17 February 2014

Searching for an Online Chess Database

As I mentioned in Fishing on the River Chess, my favorite source of top level games has gone belly-up.

Chesslab.com has been problematic lately, throwing up Java security warnings. I checked my settings and couldn't determine the cause of the errors. If I can't fix it, I'll need a new source of games. That will require some research.

I've spent several hours looking into the Java security issues, have tried all of the recommendations I could locate, and nothing has worked. The service, which I have been using since the 1990s (see Chess History on the Web [2000 no.3] for my early experiences with it) has been out-of-order since late last year and I need a replacement.

Some people like to maintain their own database of top level games, but I have no time for that. I go online when I'm researching a specific opening, usually for a new correspondence game, and my methodology changes as I get further into the opening.

The first few moves are usually played on auto-pilot. I'm a 1.e4 player, and I don't need to refer to a database for the first few moves of the Najdorf Variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6). At this point I have a couple of favorite moves (6.Be2 and 6.Be3), but I'm willing to play most alternatives for White, of which there are many.

When I reach this point in a game, the first decision after auto-pilot, I want to see what the top players have been playing in their recent games. This means going to the database and researching what 2600+ players have been playing during the last few years. I don't do a deep analysis at this point. I assume that the top GMs have done their homework and that their systems are sound.

After a few more moves, usually in variations that I have played before, the number of sample games starts to diminish and I broaden the research to include 2400+ players over, say, the last ten years. Here I have somewhat less confidence and I start to check variations that I haven't seen before.

At some point, usually around moves 10-12 in the Najdorf, I start to run into moves and ideas that I haven't seen before. Here I want to see every game played in the variation since the beginning of time and the research involves playing through the games until the early endgame has been reached.

I use SCID (see the recent post Frontend and Backend for an overview) to keep my own copy of the games. It does a good job of searching the games I've collected, of producing basic statistics on the results, and of scrolling through the games and moves.

In a nutshell, the functions I need in an online games database are:-

  • Search on games by rating
  • Search on games by when played
  • Download all relevant results in PGN format

What alternatives are there to Chesslab? I did a web query on 'chess database online', spent some time looking at the top results, added a few resources that I've tried before, and developed a short list of databases to investigate further (in no particular order):-

To go further, I need a practical exercise. I'll report on that in a future post on this blog.

1 comment:

Peter Long said...

Did you miss Chess-DB.com? I am very curious as to the outcome of your investigations as I have given up on Microsoft and refuse to pay Apple and so use a ChromeBook now.