Press "Enter" to skip to content

Tag: PGN

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: ♟♟♟♟♙

Comments closed

WCC2016 Tied Entering Final Round

The 2016 World Chess Championship in New York City has been nothing short of a nail biter and will at least come down to determination in the final round scheduled to be played Monday at 1400 EST. Games 7 and 8 offered some tense moments in which Magnus missed opportunities to turn the tide of the tournament against his opponent. However, his over aggressiveness prevented him from capitalizing on these positions as he would normally be able to.

But everything changed in Game 8 when that over aggressiveness finally backfired and awarded a powerful win to challenger Sergey Karjakin.

Some believed that Magnus would be unable to recover from the loss but managed to pull out a win shortly thereafter in Game 10 to even things up.

The tournament remains tied and goes into Monday’s final round with the very real possibility of a rapid or blitz playoff being needed to decide the overall winner.

Comments closed

Settling Above 1100

The cycle of life ebbs and flows with some periods being more demanding than others. August to October of this year has been particularly demanding, which forced me to cut down on my chess writing and playing. Curiously, that break preceded a jump in my online game successes both in live challenges and on the damnable Chess.com Tactics Trainer. My online ELO currently sits at 1101, which is the first time it has surpassed that benchmark since March 13 of this year.

Pretty charts, but still a long way to go. (Credit: Chess.com/Campfire Chess)

Of course, some of my recent wins were clearly undeserved (abandoned by opponent, etc.) but I believe that many of them are starting to reflect my constant dedication to studying and learning about the game. For example,

Winning and losing in chess is like the tides, so I am trying to prepare myself mentally for the time when the wins don’t come and the only way ahead seems to be down, like this heartbreaking loss:

Until next time, keep the flame burning, campers!

Comments closed

Baku Chess Olympiad is Underway!

It seems like such a short time ago when chess headlines were adorned with stories of the Tromsø Chess Olympiad in 2014 where visa challenges, bathrooms, and high food prices were among the hottest topics leading up to China’s triumphant victory in the event. But here we are looking down the barrels of the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, the home country of former World Champion Garry Kasparov.

After a breathtaking opening ceremony on Thursday, main tournament play began Friday with my beloved United States team winning all 4 of their first matches against players from Andorra. Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Sam Shankland, and Ray Robson each scored well-earned victory against their opponents to launch the team off to a powerful start in the Olympiad.

US Champion Fabiano Caruana is leading the US Olympiad Team

In the second round, Sam Shankland was the only member of the United States team to not earn a win in the round against Scotland. Caruana, Nakamura, and Robson all earned wins and although it is still early in the event, I would say that the United States team is going to be a team to watch throughout the tournament!

The National Gymnastics Arena – the Baku Olympiad venue.

This year’s Olympiad is being held in the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku, Azerbaijan. The country has increasingly positioned itself throughout the past few years as a place of intense international sport and competition. Known to the chess community as the birth home of Garry Kasparov, the 42d Chess Olympiad’s host nation continues to impress both players and fans alike.

Watch the Baku Chess Olympiad live on Chessbomb, Chess.com, and Chess24.

Comments closed

Never Say Die: A Chess.com Tournament Experience

May 24 will mark the second anniversary of my dedicated attempts to improve at chess, but I noticed over the holiday season that I have yet to participate in a time-honored tradition enjoyed by countless chess enthusiasts around the world: a tournament. I have passed on several opportunities to play in local tournaments with the San Antonio Chess Club and playing with that group is the closest I have come to developing a 2016 New Year’s Resolution. Earlier this week I was about to play a 15-minute slow game on Chess.com when I noticed that a tournament for the same time control was starting within 10 minutes. I joined the tournament and spent the next 2 and 1/2 hours playing in my first chess tournament! I was skeptical of the online tournament format but was pleasantly surprised by the energy of the players and the fierceness of the competition. I finished 2nd overall with a 4/5 score. The loss was disappointing but it strengthened my resolve to play through.

I was thrilled to see that many of the games played in this little tournament were exceptional. Games where White or Black was winning with an enormous amount of material and excellent positional play were turned upside down with smart tactics and devastating blunders. It was during the first round as I watched a game in progress where Black was steamrolling his opponent until the chess gods intervened…

Suffice to say that all of the kibitzers in the room were excited about this game and I felt a little nervous knowing that a player like tg-13 was in the mix and able to turn the tables on a dime. I copied down the ID number for the game and stored it in a text file called Never Say Die so that I could come back post-tournament and write this entry. Unfortunately the psychological effect of that game caused more harm than good as I faced tg-13 in the second round and was lured into an early trap, lost my Queen, and the game soon afterwards. The next exceptional game came in the second round.

Black was in control of the game but missing a simple tactic cost him bigtime. It was fun to watch magab001 in his other games because he played some very complicated and nailbiting positions. I had planned not to annotate any of my own games from the tournament but the next game was too good to pass up.

I chose to annotate that game mostly because of 26.Nb6 because it was a high-stakes gamble that paid off in dividends. This was in the third round immediately following my earlier defeat so it helped to boost my confidence and carry me on to the end. The final game I want to show was played near the end of the tournament around the time that my eyelids were growing heavy and the fight for the top three positions had come down to the wire. It features magab001 from the one of the earlier annotated games.

So, what’s the verdict on this tournament and the whole of chess tournaments on the site? I found the Chess.com tournament experience to be much more pleasant than I had expected. The kibitzing with other participants was a lot of fun and it took a lot of the emphasis away from ELOs and put all emphasis on individual performance. A 900 ELO player could defeat a 1200 ELO player and vice versa, so tournaments on Chess.com are an excellent way to wade into the world of competitive chess. Besides, it is free to enter these tournaments and there are even some cool trophies to display on your Chess.com profile page.

Final Tournament Standings

Rank Player Rating Record Tie
1 TheChessierGuy (16) 1014 5/5 8.5
2 AmishHacker (5) 1151 4/5 7
3 AestheticFit (6) 1134 3/5 4
4 yanakap (17) 965 3/5 3.5
5 magab001 (3) 1126 2/5 1.5
6 ChronoTheCode (10) 1069 1.5/5 0.25
  • View these games on Chess.com.
    • Game #1: tg-13 (1182) vs. JakeBoz98 (1075)
    • Game #2: AestheticFit (1144) vs. magab001 (1139)
    • Game #3: AmishHacker (1135) vs. yanakap (905)
    • Game #4: magab001 (1146) vs. ChronoTheCode (1088)(1088)
Comments closed

A Tactical Exposé

Recently I have been working with the Peshk@ training tool from ChessOK. Aside from studying opening theory I have also tried brushing up on my tactical abilities. It was not until recently that I was able to identify some of those tactics in games that I have been playing online. One game in particular struck me as an exceptional tactical win and it was played on the Live Chess server at Chess.com. I have annotated it here:

Internet Opponent vs. AmishHacker

Chess.com | Live Chess | October 08, 2015

1.e4 A standard and powerful opening move. White is vying for control of the center.

1…d5 Immediately challenging White’s push for the center. Most of my online opponents take the exchange as my opponent in this game did.

2.exd5 White accepts the exchange. 2…Qxd5 The exchange is complete but I have to be careful bringing my Queen out so early in the game. In this position she is vulnerable to attack on several fronts.

3.Nc3 White immediately engages my Queen. 3…Qd8 Moving my Queen back to safety to continue developing my pieces.

4.d4 b6 Preparing a clear space for my Bishop to develop. 5.Bb5+ White obviously wants to show that he is in an aggressive mood. This also delays my Bishop’s development and forces a response rather than expansion of my attack forces. 5…Bd7 A direct challenge to the attack. I am also in a mood to fight.

6.Qg4 White doubles up his attack on the d7 Bishop. Much of the attack is counterbalanced but there is danger here if I do not play with precision.

6…e6 7.Bg5 f6 8.Qxe6+ A strong move since the d7 Bishop is pinned by the b5 Bishop. The attack on my position was well coordinated and there were several opportunities for Black to exploit weakness. 8…Be7 [8…Ne7 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Qxf6 And White is comfortably winning.] 9.Qxd7+?? Was played in the game. A tragic error that cost White his Queen and the game. It seems that he failed to notice the b8 Knight defending the d7 square.

[9.Bxd7+ Qxd7 does nothing.]9…Nxd7!! The only reasoanble response to White’s blunder. 10.Bf4 Obviously blindsided by the devastating blunder, White retreats his Bishop in an attempt to regroup and recover with a new strategy. 10…g5 11.Bg3 Bd6 12.0-0-0 Ne7 13.Re1 A nice pin, but I am still able to castle to safety. 13…0-0 14.Bc4+ This attack seems only designed to force my King from its safety net. 14…Kh8 15.Nf3 c6!? This move made me nervous because it isolated my d6 Bishop and almost handed White the initiative. However, my opponent did not see the move and chose a different path. 16.d5?? The second major blunder of the game missing Bxd6!! 16…Bc5 17.dxc6 Nxc6 18.Nd5 Re8 19.Nc7 Rxe1+ A tactical sacrifice designed merely to delay White’s capture of the Rook. 20.Nxe1?? My opponent suprrised me again with this move. Normally the response would be Rxe1! but the choice to go with the Knight prevents the Rook from developing and leaves White handicapped.

[Much better was: 20.Rxe1 g4 21.Nd2] 20…Rc8 21.Ne6 Qe7 22.Nd3 Nd4 23.Re1 Nxe6 24.Rxe6 Qf7 25.Rc6?! My opponent struck back with a poorly planned tactic. He threatens to take my c8 Rook and believes that I will place such a high value on it that I would miss his Bishop threatening my Queen. However, the Bishop capture was much more valuable. 25…Qxc4 26.Rxc8+ Kg7 27.a3 Qd4 Moving out of the way in preparatiion for b3. 28.Rd8 Bxa3!! I debated this one for awhile, but recent tactics studies boosted my confidence in this sacrifice. 29.bxa3 Qa1+!! This was a turning point in the game as White took the bait and my Queen began to systematically ravage his forces through forced moves. 30.Kd2 Qd4 31.c3 Qd5 32.f3 Qa2+ 33.Ke3 Qxa3 34.Rxd7+ I got nervous here because now I was down to only a Queen and 3 pawns while my opponent still had several minor pieces to work with. 34…Kg6 35.c4 Qf8 36.Rxa7 Qe8+ 37.Kf2 Qc6 38.Rc7 This demonstrates the power of a well-placed Bishop. Although I had confidence in a positive outcome for me, White’s Bishop on g3 was devastating to my attack plans. 38…Qa4 39.c5 Qc2+ 40.Ke3 bxc5 41.Rxc5 Qxg2 42.Rc6 Qg1+ 43.Ke2 Kf5 With few pieces left it was time to bring my King into the action. Instead of running from the Rook, my King now became an active part of my assault on White’s position. 44.f4 Qg2+!! A tactical and psychologically devastating attack! White’s Rook is lost and I continue to pick off his pieces one-by-one.

45.Nf2 Qxc6 46.Ke3 gxf4+ 47.Bxf4 Qc1+!! Another piece falls to tactics! White cannot save the Bishop and suddenly he finds himself in a perilous position. 48.Kf3 Qxf4+ 49.Kg2 h5 50.h3 h4 51.Kf1 Qg3 52.Ke2 Qg2 53.Ke3 Kg5 54.Ne4+! A decent move to keep my King from chasing the h3 pawn. 54…Kf5!! An even better move to force White to consider the future of his Knight. 55.Kd4?? My opponent missed several opportunities in this game and I think this was simply a result of indecision. The Knight is lost since the King will defend any attack.

55…Qxe4+ 56.Kc3 Qe3+ 57.Kc2 Qxh3 The last of my opponent’s pieces are gone. The rest is self-explanatory. 58.Kd2 Qg3 59.Ke2 h3 60.Kf1 h2 61.Ke2 h1Q 62.Kd2 Qhh2+ 63.Kd1 Qgg1# AmishHacker won by checkmate 0-1

Comments closed

Chess Informant 125 is a Game Changer

Chess Informant is a publication that I look forward to getting in the mail several times a year. Yesterday after clearing up some delivery problems (forgot to update my address when we moved over the summer) I received the latest volume: Chess Informant 125 Enigma. Also known as Informant, this periodical is not like any other chess magazine out there. It skips the drama and the social elements that surround the fame of being a top chess player and focuses attention to the action on the board. Various articles cover topics such as openings, tactics, strategy, and key moments in the top tournaments from around the world.

Informant 125 introduces some small changes that many people might not notice, but those of us who relish in the advancement of the digital chess age appreciate them. For Informant, one of its main selling points with customers is the universal nature of access to its information. It is available in print form (pictured above), download in Chessbase and PGN formats, or a combination of the two. The Chessbase format enables users to browse the articles and play through the games using many of the same tools utilized in Chessbase Magazine. The PGN files open up the articles to any platform with a basic PGN viewer. For me, that is perfect because I enjoy reading in each of the formats, but the mobile nature of my work makes reading the articles on iOS much more convenient for me. Why is CI 125 so different? It all has to do with the formatting…

In previous editions, all of the games and articles came in a single PGN file which required foreknowledge of the magazine’s layout. In CI 125 the creative minds in Serbia have divided the digital edition into multiple PGN files that are separated exactly like the content in the print edition. This may not seem like much, but it completely eliminates the guesswork for anyone wanting to access CI 125 from a standard PGN reader. In addition, the Chessbase version has also been subdivided into categories that mirror the print edition.

Because Informant carries so much information it can be overwhelming at times. These small changes are effective game changers because it subdivides the information into digital categories that make it much easier to access, analyze, and digest.

Personally I enjoy reading the print edition and playing through on my travel set, but playing along in Chessbase or a PGN viewer is a great way to quickly explore variations or to try new ideas along with the professional analysis in the magazine. For the digital chess fan CI 125 is a great way to get started with the periodical. The universal access of the information eliminates many of the proprietary boundaries that limit the audiences of publications like Chessbase Magazine.

Comments closed