The Game Window
Much of the action in CA takes place in the game window. Many of the most common functions in the program can be accessed from this window, and it pays to spend a little time discussing it.
You can see from the figure on the left that there is quite a bit of information presented in this window. Of course, you have a graphical board for making and displaying moves. There is also a move list to the right of the board, and this is what you use for moving around in the game. You can also use the buttons below the board for navigation, as well as the arrow keys.
Below the game moves is a display of a chess tree. This tree shows important statistical information about the opening (and sometimes the endgame as well, but that's a longer story).
There are three very important tasks that most people want to accomplish with a database program: annotation, searching for a game, and getting chess engine analysis for a position. I am going to tackle each of these in turn.
Annotating a Variation
In my previous article, I discussed the use of the button bars. You need to use a little of this knowledge now. Click on the database called elite, in the browser pane. Then click on the button for creating a new game.A game view/ board window should now appear in the workspace.
Now make the following moves on the board: 1.d4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6. You should notice that as you make the moves, the tree display is changing. Let's take a look at the types of data that are being presented in the tree. The left of the tree display shows a list of moves that can be made from the current position. Let's take a look at the move 4.e3. Here we see that the move has been made about 3,500 times in our reference database. Furthermore, we see that this move scores 57% for white in tournament play. We also notice (under the CAP column) that computer analysis of this move indicates that the position is equal. There is also a move evaluation right next to 4.e3. This is the human evaluation of the move. These evaluations were compiled by Convekta's staff of IMs and GMs, for thousands of opening positions. Incidentally, if you want to, you can change the master evaluation of any move in the tree.
If we look at the very bottom of the tree display, we see that there are nearly 24,000 games that have reached this same position previously. Those with a licensed version of CA could now click on the small white button shown below the game board (). Doing this will present you with a list of 24,000 games (!) from Hugebase. All will contain this position, even if it was reached by transposition. This feature is very useful for quickly locating model games, and can be used for finding candidate plans in a position.
From the tree display, we also see that the gambit move 4. Bf4 does not appear to be very promising for white. It only scores 46%, and both the master and CAP evaluations give a slight advantage to black after this move. Double-click on 4.Bf4 in the tree display. Notice how the tree statistics are updated, and another window appears at the bottom of the game view. You can now move through the tree, and watch the moves accumulate beneath the board. Now double-click on the following moves in succession in the tree display: dxc4, e3, b5. Ok, now we see that black will most likely try to hold on to the pawn.
If you want, you can now try to incorporate this variation in the game score. To do so, simply click and drag the variation that appears below the board, into the moves that appear to the right of the board. A window should now appear, asking you what you'd like to do with the variation. For now, hit the "Join" button. Now the upper portion of the board view should look something like the picture below:
This drag and drop technique works just about anywhere in CA, and is good to remember.
But of course, now that the variation is in the game, we'd like to annotate it, and make a note that this particular gambit is not so good. To do this, click on the move 4.Bf4, then click on the "Comments" tab of the button bar. Then click on the "Annotations editor" button on the left of the bar. A dialog box like the following should pop up on the display:
What you would like to do is place in indication that this is a dubious move. To do so, you must first understand that CA differentiates among comments that are placed before and after a move. Comments that come after a move include things like !,?,!!,=, etc. Annotations that go before a move include things like the "better is" symbol.
This move (4.Bf4) probably deserves something like a ?!, so what you would do is click on the "Short after" tab in the annotations editor window. Then click on the ?! symbol. It should appear in the white space below the tab. Now maybe you'd like to add a text comment that says something like "White does not score well in practice with this variation". This type of comment would be entered in the "Long after" tab. Ok, do this now. Then hit the "Ok" button to dismiss the dialog. You should now see the comments in the game score.
Now, if you wanted, you could also get Tiger's opinion of the final position in this dubious variation. To do this, click on the last move in the variation. Then click on the icon that looks like an eyeball. You should see another window appear in place of the tree. It will show a running history of analysis from Tiger. For those with CALite, the default engine that will start is crafty, instead of Tiger.
If you want, you can change the engine by simply selecting one from the drop-down list box in the upper right-hand corner of the engine analysis display. This setting will then be remembered when you use the infinite analysis function again.
Stopping the engine is a simple matter of hitting the escape key. Do this after you've looked at the analysis a little. You can also exit the analysis by hitting the button that looks like a door on the "Engines" tab.
Another Way to Search
Instead of using the button below the board to search in hugebase, you can also use the "Position search" button in the toolbar. When you do this, another dialog box will open, and you can chose your search criteria. If you have been examining a game, the current board position is automatically copied into the position search criteria. You might want to experiment with using this dialog, since it will pay dividends later.
There is Much More to it...
So far, this article has only discussed one small aspect of game annotation (i.e. the interpretation of basic tree data, and getting engine analysis). There are many more tools that CA places at your disposal for these tasks. Future articles will discuss the game annotation procedure in much more detail, so stay tuned.
In this article, I looked at some of the basic tasks that people want to accomplish with a chess database. Some of the simple (but powerful) features of CA were discussed, along with an introduction to the interpretation of tree data. Future articles will discuss the use of the tree, engines, and search dialog in more detail.