You might have heard of that program most professional Chess players use: ChessBase. It is a program that allows you to store games in databases, analyze, comment, and find games played by yourself or thousands of other chess players.
The first version of Chessbase (Chessbase 1.0) was released back in 1987; the newest version is ChessBase 17. Readers of mine frequently ask: should I buy Chessbase 17? Is it worth the price? In this article, I will go through the pros and cons of Chessbase and help you decide if the program is worth the price for your situation.
Chessbase Basics Explained
As mentioned above, Chessbase is a program released by a company of the same name. The program gets frequent new versions, and Chessbase 17 is the newest version at the moment of writing.
The main use case of Chessbase is the organization of chess databases. I used the program from 2008 to 2021, when I retired from professional chess. Now I use a mixture of Chessbase 16, more to why I did not buy the newest version later on, and Lichess to Coach.
ChessBase 17 offers nearly unlimited features, but I have mainly used three core features:
- Creating my own Opening Analysis and saving them in Databases
- Annotating and analyzing my games in one database
- Preparing against specific opponents thanks to the ‘Mega Database.’
I’m no tech wizard, so I have rarely used extra features like the search for positions with similar piece configurations, the search for games with similar tactical patterns, etc.
As I have made it to Grandmaster without all these fancy features, I will mainly focus on the three features above, trying to determine if Chessbase 17 is a good investment for you.
Main Use Cases Explained
Let me briefly explain why the three use cases above helped me as an (aspiring) professional chess player.
The opening analysis gets increasingly important the higher you are on the rating ladder.
Before the computer area, players would bring binders full of handwritten opening notes to the tournament. They would then try to find the paper corresponding to the most likely opening in the upcoming game and replay these notes on a physical board.
This whole process got so much easier thanks to Opening databases! Sitting at home, I would analyze the latest opening ideas directly in Chessbase with the help of an Engine (mostly Stockfish) and a database full of the latest games (either online database or Mega Database).
If you want to know more about this whole process, you can read my article here on the right opening analysis setup.
Once I was happy with my analysis, I saved them into one of my databases (I mostly just had ‘White Repertoire’ and ‘Black Repertoire’) and named this file so I could find it easily later on.
At a tournament, I could simply open my White Repertoire Database, find the file with the Variation that was most likely to appear on board, and then expand and review the work I did at home.
If you’ve read my articles before, you know I’m a big believer in analyzing one’s own games. That’s the process I always did using Chessbase. I simply had a database full of files of my own games. Whenever I came back after a game, I would take the time to put all the moves of the games into a new file and save it in the database.
If you want to read more about this game analysis process, then this article is for you.
Preparing Against Opponents
The third way I used Chessbase was to prepare against my future opponents. Thanks to the Mega Database, a different product by the company Chessbase that sometimes comes with the Chessbase product, you can find your opponent’s games and prepare against them using Chessbase.
Additionally, you can find games online in places like ‘Opening Tree,’ download them, create a Database, and then prepare versus these games as well.
The big advantage here is that you have some easy shortcuts to prepare only against games of one color, see percentages (where your opponent scores well or not so well), and when they played their last game in a certain opening.
The UI for game preparation is extremely smooth and much better than anything else I’ve seen.
Again, if you are curious about how exactly you should prepare against a specific opponent, I have written a full step-by-step guide using ChessBase, which you can check out here.
Who Is ChessBase 17 For?
Chessbase 17 is mainly aimed at strong Club players, Masters, and professional Chess players. If you ask a Grandmaster what product they use, their answer will 99% be “ChessBase.
Many professional Coaches and authors also use the program, although much more sophisticated than I did. They use advanced functions to find positions that are instructive, mark certain moves with medals (I have never understood what that does, though), and more fancy shit.
If you want the best product on the market, the answer is simple: get Chessbase 17. So what is the downside?
Chessbase 17 is quite expensive, and with the frequently updated versions, you are compelled to invest always more in this program.
How Much Does Chessbase 17 Cost?
Chessbase 17 comes with different pricing options. The program’s cheapest version costs 149 Euros (the company is German; thus, the prizes are in Euros). For the past five years, a Euro has been between $1 and $1.10, so it would be somewhere between $149 and $164.
If you buy the premium version, you will pay a whopping 499.90 Euros. Below you can see the official pricing with the additional perks I will explain right below.
- Online DB is a database of some of the latest games played. You can use it to analyze openings and compare what you played to modern theory. It obviously only works if you have access to the internet 🙂
- Big 2023 is a Database of games you will have on your computer. It consists of many older games and some of the newest games played. It is a little bit less complete than the Mega 2023 database
- DB-Updates 2023 is a neat function that lets you download newly played games every week directly into your Big 2023 or Mega 2023 Database. You will get those updates for the year 2023 only.
- CB Magazine is the magazine done by Chessbase, which is released once every two months. You will find some analysis of recently played games and some opening ideas in there. Cost: 109 Euro/year. I recommend the New In Chess Magazine instead, much better quality.
- ChessBase Account: ChessBase has its own online server, which is extremely outdated, though. If you use Lichess or Chess.com, this is pretty useless
- Corr. Database 2022 is a database full of correspondence games played in 2022 and earlier. Only some Grandmasters work with this Database to find even more sophisticated opening ideas. For everyone else this is also pretty useless.
- Endgame Turbo 5 is a database of solved 6-piece (or less) endgames that helps Engines calculate faster and more precisely in given endgames. Sounds cool, but I haven’t used that once in my career.
- Ducats are the currency used on the ChessBase online platform. They are used if you want to rent cloud engines, again something that only makes sense for strong GMs trying to maximize their opening knowledge. Five hundred ducats would cost 50 Euros.
As you might understand from these descriptions, I’m not a big fan of all the perks you get. You will most likely feel like they are cool, but never use any of them except the Mega or Big Database.
If you want to get ChessBase 17 for the use cases I described above, get the program only or the Starter Package. Anything more would be a waste of money!
Once you have the Program, make sure to resist the urge to always update to the newest version. There will be fixes of small bugs and some extra features added. For the core usage of the three functions mentioned in this article, you won’t feel a difference!
Free Alternatives To ChessBase 17
As a player of the Swiss National Team, I always got the newest ChessBase Premium Package for free. I used it and was happy with it. But I had already heard people saying that there are free alternatives coming up.
When I retired in 2021, I also lost access to the free ChessBase Premium packages. So when Chessbase 17 came out for the first time, I had to ask myself: is it worth buying ChessBase 17? And the answer was a clear-cut no for me. First, the older versions all do fine if you want to analyze openings, annotate your games and prepare against opponents.
Second, after a short research, I found free alternatives that hold up pretty well for our three key functions. For opening databases and analyzing your own games, you can simply use Lichess Studies. Obviously, you won’t have as many search functions, and you can only access them when you are connected to the internet.
But this is a pretty good trade-off if you can save 150 bucks if you ask me! If you are unfamiliar with Lichess, you absolutely have to read my 101 guide on getting the most out of this fantastic platform.
The preparation aspect can get a little murky. But you will still find ways to prepare by using some online databases such as:
Or you can only use the ChessBase Database online and pay much less for it! Some of the games you can access for free (just make an account) or you can get the Premium version for 4.99 a month. That is much better than buying a hugely expensive Product + Database for 199 euros!
Conclusion: Should I Buy Chessbase 17?
ChessBase 17 is a great program if you are extremely serious about your chess improvement but by no means a must-have for everyone. If you are a professional or aspiring professional player, the investment is certainly worth it. But even in this case, you probably don’t need to buy the newest version as soon as it comes out. Work with what you have and upgrade only if you realize you need one of the new perks.
Most of my readers are amateur players who sometimes don’t even play over-the-board chess. In that case, I don’t think buying ChessBase 17 is the right choice for you. You can set yourself up with Lichess and, if needed, download games from the free websites mentioned above. Use the saved money for courses or books that really improve your chess.