“Nowadays I don’t know a single chess player, amateur or 2800, that does not use ChessBase, and for good reason.” – GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Every aspiring chess player – regardless of his playing strength – should possess professional equipment that is indispensable for effective chess training.
Just as an ambitious tennis player should have at least two good rackets, quality tennis balls, suitable footwear and so on, there are certain tools which chess players need. A chessboard with pieces, a chess clock, certain timeless chess books (such as Mark Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual) and so on.
As the chess world, today is very different from what it was 20 years ago, it’s also key to have a computer or a notebook with chess software. With a computer, there are multiple ways of studying chess. You can install chess software or use chess training websites online.
In our eyes, although chess websites like chess.com, chess24 or lichess are on the rise, you should not use them exclusively. It’s still vital to have decent chess software installed to have some high-quality training tools to work with.
As a club player, you have probably heard of the German chess company ChessBase, the makers of the world’s most popular and best chess software. ChessBase provides you with plenty of key functions such as using a chessboard, searching for games in huge databases, analyzing games with the help of chess engines, preparing your openings and a lot more.
Yet, many beginners and club players buy the software and don’t know how to use it properly.
Therefore, in this article, we’re going to introduce you to the basic functions you definitely need to know and – as a bonus – provide you with some lesser-known advanced tips that many strong grandmasters use.
Step 1 – Get A ChessBase Package
To use the ChessBase software to its full extent, you should at least have the following 3 chess training tools:
- ChessBase 14 Program
- Mega Database 2018 (constantly updated)
- a chess engine (Stockfish, for example, can also be downloaded online for free)
In its shop, ChessBase offers a variety of packages. You can get the ChessBase 14 Program and the Mega Database 2018 separately or buy them in combination.
Some of the offered packages also include additional tools such as the latest database of correspondence games, opening encyclopedias or endgame tablebases. All these tools can be helpful and assist your analysis, but they are not crucial when you’re starting out.
You can simply pick the package you want to download or get a physical version.
- You can also visit our shop on ichess.net! Surely, you’ll find a good ChessBase course to start your chess training and rapidly improve your skills!
Step 2 – The ChessBase Start Screen
We’ll skip the technical part of installing the ChessBase 14 program as it’s very straightforward and should not cause any problems.
When you open ChessBase, you will see the following start screen:
On the starting screen, you have a lot of options. Most importantly, in the column on the top, you’ll find an icon which is called “Board”. When you click it, the chessboard opens:
Step 3 – Chessboard Functions
With the chessboard screen in front of you, you can do plenty of things:
- Make moves, enter variations, and games
- Annotate moves and variations
- Analyze games and variations with a chess engine
- Save your game in one of your databases
- Open the reference database to check the games played from the position (explained in Step 4)
You can use an engine by clicking on the icons “Default Kibitzer” or “Add Kibitzer” in the column at the top (see the image below):
When you finish your session, you can save your analysis in order not to lose any information. Just click on “File” in the top left corner and save your game in one of your databases:
Step 4 – Use A Reference Database
ChessBase is mainly a database program and you definitely need databases (like the Mega Database 2018) to use it efficiently.
To use the search function while analyzing a game, you need to have a reference database. A good reference database should contain millions of games, from the past to the present. Ideally, your database is also updated with the latest games played within the last weeks and months. This helps you to stay up-to-date, see the latest trends in various variations and prepare for your opponents by having access to the latest games they played.
In order to be able to use your database (the Mega Database or another huge database) as a reference database, you need to do the following (see the image below):
- Hover with the mouse over the database symbol and click with the right button of the mouse
- Click on “Properties”
- Tick the small box labeled “Reference-DB”
- Click “OK”
Afterward, you can go back to the chessboard and click on “Reference” in the column on the right. This provides you with plenty of important information about any position (see the image below):
- How many games have been played from this position, and what is the most popular move?.
- The winning percentage, to know if a given move has scored well (or not).
- When was the move last played? If a move hasn’t been played in recent years, then, perhaps, it has been refuted.
- The best players that have played the move, giving you more confidence about the reputation of the variation.
Step 5 – Using Cloud Engines (Advanced Functions)
Now, you are familiar with all the key functions you need to work with ChessBase efficiently. You know how to use a chessboard, an engine, and databases. Let’s cover some additional tips which are especially useful if you are an advanced player.
Chess engines are a great chess training tool. If they are used correctly, they can help any chess player to improve. However, receiving good analysis when working with engines does not only depend on the engine you use but, first and foremost, on the hardware on which it runs. Most people spend around 500-1500$ when they buy a new computer or a notebook.
These devices are good enough to fulfill all the daily tasks and the engines running on them will definitely be sufficient to check your games for tactics and improvements in your games.
However, if you really want to analyze with a well-performing engine (for example some deep analysis of opening lines), using a regular computer is insufficient. Your engine will never be as precise as someone’s engine that analyzes with far better hardware.
As it’s not possible for most chess players to spend 5000-10000$ on a computer only for chess analysis, ChessBase’s cloud engine function is really great.
The engine cloud is a marketplace where you can offer or get access to engines at very low rates (with ducats – the virtual currency from Chessbase). The rates-per-minute vary on the cloud engine you use. In any event, it’s a lot cheaper using the power of these much larger multi-processor systems instead of investing in expensive new hardware.
With Engine Cloud, you not only optimize your analysis but also save resources. Running a multiprocessor engine on a notebook or laptop is very energy-intensive – a lot of battery power is used just to cool the system. Running an engine from the cloud, however, means that your device doesn’t need to perform the calculation locally – as all the computation is performed by a machine running from mains power.
You can use Engine Cloud by opening a chessboard in ChessBase, clicking on “Add Kibitzer” and then clicking on “Cloud” (see the image below):
Step 6 – Using Cloud Databases (Advanced Functions)
When training or preparing for a tournament it can be useful to exchange databases and game annotations with another chess player, for example, a coach. A trainer can, for example, analyze the games of his students, annotate them and provide specific advice about mistakes.
The ChessBase Cloud services allow you to do exactly that. You can use cloud databases and share them with other ChessBase users. Every time you add a new game to the database, the database also gets automatically updated for the players you shared your database with. Hence, you don’t need to send long-winded emails to your coach after every single game played anymore. With the ChessBase Cloud, you have all the games available at a glance.
You can share a database with another ChessBase user by clicking on “Cloud Databases” on the start screen, then hovering with the mouse over the database you want to share and clicking with the right button of the mouse. Finally, you can click on “Database Sharing” and choose the users to whom you want to allow access (see the image below):
Conclusion – How To Use ChessBase
“ChessBase is essential for instant access to past games, allowing one to prepare new ideas for the future.” – GM Daniel King
If you are an ambitious chess player, if you want to continually improve your chess and train systematically, if you want to prepare for your next opponent – no matter whether for a club match, for an Open or for a Top Tournament… if you are a coach or teach chess and want to find training material, if you like to play through the best and most recent games with the latest opening trends or if you want to enter and analyze your own games… if you have any interest in chess whatsoever, then you just cannot do without ChessBase.
Yet, the right chess software is not enough to improve your game. You also need some high-quality training material to work on. If you’re looking for a comprehensive chess course for beginners and club players to improve your chess skills, we’ve got a fantastic offer for you.
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