How to Access CBH, CBV and PGN Files

If you’re new to chess, in your downloading, you may often come across strange file types such as CBH and PGN. These are chess game files which can be viewed on specific chess programs. CBH, CBV and PGN are the three most common file types (the first two are highly associated), although some other programs such as Aquarium or Scid also create their own file types.

Portable Game Notation

Portable Game Notation (PGN) is a universal chess database format which is probably the most popular format available. It can be accessed on basically any major chess software.


These files types are created by the ChessBase family of products (including Fritz). Since ChessBase is the leading producer of quality chess software, you will encounter these files very regularly if you’re into downloading chess databases/games.

I recommend that most chess players purchase a Fritz GUI product such as Fritz itself or Shredder, Rybka, etc. This is probably the most widely used chess software in the world. When I started playing chess, I had to learn how to use this software through trial and error. Thankfully, throughout the last few years, the developers have tried hard to make the interface as intuitive as possible for new players.

If somehow you’re absolutely out of money or you’re not serious enough about chess in order to spend money on it, there are several free options:

ChessBase Light

ChessBase Light is a free program which allows you to view CBH, CBV and PGN files up to 32,000 games per database. It has a highly attractive interface and also has the capability to connect to the commercial chess server. However, ChessBase Light can only view games and doesn’t have the ability to edit or annotate them.

Fritz 5.32

Fritz 5.32 is a very old version of Fritz which has been released as free software. This is a gem of a download for freeware aficionados. As far as I know, it works fine on Windows XP and Windows Vista (the latter must be used in “compatibility mode”). I haven’t tested it for Windows 7 or 8.

This version of Fritz can handle your ChessBase and PGN formats easily. It has a clear advantage over ChessBase Light in that you can annotate and edit games/databases, even with Fritz giving evaluations in the background.

I talk about these two free programs in greater depth in my “free chess programs” article.

Free chess databases and annotated games

If you’re looking for free chess databases and databases of annotated games, please see the earlier article I wrote on them.

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