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Using the Opening CDs, Part B
keywords: Transpositions, Tree, Opening, Study
Robert Pawlak
Saturday, November 28, 2009

In part A of this article, I looked at some search techniques that could be used to facilitate opening study with Convekta's opening CDs. Now I'm going to take a look at how available theory is accessed and displayed within the program.

Convekta's group of IMs and GMs also compile an extensive theoretical reference that is included with each opening CD. This theory is visible in a couple of places. The first place you might notice it is in the tree display, in the lower right hand corner of each game. If a particular move has an evaluation next to it, that means that a someone on Convekta's chess team has examined this move and assigned the evaluation. If you click on the box labeled "moves" in the tree display, the available moves will be reordered so that the strongest ones are listed from top to bottom. Similarly, clicking on the other boxes will reorder them by other criteria. Clearly, one drawback of viewing information in this way is that it only shows you a single move at a time.

One of the most interesting features of the tree is its ability to quickly show all the transposing variations that can result in a particular board position. This is obviously something that is important when studying the opening. Incidentally, I should point out that Convekta's products deal with different move orders in a transparent fashion. When you search for a board position, be it in Chess Assistant, or one of the opening CDs, the program does not "care" about the move order taken to reach the position. That is, the software does not search by move order, but by position. Because of this, you never have to worry that you missed finding a game because a particular move order wasn't generated.

However, all Convekta's programs can also look for move orders if you want to. I've talked about how this is done before, and refer you to this article for an illustration of how it is accomplished. These move orders include not only moves that have been played, but ones that have never been played as well.

At the beginning of this article, I inferred that there were other methods for examining theory as well. As an example of how this is used, I'll go back to the game we were studying in the first part of this article. In this position, after white's 7th move, click on the button labeled "Report" that is visible above the chessboard. You'll then see something like the display below. Notice that a small board window has appeared in place of the database browser that is normally located on the left hand side of the display.

[big display]

Here we see the following:

  1. The main line is 7...a5. Furthermore, you can see from the tree display that 7...a5 results in an approximately even game, according to Convekta's team. It is also the most popular move from this point on in the game, having been played over 1024 times.
  2. The highest scoring variation starts with 7...Nh5, where black makes way for the f-pawn. There could be any number of reasons for why this move scores better, and more investigation is probably warranted. Indeed, this move is given as a possible slight improvement in the game score. Note that because this move appears in the game, albeit as a variation, it is highlighted in yellow. All moves that appear in the game are highlighted like this in the tree.
  3. The variation beginning with 7...Nbd7 8.Bg5 h4 9.Nd2 a5 can also result from the move order 7...a5 8.Nd2 Na6 9.h4 Nc5. This transposition is underlined in blue, which signifies a hyperlink (just like in your web browser). Clicking on the link will take you to that particular variation. In this case, it is simply a transposition of a subvariation of the main line.

Let's say now that you've taken a further look at 7...Nh5, and like what you see. If you want to practice the continuation given in the variation to this game, all you need do is simply click on that move, then on the button labeled "Test", and you will be quizzed on the continuation of that variation. Incidentally, all the theoretical articles are stored in the database called "Opening Encyclopedia". If you want, you can access these individually, or search the database by position.

By now, it should be clear that in a sense, the computer really does not "care" what ECO code is given to a particular game. Since you can search by position, it is somewhat unclear (at least where computers are concerned), why you would want to search for ECO code instead of position. Although the positional search capabilities inherent in Convekta's software is more flexible, some humans still prefer ECO. For those people, there is a very useful tool called the indexer tree. To see an example of how this tool works, go back to the first move in the above game, then click on the tree button. You should see a display like the one below:

[Launching ECO indexer]

Now click on the drop-down list box that is displaying "Default tree" or "Current base tree", and select "Indexer". You should then see a tree display that shows the ECO code for each potential move. Those that know their codes will quickly realize that this game started with Nf3, which is a Reti-type move order, and then eventually transposed into a classical KID. If you then move through the game, either by clicking on the moves in the bottom of the display, or by using the buttons below the board, you will see how the ECO classification of the game changed as the two opponents went from one opening system to another.

Conclusion

In this series of articles, I looked at how information in Convekta's opening CDs is accessed and interpreted. Some of the techniques I've described in the article can also be used within Chess Assistant as well.

 







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