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Chess Openings 2003 Review
keywords: openings, chess assistant, reference, MCO, ECO, tree
Robert Pawlak
Wednesday, June 11, 2003


Do you ever wish you had an easy to use electronic opening reference that had wide coverage of a variety of different openings? Such a product would include up to date theory as well as a supporting collection of master games. It would also show transpositions between different move orders, a chess tree, and allow fast and easy access to the data. Moreover, it would be offered by a company with good support policies and reasonable prices.

Of course, the program I am talking about here is Convekta's Openings 2003. Indeed, this particular software is much more than a simple electronic book on the openings. The difference is that it uses the Chess Assistant 7 engine to organize and access the opening data presented on this CD.

Those that are engaged in serious chess study know that there are several aspects to learning an opening. One is the consultation of existing theory on the best variation to play from a particular position. Convekta addresses this by providing extensive recommendations of the strongest variations for over 500 ECO codes.

Another aspect of opening study is of course the examination of master games. Convekta addresses this by providing a copy of their "Guru" database, which contains over 600,000 games by players with an ELO above 2300. And of course, Convekta's chess trees and search functions can be used to access and view all the data on the CD.

And like Chess Assistant 7, Openings 2003 offers a whole host of other database features, like searches, printing, chess engine analysis, and the like. The only thing you can't do is open and create other databases (you can annotate any of the games in the guru database that you want though). If you want more information on what Chess Assistant 7 can do, I would urge you to read my review at

How Does it Work?

Since a few pictures are worth a thousand words, I've taken the time to show an example of how the program works. While there are many other functions that openings 2003 supports, this short walk-through should give you an idea of some of the more important features of the program. First, let's assume we are studying a variation of the English Opening. When we first launch Openings 2003, we are confronted with a display like the following:


On the left is a pane containing icons for two databases, the upper one contains theory, while the lower one contains the game collection that I mentioned earlier. The theory and game collections are linked so that navigating through the theory takes you to the relevant games. On the right, you see a tree-like list of the openings, with names attached. In this list, I've highlighted the opening variation of the English that starts with 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg7.

Double-clicking on this entry results in the following display:

Here we can see some tree data for this position in the lower right, with full statistics and computer evaluations from CAP. Above that, we see the theory for this variation with a lot of alternative lines of play, some of them underlined. This indicates a transpositional possibility, i.e. these variations can also arise from other move orders as well. Now, double-clicking on the variation after 4.Nc3 (bottom of upper pane on right) results in the following screen:
We are now in a different branch of theory. It's still the English opening, but a different move order was used. Ok, let's assume that we've taken a look at this transpositional possibility, and want to go back to the original move order. That's no problem as it turns out, we simply click on the small red arrow below the board. This takes us back to the original screen.
Ok, let's now go through to the end of the variation in this particular branch of theory. In this case, the main line continues on with the Botvinnik-like setup of 4.e4 d6 5.Ne2 O-O:
Now we notice that a list of games has appeared under the board. Double-clicking on the top game brings it up in a separate window:
Pretty slick, huh? Now, we can proceed to analyze the game to our heart's content. If at any point, you feel like getting Crafty's opinion on the position, it is only a keystroke away. In fact, you can even start Crafty up, and use CA's ability to show the next couple of computer analysis moves on the board if you want. Below, Crafty likes the variation starting with Qf2, which is clearly denoted on the board. Incidentally, you can also disable the board arrows and square, if you so desire.
Note that I have only briefly touched upon the capabilities of this software. While the example I have chosen was not examined in a great deal of analytical depth, there are many more examples with greater detail present in the database.

Who is it for?

This particular software is best for those that don't already own Chess Assistant (CA) 7, since CA 7 includes all the Openings 2003 data. And while it does provide some fairly detailed coverage of some openings, there is less detail for others. For example, coverage of the Sicilian is pretty good, while coverage of the English is not very detailed. So I don't think this program is a substitute for a CD geared toward a particular opening. It is probably most useful for filling in holes, and providing very broad coverage of all the openings.

Availability and Other Information
The software comes on a single CD with a manual, in a small DVD box. Once installed there is no refueling  necessary; i.e. you will not be prompted to reinsert the CD as a copy protection check. Approximately 460 M of hard drive space is required for a full install. English, French, Spanish and Italian languages are supported. You can get more information on this product at the ChessOK website.

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