Digital Tools of the Trade

Apr 26, 2014, 7:01 PM |

The following list contains tools I use to work with PGN databases to find positions and use of tactics that are of interest to me. Finding key ideas and motifs is important for improvement as a Chess player. One may turn to a Chess database, but finding what is interesting inside large collections of games can be difficult. While most PGN viewers have features that help you make sense of a large collection of games, this is where a lesser known tool called Chess Query Language (CQL) can help.


In the words of CQL's authors, "Chess Query Language (CQL) was designed to allow researchers, authors, and players to search for games, problems, and studies that match specific themes. 

You specify the theme you are looking for, and the database to look for them, in CQL. Then you run this CQL file using cql.exe . This creates a new PGN file that has all the games matching your theme."


In future posts I will be sharing how I make use of this tool and if you would like to follow along you will need some of the following:

Chess Query Language

A Text Editor
  • I use Notepad++ as my editor of choice, you can use whatever you like as long as you can save your files with the .cql extension.
PGN database of games
  • You will need a source of games in PGN format to perform your searches on. I recommend the free Millionbase Database if you haven't bought a database already. 
  • The Week in Chess is also a good source of quality games.
  • If you have been active on you can also request and download an archive of your own games to perform searches on. This can be a good idea to identify themes that interest you.


A PGN editor/viewer