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Top 5 Free Chess Databases

As you progress in your chess career it will become apparent that you have a lot of chess games you want to keep track of. You will have your own games which will easily number into the hundreds or thousands, but you will also discover a collection of classic games that you will want as reference. These classic collections can number in the hundreds of thousands. In the old days, you would have to have a huge number of books and then have to search for them manually to find games that are relevant to whatever you’re studying. In fact, in the days before the internet, it wasn’t uncommon for a chess player to spend a small fortune on ordering books from different countries for the privilege of having access to more games. Most of the time these foreign books were written in languages that you couldn’t even read, but I’ll save the history lesson for a future post.

A chess database is the technology solution to managing large numbers of games. The good ones allow you to search by position, openings, player, date, or maybe tournament. This post will cover my top free chess database you can access online or download to use offline. In a future post I will go in detail about how to get the most out of your database, but today I will provide some options that you can try out and start playing with. Hopefully, I can help you avoid wasting time trying to find a good solution to this problem.

Free Online Chess Databases

Chess-DB

This is a very large online database that allows you to store your own games and it also contains a large database of master games. The database of indexed players is compiled from various sources and updated frequently to reflect the latest changes in players’ status, ELO rating, games, history, and statistics. Currently, the player database contains 1717208 chess profiles in total. Out of those 869296 are FIDE registered players (both rated players and such not yet having ELO rating), and additionally 847912 active players registered only in their national chess federations (details and drill down to come soon). More information about the indexed chess games (in total 9815685) is available on their website.

Pros:

  • Very large database
  • The interface is simple
  • Can download game collections for offline examination
  • Can try out basic features without an account

Cons:

  • Need to have an account to access all the features
  • You can’t annotate a game and save your analysis
  • It has some cool features but only for FIDE members.

Chess Microbase

According to the site you can:

“Save, annotate, publish and share your games. It allows you to create a database of your own games. Stores the games in PGN format, and allows for annotations using text and graphics via the browser. Perfect for storing and annotating your own games. Save small, relevant game collections. Ideal for coaches wanting to share lessons or players doing opening preparation.

Features

  • Enter and save your own chess games
  • Annotate your chess games
  • Engine analysis in your browser!
  • Create microbases (small chess databases)
  • Add games by copy-paste PGN
  • Import games from PGN
  • Download games as PGN
  • Works on any web-browser or mobile device!
  • Publish your chess games on the web
  • Embed a PGN viewer on your blog or website
  • Easily share a game or entire microbase”

Everything it states here is true, but be aware that it doesn’t provide any game collections. So if you want all of Kasparov’s games you need to find them and import them yourself. The free version only gives you 3 databases with 100 games in each, but for $20 the premium version has 1000 bases. If you are just getting started this is a good option.

Pros:

  • Interface is simple
  • Can download game collections for offline examination
  • It runs a little chess engine which seems pretty strong
  • Easily share a game with friends

Cons:

  • Need to have an account to access any of the features
  • With only 300 total games available to free accounts you will run out of space fast.

Chess Tempo Chess Database

It provides over two million searchable chess games. The database can be searched via many criteria, including chess players, chess opening, player ratings, game results, and the year the chess game was played. Chess opening statistics can be viewed on the display to the right of the board.  You can start from any position by using the paste FEN/moves button directly below the chess board.

To be fair Chess Tempo is way more than just an online database. It is a complete chess training web portal, but for the sake of this review, I will only evaluate its database capabilities.

Free membership has limited depth opening explorer. This means if your analyzing different variations in the opening based on stored games you can only go about 10 moves deep. You also don’t have access to a material graph, player repertoire by color explorer, a jump to novelty button, or the ability to play any position found in the database against a computer player. What you do get for free is:

  • Chess Game Database
  • Player Search
  • Opening Search
  • Games For Position
  • Opening Explorer (10 move limit)

Pros:

  • Interface is simple
  • Has a huge database of games,

Cons:

  • Need to have an account to access any of the features
  • You can’t bulk download games for offline analysis
  • You can’t upload your own games or create your own custom database.

Free Desktop Chess Databases

ChessBase Reader 2017

The ChessBase Reader conveniently displays all installed databases and training titles – with a modern menu ribbon look. With the free ChessBase reader, you can open all standard file formats (.cbh, .cbf, .pgn), play through games on a stunningly rendered board, watch ChessBase training videos and much more.

I’m a Mac user and this is only available on Windows. I originally wasn’t going to review this because I couldn’t run it, but watching YouTube video reviews changed my mind. I’m not sorry I purchased Parallels Desktop to review this, but it isn’t going to replace my favorite free Mac database option. The biggest issue I found was that it lived up to its name of being a reader. You apparently can’t save your analysis. However, the features that are available are amazing. It does have so many features that it is hard to get going. I could see this software being especially difficult if you haven’t used other chess databases in the past.

Pros:

  • Supports a lot of different database formats
  • Easy installation
  • Very nice user interface
  • Allows the use of any UCI chess engine
  • Feature rich

Cons:

  • It’s only available for Windows OS
  • So many features make it hard to get started
  • You can’t save your analysis
  • It doesn’t come pre-packaged with any game collections. You must provide all the content.

Shane’s Chess Information Database (SCID)

SCID allows you to view, edit, and manage very large collections of chess games. It is a very powerful open source free chess database program. Works on Windows, Linux and OSX operating systems. It can read millions of games in PGN format.

I saved my favorite for last. This software checks all the boxes in my opinion.

Pros:

  • Is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux
  • Easy installation
  • Allows the use of any UCI chess engine
  • Feature rich
  • You can save your analysis.

Cons:

  • It doesn’t come pre-packaged with any game collections. You must provide all the content.
  • The user interface looks dated. Not a modern looking piece of software.
  • It’s written in an old software language so updates and bug fixes are slow.

Conclusion:

You have several free options available to store and analyze your games as well as those of others. Depending on how serious you are, one of these should fill your needs. It’s actually a very small group of players that require a more robust database than what is offered here. However, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention that most of the chess database software products that you have to purchase are way more than just databases. They are fully integrated training tools that can use video and chess engines in combination with your chess collections to propel your game to the next level. If you have the resources this is an option.

 

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