windows file select dialogue. Use this to go to the folder where the "target" database is located. Double-click on that database's name and the games will be copied to it.

If you've copied games from multiple databases into a single database, you'll want to eliminate duplicate games from the new database. You can't do this in Fritz6; this is a function of ChessBase 8. Right-click on the database's icon, select "Tools", and then "Find Double Games". You'll see the dialogue for setting the parameters for finding duplicate games. That's outside the scope of the article right now, but I will get around to doing an ETN issue on it. For now, consult ChessBase 8's Help files, which do a pretty good job of explaining the functions.

After the duplicate games are found, you'll need to eliminate them. Right-click on the database's icon, select "Tools", and then "Remove Deleted Games". This will eliminate all games maked for deletion (which is what "Find Double Games" did -- marked doubles for deletion).

Your next step is to attach an opening key to the database. Attaching a full ECO key would be silly -- you're only working with a part of the full five-volumes here, so you only need a few of the keys. You just cut and paste the parts you need from a database which has a full ECO key over to your new database dealing with a specific opening.

First, double-click on the icon for your new database to get the game list. Then click the "Openings" tab. You'll get a dialogue with four choices: select "Install empty key". You'll get a message saying "Key is empty." Close this window.

In the database window, double-click the icon for your Big or Mega Database. Click the "Openings" tab and then step down through the keys to get to the one you want to copy over to your new database (in my example [in which I want all keys from D20 to D29], I first double-click the "D" line and then I highlight the "D2" line by single-clicking on it). Leave this window open, but bring the database window (with icons for all your databases) back up on top by clicking on the "ChessBase 8" button on the Windows Taskbar. Double-click the icon for your new database and click the "Openings" tab. Now bring the Big or Mega Database window back up on top (where the key you want will still be highlighted). Right-click on the key you want to copy and select "Transfer" from the popup menu. You'll see a confirmation window with a big question mark and saying "Transfer -> [name of database]". If this is showing the name of your new database, you've done everything correctly and you click the "OK" button. This will copy the highlighted key (and all of its subkeys) to your new database. In my example, I highlight the "D2" line and transfer it to my Queen's Gambit Accepted database. This transfers every key and subkey covering D20 through D29.

But there's one more step. When the keys are finished copying, go over to your new database (where you'll now see a key entry in the window instead of "Key is empty"). Go to the Tools menu, select "Classification", and then "Whole database". Type the number "1" in the new dialogue and click "OK". ChessBase 8 now sorts all of the games in the database into the proper opening key classifications.

You now have a new database containing all the games of your chosen opening, freshly keyed. What you'll do with it next is what we'll look at in next week's ETN. Until then, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes.