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ChessBase 17 - Review

Thanks to the donor John82 I received ChessBase 17 in a beautiful box with DVD. Thank you very much :)


A commercial program developed for over 30 years by the company of the same name: ChessBase. A companion and computer partner for chess players and computer chess enthusiasts across generations.


Nowadays, chess databases are essentially crucial tools for working with lots of chess data. In the 21nd century, it is difficult to imagine any chess activity without the use of chess computer software. Once upon a time, back in the 1980s, this was not the case. And it was at that time that the product of the talented creators (Frederic Friedel and Matthias Wüllenweber) was born, with which the then world chess champion Garry Kasparov became enthralled:


"ChessBase is the greatest development for chess since the invention of the printing press."

ChessBase is one of the first advanced and pioneering program for the storing, organizing, analyzing, sharing, chunking, ..., etc. data - that is, chess games in many different ways. This is a program sold around the world, considered by many to be the best in its class - a benchmark for other competitive products.

Source: ChessBase (starter package)


In November 2022, ChessBase 17 was released.


This version will be reviewed.



First, let's take a look at some of the data in the table below.

Table of ChessBase 17 specifications. CCRL Rating: December 10, 2022.


ChessBase, along with the Fritz series programs, is the company's flagship product.



Dear Reader, you may be wondering reading this specification:


  • Why hasn't ChessBase been released for other modern platforms such as Mac or Linux computers ?

  • Is the developer planning to release ChessBase for Linux / Mac or Web ?


After all, ChessBase as a company has been producing and selling this program for over 30 years !


This is exactly the questions ChessBase supporters have asked repeatedly and over the years in the forums under articles on their site.

Unfortunately, to this day we have not received a response from ChessBase on their website.


These are legitimate questions, because in the ChessBase store on the ChessBase 17 program page, you can read (content highlighted in the image below) that everyone uses ChessBase.

Source: ChessBase Shop, 2022-12-03


Not everyone uses ChessBase because it is only sold for computers using Windows...

On November 22, 2022, I participated in a livestream with the developers of ChessBase 17. Taking the opportunity to contact them, I took the liberty of asking: "do you have plans to release ChessBase for Mac ?"


I received a reply from Mr. Lutz Nebe, quote: "we are working on this issue (to get a platform idepentend code) also for other reason, but wether there will be a Mac version at the end is not decided yet"


Well, the conclusions are not optimistic; it's sad that chess players using computers and systems other than Windows - are treated this way - by a company with a decades-long tradition in developing and distributing chess software.

At this point, I refer those interested in this matter to the introduction to the Fritz 18 review, in which I included my thoughts on the subject.



For those interested, here's a link to an article on how to use Windows system and Windows applications comfortably on a Mac.



In the meantime, let's revisit the ChessBase 17 and see...


  • Does the Deep Fritz 13 chess engine provide significant competition to today's chess engines ?

  • Are the database functions at such a level that they can be considered a standard - a reference point for the competition ?

  • Will the features related to the analysis and use of chess engines meet the expectations of the advanced user ?

  • At what level are the training functions available ?

  • Is ChessBase 17 the best tool for working with chess openings ?

  • Does ChessBase 17 offer useful web integrations / online apps ?


I will try to answer these and other questions in this review.


On the blog chessengeria.eu, you will find a lot of content related to the ChessBase program. You will get the most information from the Course consisting of five parts describing the following topics:



In these five parts, in great detail using numerous examples, I have laid out how to use ChessBase 16 to accomplish all the most common tasks.

I made it so that the vast majority of the capabilities of this program can be used in previous versions of ChessBase 12 through 15. (ChessBase 12 was released in 2012).


In addition, I described ChessBase 16 in the article "Tools in a Chess Player's Workshop - Windows - Part 2".


For this reason, this review will not include detailed descriptions of features that have existed in ChessBase software for, say, 10 years.

In this review, we will focus on new and most important features and capabilities that have appeared in ChessBase 17.


The latest release of ChessBase is another release with few additions, optimizations, looking for new ways (eg. interactivity) and a... "dark mode". Some things have worked out, others still haven't.


Is ChessBase 17 almost the same as ChessBase 16 ?

Let's check it out.



DARK MODE


Undoubtedly, Dark Mode is a feature that can strongly and positively enhance the experience of using any program. If it is implemented well, using the program will be more enjoyable, less strain on the eyes and improve readability in areas where less light falls.


Many leading software vendors have introduced Dark Mode. Apple was the first to go even further, providing all system applications in its macOS with the ability to enable this mode. In addition, third-party programs, can also use this mode via macOS, as exemplified by the Hiarcs Chess Explorer family chess programs.


In ChessBase terms, Dark Mode is a darkened program interface. That is, not a true co dark mode, but a darkened interface.


In practice, we have two modes of dimmed interface available: Gray Theme and Black Theme.


Before enabling the Black Theme, I changed the appearance of the chessboard to a darker one (from the default color scheme to a scheme named: Elegant)



Here's how ChessBase 17 looks with Black Theme enabled.








Black Theme stings the eyes with bright colors. This is especially evident in modules whose appearance has not changed pd many versions of ChessBase, such as the Summary in Opening Report. The difference in color temperatures is large. This may interfere when using ChessBase.


Let's see how the Gray Theme presents itself.








Gray Theme definitely works better for my eyes :)



Unfortunately, very often the icons representing chess bases do not look correct; two examples:




To maintain a consistent look, icons should always look like this - without unnecessary bright highlighting:





I'm glad to see that a darkened interface has made its way to ChessBase 17. And while it's obviously not a true Dark Mode, for people who work a lot at a computer monitor, such an option can provide relief for tired eyes.



HIGH-RESOLUTION 2D BOARD


Let's look at the few chessboards.


Chessboard #1, ChessBase 16


Chessboard #1, ChessBase 17



Chessboard #2, ChessBase 16


Chessboard #2, ChessBase 17


Did you notice any differences ?


I noticed.

To my eye, the chessboards, figures and pawns differ to the benefit of ChessBase 17. It is not a big difference, even a small one - cosmetic, but more pleasant to look at. The differences are visible with a larger chessboard size; with a small chessboard size, they are almost imperceptible.


After launching the program, the first thing we pay attention to is its appearance, readability, availability of options. This is important because, having spent some time with ChessBase, it's nice to be able to look at something you like.



Before we move on to discuss more new features in ChessBase 17, we will focus on a functionality that is one of the most used - analysis -> using the chess engine.



DEEP FRITZ 13


The attentive Reader at this point may be thinking to himself:

"

Deep Fritz 13 ?

Darius, what are you writing about ? After all, this is a chess engine that premiered in 2012.... which is 10 years ago !

"


Dear Reader, I am writing these words in December 2022.


ChessBase has included a chess engine Deep Fritz 13 from 10 years ago in its flagship product.

This engine was released in June 2012. Its ranking is 3028 Elo when it uses four processors, and 2956 Elo when it has one processor at its disposal.

Source: CCRL


I make no secret of the fact that I am very fond of the Deep Fritz 13 chess engine. At one time, in 2012, I used it frequently. It impressed me with its tactical capabilities and its strategic understanding was often used by me during analysis. It was the last and such an excellent chess engine by Mr. Frans Morsch. Well - it was.


Deep Fritz 13 is an engine belonging to a different time.


In 10 years there have been several breakthroughs in the world of chess engines, which have resulted in an increase in power by hundreds of Elo points.


The strength of Deep Fritz 13 is more than 500 Elo less than that of contemporary chess engines such as Stockfish, Dragon by Komodo Chess or Berserk, for example.


In my reviews I did not, with full knowledge, address the question of whether the product was cheap or expensive, I did not juxtapose the program's quality to its price or the program's capabilities to its price.

In response to requests from my Readers, I will address this issue, because at this point in the review - it is appropriate.

ChessBase is an expensive program. Probably the most expensive commercial chess program available on the market. ChessBase is a program that is positioned and seen by many as number 1 among other such programs.


And in such a program - a premium chess product - for no small amount of money we get the Deep Fritz 13 chess engine, which is dedicated to one of the most frequently performed activities - position and game analysis.


Deep Fritz 13 in ChessBase 17 is like a outdated engine in the modern car.

On the ChessBase 17 website, under the DESCRIPTION tab, the word analysis is used several dozen times. But throughout this lengthy text, there is not even a single mention of what specific chess engine is included in ChessBase 17.


I set up a match of Deep Fritz 13 with Dragon 3.1 by Komodo Chess, which is also sold by ChessBase. Each engine had 4 CPU at its service and 1 minute per game + 0.6 seconds after each move. Fritz 18 GUI, 128 MB hash table, Perfect 2021 opening book and Syzygy Bases (6-piece).


Here is the result of the match consisting of 100 games:


Out of 100 games, Dragon 3.1 by Komodo Chess won 98, with the other 2 games ending in a draw.

This is a disastrous result for Deep Fritz 13.

Deep Fritz 13 vs Dragon 3.1 by Komodo Chess
.zip
Download ZIP • 27KB

Let's see how Deep Fritz 13 handles the 10 positions I usually give chess engines for review purposes.


Mostly, I have chosen games from games played by humans. I use a bundle of these positions for program reviews and chess engine tests. My goal is to test the Deep Fritz 13 on 10 positions giving it a maximum of three minutes of thought per move. I have assumed that these will be positions played by people who have allotted up to a few minutes for a move. Therefore, I did not take into account positions created in correspondence games.

During testing, Deep Fritz 13 used 4 CPUs and 1024MB Hash table.


DF13 failed to find the correct 1.Qxb5


DF13 failed to find the correct 1.c5


DF13 failed to find the correct 1...Rxb3


DF13 find the correct 1...Qe3, but did not indicate the correct position evaluation (should be 0.00).


DF13 found the strongest move 1...Qd3 and correctly judged the position as a win for black.


DF13 failed to find the correct 1...Nc7


DF13 failed to find the correct 1.Qf6+


DF13 failed to find the correct 1.Kf2


DF13 found the strongest move 1.Rxe7+ and correctly judged the position as a draw.


DF13 failed to find the correct 1.a4


The playing power and analysis quality of the Deep Fritz 13 engine is dramatically low compared to Dragon 3.1 by Komodo Chess and many other modern chess engines including free ones. The time required to get a good analysis with Deep Fritz 13 is several times longer than it could be with a modern chess engine.


Unfortunately, such a poor tool - these days which is Deep Fritz 13 - was given over to ChessBase 17 in 2022.



THE BUDDY ENGINE


This is what the position analysis screen looks like in ChessBase 17 with Buddy Engine disabled.

What we see is the same as in ChessBase 16 and several previous versions of this program.


Below, this is the same position analysis screen looks like in ChessBase 17 with Buddy Engine enabled (Knight icon turns green when clicked).

With the help of text and colored symbols, the program even better conveys to the user relevant information about a specific position and further movements, threats, plans.


Let's consider a slightly more complicated position.

White's move, Bishop's decisive strike on the black King's position 1. Bxh7+


The more time the engine has to think, the more accurate the analysis and the more useful messages are for the chess player.


After three minutes, Deep Fritz 13 finds the best move.


After four minutes, the analysis commentary that ChessBase 17 gives is adequate to the output of the chess engine.


Now the same position, but let's invite the free open source Berserk 10 chess engine to analyze it.

After just 20 seconds, we get a valuable analysis with commentary.


Buddy Engine is essentially the same analysis engine, but running "separately" using a single CPU. For example, we run Deep Fritz 13 giving it a 4-CPU. When the Buddy Engine is turned on, Deep Fritz will start using the 3-CPU for analysis, while 1-CPU Deep Fritz will allocate for the Buddy Engine, which will take care of the rest, i.e. comments, color symbols, etc.


Buddy Engine is a new way of presenting the results of position analysis. And it is useful !

The use of the Buddy Engine, along with an explanation of what the colored symbols mean, for example, is described in detail in the manual included with ChessBase 17 as a pdf file.



2CBH - NEW CHESS DATABASE FORMAT


According to the Creators, the new chess base format is a significant change. The previous one, well-known and widespread - was introduced in 1996 with the release of ChessBase 6.0.


The new format, called simply 2CBH, abolishes limits, e.g. there is no limit on the number of players, tournaments, etc. And what is important when working with large bases - there is no need to use so-called search boosters, which sometimes caused problems.


It can be expected that all new game bases sold by ChessBase will be in 2CBH format. And this is the case with Mega Database 2023, for example.

It is worth mentioning that ChessBase 17 offers the option to convert any supported chess database to 2CBH format.


Sound good? Let's check it out :)


For testing, we will take Mega DataBase 2022.

This database contains 9,472,152 chess games. That is, quite a lot, almost 10 million games.


1. Convert to 2CBH format



On an old computer, the conversion time is long, but it ran without any problems, completed successfully.

On a modern computer, the conversion time is only 5 minutes, which I think for a very large base is a good result.

Once the conversion is complete, the program offers the option to delete the database in the old format.


2. Work speed.

We can use the chess database in hundreds of different ways and for different purposes.

I will compare the speeds of most common operations on the database in the old format (with Search Booster enabled) versus the database in the new format. To make the results as clear and understandable as possible, I will make a comparison between a 2014 computer and a 2020 computer.


The old computer takes noticeably longer to create Search Booster, almost twice as long.



2a. Preparing an opening report for my favorite Latvian gambit.


Opening Report, is one of the most widely used features in any chess database. Using the new 2CBH format, you will get the results three times faster.



2b. Deleting comments from a selection of 100 000 games.



Also, during this operation, the new 2CBH format performs better. The operation time is shorter compared to the execution time of this operation in the old CBH format.



2c. Pasting previously copied games.


Here - we got a surprise. Let's take a closer look at the test results.






Pasting games into bases takes noticeably more time with the new 2CBH format. The old CBH format does better in performing this operation.



2d. Search for positions by simple, medium and very complex criteria.



Searching for any position regardless of the criteria takes from a few to just a dozen seconds. That is, it is very, very fast !



2e. Mega Database 2022 backup



In the implementation of this operation, the new 2CBH format has no competition. The processing time is much shorter than in the CBH format.



3. Space.

Databases in the new format take up more space, although given the capacity of even hard drives that are several years old, this does not matter much.


Below is a summary of backup volumes:

The difference is about 1 GB.

Of course, for smaller bases the difference will be correspondingly smaller.



2CBH - Summary


In almost all types of most common operations, the new 2CBH format is faster than the previously used CBH format.

The difference is especially noticeable using a modern and fast computer. However, it is worth noting that on a computer that is 8 years old (as of the date of writing this review), most operations are completed in a reasonable amount of time.


The exception is the work involved in copying and pasting games from one base to another. Here the old CBH format has the advantage. The more games a base contains, the more time the 2CBH format takes to copy and paste the games into the selected base. If you are mainly concerned with creating, copying and pasting multiple chess games and high-volume databases, then consider whether working with CBH format databases (with Search Booster enabled) will be a better choice than 2CBH format databases for your applications. And this is one exception where 2CBH format may be a worse choice than CBH format.


The developers of ChessBase 17 have focused on improving performance in the most frequently performed operations by users. And it works :)



Find spectacular games (instantly?)


This is one of the more exposed features by the developer of ChessBase 17


This function works only in the base with the new 2CBH format. In short: when you press the Set Beauty button, ChessBase 17 will classify all the games you have marked by giving medals on a scale from 0 (no medal) to 3 medals. The more medals, the "more beautiful" the game.



Before checking the Set Beauty feature in action, let's see if ChessBase 17 actually finds the most beautiful games instantly.


On the Y axis is the number of games (1, 500, 1 000, 10 000, 35 000).

On the X axis is the number of seconds.


Number of games from 1 to 1000, the Set Beauty function needs little time, that is, from one to several seconds of operation. That is, if, for example, you want to classify all the games of a tournament using this function, then even on an older, and slow, computer this process will take literally seconds.


Classification speed on the old computer: 66 positions / second.


Classification speed on a modern computer: 220 positions/second.


If you want to use this feature for the thousands of games in your database, you'll have to expect to wait from tens of seconds to several minutes.

And if, on the other hand, you intend to use this function on tens or hundreds of thousands of games, then the time required to complete this operation will increase to as much as several tens of minutes.

According to ChessBase, it will take several hours to classify games from a large database in this way.


How "beautiful" are the games awarded 17 medals by ChessBase ?


Here is an example of a game awarded 3 medals, the highest.

There are a lot of unusual sacrifices and interesting tactical themes throughout the game.


Below is a screen from the game rated at 2 medals.</