Reports | May 19, 2011 17:07

Happy birthday ChessBase

Happy birthday ChessBaseFor the ChessBase founders it is not easy to determine the exact date when their company was born, but in the end they decided that it was on May 19th, 1986. In other words: exactly 25 years ago. We congratulate the Hamburg based company with reaching this wonderful milestone.

Today, for a period of 24 hours, ChessBase offers a 25% discount to all products in their shop. The reason? They somehow decided it's their 25th birthday. 'Decided', because it's not that clear when the company started, and apparently the German founders didn't want to pick the date on which the company was officially filed in the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce.

Today in an article on their website it is described how the idea of a database of chess games emerged for the first time in the minds of Frederic Friedel, Matthias Wüllenweber and... Garry Kasparov. Friedel is one of the founders of the company, and in the eighties a 'philosopher turned science journalist'. He still writes most of the articles on the English ChessBase website.

Wüllenweber was a physics student 'who had single-handedly programmed a chess database on the Atari ST, showed it to Kasparov and, at his urging, founded the company ChessBase together with Frederic'.

ChessbaseWhat follows is a nice story, with even better pictures in black and white, about Kasparov getting excited about the idea of browsing through the opponent's games using a computer, thereby winning lots of time. (No doubt it wouldn't take long for the World Champion to conclude that it was possible to study their openings more effficiently as well!)

Having worked with ChessBase 4 on Windows 3.1, and having purchased the latest version (11) of ChessBase's database product only a few days ago, we can confirm that a lot has changed over the years. And although we might be competitors, to some extent, in the field of online news reporting, we've never kept it a secret that we're big fans of their software products.

We take the opportunity to humbly congratulate ChessBase with their 25th anniversary. It's a wonderful milestone to reach, and in that respect we've got a long way to go!


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


choufleur's picture

scid is far superior to chessbase, and is free. Moreover, it works under linux. I recommend it !

I must also mention that I once wrote to chessbase webmaster to indicate (kindly, I think) that a link was broken. The answer was that my computer was responsible for this ! A strong german gm, not hard to guess who, but really arrogant.

Thomas's picture

So what? Chessbase was a pioneer (or at least among the first) in various fields and later got competition:
- very first one to commercially distribute chess engines?
- first ones to develop databases commercially
- for online chess, world leader together with ICC (I wouldn't know who was first)
- one of the first chess news sites (together with TWIC?), still going strong and currently the only multilingual one.
All the better for us chess players that they aren't the only ones, and no reason to diminish their 'historic' role if others became as good or better - which, except for chess engines, remains a matter of personal taste.

Arne's picture

Not for the invention of the computer but for the dehumanization of our beloved game, making it about memory instead of creativity and hard work (working to get your own ideas, not to memorize the computer's idea).

For this, Chessbase is to be blamed!

Frits Fritschy's picture

You can't blame evolution for creating mosquito's - it just happens and you'll have to live with them.

noyb's picture

Go away quietly Arne, there's a good lad.

S3's picture


Thomas's picture

Apparently Wüllenweber reinvented the wheel (and didn't know), but does it matter? They were the first ones to recognize the commercial potential of the idea, hence they get credit and earn money with it.
That's life ... also in other chessic and non-chessic fields: Whoever first plays a strong opening novelty gets credit and might win an important game, even if someone else had already found it independently. In my field (science): whoever first publishes a new discovery gets credit. If someone else had already found the same but kept it secret or in-house, bad luck ... and lack of time to write that article is no excuse!
BTW, the German Chessbase site has many more details - too much for me to translate but maybe some people can read German: .

My personal "early Chessbase connection": Around 1988 I played a correspondence game against "the other Matthias" Feist - he occasionally mentioned that "Chessbase takes up lots of my time" (then it was his student job). Maybe two years later I played another correspondence game against his (former) clubmate Michael Buscher and sent greetings - "I cannot tell him personally, he has moved (from Cologne) to Hamburg where he's working (full-time) for Chessbase". That's now roughly 20 years ago ... .

GLorscheid's picture

I know Chessbase from its very first Atari version and remember to have also a license of Nicbase for some time. But in my memory it could not compete except that it used only 7 bits per move instead of 8. So if someone remembers the dates Nicbase was developed this would been interesting.

S3's picture

Is Chessassistant DB software so much worse?
Or the free ChessDB program (ok the lay out sucks but it works) combined with twic-updates?

I have some CB products but I really dislike the company for it's bad service and silly site that used to be good. And the fact that they are overpricing of course..

GLorscheid's picture

Some things are mixed up here. 25 years ago there was the chess database. So you could take your Atari to a tournament instead of the last twenty Informator books. Kramnik spoke about engines. There were no usable chess engines for at least the next ten years. So Chessbase only replaced books, but it did not change the way to play chess.

Arne's picture

There is nothing as good as their database but the damaged they do to our ancient game is not worth it.

noyb's picture

You are totally full of crap.

Arne's picture

This is exactly what I mean! This should be a day of morning! They are killing our game!

help's picture

So that's why you hold ChessBase responsible for the invention of the computer, now I understand.

Arne's picture

That company destroyed chess and allowed cheating at the highest levels. I'm not happy about this.

Hortensius's picture

Please clarify...

help's picture

He's a troll. I've noticed all of his comments are like that.

But anyway. From

On March 9, 1949, Claude Shannon (1916-2001), a research worker at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, presented a paper called “Programming a Digital Computer for Playing Chess.”

Zomerschaker's picture

Please ban this Arne guy, he's even worse than Arne Moll ;-)

noyb's picture

Ignore this guy, he sounds like a nut!

Peter Doggers's picture

Don't see how this article describes Chessbase as the first games database - as a former NiC employee I know better. The only part that comes close is ' the idea of a database of chess games emerged for the first time in the minds of Frederic Friedel, Matthias Wüllenweber and… Garry Kasparov'. For this to be wrong, the phrase would need a comma after 'time'.

chandler's picture

nice foto !!!

Stefan Loeffler's picture

Well, it´s remarkable that all the stories, including the one on a Dutch side present Chessbase as the first games database and omit the real inventors. Chessbase was the first one on the market, but the founders of New in Chess had a chess database running well before Wüllenweber (who most likely wasn´t aware of that), but they were so busy with launching their excellent magazine and yearbooks that they didn´t understand what product could have made them a fortune.
I don´t wish to belittle the achievement of Wüllenweber. Congrats to him and his company.

onurengin's picture

In this article, we also see why Kasparov was/is such a great chess player, performing always in front of the others!
He was right there when the "progress" (or you may call this in a negative way) of computers started! He had his own ideas, used softwares, and prepared with computer database!
That is why he opened the gap between him and his apponents later on, I think...
He caught the time of computer assistance for opponent specific preparations, game analysis and for testing the opening ideas.

sporty's picture

Chessbase are getting old and falling behind: Houdini, Stockfish, and even Critter are now better software. Not to mention databases, they are updated less than ever.

blueofnoon's picture

Your post certainly have the point. However, when it comes to chess database I still cannot find the substitute for ChessBase. Perhaps you can recommend something as good?

Frits Fritschy's picture quotes from Kasparov's autobiography:
"I had played a 'simul' against the Hamburg team and lost, mainly because I was tired. I hadn't studied the players, who were pretty good, including a grandmaster, and I got into terrible time pressure. I swore to avenge my defeat."
"In January 1987 I was back to play another ‘simul’ against the Hamburg team. This time I had two days to prepare, so we dug out the names of all the players and checked their records in the computer. It was an eye-opener for me. It took about ten minutes to find 192 games. If I ask my trainers to find me a game, going through the books, it could take days. This time, armed with the information I needed, I beat six of the Hamburg team and drew with the other two. The result, 7-1, was extraordinary. They couldn't believe it. Because I knew their habits, I could lead them into traps. I did the same thing with the Swiss national team later in Zurich. I saw that one player had had a smashing victory, but when I replayed his game on the computer I saw a way in which his opponent could have stopped him. So I tempted him into similar moves. He couldn't believe his luck. I was leading him onto familiar ground where he had won his great victory. Then wham! I closed the trap on him."

A bit odd: being proud of a result using means not available to your opponents, a result you were unable to perform earlier when you had to do without those means. Of course he later proved to be the best even when his opponents had the same means.

Still: mixed feelings. It helps to go back to the origin of a development to see it's consequences. The eight Germans thought they were again playing Kasparov, but in effect the second simul they were playing Kasparov plus database. And everyone followed, because when your opponents have the right to bring a gun into the fight, you better be armed yourself. And, as nature will have it, the arms will ever get bigger. Until they make the players unimportant.

What does Kramnik have to say about it? (, 13 May)
"...getting rid of theory, if you get can’t rid of engines – if you can’t destroy them – of course I’d be in favour. But you need to think up something sensible, so there are no flaws. I wouldn’t regret it. I want to play chess. That’s what interests me and not preparation. Even if, in general, that’s something I’m good at, I’d be happy to have a complete disarmament. I want to play chess. What can I do if that’s possible less and less often at the top level. I prepare out of necessity, not because I like doing it. I’d be very happy to work less, have a clearer head, sleep a bit, read a book, go for a walk and play chess. It was great the way it used to be. A century ago. But people won’t let me."

So what do we have, a day of celbration or a day of mourning?

RealityCheck's picture

Liebe Chessbase GmbH,

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag wuenscht Dir,

Dein, RealityCheck

supergrobi's picture

SCID is of course a nice freeware, but I from my point of view it's (unfortunately) currently no match for ChessBase. I wished it would be. Chess software, especially ChessBase, is the only reason for me not to switch completely to Linux at the moment.

Looks like the ChessBase company supports proprietary software only. There's now a ChessBase app for iPhones but nothing for Android.

What really annoys me is that they always implement the latest Microsoft gimmicks into their programs (software activation, "panes" (?) instead of the old style menus etc.).

Still it's currently the best chess software around in my opinion.
(At least this final statement will give me a lot of thumbs down... lol).

noyb's picture

Kudos to Chessvibes for the tip of the hat to Chessbase. Chessbase has single-handedly revolutionized chess and for much the better! There would be no ChessVibes today perhaps were it not for Chessbase's tools popularizing and making chess available to the mainstream. There is certainly plenty of room for both, and for both to grow!

Hal Bogner's picture

I don't recall NICBase being on the market at the time I was trained by Federic Friedel and introduced ChessBase into the US market, which was late 1987.

I recall two powerful statements by Garry Kasparov that formed our advertising in the US market at that time:

"The greatest development for chess since the invention of the printing press."

"In three years, all serious players will be using ChessBase."

Congratulations on your 25th anniversary, Matthias, Frederic, and company!

Anonymous's picture

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