The frustrations of ChessBase

Sep 14, 2015, 12:52 AM |

I still have three more games to annotate from the Farewell Bobby Fischer tournament I played in Utah last month, plus another nine games from subsequent tournaments in Idaho and Oregon; however, I haven't posted any of them yet because I don't want to spend time writing up a game without being able to save my annotations in a database.

Apparently the standard way of keeping track of one's games is with ChessBase, which is unfortunate for me because I'm a Mac user and ChessBase won't run on a Mac. Wtf, ChessBase? I only got my first Mac two years ago, but once I got used to using it I've never looked back. The multilingual support alone makes it worthwhile for me: Chinese and Japanese input are far superior on the Mac, and their fonts look far better too. What's more, I love touchpad gestures, multiple desktops, spotlight search, and the UNIX terminal, to name just a few nifty Mac features. Why ChessBase doesn't release a Mac client is beyond me -- a cursory Google search brings up plenty of blog posts lamenting the sad state of chess on the Mac.

Luckily, OS X makes it fairly simple to partition your hard drive and install a second OS with Boot Camp, so even though I didn't really want to spend a hundred and twenty bucks for Windows 10 on top of the price of ChessBase, I didn't see any other alternatives. So, I spent most of this past weekend setting all that stuff up, and now ChessBase is running and I've got my very own database with two games in it. I even got a free trial of VMWare Fusion so I can run Windows and ChessBase without rebooting my computer. So far so good, right?

Well, no, not really. First off, running Windows with VMWare Fusion is slow and rather choppy: I know I should just boot in Windows, but the thought of doing that makes me die a little inside. Then there's the fact that ChessBase is not the user-friendliest of programs, and its manual isn't exactly a paragon of clarity, either. I ended up spending another twenty bucks on Jon Edwards's ChessBase Complete so I could climb the learning curve a bit faster. Not wanting to wait for a physical book to be delivered, I bought the Nook version from even thought I could have gotten the Kindle version for five dollars less. Upon buying it, however, I found that I couldn't just download it like you can with ebooks you buy from O'Reilly (because DRM!), and I couldn't even read it on their website, either, because apparently all the good developers would rather be abused by Amazon's meat-grinder corporate culture than work for an actual bookstore. So I had to download the Nook app for my Android phone just so I could open the book, and of course the app is laggy and buggy and the page layout is off-kilter and the screenshots look ridiculously tiny. Still, the book has managed to help me in spite of all these obstacles.

The two games I've entered into my database so far are both from the same tournament, so I figured that when I edited the game info for the second game, I'd be able to start typing the tournament name and it would just autocomplete it for me, right? Wrong! Not only did it not autocomplete, but I had to enter every last detail of the tournament again before the software could figure out that they're the SAME FREAKING TOURNAMENT; evidently having the same name and being held on the same day isn't enough. Also, I just spent two hours waiting for the 2015 updates to the Mega Database to download and be merged into the database, which seems like an awfully long time for just 200,000 games. Now it's 1:40 in the morning and I have to be at work in less than eight hours, and I still haven't analyzed any more games. Hooray!

If anyone can offer any ChessBase tips or point me toward some halfway decent online tutorials, I'd really appreciate it. Or, if you just want to add your voice to my rant, that's fine too. Embarassed I'm still holding out hope that once I get all these kinks worked out, this pricey software not designed for my computer will actually start to help me improve my chess.