Using Chessbase files with Android and Scidonthego

Chessbase is the company behind Fritz, one of the chess programs I use. As well as making chess engines that Kasparov uses for training, they also compile whacking great databases of played games that can be analysed by pro chess players, huge great tutorial DVDs with databases of annotated games and video tuition, and they run an online server thing so you can play against people around the world.

I use Fritz and make use of the odd tutorial DVD, but not so much the huge databases or the ‘play against real people online’ thing. Their database system has however become the de facto standard for most chess players, and so there are a large number of Chessbase-format databases with tutorials and annotated games floating about. Everymanchess, for example, has released a whole raft of Chessbase-format eBooks on different topics.

Sadly Chessbase haven’t yet ported their stuff to Android or iOS, and so if you want to rake through a stack of historical chess games and commentary on your mobile device you’ll probably have to stick with the archaic .pgn text format. So, what to do if you only have Chessbase format?

These directions show you how to use Fritz to convert a Chessbase database to a .pgn file, and load it into a free bit of software called Scid On The Go.

  1. Open Fritz
  2. Open the database managing screen (F12)
  3. Open your chosen database
  4. Select All games in the database (ctrl-A)
  5. Go to Menu -> Selection to text file
  6. In the popup window, select ‘pgn‘ in the radio buttons
  7. Click ‘OK‘ and find somewhere suitable to save it

Right, assuming you have Scid on the Go installed on your Android device, you’ll need to get your .pgn file into the /scid/ directory. I just connected my phone to the USB of my laptop and dragged it across.

Once done:

  1. Open Scid on the Go
  2. Go to Menu -> More -> Import .pgn file
  3. Select your .pgn file from the list (it will list whatever’s in /scid/)
  4. Wunderbar, it automagically turns it into a Scid database that you can browse at your leisure…

This is great because it means I now have ‘Starting out: 1.e4’ on my mobile phone!

Creating .pgn files with Fritz 12

Whenever I study anything, be it a programming language, a chess thingy or whatever, I like to keep my own notes.

Usually I use OneNote for stuff like notes on programming languages and recipes and things, however recently I tried to study chess openings in the hope that it would assist me in beating Fritz and generally becoming a better player.

Chess is a bit weird because I really need planty of diagrams to help me grasp something, and if it moves so much the better. Reading a book only gets me so far. What I needed was a way of playing through a game, opening or endgame, and keeping notes as I went.

Fortunately, chess has a standardised text file format, .pgn, or ‘Portable Game Notation’ which allows you to transfer moves and comments between different software platforms. Thus, if you can find a way of making a .pgn file containing moves, games and commentary you can share it between chess programs on different devices (e.g. Chessmaster/Fritz/Arena on the PC, ScidOnTheGo on your Android Tablet etc.)

Creating a Huge Great Annotated .pgn File Using Fritz 12

  1. Green Button -> Create a new database
  2. Navigate to a suitable folder on your hard drive to put it in
  3. Important:Select .PGN in file-type drop down. If you don’t, you’ll create Chessbase database, which is useful, but not quite as portable
  4. Name it
  5. Click ‘Create New’
  6. This creates a new .PGN file at your chosen location on your hard drive
  7. Important: do ensure that the file type is set to PGN! It defaults to Chessbase database format, and if you’re not careful it will generate a Chessbase Database with its myriad little attendant files instead. It’s dreadfully untidy.
  8. Go back to the Fritz Board, and start creating/annotating games:
    1. Start a new game (Home -> New Game)
    2. Turn the engine off (Engine -> ‘Switch Engine Off’ box; you have to do this every time you start to create a new game. If you don’t, Fritz will jump in and start moving pieces about)
    3. Move the pieces around
    4. To annotate, right click a move in the Notation Window and select ‘Text before/after move’. Enter Text into pop-up window
    5. To add a variation, rewind and enter new move on the board. A popup will ask what you’re up to, choose ‘Add New Variation’
    6. Repeat until you’re done with the game/study you’re creating
  9. Click Green Button->Save->Save
  10. Enter details of game in the window that pops up (player names, game result, date, tournament etc.)
  11. Click ‘Save’ and the game will be appended to the .pgn file
  12. Repeat from step #8 until you have a whacking great .pgn file with loads and loads of games/studies/notes on it

Fritz’s interface can be a trifle opaque at times, but it’s a very powerful and useful GUI once you can find your way around it!

You can add the ‘New Database’ and ‘Save’ options to the quick toolbar as well, which is very handy if you use them frequently.