In this day and age, most people who have been watching the computer chess scene know what tablebases are and how they are used. Truly speaking, tablebases are not glamorous things - simply large collections of data that tell chess engines how to play specific endgames. And even though 3,4 and 5 man tablebases have been available for some time now, Convekta is now making six man tablebases available on DVD. Of course, all this is done in close cooperation with Eugene Nalimov.
In layman's terms, tablebases allow a chess engine to play the endgame precisely. For example, if you have all the 3/4/5 man tablebases, they will tell the chess engine (and you) the number of moves left to win/loss/draw, along with the best move from that point forward, whenever there are five or fewer pieces on the board. The piece total includes the kings. An example of where you might use this feature is on an ending with one white pawn and a knight vs. a black bishop (PN-B). Chess engines can also probe tablebases when their search extends to a position where the tablebases can be used.
Convekta is selling this collection for $29 USD when last I checked, which is pretty darn cheap for two dual-layer DVDs full of data (~17GB). Anyone that is doing endgame analysis will want these; the only caveat being that you need to make sure that your analysis engine is capable of accessing the six man files (most modern commercial engines are) before your plunk down your cash. And speaking of cash, you can order these DVDs directly from Convekta at this link.
Even though the install program that comes on DVDs is extremely thorough, new users might be at a loss when they see the installation window. So I thought I'd add a few clarifications to the installation procedure - here is the sequence of installation steps I would recommend using:
Insert either DVD into your DVD drive, and start the program called "TBManager", which is located in the root directory of the DVD. You should see a window that looks something like this:
Next, select “Install the tablebases from DVD”. You'll need to select a path on your hard drive where you want to store the tablebase files. Unless you're running out of space on that drive, I'd recommend that you store all your tablebase files in one directory. After you select the directory to install into, you'll get to pick which tablebases to install, (see screenshot below). You'll notice that the install program is very thorough - it shows you not only the amount of space that will be taken, but also whether you've already installed the files to your hard drive. After checking off the files, hit the "Next" button, and the install program will start copying the files to your hard disk. The copying process for these files will take a fair amount of time, even with a fast DVD drive.
Next, repeat the above steps with the other DVD.
After all the files have been copied over, you should run the option called “Check the integrity of existing tablebases”. This particular step computes MD5 hashes on the tablebase files; comparing them to expected values. Any differences show up as errors. Once again, you'll have to select the tablebases you want. One trick here is to right-click over the window; you'll be presented with a context menu that will allow you to select all the files you want checked. At a minimum, I would suggest you check over any new tablebases that you've installed. After this, you'll see a dialog showing the current set of files being checked, and the progress.
The third step is to set up tablebase access within Chess Assistant (CA). For CA 8 users, this is a simple matter of selecting the menu option called “Link the tablebases to CA programs”. If you have an earlier version of CA, and need help with the tablebase install, you should take a look at this article. If you are a Chessbase user, you can select the option at the bottom of the screen, and the install program will configure Chessbase so that it knows where the tablebase files are located.
Note that this is not a "complete" set of six man tablebases, since these do not exist as yet, and are estimated to consume many, many GBs of hard drive space.
As a postscript, I should mention that Convekta makes the following points about the tablebase files on their website: