MegaBase 2023: Modern Master Play
07/09/2023– MegaBase 2023 is Chess History in Action. Regularly updated every month the Main Database currently offers 10 million games, many of them annotated. Our columnist, offers a review with focus on modern master play. There is a lot more to discover in this treasure trove, grand battles, opening novelties and exemplary endgames.
Review by Nagesh Havanur
When MegaBase came my way at the end of last year there were more than 9.7 million games. Today with updates there are as many as 10 million games in this database. The first of them, Francisco De Castellvi -Narcisco Vinoles, was played in Valencia, Spain way back in 1475. The last of them with updates in my database is Sergiy Zavgorodniy-Peter Roberson, World Team Rapid Championship on 28th August, 2023. The number is still growing. So when you see this MegaBase on your screen you have more than five centuries of chess before you. It’s impossible to do justice to this kind of work in one review.
So. here I shall deal with one theme, modern master play. The first question that a reader would ask is about the world champions and their games in this century. For starters, Carlsen has more than 3000 games and Ding Liren more than 2000 games in this database. As the newly crowned world champion, Ding Liren is yet to open his innings (now that is a cricket analogy!). So first, we shall focus on Carlsen and his rivals.
On merit and sporting success his world championship games with Karjakin and Caruana here are important. The stakes were high and the challengers also performed very well. They deserve as much credit as the world champion (well, almost).
The first of them, Carlsen-Karjakin,World Championship Match 2016 was a fierce struggle and the games here are annotated by John Nunn, Yasser Seirawan, Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana among others. Karjakin came close to a victory in the following game, but it was not enough.
Karjakin-Carlsen WCH (9) 2016 (download pgn)
Then Carlsen struck back in the next game:
Carlsen-Karjakin, WCH (10) 2016 (download pgn)
The next world championship match, Carlsen-Caruana was relatively a staid affair with a number of nuanced draws. The games here are annotated by Anand, Adams, Gelfand, Duda and Wesley So among others
The challenger was not without chances in this Match as seen in the following game:
Caruana –Carlsen, WCH (10) 2018 (download pgn)
Carlsen struck back in the tie-break games and only here managed to prevail over his opponent:
Carlsen-Caruana, WCH (Rapid 1) 2018 (download pgn)
Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky
Magnus had a string of successes in tournaments, time and again he proved himself in World Rapid and Blitz Championships.
What about veterans, Anand and Kramnik? One may ask. Anand has more than 4000 games and Kramnik has more than 3000 games in this database. These friends and rivals have played a whole world championship match between them and continue to compete with each other. In recent years it was this epic encounter that made waves in the chess world:
Anand-Kramnik, Legends of Chess, chess24.com (download pgn)
Photo: Frederic Friedel and Wolfgang Rzychon
This brings us to the young talents in world arena. Currently the Indian trio, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and Arjun Erigaisi have taken the chess world by storm and rightly so. The MegaBase has a number of their games, both annotated and unannotated.
Among others Abdusattorov, Duda and Firoujza deserve special mention. Abdusattaorov has had a big rivalry with Gukesh and the dramatic clash here helped the Uzbek Team to win the Gold Medal in the Chess Olympiad and pushed the Indian team to claim the Bronze Medal.
Gukesh-Abdusattaorov, FIDE Chess Olympiad 1922
Photo: Lennart Ootes
In fairness to Gukesh, he has fared better against Abudusattorov in recent days, beating him on occasion. Gukesh is an intense, passionate player with great determination to win. On occasion he overreaches himself in his turbulent quest for victory. Praggnanandhaa also has great determination to win. Besides, he has strong nerves and can withstand pressure. He finds resources in desperate situations as shown in the following game:
Carlsen-Praggnanandhaa, Tata steel 2023 (download pgn)
One point about these young Indian players is that their play is constantly evolving and their opening arsenal keeps on changing. This makes it difficult for the opponents to prepare against them. As of now, only Carlsen seems to get the better of them, and that, often in the endgame in which he is a virtuoso.
Last, but not least, is Daniil Dubov. He is a daredevil and his play is, especially, reminiscent of young Tal. The following game made waves in the chess world for its imaginative play and tactical fantasy:
Dubov-Karjakin, Russian Championship 1920
Photo: Eteri Kublashvili)
Dubov is a hit-or-miss player. You can learn from both his wins and losses in this Database.
This brings me to the subject of annotations in this Database. The games in recent years are annotated in detail, thanks to their main source, ChessBase Magazine right up to November 2022. Not so with games from the past. A number of them are unannotated. Others have annotations of varying length and quality. Which annotations are best? Those that offer a judicious blend of explanation and analysis.
Currently, Anish Giri sets an example. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find annotations by Carlsen, Caruana, Karjakin and Ding Liren to their games. This was in the years before they contested the world championship title on their own.
Currently the system requirements for the MegaBase 2023 are Windows 10 and ChessBase 17 Program. On older programs the search function is slow and results are not always accurate. The number of games in MegaBase 2023 has now exceeded 10 million and it is still growing. So at some point or the other, use of ChessBase 17 would become inevitable. Young readers are tech-savvy and they don’t need this advice. Older readers may try and see if they can run the MegaBase 2023 with the program they already have. If not, ChessBase 17 would have to be used. In the long run it would accommodate other big databases.
Seeing the games in the MegaBase 2023 is the first step. Thereafter one has to supplement one’s understanding with some good reading and importantly, practice over the board.
1) In a previous review of the MegaBase I had dealt with its treatment of three world championship matches:
2) A detailed commentary on this game may be found here:
Gukesh’s own account of this traumatic experience may be found in his interview in New in Chess Magazine, 2022 #6.
3) Praggnanandhaa has analysed this game with Carlsen in CBM 212. Worth a look.
4) I did annotate the Dubov –Karjakin game before:
However, his own annotations to the game in New in Chess Magazine 2021 #1 are important. They offer an insight into the mind of this gifted player.
1) Carlsen versus World Championship 1916 by Lev Alburt and Jon Crümiller with round by round-by-round game analysis by Vladimir Kramnik
Chess Information and Research Center. 2017
2)Carlsen vs Caruana, Duel of Giants by Niklas Huschenbeth
Independently published. 2018
3)The Magnus Method by Emmanuel Neiman
New in Chess.2021
Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as “chessbibliophile”) is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for nearly three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.