by Steve Lopez

Every so often a get a call from a new ChessBase 8 user who feels a bit overwhelmed. "Man, there are so many features in this program -- I'll never learn it all!"

I typically respond with some predictable advice: "Go easy, take it slow. Nobody learns the whole program right away -- there are features in this program that even I never use, and I use this software every day."

They think I'm kidding. Man, there are features in ChessBase 8 that I didn't know even existed! I just found one of them about 15 minutes ago; it's called "Theme classification", a handy tool when you're looking for games with strategic or tactical similarities.

To use this feature, you first need a database that has special "General themes" and/or "Tactics" and/or "Strategy" and/or "Endgame" keys. The large databases we offer (such as Big Database and Mega Database) typically have these. You can easily check this in CB8 by double-clicking on a database's icon (to get the game list), then clicking on one of the four file tabs (at the top of the game list) that I mentioned in quotation marks a couple of lines back. If the database has such a key attached to it, you'll see the game list get replaced by classification categories.

The second thing you'll need to do is designate this database as your reference database. Go back to the database window (the one that shows icons for all of your different databases), right-click on the icon for the database (the one you just verified has theme keys attached to it), and select "Properties". You'll get a popup dialogue; click the box next to "Reference database" (to put an "x" in it), then click "OK".

Now you're all set to use the theme classification feature. Open up a game in CB8. Then go to the Tools menu and select "Theme classification". CB8 will quickly check the game against all of the keys and subkeys in the four categories (General themes, Tactics, Strategy, and Endgame) and see if any apply to the game you've opened. After a few moments, you'll see a dialogue which looks like this:

There are four tabs at the top of this dialogue; in the illustration, you'll see that I've selected the "General themes" tab. The game I started with falls within the "Underpromotion" key (there's a pawn underpromotion somewhere in the game). When I click on that entry in this dialogue, I get a list of games (from the reference database) which also have similar underpromotions.

Now let's try another tab:

Here we see that the game qualifies for one subkey under the "strategy" tab; in this case, it's "Advanced pawns". One or both of the players has reached a position in which one or more of his pawns had advanced to the seventh rank (obvious, when you recall that the last category we looked at was "Underpromotions"). Clicking on "Advanced pawns" in this dialogue brings up a list of games from the reference database which also contain the "advanced pawn" theme.

The ideas of the "Theme classification" feature are twofold:

  1. As a means of quickly seeing what theme keys the present game can be categorized under;
  2. As a means of quickly finding games with similar tactical or strategic themes to the one you're presently viewing.

When you get a game list after clicking on a key classification in the dialogue pictured above, you can double-click on a game in the list to open and view it in a separate board window.

So "Theme classification" is a slick little tool for finding games containing similarities to the one you're currently viewing.

Until next week, have fun!

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