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Chess Strategy or Chess Tactics - Which is More Important?
Chess Software for Chess Training

Chess Strategy or Chess Tactics:
Which is More Important?

By Irina Mikhailova, WGM

"Combination is the soul of chess" - Alexander Alekhine (1935)

When coming to the computer class, the kids would often ask me: "Which is more important in chess, strategy or tactics?" It is well known that strategy answers the question "What to do?", and tactics answers the question "How to do it?" A chess player must answer both questions during each phase of a chess game.

The German GM R. Teichmann, being "one of the most subtle positional players" according to J. R. Capablanca, noted once: "Chess is 90 per cent tactics".

A well known paradox which has been proven in practice many times: "It is not enough to make forty perfect moves to win a game, and a single bad one suffices for defeat."

After eight years of work in the computer class of the T.V. Petrosian Chess Club, I have accumulated some practical experience of teaching this most complex component of the chess game.

Since computers became available for pupils, the basic program for enhancing the sporting aspect of chess has been CT-ART developed by GM M. Blokh. It still does not have a decent matching rival. Currently a new version of the CT-ART program is available which includes more than 1,200 main learning combinations to solve and about 1,000 auxiliary combinations. It is the perfect piece of software to start improving anyone's tactical skills because the complexity of the tasks steadily grows - from very easy right up to master level. We appreciate the "move by move" basic principle of this program. It is especially appropriate because it provides a model of a real-time chess game, although in practice has shown that the pupils sometimes fail to use it in the most efficient way. Perhaps it is some peculiarity of the human psychic that prevents us from prolonged thinking when looking at the monitor. Very often the learning tasks are being solved "by eye". One should fight this tendency and work in the training sessions as intensely as if it was a real game! The ideas, concrete methods and combinations re-occur repeatedly, and one should study them vigorously.

Methodical Recommendations for Using CT-ART in Chess Training

1. Learning sessions take place every day except the tournament days. I agree with Pavel Lobach, a known Russian trainer that "solving the combinations daily must become a regular part of a daily sporting routine for a chess player, the same as food and sleep"; I always insist that my pupils followed this rule.

2. Duration of the session should be 60 minutes or more. On the first lesson, I formed a database of pupils with ELO rating. Those ones with no rating underwent an ELO-test. Thus, the approximate level of each pupil was established. In my group the ELO evaluations varied from 2000 to 2200. Then the packets of homework tasks were compiled for each pupil's starting playing level, one for each week of a 2-year preparation period to attempt to achieve an IM norm.

Here the approximate workload is given for the master candidates (in 2000) and the following became IMs: Gabrielian, Yevelev, and Kurenkov.

1st Month of Chess Training

Day Week 1 Week 2
Mon CT-ART user basics Chapter/Techniques Distraction, test (ELO 2000 and higher) 20 positions
Tue Chapter/Techniques Annihilation of defense practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 13 positions Chapter/Techniques Decoy, practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 20 positions
Wed Chapter/Techniques Annihilation of defense, practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 13 positions Chapter/Techniques Annihilation of defense, test (ELO 2000 and higher) 26 positions, queenside
Th Chapter/Techniques Distraction, practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 22 positions Chapter/Techniques Decoy, practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 20 positions
Fri Chapter/Techniques Distraction, practice (ELO 2000 and higher), 22 positions Chapter/Techniques Distraction, test (ELO 2000 and higher), 20 positions, Alternation of flanks
Sat Chapter/Techniques Annihilation of defense, practice (ELO 2000 and higher), 21 positions Chapter/Techniques Decoy, practice (ELO 2000 and higher), 20 positions
Sun Chapter/Techniques Annihilation of defense, test (ELO 2000 and higher), 26 positions Chapter/Techniques Decoy, test (ELO 2000 and higher), 30 positions

Day Week 4 Week 3
Mon Chapter/Techniques Space clearance test (ELO 2000 and higher) 23 positions Chapter/Techniques Decoy, test( ELO 2000 and higher) 30 new positions, Alternation of flanks
Tue Chapter/Techniques Space clearance test (ELO 2000 and higher) 23 positions Black to move Chapter/Techniques Open attack, practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 15 positions
Wed Chapter/Techniques Opening of a file, test (ELO 2000 and higher), 29 positions, queenside Chapter/Techniques Open attack, practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 15 new positions
Th Chapter/Techniques X-ray attack practice (ELO 2000 and higher) 8 positions Chapter/Techniques Open attack, test (ELO 2000 and higher), 30 positions queenside
Fri Chapter/Techniques X-ray attack test (ELO 2000 and higher), 8 positions queenside Chapter/Techniques Opening of a file, practice of defense, test (ELO 2000 and higher) 14 positions
Sat Chapter/Techniques Space clearance, test (ELO 2000 and higher) 23 positions, White to move Chapter/Techniques Opening of a file, practice, test (ELO 2000 and higher), 15 positions
Sun Chapter/Techniques Interception, practice (ELO 2000 and higher), 13 positions Chapter/Techniques Opening of a file, test (ELO 2000 and higher), 29 positions

Thus, during a month (28 training sessions), the pupils solved 244 positions for players with ELO 2000 and above in two modes - test and practice mode. They solved these positions during their club sessions as well as at home.

During the following two months they solved 352 positions more (ELO 2000 and above) in both test and practice mode. When compiling the packets of training tests, it is necessary to remember that the workload is individually defined and may vary depending on the speed of solving; the complexity of a test position must correspond to a pupil's level. During roughly 80 days these pupils solved 596 positions of high complexity.

Naturally, a coach (me in this case!) may not attend all the sessions, controlling and directing the training process once a week instead.

3. A famous chess coach Mark Dvoretsky considers the tactical skill of a chess player to include two main components - the combinative vision and the calculating technique. In his opinion, in order to develop one's chess imagination one should solve tasks aimed at finding (not calculating out!) a correct tactical idea. Being a practitioner, I was very pleased to find such an important section as Combinational motifs in the CT-ART 3.0 program. When the players began to solve positions from the Combinational motifs section the number correctly solved increased sharply, this is because many of them had been solved previously. Naturally, to facilitate a variety in the training material there are subtle differences in the positions such as: changing who's turn to move and/or the flanks and colors of pieces.

One month was dedicated to solving positions from the Combinational motifs section.

4. Then we started training calculating ability using the Task mode in all 9 levels of complexity.

It is important to remember a "golden" rule when calculating variations: in any position, you should first see if there are any checks, then any captures and if they work or not, - then calculate the threats. We call it "checks - captures - threats". During this period we studied over 600 new positions. The training package resembled the one from the first month of training. Solving new positions and recurring to the old ones took approximately 2 months. The speed of solving increased almost twofold in this phase.

5. A control test was regularly conducted, every six months, being performed in Task mode on a complexity level 50 and above.

Since my pupils were quite experienced, the control test was conducted in the chaotic mode. The control test took 4 hours.

Testing Results on Intermediate Stages of Chess Training

CT-ART 3.0

Starting ELO rating

Resulting ELO rating

stage I

stage II

stage III

stage IV

Yevelev V.

2220

2433

60

75

85

90

Kurenkov N.

2210

2401

65

70

80

90

Gabrielian A.

2330

2447

75

80

90

95

When performing the tests, the players calculated and manually recorded variations for all the candidate moves. Thus the entire process of calculation was recorded. This helped me greatly in my later work with these pupils.

6. After all the problems in the program had been done the number of positions solved per hour doubled.

Already after the first training stage (6 months), blunders became rare, the quality of calculation improved and the pupils acquired confidence in their decisions. Working with the CT-ART program brought perfect results for my pupils Vladimir Yevelev, Arthur Gabrielian and others, all now International Masters.

You can check out CT ART here


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