Inserting millions of rows in an SQLite database, Python is too slow


For my chess engine I use statistics to choose optimal moves. I collected them from millions of games. I’m interested in the current move, the next move and how much times the next move was played given the current move.

For using a Python dictionary and storing it with pickle the file is too large, and hard to update with new games. So I decided to use SQLite.

I created a class MovesDatabase:

class MovesDatabase:

def __init__(self, work_dir):
    self.con = sqlite3.connect(os.path.join(work_dir, "moves.db"))
    self.con.execute('PRAGMA temp_store = MEMORY')
    self.con.execute('PRAGMA synchronous = NORMAL')
    self.con.execute('PRAGMA journal_mode = WAL')
    self.cur = self.con.cursor()

    self.cur.execute("CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS moves("
                     "move TEXT,"
                     "next TEXT,"
                     "count INTEGER DEFAULT 1);")

move and next represent the state of a chess board in a string format: FEN. Example:

  • rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR
  • r1b1k1nr/p2p1pNp/n2B4/1p1NP2P/6P1/3P1Q2/P1P1K3/q5b1
  • 8/8/8/4p1K1/2k1P3/8/8/8 b

The method below is responsible for taking a games file, extracting the moves and inserting if the couple (move, next) is new, or updating if (move, next) already exist in the database:

def insert_moves_from_file(self, file: str):
    print("Extracting moves to database from " + file)

    count = 0

    with open(file) as games_file:
        game = chess.pgn.read_game(games_file)

        while game is not None:
            batch = []
            board = game.board()
            state_one = board.fen().split(' ')[0] + ' ' + board.fen().split(' ')[1]

            for move in game.mainline_moves():
                fen = board.fen().split(' ')
                state_two = fen[0] + ' ' + fen[1]

                res = self.cur.execute("SELECT * FROM moves WHERE move=? AND next=?",
                                       (state_one, state_two))
                res = res.fetchall()

                if len(res) != 0:
                    self.cur.execute("UPDATE moves SET count=count+1 WHERE move=? AND next=?",
                                     (state_one, state_two))
                    batch.append((state_one, state_two))

                state_one = state_two

            self.cur.executemany("INSERT INTO moves(move, next) VALUES"
                                 "(?, ?)", batch)
            count += 1
            print('r' "%d games was add to the database.." % (count + 1), end='')
            game = chess.pgn.read_game(games_file)

    print("n Finished!")

The couple (move, next) is unique.

I tested with a file containing approximately 4 million (move, next). It started inserting/updating 3.000 rows/s, but with 50K rows it slows down to 100 rows/s and keeps going down. I designed this method to process multiple game files, that’s why I choose an SQL database in the first place.

Asked By: Luke Wardford



It’s not INSERTing that’s slow here.

Your move and next columns aren’t indexed, so any SELECT or UPDATE involving those columns requires a full table scan.

If (move, next) is always unique, you’ll want to add an UNIQUE index on that. It will also automagically make the queries that query for move/next pairs faster (but not necessarily those that query for only one of those two columns).

To create that index on your existing table,

CREATE UNIQUE INDEX ix_move_next ON moves (move, next);

Finally, once you have that index in place, you can get rid of the whole SELECT/UPDATE thing too with an upsert:

INSERT INTO moves (move, next) VALUES (?, ?) ON CONFLICT (move, next) DO UPDATE SET count = count + 1;

Here’s a slight refactoring that achieves about 6200 moves/second inserted on my machine. (It requires the tqdm library for a nice progress bar, and a pgns/ directory with PGN files.)

import glob
import sqlite3
import chess.pgn
import tqdm
from chess import WHITE

def board_to_state(board):
    # These were extracted from the implementation of `board.fen()`
    # so as to avoid doing extra work we don't need.
    bfen = board.board_fen(promoted=False)
    turn = ("w" if board.turn == WHITE else "b")
    return f'{bfen} {turn}'

def insert_game(cur, game):
    batch = []
    board = game.board()
    state_one = board_to_state(board)
    for move in game.mainline_moves():
        state_two = board_to_state(board)
        batch.append((state_one, state_two))
        state_one = state_two
    cur.executemany("INSERT INTO moves (move, next) VALUES (?, ?) ON CONFLICT (move, next) DO UPDATE SET count = count + 1", batch)
    n_moves = len(batch)
    return n_moves

def main():
    con = sqlite3.connect("moves.db")
    con.execute('PRAGMA temp_store = MEMORY')
    con.execute('PRAGMA synchronous = NORMAL')
    con.execute('PRAGMA journal_mode = WAL')
    con.execute('CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS moves(move TEXT,next TEXT,count INTEGER DEFAULT 1);')
    con.execute('CREATE UNIQUE INDEX IF NOT EXISTS ix_move_next ON moves (move, next);')

    cur = con.cursor()

    for pgn_file in sorted(glob.glob("pgns/*.pgn")):
        with open(pgn_file) as games_file:
            n_games = 0
            with tqdm.tqdm(desc=pgn_file, unit="moves") as pbar:
                while (game := chess.pgn.read_game(games_file)):
                    n_moves = insert_game(cur, game)
                    n_games += 1
                    pbar.set_description(f"{pgn_file} ({n_games} games)", refresh=False)

if __name__ == '__main__':
Answered By: AKX
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