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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Chess Assistant vs. Chessbase

     After having spent the last few days recovering from eye surgery I have been toying around with my recently purchased Chess Assistant. I had been debating whether or not to buy a chess set but decided against it because it's been ages since I've played an OTB game so there's no real need for a set. I also considered updating Fritz 12 but finally determined it would best be replaced with a database program which is more likely to be useful in correspondence play. The question was should it be Chess Assistant or Chessbase? I like Chessbase products and their learning curve is likely to be shorter because of my familiarity with Fritz, but from experience I know Chess Assistant has excellent customer service in case their might be a problem, which, based on my experience with Aquarium, there was likely to be and that's exactly what happened.
     After ordering CA16 download from the USCF over the weekend I had to wait until the link came on Monday. After several tries I got the link to work, but the serial number I was given generated a massage saying that it was expired!! So, that afternoon I sent an e-mail to Chess Assistant explaining the problem and by 7:00 am the next morning I had a link that worked, but there was still a problem. The 6.45 million game database that was supposed to come with the program was nowhere to be found. That generated another e-mail to Chessbase Support and the next morning I got a reply directing me to the location on their site where the database plus several other components could be downloaded. I am not sure whether the need to do this is poorly documented or if I just missed it. 
    Learning all the secrets of Aquarium which was lost when my old laptop crashed was time consuming and at times confusing. I still had the CD for Fritz 12, but not the serial code because that got lost when our house flooded. I e-mailed Chessbase and explained the problem. They told me to go pound salt...buy a new program, they said. In any case, Chessbase has a lot of stuff in which I have no interest...like the Let’s Check and Engine Cloud (which requires a playchess.com membership) and half a year’s subscription to ChessBase Magazine. 
     Price was also a big consideration: CA16 Basic can be downloaded for $85 from the USCF and the CB13 Starter package is much higher at $219, plus there is no download version available. I finally decided that the basic Chess Assistant would do just fine. 

  • Database of about 6.45 million games 
  • Access to 7-piece Lomonosov Tablebases , but only until the end of the year - this is not too important because EGDBs are available free online. 
  • Automatic opening annotation that searches for novelties, adds annotations from the Opening Encyclopedia, CAP evaluations, inserts reference games etc. (Good for CC play) 
  • Multi-pass game analysis is an advanced analysis method to fine-tune each step of the search. (Good for CC play) 
  • Interactive analysis allows you guide the engine in its analysis and pick lines and it remembers the results. With Fritz once you leave the analysis and come back, it starts from scratch, so this feature is a very handy one. 
  • Chess Opening Encyclopedia with more than 8000 annotations and 40 million evaluations by strongest engines key positions. 
  • Search by position, header, maneuvers, material, comments, novelty search, advanced search by material
     CA has a feature called Background Analysis which is different than Fritz' Infinite Analysis. With the BA feature the engine calculates the position "behind the scenes" so you can use other functions while the engine is at work. It has a search for current P-structure and material feature that promises to be very useful. I also like the idea of being able to delete duplicate games which is something I can't do with my Fritz 12 program. I am not sure if this feature is available in CB13. 
     One nice thing is that you can download a restricted function version of Chess Assistant that makes it possible to experiment with.  Playing around with this version for a few days is what convinced me to go ahead with the purchase of the full version. On the downside, the interface is a lot more cluttered that Fritz, but a lot of that is, I suppose, due to it having a lot more features. So far it looks like CA16 will be very useful, but it is going to take a lot of time learning how to use all its features. Download demo

Addendum 3-25-16...I have discovered that you cannot delete games in pgn which is rather odd as well as somewhat annoying, but so far I am liking this program a lot. The only other thing is that I do wish it had a wider choice of boards and pieces.


  1. The free Tarrasch Chess GUI now includes a nice database feature with the recently released version 3. Download it here: http://triplehappy.com/downloads.html
    It comes with over 885,000 games in the database and Stockfish 7.
    I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on how it stacks up.

    -David Beagan

  2. I have tinkered with Tarrasch and found it to have a nice, clean interface with some good features, plus it is very simple to use. Perhaps its simplicity is also its disadvantage because if you are heavy into database use and research then other free programs like SCID vs. PC or Area, while more complicated, are better suited to those tasks. One interesting thing about Tarrasch is that for a small fee the author build you an individualized version. Short version...if you want to play against engines and analyze games then Tarrasch gets the job done very well.

  3. I liked your review. I use Aquarium and there is a bit of a learning curve. However, it gives me nice capabilities to study games. Works well with the Peshka training program to, which has been a plus for me. A step up to either Chess Assistant or Chessbase has been my consideration of late. I have Komodo 10 and Chess King Silver 2016, but for different reasons ( practice and train with Chess King Silver and Komodo 10, study and evaluate through Aquarium ).

    Customer service is good with Chessbase or Chess Assistant. However, the folks especially through Chess King ( Chessok ), which I believe develop Aquarium or Chess Assistant have been really good. This weekend I will purchase Chess Assistant 16 Pro with the nice 20-30 off deal on the Chess King store. Pro is under 110.00 with the Black Friday sale.

    Scid is what I used first for study, with a database I purchased. It still is more than suitable. Just not quite as user friendly as some of the others, but very nice. Shredder was my first chess game or engine I used. Still have it.

    Mac users would love Hiarcs. They have a great openings subscription to. PC version is available as well. A very fast and quick chess playing and study program.

  4. Thanks for the additional insights.

  5. I am sorely tempted to get Chess Assistant as it is a lot cheaper than Chess Base. As I already have an earlier version of Chess Assistant, this can get even cheaper.

    The cheapest version of chessbase costs about $250 for the mega version. I can get the download version without looking all that actively.

    I am trying to get better, as much as I want chessbase; this is a reasonable stopgap.

  6. I think Chess Assistant is a good decision especially because you are already familiar with it. I have to admit that for me, it took some time to learn all its features. Chessbase is easier to learn to use but it has a lot of extras I am not interested in and in my opinion, not worth the extra money. Download Komodo 8 and Stockfish 8 to go with CA and you have everything you need at a reasonable price.

  7. I did purchase Chess Assistant 17 Pro. It has been quite good and does reminds me of Aquarium, but so much more robust with a variety of features and analysis that seems to work quite nicely. I receive the update databases for free, and got a free year of their Chess Learn system, which has most of all the Peshka Chess Learning programs for free. It really was a bargain. I got it at Chessking.com.

    I do like my Komodo 10 with the Fritz base, but the CA 17 Pro is pretty amazing.

    Now if I have anyone who wants to learn or develop their chess I just point them to the CA 17, because along with the program the Chess Learn system has everything needed to learn chess and grow your game. Very satisfied with so much about it. Not as simple as Chessbase products. However, quite good and simple enough.

    Thanks for the recommendation.


  8. I have never been able to fine a EGDB that works with Stockfish within Chess Assistant. At least I'm told that it's never hitting the various EGDB's that I've tried. Has anyone else had any luck?

  9. Same here. According to the post below Stockfish itself does not support EGTB, but that post was back in 2011. Maybe a reader can help.

  10. Stockfish 8 comes with a small tablebase.

  11. Details?! According to this Chessbase article the 5-man Gaviota TBs are supported by Stockfish. I've got them installed on Fritz 12, but hits never show up so I assume there is something I am doing incorrectly.

  12. The src file you download with stockfish8 includes a syzygy file.

  13. Stockfish supports Syzygy tablebases. I am using the 5-man TBs. You need to put the folder path in the engine's settings.