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Tag: Database

Product Review – ChessBase 14

Even numbered years are tough on the wallet because two of the largest software products I use typically release their major updates during those times. Now that Logos has taken my money for a major update, ChessBase has officially released the next major version of its popular database software. I’ve been using it for a while now and have seen enough in this update to explore those new features here on the blog.

Interface Updates

Interface and aesthetics used to be a developer’s afterthought in software design but that has radically changed over time thanks to Apple and other major corporations finding new ways to create cultural trends by integrating technology into everyday life through elegant design. ChessBase 13 did very little to modify the user interface despite some advances in the Windows Aero system. ChessBase 14 makes up for that by almost completely revamping the user experience to reflect interface changes on par with the latest version of Microsoft Office. The toolbar and ribbon has been fully updated and now integrates better with the rest of the operating system than previous versions.

Another excellent interface upgrade is the addition of highlighted variations on the main board window. For me, a major challenge of studying analyzed chess games has been the complexity of multiple variations, but ChessBase 14 fixes that with a cool new feature where the entirety of the current variation is highlighted in the notation pane! For me, this nifty little feature was worth the price of upgrade alone! Other minor refinements to the interface include deeper integration with ChessBase Account and some other upgrades that all serve to streamline the user experience.

Functional Updates

Of course no update would be worth the investment if it did not enhance the overall functional experience. ChessBase 14 still uses many of the same tools and resources as it’s predecessors but also adds some powerful analysis functions. The best of these, in my opinion, is the poorly named tactical analysis. This function brings the long-sought full game analysis of Fritz to the core ChessBase program. Users can now load a game in ChessBase 14 and perform a full analysis with the engine of their choosing without having to hop over to the Fritz, Houdini, Komodo, or similar GUI to complete the analysis. Online services like lichess.org and Chess.com, but I think that nothing beats letting Stockfish or a similar engine tear apart a game using local processing power and a predetermined amount of the user’s time. lichess.org can give me an analysis in a few seconds, but engines can go all night while I’m sleeping; allowing me to wake up to a full analysis of my most recent game.

The upgrades to ChessBase 14’s interface and deeper integration with ChessBase Account adds solid, useful functions to the program that definitely makes it worth the investment. The ability to upload games to the user cloud introduced in ChessBase 13 is still present with easy access to the user’s ChessBase Account added to the interface ribbon. One login allows the user access to the whole of their account and cloud databases as well as the powerful ChessBase LiveBook analysis tree. The ChessBase user cloud offers around 200MB to store PGN databases online, but most people are going to prefer alternative services like Dropbox or OneDrive which offer much more storage space with effective interface options for Windows.

The program also feels much more snappy and responsive than previous generations, which is pleasing given the increased portability of today’s computers. I use ChessBase on a Microsoft Surface so seeing some refinement in the program’s performance is welcome for those of us who consider themselves chess road warriors. Using the database itself on a portable device did not place a strain on the battery until activating an engine like Stockfish or Fritz, but that’s raw processing power for the engine; not ChessBase.

Final Thoughts and Overall Value

I skipped ChessBase 13 because most of its updates did not seem worth the investment, but ChessBase 14 is a solid update to an already powerful chess database system. There are several different packages available that include add-ons such as Mega Database 2017, which activates some immense reference abilities with over 6.5 million games. Both the software and the database are available as separate purchases but are a much better value combined together as a package.

Purchase Options

  • Base Software Download: Link.
  • Mega Database Download: Link.
  • ChessBase 14 with Mega Database 2017: Link.

Campfire Verdict: ♟♟♟♟♙

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Advanced Reviews of Chessbase 14 and Mega Base 2017

My copy of Chessbase Magazine 174 arrived a few days ago and included an exciting voucher for Mega Base 2017 that instructed me to head over to the Chessbase Shop to buy the new database. Curiously, it is not available at this time, so that voucher is tucked away safely until it is.

In addition, Chessbase has included a brief summary and review of Chessbase 14 in the back of CBM 174’s booklet, but CB14 is also unavailable for purchase on the Chessbase Shop.

I like the product previews, but it feels strange being encouraged to go out and buy products that are not available yet… Maybe next time a simple Coming Soon notice instead?

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Product Review – Most Amazing Moves

I am not sure why I have struggled to finish this review, but hopefully this 4th draft will be the final version. This also turned out to be the first post of July 2016. Normally, I would already have posted several entries, but this is been a challenging month.

Alas, on to the review we go…

Like most chess players, there are certain games and moves that have left an unmistakable influence on my life. Of course, classic games like Morphy’s Opera Game and Fischer Game of the Century are highlights, but some classic games of Staunton, Casablanca have earned their way into my collection of PGN databases and FEN diagrams. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered a DVD on the growing Chessbase library that brings many of those games together in a single collection: GM Simon Williams’ Most Amazing Moves. Although the DVD itself was published in January 2015, I only recently managed to pick up a copy and go through it in its entirety.

The DVD Itself

Most Amazing Moves is a 4-hour collection of video commentary by GM Williams on a mixed collection of games featuring some of his own experiences intermixed with games from the greatest players in history. Combined with his unique brand of humor, Williams provides the viewer with an exciting overview of the games and exploration of how some seemingly small moves can change the course of a game or even the course of chess history. If British humor is not something you are accustomed to, and some of his comments could seem offputting. However, I found all of his commentary and insights into the games extremely refreshing.

The DVD itself begins with some relatively popular classical games, but it is the exploration of key moments in these games that separates this DVD apart from others. Personally, as a man who is fully aware of his chess deficiencies, I enjoyed Simon’s repeated jabs at the viewer further assumed inability to see the most amazing move and the meaning behind what makes it such an amazing move. Throughout the DVD, Simon begins by offering brief commentary on each game before moving on to a Chessbase quiz that allows the user to guess the next set of moves. There were moments in these quizzes where it seemed that no amount of calculation or guessing allowed me to determine the correct move. However, there were other times when I was able to guess the correct move, but only because it fit with a theme carried over from one or two games earlier. Or, I was able to determine the correct move but not immediately ascertain exactly why it was such an amazing move. Fortunately, Simon provides detailed explanation of the moves and even some witty comments on variations that can be selected by the user. Some of those variations come with honest and heartfelt chess instruction while others are met with a look of disdain and utter confusion and why the person would even consider trying to guess the moves. Here is an example of the gems that make up the bulk of the DVD:

While there are many examples of amazing tactics demonstrated throughout the DVD, Williams does not focus exclusively on tactics and also provides the user some opportunities to review great positional chess games as well. This variety as a unique flavor to the DVD which helps to diversify its target audience and simply add to the overall fun of watching some of the greatest chess games in history.

About the Author

GM Simon Williams is from Surrey, England and earned the title of Grandmaster in 2008 after finishing his third GM-norm at the Hastings International Chess Congress. While he continues to play in a variety of settings, Williams has recently transitioned from playing regularly in tournaments to focusing on chess commentary, tournament organization, and publishing. He runs his own website which is published a series of instructional DVDs and he is well-known for his commentary on Chessbase and Chess24. His sense of humor and depth of chess knowledge add a unique flavor to his instruction and commentary that, in my opinion, is much needed in the world of professional chess.

It is apparent throughout the DVD that Williams had a blast organizing, researching, and filming this product. There are many examples in the DVD from his own games and he is not shy about acknowledging the perception that can come with focusing on himself in a DVD titled Most Amazing Moves, but there are no instances throughout the four hours of DVD commentary and instruction where I felt that a game or move had been represented that was not amazing in itself.

Final Verdict

As I write this review, Most Amazing Moves is available in the Chessbase Shop for €29.90 and is available on physical media or via download option. For that price, which is consistent of most of Chessbase’s DVDs, it is an exceptional bargain for such an amazing collection of games. Both beginners, intermediate, and advanced players will appreciate the nuances of these amazing moves. If you do not have a copy of Chessbase, the DVD itself comes with a copy of Chessbase Reader or you can download the free Chessbase Reader from here. I give it 4.5 pawns out of 5.

Campfire Chess Rating: ♟♟♟♟♙

Further Reading: Chessbase Review (2015)

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Unimpressed with Apple’s Loop-In Event

So, you might be wondering what an article about Apple is doing on a chess website (or you may not). In addition to chess, a long time passion of mine has been technology and Apple products in particular. Growing up in the 80s led to great exposure for me and my classmates to Apple IIe computers and eventually to the Macintosh desktop. Since then, almost everything that I do, including the writing, design, and administration of Campfire Chess is accomplished using a Mac. That being said, I typically look forward to their keynotes to announce new products because there is always a chance that something new will catch my eye, but yesterdayís event was one of the worst presentations I have ever seen.

Chess.com app on iPhone 5 in 2014. (Image Credit: Campfire Chess)

$ize Does Matter

The old adage that size does not matter is a blatant lie, whether it speaks to cell phones or genitals. In this keynote, Apple introduced a series of new products that essentially downsized products that already existed in their inventory. A 4″ iPhone called the iPhone SE, which has a somewhat creepy Windows ME feel to it. After playing and watching chess on my beloved iPhone 6, I cannot image ever wanting to reduce the size of my phoneís screen.

The next entry was a series of bands for the Apple Watch. Yes, I own one of those as well, but I doubt that I will be in a hurry to run out and purchase one of the spiffy new woven nylon bands released during the keynote. It might just be me, but I cannot remember ever wearing my watch and thinking: I need something that absorbs the sweat on my wrist better than this plastic composite band.

Yuck. (Image Credit: Cult of Mac)

The final release of consequence was a smaller version of 2015’s 12″ iPad Pro. The smaller device, also dubbed iPad Pro, is a reduction in physical size, boost in specs, and addition of a feature called True Tone Display in which the color of the display changes based on the light temperature in the room.

Chess Connection?

As I stated earlier, I love Apple products but I gave up using an iPad as my primary work device several months ago in favor of a Microsoft Surface. Obviously, Chessbase runs exclusively on Windows, but Windows offers a much more efficient file management system on tablets than iPad. This makes managing large chess collections and improves my personal productivity.

I hope to finish a review of the Surface 3 in the coming months to show how I have used it both as a productivity tool and as a portable chess machine. Unfortuately, Apple continues to keep me at bay from returning to iOS for pure work productivity. The addition of the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard to the 10″ iPad is a nice start, but there is still a long way to go.

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Avoiding the Chessbase Double-Upgrade Snare Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on merging the best of Chessbase, Chessbase Magazine, and the Big Database or Megabase! Yesterday’s post showed subscribers how to take the annotated games from CBM and insert them into your reference database to avoid having to upgrade your larger database each year with a secondary purchase from Chessbase. Today, we are going back into our reference database to perform some important housekeeping actions.

DISCLAIMER: As I stated before, it is important to always keep a backup of your data before starting any significant updates or modifications. This is especially true when messing with your reference database. I cannot be held liable if you’re chessbase software becomes a smoking hole in the ground from following these steps. However, if you experience trouble with the steps or have an easier way to perform these actions then please visit Campfire Chess on Facebook and leave comments on this article’s post sharing the details or send me a message on Twitter.

Now, let us begin!

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Avoiding the Chessbase Double-Upgrade Snare Part 1

Longtime readers know that I am a huge fan of Chessbase software. Despite some design quirks, there is no substitute when it comes to managing large databases of games. As much as I would like to hope for a resolution, OS X simply does not have a viable competitor to Chessbase. Check out the insanely popular post The Sad State of Chess on Mac for details. Therefore, I remain bound my Windows machine for doing most of my chess research and study. Over time, I have spent a considerable amount of money on Chessbase software including the database package and multiple course DVDs. MegaBase 2015 came in very handy last year for writing here on the blog with its access to 6.5 million games and countless annotations, but I was apprehensive about upgrading to the 2016 edition when it was released near the end of the year.

cb13-splash

The Chessbase 13 Splash Screen (Credit: Chessbase)

Curious Thoughts and New Insight

I was about to click the button to upgrade my MegaBase edition from 2015 to 2016 when I started considering that I also have a subscription to Chessbase Magazine. Why is this important? Let me explain:

  • Before purchasing in addition of MegaBase, it is important to understand the scope in which you are purchasing games. The MegaBase edition you purchase comes with the most current selection of games up until the time that the database was published and promises one year of free game updates until the next edition of the massive database is published. Many of these games are available online and other database formats, the annotations and cross tables provided in MegaBase are unparalleled. For example, I purchased MegaBase 2015 in late 2014 and was provided free updates by Chessbase until December 2015 when the new edition was published.

  • Things get a little bit easier for those of us with a chessbase magazine subscription. Instead of continuing to upgrade the MegaBase database each year, there is a way to install the games from each volume of chessbase magazine into your database so that you effectively have the most current collection of games available with Grandmaster annotations throughout the year. In this post, I am going to show you how to install games from chessbase magazine into the MegaBase and then do some basic database maintenance to remove duplicate entries and ensure that you are left with only the highest quality annotated games.

First things first, there are a few things we need to assess. You will need to verify that you have the following items before you can proceed:

  • Chessbase Database Software (I recommend version 12 or higher).
  • A version of the Chessbase Big Database or MegaBase. The exact year or version of this database is not important as long as it is capable of being modified by your version of the Chessbase software. Both databases contain approximately 6.4 million games as of the 2016 edition, but the MegaBase is the database that contains almost 70,000 annotated games. Pick your poison.
  • A subscription to Chessbase Magazine. The magazine is available in both printed/DVD or download formats. Personally, I subscribe to the printed/DVD version because I enjoy collecting chess literature and like sitting down without staring at a computer to read chess information at times.
  • And, it goes without saying, enough free space on your hard drive to install the new databases.

Updating Your Reference Database: A General Warning

Before we go any further, it is important to remember that you should never modify your reference database unless you are doing it intentionally. This means that you should never add your own games or combine other databases with your primary reference database if you are using the megabase or big database as your reference. Therefore, this post comes with a DISCLAIMER: I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your reference database by following these steps. I have tested the steps out in multiple settings using my own addition of Chessbase 12 on my Microsoft Surface 3 and a friend’s copy of Chessbase 13 on his desktop PC. Therefore, I know that it works as long as you follow the steps exactly as they are written. I have included screen shots for the visual learners among us.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: because this is a large and image-intensive post, only the excerpt will show by default on the Campfire homepage. Click the link below to open the full post and tutorial.

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