Whilst I’m a great believer in getting a chess set out and moving the pieces around a database program can be a really useful tool for improving your chess. In the bad old days we used to have to collect games we were interested in from various books, for example by photocopying the appropriate page. And before the advent of the photocopier you’d have to subscribe to Schach Archiv and/or stay up to date with your Informators if you wanted to be a ‘theoretician’. Some time before the advent of computer databases David Bronstein even advised me to buy TWO copies of every Informator to cut out the games and thus construct my own card index file. This would have been very professional in those days!
Of course databases put an end to all that, but which one should you choose? Well a simple and free database program is Scid which has some engines you can run in the background plus various other functions. It’s quite basic and the interface is hardly beautiful but it does the job and seems very economical on system resources. If I didn’t have various editions of Chessbase (not to mention familiarity with how to use it) I’d might well have become a major Scid user myself. For other peoples’ views on this there’s an interesting discussion here.
Another option is to use Chess Assistant Light which you can download from here. I used to be an avid Chess Assistant user in the early days of versions 1 and 2 which operated within an MS Dos environment. But I didn’t get on so well with its Windows descendants and found myself moving towards Chessbase after experimenting with the two.
There are a couple of online databases though I’ve found them to be either unresponsive (probably because of overuse) or out of date. So I don’t particularly recommend any at this time.
Anyway, here’s a demo video for Chessbase 11 for those who are unfamiliar with the database World: