Alternatives to ChessBase?
ChessBase - the database program, not the company - has long been the industry standard, widely used by professionals, amateurs, and whatever category certain long-time bloggers belong to. Still, it doesn’t always work brilliantly, and a kick in their pants from some worthy competitors would benefit the chess public. It’s not super-expensive, but it’s costly enough that some parents of serious-ish chess kids would prefer not to buy it. Plus it has a learning curve, seems to be a pain in the neck for Mac users, etc. Since I’ve been using it for more than 25 years I’m very comfortable with it, but it also means I don’t have a good sense anymore about how user-friendly it is for newbies.
So, are there good competitors out there? Years ago I gave Chess Assistant a try and wasn’t particularly pleased with it - but maybe with more time it would have felt more natural. I’ve heard about Scid, but don’t have much experience with it, and looking around a day or two ago came across Hiarcs’s Chess Explorer (Pro). Are there others?
If any of you have played around with these alternatives, and especially if you’ve also used ChessBase and can give a strengths-and-weaknesses comparison, that would be much appreciated.
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It seems that SCID has just had a major release (version 5.0) within the last day or two. Highlights in the update include a new database format supporting up to 4 billion games, a new engine window, and Chess960 support.
SCID is less polished than ChessBase, certainly. In my experience, it really falls behind in automated game analysis. ChessBase stands out in that arena, especially with its natural language annotations. SCID users may want to supplement it with another program for that kind of automated game analysis (sort of like how one combines Fritz and ChessBase into one workflow I suppose).
There are two things that I much prefer in SCID over ChessBase. The first is a small thing, but SCID's ECO classification just seems strictly superior to ChessBase's. It updates dynamically as you step through the opening moves of a game, catches all transpositions, and overall is much more informative with letting you know what variations you're looking at.
The second thing that I think SCID does better than ChessBase is database maintenance. Especially in finding and deleting twin games, ChessBase has been very lackluster for me in the past. While this may be less of a concern if the user only sticks to heavily curated databases like MegaBase, SCID's thorough twin deletion, spell checking, and of course ECO classification can otherwise be immensely helpful.
Lastly, ChessBase's reference tab sees the most use from me when I'm reviewing a game, but SCID's tree window is comparable and feels about five times more responsive.
I've used both chessbase and SCID-vs-PC for years. I prefer SCID-vs-PC over the original SCID because there are a couple of interface differences. SCID-vs-PC has a unique feature I like that chessbase doesn't ... in SCID-vs-PC you can set your player name or names and when you open a game with your player name it automatically flips the board, if necessary, so that your player's color is on the bottom. I don't think the original SCID has that option.
You can put the names of one or more of your chess heroes as one of the "My Player Names" so that, when you open one of their games in your referenced database, the board will flip if necessary, too.
The main reason I prefer SCID to chessbase is that I prefer to use the Linux Operating System rather than Windows and chessbase will only run in a virtualbox Windows session. Also, SCID-vs-PC only costs time to learn, there is no financial cost. I have built a nice database from TWIC and high-level pre-TWIC games going back to Morphy.
Chessbase has more bells and whistles, but SCID-vs-PC has everything I need -- and some things I just like.