10 March 2014

Choosing an Online Chess Database

It's been three weeks since I started Searching for an Online Chess Database. I first narrowed the choice to two services in Short List for an Online Chess Database, then added a third in Short List Is Longer. For convenience, here are the specs I developed in that first post, 'Searching'.

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.

All opening databases use the same basic 'explorer' mechanism. Starting with the initial position:-

  • See next moves with counts and stats (W-L-D)
  • Click a move for next position
  • Repeat

Here is a screen capture from database.chessbase.com. The current position is shown on the left (after 1.f4). In the middle is a list of games matching that position. On the right are the next moves. The panels in the bottom left and bottom right show the current game and engine analysis, respectively, and can be removed from the display.

I spent a few hours switching back and forth among the three services on my short list. This isn't enough time to appreciate the subtleties of a service, but it gave me a feel for the possibilities.

>>> database.chessbase.com: The list of next moves can be switched between 'Book' and 'Live Book', but I couldn't determine what these terms meant. The service offers two required functions:-

  • Search current board for games on database
  • Sort on Year or on Elo (either White or Black) descending
Some further observations:-
  • W-L-D stats are a single number
  • Earliest games are from 2009
  • No PGN download

>>> chess.com/explorer: Two required functions:-

  • 'View all games from current position'
  • Sort on year or rating descending
Further observations:-
  • Latest games are from 2012
  • A player's rating is one number for the entire career, e.g. the top Black rating for 1.f4 is Romanishin - Kasparov 1975, when Kasparov was 12
  • Download 20 games at a time

>>> chess-db.com: Beyond the basic explorer functions, I couldn't find any of my requirements.

>>> Conclusion: What can I say? All three services are basically of limited value for my purposes. I never realized until now just how good Chesslab was.

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