It may seem obvious that chess players do need chess databases but did you stop for a second to wonder why? And, namely, for education purposes, is it so important? Well, let's try to answer. Education may be defined as the process of learning. And how can we learn? An old teacher told me, recently, that education is, simply, to pose questions! And the teacher role is to lead the student to these questions, to give him that uncomfortable feeling one experience until the answer is found! And an answer, obviously, will lead to more questions...
I wonder you are asking where are the chess databases so far. It is clear that any student needs a teacher but most of the work is on the student's side. After the first fundamental questions, like the movement of chess pieces, very easy to reply, the student must find the answers by himself and these can be found where the data is stored: books, traditionally. However, in our modern society of information and communication, books are no longer the main and only source of knowledge: chess databases are a must to our huge board addicted tribe. Together, chess books and databases are the basis of the chess learning process, are complementary and must coexist. And if the first, chess books, can primarily tell us how to play, both chess books and databases can show us what to play but only the latter, chess databases, can present us what has been played. This dynamic character of chess databases, along with many other advantages in both the chess learning process and its practice, will be the focus of this article.
Dynamic. I love books and I am sure most chess players love it as well but let's be fair: books cannot evolve, chess databases do. This is of huge importance. The production of knowledge is faster than ever nowadays and it is of little use if one cannot access it. Books have its place in chess, a beautiful place of honor, but data must be updated, and such endeavor is only possible with chess databases. Fortunately, chess is played every single day in the World and the more important tournaments are recorded and available for all. This is a "miracle" that all chess players had to live without until a couple of years ago. If new data is available, new questions may arise and we can learn more and faster.
References. After some time, a student will define its play style and, therefore, needs models, influences, references. "I love Tal's style, his early matches are overwhelming!". "Carlsen is still so young, which is his favourite opening?". These references can be easily found in a chess database. How comfortable is to have a long list of chess games from where we can choose the most interesting to us in any particular case. And if in our earlier days of chess the aggressive styles of Tal and Carlsen where the most interesting, as we evolve all the other styles and players are also there. With the times, our questions will be more specific and the answers more focused but we will never know everything. So, a chess database will be a partner in our chess practice throughout our lives.
Preparation. So far, we know the chess databases are always evolving, we have defined our play style and our favourite openings. Then, the way to expertise is open. No longer the random search for the fun and beauty of the game/art that chess is. The chess database is a real partner when preparing for the big steps. The opponents' favorite openings, late performances, recent tournaments played, all that matters in the way to FM, IM and GM titles! From the early "open" search to the very specific player x, tournament y, opening z search, databases are always there for our aims at each moment in our career.
Future. Last but not least, a leap to the future: history! Chess, as any other activity, can greatly benefit by having a well documented past. It is not necessary to study again what the ages could prove is not worth playing to be successful. And how can we be sure that we are facing a theoretical novelty? Well, you can also rely on databases but, contrarily to all that have been herein written, the theoretical novelty is exactly what is successful and is not present in the chess database... yet!
All things considered, chess learning, chess practice and chess databases are intimately linked. A chess player learns from the same database that, one day, he will help to complete. As any symbiosis, both benefit from this compulsory cooperation.
-- Paulo de Morais --