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I frequently see advice about how to learn chess that include links to databases, or how to set them up, or a question here about Analysis where the accepted answer says to just add some stuff to your database.

But what is that database, really? I never saw an explanation for that.

And how would a beginner use a database? Why does everyone talk about databases but never explain what they are in first place?

I assume they are important, since seemingly there are lots of companies that get lots of money solely by selling chess databases...

  • The word "database" was intimidating to me for a while. It's a big $5 word but you've probably been using them without knowing it. But basically, a database is a whole big pile of information you can search through to get specific information you need. A simple database for non-chess might have a list of restaurants, with the hours they were open, addresses, and food styles. You could then search by any combination of hours, address, or food types to find one you might want to go to. Hope this helps. – aschultz Apr 26 '17 at 16:19
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what is that database, really?

A chess database is basically a collection of chess games, i.e. a collection of moves with metadata such as player names, date, Elo rating of players, place, opening name ... It can also include comments/annotations for some or all games.

There are various websites such as lichess, chesstempo, 365chess where you can access chess databases for free. Alternatively you can download database files from the internet or buy them from somewhere like ChessBase and access them on your computer. For this you need a program/application such as Scid (free) or ChessBase (not free) which can read the database files and allows you to play through the games and do all kinds of searches/manipulations to the database files.

Also you can of course manually add your (or anybody else's) games to the database.

how a beginner use a database?

You don't, really. As a beginner you should focus on learning general principles of playing chess and studying tactics. You don't really need a database for either.

How can a database be used?

  1. Databases are immensely useful for studying openings. They allow you to keep all the variations/sidelines nicely ordered, you can add comments to moves, you can see which line is the most popular, which line has the highest winning percentage (or which line is more drawish, which more risky...), you can filter games (e.g. show only recent, or only games of high rated players or only white wins, or only a certain variation...). Based on this you can build an opening repertoire (which you could save in a separate database) and/or expand your opening knowledge. Also chess database software works well together with chess engines which gives you further possibilities for study. Unlike books, a database can always updated (e.g. from twic), so you always have the latest developments in opening theory at hand.
  2. You can also use the database to study middle- or endgame plans. For instance you can search the database for specific positions and/or material distributions and then see how a grandmaster plays these positions.
  3. You can prepare for a game against an opponent by studying his/her games beforehand (assuming there are games of your opponent in the database) looking for weaknesses in the opening repertoire or weaknesses in playing certain types of positions.
  4. You could use it to follow your favorite chess player's games just for fun.
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what is that database, really?

A chess database is a file or set of files along with a computer program which allows you to store chess games in a way that allows you to easily search through them. The associated computer program should also allow you to easily hook up a chess engine to help you analyse the games.

how a beginner use a database?

Every time you play a game where you recorded the moves when you get back home open the database and enter your game in the database. Then you can go through it, first using your own brain trying to work out which were the good moves and bad moves and why and second with a chess engine hooked up to see where the engine thinks good moves and bad moves were played.

Then a few weeks or months or years later when you are drawn to play somebody you played before you can go back to your database, look up the game, work through it again and see what you have to do to get a better result this time.

I assume they are important, since seemly there are lots of companies that get lots of money solely by selling chess database

Well, I don't think there are any companies making money solely by selling chess databases but it is certainly part of their revenue.

Note that you don't need to pay money to get your hands on a chess database. There are lots of free programs out there which will do the job for you and free sources of games if you want to download other people's games.

For instance, this combination will do the job for you:

1) Scid vs PC for the database management program

2) Stockfish for the chess engine

3) Ordinary pgn files for the database files

4) TWIC for a supply of the latest top games played around the world

A paid for solution like Chessbase will get you a deluxe solution which could be worth it if you are semi pro but if you just want to look at top games then Chessbase make their database available (with cut down functionality) online for free.

If you need help getting started then Watford chess club have put up the following useful web pages:

http://www.watfordchessclub.org/index.php/chess-freeware/54-scid-vs-pc-getting-started

http://www.watfordchessclub.org/index.php/chess-freeware/56-scid-vs-pc-using-databases

http://www.watfordchessclub.org/index.php/chess-freeware/68-scid-vs-pc-using-databases-2

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Good question!

Actually, a chess database is profoundly used for different openings and along with corresponding game. It is also used for any particular position whether it has arisen before. It is also used for different player categories.

For example, let's assume you are learning the Fianchetto Variation of the Dutch Defense. So when you learned some lines of this particular openings you need to analyze some games of this variation. What are the middlegame ideas and who are the best practitioners? If you mistakenly see the Leningrad Variation of Dutch then you will get confused. So it is important that you maintain your own Database and sort your own games accordingly.

Another example would be if you belong to a rating class of approx. 2000 Elo then you might be interested in games of 2200-2300 Elo; that is one level up, because you would be focusing on their strengths and weaknesses.

You would also be storing your own games in your database.

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To become proficient at chess, one must study other games, not just one's own. This aids in determining the best move or sequence of moves in a given position, by comparing outcomes. This necessitates collecting games to be viewed. Since collecting them in writing on index cards or in books and then trying to organize them is too physically laborious and time consuming, chess game databases are the "perfect" solution, at least until the next innovation. Computerized databases permit detailed and now quite "granular" searches, thus speeding up the learning process.

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