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Searching the Web for Chess

Even if you have been searching the web for years, this page will offer you some guidance on improving your results. And if you are relatively new to web research, you will learn a lot here, especially from the tutorial links below.

Best Search Engines
Search engines are the key tools for accessing information on the web and will give you the most complete results.

This is the fastest and most reliable search engine on the web and it is always the best place to begin, especially if you are in a hurry and only want the best results. However, because Google ranks sites based on how often they are linked to by other sites, it often returns only the most popular links. You might need to try some other engines to find information that nobody else knows about yet.

Now one of the more useful supplements to Google because their search engine tries to list internal pages that are often missed by other engines.

A relatively new search tool from Amazon.com, offering ranking information by popularity and all the other useful info that Amazon offers at their sales site. There is even the chance to tell people what you think and write a review.

Internet Archive's Way Back Machine
For lost sites of days gone by, nothing beats the web archive.

"All the Web" tends to return the most unique hits of any search engine. You will need to take some time here trying out search terms and wading through the results to identify what's most useful. But when you are trying to discover obscure information, this is one of the best places to go after Google.

AltaVista was one of the first powerful search engines and is still one of the best for generating lots of results. See Richard Seltzer's article on How to Get the Most Out of an AltaVista Search. I find AltaVista's directory to be useful.

Other search engines include HotBot, NorthernLight, and AskJeeves. For a good directory of engines, check out Proteus Internet Search.

Chess Directories
Directories help sort through and categorize the web, listing only the better resources on any topic. You can find more directories listed under Links to Links.

La Mecca Chess Encyclopedia
One of the better chess directories on the web is "Click! Click the Link."

Chess World's Search
They call it a "search engine," but it's a very selective directory.

Yahoo's Chess Directory
Yahoo offers one of the most complete directories on most topics.

Seven Tips for Searching Smart

1) Be Specific and Use Quotes
When you use precise terms or phrases, you will find exactly what you want more quickly. Putting phrases in quotations (for example, "urusov gambit") will return only results where those precise words appear in that exact order. Quotes are expecially useful when looking for games online (especially games played in club tournaments that might never make it into the major databases) by putting the moves you are looking for in quotes, thus: "1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3."

2) Practice Boolean Searching
There are two basic techniques of boolean searching: AND (or +) and OR. You can use AND to narrow your search. For example, the search term "urusov" returns all sorts of results, including sites about people with that name. Combining "urusov" AND "chess" will return more specific results. Most search engines today automatically insert AND into any search of multiple terms. To broaden a search, you can use OR. So, for example, if I want to do a broad search on my favorite opening I might try "bishop's opening" OR "urusov" to get the widest coverage. You can also use other terms, including the minus sign (-) to indicate that you wish to exclude certain results, the wild card symbol (*) to truncate words so as to include various spellings, and quotation marks to return specific phrases. Consult the user's guide to your favorite search engine or one of the tutorials below for more details on how best to use these techniques.

3) Collect Keywords and Get Multilingual
If you want to find everything on a particular subject, you should expect to do several searches using as many different keywords as you can think of. As you conduct your search, keep track of words that crop up in the better results that you find and jot them down. You should especially try to collect alternate names and words from other languages. For example, the Urusov Gambit is alternately called "Ouroussoff," "Urusoff," "Urusovuv," "Ponziani Gambit," and "Keidanski Gambit." Or if I were searching for games beginning "1.e4 e5 2.Bc4," I would want to also try alternate language designations for Bishop, such as L for Laufer (German) or A for Alfil (Spanish). There are several listings of Chess Vocabularies in many languages online (including this convenient table of Chess Vocabulary in 5 Languages). A convenient table of Alternative Chess Piece Identifier Letters is also offered by Chessville. For more help with translations (including translating the international sites you discover), try AltaVista's excellent Babelfish site.

4) Try Several Different Search Engines or Meta-Search Engines
Not all search engines are the same and they will all return different results. You might try out a meta-search engine, which will search several engines at once, to get a sense of which engines will be most useful for your specific search. Some good meta-search sites are Search.com, Surfwax.com, ixquick.com, dogpile.com, and highway61.com (the most humorous of the bunch). See the UC Berkeley Library's tutorial on meta-searching for more information about meta-search engines and a list of their rankings.

5) Look under the Hood and Customize Your Engine
Not many people know that most of the major search engines not only explain how they find results but offer users an opportunity to customize the way those results are returned. At Google, for example, you can click the link for Advanced Search to customize or read All about Google to get help in using their engine most effectively for your purposes.

6) Search Smart for Images and Games
If you are looking for images on the web, a good place to start is Google's Image Search. But there are other ways to search using any engine - you just have to learn to think like a webmaster to find what you want. When looking for images, it's best to remember that the two most common image file formats on the web are .jpg (for photos generally) and .gif (for graphics). Entering a search term along with either ".jpg" or ".gif" will return pages that match your term and contain images. For example, try Fischer+Spassky+.jpg at Google, and you will be able to track down images associated with the famous Fischer-Spassky match of 1972. To find games from that match, you can try searching using the most common game file formats, PGN or CB. For example, try Fischer+Spassky+PGN at Google. One good tool for finding royalty free stock images is Foto-search.

7) Look into the Archive for Lost Sites
Remember that if it was ever on the web it is still on the web. That might be an embarrassing truth if you have ever posted a stupid message in a forum or put up a childish site as a kid. But it is great to know if you are looking for those long-lost web articles that seem to have disappeared. It especially helps if you have the old URL (web address) of the site in question, since you can plug that right into the Internet Archive's Way Back Machine and travel back in time. The Internet Archive cannot bring back Club Kasparov, unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions I would guess. But most any other site that was out there is still out there for the searching. The Archive also has a Special Collections area and will soon be able to allow keyword searches. When searching with Google for more recently vanished sites, you can always try Google's "Cached" feature that gives you the site as it appeared when Google's web crawlers last found and listed it.

Tutorials and Advice on Searching Smart on the Web

Chess Pages - Free Chess
Beware that these pages take a while to load at first (likely due to very slow off-site tracking software). The idea is to provide tutorials on how best to use the net for chess for complete beginners. Could be very helpful for its intended audience.

Search Engine Watch Tips
These tips from searchenginewatch.com help you to think like a search engine engineer so you can make better use of the top search tools.

Pandia Search Central
Offers great tutorials on using the web efficiently to find what you want.

Search Engine Showdown
A "users' guide to web searching" from Montana State University does a great job of describing the various search engines out there and offering advice on how to use them effectively..

Learn the Net (English language version)
Now owned by About.com and therefore less usable and more commercial, this site nonetheless offers excellent tips and advice for beginners on searching and using the web. Use the navigation bar on the left of the page (under "How To") to reach the content and avoid the more prominent links to paid advertisers displayed on each page.

Updated 05.31.2005 | Contact Michael Goeller