24 November 2011

Averbakh's Convekta

After writing the post on Averbakh's Endings, I became curious about the digital version of 'Comprehensive Chess Endings' (referred to below as CCE). Originally published by Convekta, there's a product page on their site titled Comprehensive Chess Endings.

FOREWORD by Yury L. Averbakh: The first English edition of Comprehensive Chess Endings was published almost twenty years ago. Much water has flowed under the bridges since that time; swift computerization has caused many changes in all realms of human life. Chess is no exception. The computer program has already defeated the world champion, and there exists a stage of the game where the computer is infallible. That stage is the endgame with few pieces left on the board.

The new time control has led to a drastic acceleration of play taking away both adjournments and resumptions into the past. If one could previously adjourn a game and analyze a certain position calmly, now everything is to be done right at the board and in a short time. This makes a good fundamental knowledge of basic endgames all the more important.

The main objective of this new edition is to unite the experience accumulated by many generations of chess players with the latest computer technologies. So no wonder that it is not released as a printed book but as a software product, prepared in co-operation with the famous chess software company Convekta.

I managed to procure a copy of the software, installed it on my laptop, and was disappointed to discover that it wouldn't execute. That same product page mentions that the software is compatible with Convekta's 'Chess Assistant Light', a product that I also have, although I haven't used it much. Sure enough, it worked without a hitch and even allowed me to extract the CCE data into an external PGN file. The PGN text format is useful for loading header data (event, players, etc.) into standard database software for further analysis.

For example, Averbakh claims that CCE includes 'over 4100 examples in total'. More specifically, I counted over 2100 studies and over 750 games. The other examples are mainly the sort of fundamental theoretical positions covered in all instructional endgame texts along with a generous number of schematic explanations. Of the studies, nearly 300 were composed by Averbakh himself, with over 200 by V.Khenkin and somewhat less than 200 by N.D.Grigoriev.

Of the games, Averbakh was one of the players in almost 50 of them, with nearly 30 each by Alekhine, Keres, Botvinnik, and Smyslov. Capablanca and Rubinstein break the dominance of the Soviet School with 20 and 19 games respectively.

Along with the digital version of Averbakh's texts, the software includes almost 3000 complete games (the 'Examples' database) illustrating various endgame themes in practice. The Convekta manual (see the Google HTML version) mentions a limitation here:-

If you have Chess Assistant installed on your computer, you can load the Averbakh and Examples databases, as well as the classifier, and operate them in all CA modes. In this case, however, you will be unable to use a unique feature of Comprehensive Chess Endings, which is not available in Chess Assistant. This is jumping to referenced games, described in Section 3.4 View Mode.

Maybe I'll eventually figure out why the CCE software won't run on my laptop. In the meantime I have a powerful tool for further exploration of endgame themes.

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