“We cannot imagine chess without it”
At the Batumi Olympiad 2018 we interviewed many of the top players of the world, including Vishy Anand, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and many others. At the end of the interviews, we would ask them: “How has ChessBase made an impact on your chess career?” And the answer usually would be: “We have been using ChessBase software for so many years now that we cannot really imagine chess without it.” Here is what some of the top grandmasters had to say:
A little bit of history
The company ChessBase was founded just over 30 years ago, at the instigation of World Champion Garry Kasparov, who talked his friends Frederic Friedel and Matthias Wüllenweber into publishing the database program the latter had written. Today the company, located in Hamburg, Germany, has 30 full-time employees and is the world market leader in its field. And it is releasing Version 15 of the ChessBase program.
Garry Kasparov working with ChessBase 1.0, running on an Atari ST, back in 1987
Anand doing likewise, in 1988, watched by a young fan, Thomas Friedel
Every couple of years a new version of the program would come out, with improvements and more advanced functions. Everyone knew that 2018 would be a ChessBase year, and we can now proudly announce that ChessBase 15 has been released.
So what are the new features, as compared to the previous version? In this article, based on notes by Matthias Wüllenweber, co-founder and the brain behind the ChessBase software, we give you all the necessary details.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
What is the principal application of a chess software? Replaying games. Since the very beginning of computers, replaying games has always been the same: you press a key and a piece moves on the board. You can fire up an engine to evaluate the position. This is comfortable but dangerous because it can lead to cognitive passivity. It is the machine that does all the work.
ChessBase 15 introduces a new and completely different approach to replaying games. You can load a contemporary or historical game, click the “Training” tab and choose a side. After that, you will be asked to guess the next move in key positions. Guessing the right moves in a grandmaster game sounds challenging, but ChessBase 15 will give you hints, at just the right level to point you in the right direction. Sometimes, if the move involves pure tactics, you do not get a hint but must work it out all by yourself.
While you are guessing the moves the program is rating your answers, with a point and grading system. This is an highly enjoyable training experience. It lets you grasp the inner logic of a game much better than if you would just replay the moves passively. You learn a lot more when you are forced to think a bit about every move.
Let Matthias Wüllenweber show you how Replay Training works. He has made a lot of video tutorials like this one, and we will be presenting them in separate, future instruction articles.
Find more tutorial lessons in our playlist via YouTube
Fast Reference Search, Fashion and Endgame Index
The reference search is the central tool to study openings. ChessBase 15 introduces new search technology which yields instant search results on modern computers. Even in early positions, where there are millions of games to scan, the result is immediately available. The new search technology provides additional information about opening variations, which lead to surprising insights.
The Fashion Index
The Fashion Index plots the popularity of the current opening variation over time. This can show you how an opening evolved historically.
The Queens Gambit Exchange Variation has been bullish for ten years!
After declining since the 19th century, the Italian Opening is being steadily revived today
When entering or replaying a game you can check the probability for different endgame types in the current opening variation. Below you see the endgame probability after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Bd3 Bd6 4.Nf3 Ne7:
Players of the French Defence (especially in chess server Blitz) know this well: the French Exchange Variation often leads to knight vs knight endings. Nearly six percent of all games are knight endings. This is statistically significant. The reason is simple: rooks get traded off on the open e-file, and black exchanges the dangerous white squared bishop with Ne7 and Bf5.
This suggests an unconventional strategy against the French: practice knight endings and play the Exchange Variation.
Instant Evaluation Profile
It was invented for engine testing in Fritz and later became the standard to visualise the drama of a chess game: the Evaluation Profile. ChessBase 15 introduces Instant Analysis, which creates an evaluation profile for any game, while loading. It just takes a few seconds and uses one core of your processor and works smoothly without changing the game notation. And it is a very useful guide to unannotated games.
This is a typical example (Tal-Pasman, Latvian Championship 1953): a second or two after the game is loaded you have the above overview. It tells you that Tal played a sharp but dubious attack which Black defended to a decisive advantage until around move 26. At move 32 Black gets lost in the complications and soon finds himself mated. Naturally, you can click on the graph and the board will jump to the corresponding position.
Single Line Search Input
For most database searches (filters), a single statement is sufficient. You can enter this now as a simple text which will be interpreted in the right way.
The new Google-like search — “Advanced” gives you the full original search mask
Have you ever asked yourself: “Which rook should go to d1 in this position?” or “Where do I need to put my knight?”
The ChessBase 15 Plan Explorer gives you the answers, even if the opening book does not. The plan explorer shows for each piece where it will most probably go to in the future. Check out the following position from the Queens Gambit Exchange Variation after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 O-O 7.Nf3c6 8.Qc2 Nbd7 9.Bd3 Re8 10.O-O Nf8:
Click or tap to enlarge — you can do this to most of the images
Not a single game contains 11.b2-b4, because it simply drops a pawn. So in this position, this move is invisible to you in reference search or live book. However, the Plan Explorer shows top scores for White’s b2-b4-b5-bxc6, the so-called “Minority Attack”, a standard plan in this position.
Another example from the Slav Defence main line:
The Plan Explorer clearly shows (click to enlarge) that here your knight belongs on c6. Black has to regroup with Nd7-b8-c6. But in the current position Nd7-b8 loses to 15.Ng5!, so the book would not show this important plan.
Search for Combinational Themes
There is a new Eldorado in tactics training: ChessBase 15 can find games containing all common combination motifs. This is part of the new and extended search. Just open the search mask, click “Advanced” and then the “Manoeuvre” tab, click on one of the motifs and hit Enter to start the search.
Filter for “trapped piece”
The following games can be found in Mega 2018 (click to enlarge) if you search for the motif “Trapped Piece” in combination with “Tal”. Naturally, the program jumps to the relevant position when you click any of the games.
Material and Manoeuvre Search with Examples
The material and manoeuvre parts of the search mask were always a bit difficult to understand. Both have now been enhanced with a long list of samples, containing relevant motifs:
New material search
The material search has been simplified significantly: You just enter a search position and the program will automatically deduce all search logic from it: Material, pawn structure, etc.:
The manoeuvre and position searches make it easier to find key ideas that you are looking for
Search Attack and Defend patterns
ChessBase 15 lets you search the database using a different approach. Assume you want to search for a pattern which involves a pawn being attacked by queen, rook, bishop and a knight, but is defended by a pawn and the king. You can specify this as follows:
Complex position searches are possible
The above search extracts dozens of examples, in mere seconds, from Mega 2018. Once again the program jumps to the relevant position if you click on one of the games.
Also, the tactical analysis now makes use of ChessBase’s new advanced understanding of tactical motifs.
Ray Tracing 3D board (64-bit Intel CPU only)
Currently, this function is restricted to 64-bit Intel processors. Raytracing for AMD processors will be provided soon, in an automatic update of the ChessBase 15 program.
ChessBase 15 introduces new 3D boards based on ray tracing technology. It takes a lot of computing power but produces perfect shadows and reflections, leading to breathtaking renderings of chess positions. You have to allow a minute or two of calculation time, but the result is strikingly realistic. It’s a tool to easily create beautiful chess illustrations.
Pieces with a steely look! (click or tap any image to enlarge)
Staunton pieces on a polished, reflecting board
The classic wooden look!
The shadows of the pieces are meticulously drawn
In any board window, with a game on the screen, click “File → Publish this game” to get the following formats:
Animated GIF (for Twitter, What’s App, etc) — In just a few seconds the program will produce a GIF:
Movie with 2D board — This will produce an animated MP4 movie in a few seconds:
Movie with 3D board — This takes a few minutes to render and you have a number of options:
If you select the above settings you will get a 3D MP4 film that you can publish on YouTube or Facebook:
For special occasions there is another more spectacular option:
Movie with raytraced board (64-bit only)
These can take a long time to render, hours or even days, depending on the quality, resolution, frame rate, camera movement, etc. And of course the speed of your hardware. The moves are accompanied by sound effects.
Here is a sample, rendered by our colleague Albert Silver on a very fast computer in approximately an hour and a half.
The game, incidentally, is Yermolinsky-Kupreichik, Blagoveschensk 1988. “Yermo” told us it was a game no one could understand, not even the players themselves. He has saved his annotations for decades in his private notebooks. At some stage, we will invite him to share them with our readers.
Below that is another sample, produced by ChessBase programmer, and raytrace expert, Jeroen van den Belt. The game is a 72-mover, Kasimdzhanov-Carlsen, Douglas Isle of Man Open 2017.
Of course, you can very easily upload such films to social media.
Here’s an example: Paul Morphy vs Duke Of Brunswick and Count Isouar, in a 1:46m YouTube video.
And finally, if you want to see a raytraced video output in 4K video (3840 x 2160), you can watch a few moves of Capablanca-Marshall here.
A final chess puzzle: can anyone recognise which game this is?
Order ChessBase 15 now
You can order ChessBase 15 in the ChessBase Shop: