Chess Software Buying Guide
Chess Tactics Software
by Steve Lopez
2. Study Chess Tactics
Ask almost any strong chess player (not just Larry Evans) for advice on how a beginning to intermediate chess player can improve and most of them will tell you the same thing: study chess tactics. Successful chess plays depends a lot on pattern recognition - seeing a position and recognizing it as being similar to one you've seen before - and solving tactical chess puzzles is a great way to strengthen your pattern recognition skills. And being able to identify and use tactical motifs (pins, forks, x-ray attacks, promotions, etc.) is what separates the proverbial "men from the boys" in competitive chess. Learning and studying chess tactics is key in becoming a successful chess player.
Chess Tactics For Beginners:
You have to learn to crawl before you can walk, and a good way to do this is by solving tactical problems. The best starting point is The Great ABC of Tactics, which contains thousands of tactical exercises for you to solve. The exercises are categorized into groups according to various tactical themes. When you load an exercise in the ChessBase interface, you'll see a training box appear which gives you a set amount of time in which to solve the exercise. The training box also provides hints when you ask for them. The quicker you solve the problem, the more points you receive (you might even score higher than 100% - bonus points for quickly providing the right answer). Points are deducted for asking for hints or for taking too long to arrive at the solution. When you think you have the answer, you just make the move on the screen's chessboard. If you're right you'll see your point score for that problem. If you're wrong the training box will tell you to try again. There's no "instructional" material on the CD; it's all exercises, so you'll "learn by doing".
Another good chess training software CD for beginners is ABC of Middlegames, which provides a good introduction to positional chess by showing the close bond between chess strategy and chess tactics (tactical opportunities often arise from sound strategic play). You'll want to tackle ABC of Middlegames after you've completed the Intensive Course Tactics disk; the tactical problems will give you a good foundation for understanding the ideas on the ABCs disk.
Chess Tactics For Intermediates:
Your next step in tactics study should be Killer Moves, composed by the same author as Intensive Course Tactics. It's more of the same, but geared mainly toward intermediate to advanced players - the problems are harder. This disk also contains minimal text instruction; it's a lot of tactics drill, with over 1,600 tactics problems appearing on the disk.
After Killer Moves you should move on to Deadly Threats (also by the same author). Here again you get tons of tactics problems (more than 2,500 of them) with a single purpose in mind: honing your tactical abilities by creating threats (which, in turn, set up your tactical possibilities). Deadly Threats isn't about spotting existing tactical opportunities - it's about creating them, so it's a bit more advanced than the previously-mentioned tactical drill disks.
Finally (as far as straight tactics goes) there's the disk School of Elementary Tactics. Players are often misled by the title, thinking that it's a CD geared toward beginners. It's not; in fact I would never recommend this disk to a beginner. The title refers to the act of breaking tactics down into their component elements (hence the use of the term "elementary" in the disk's title). There's a lot of text instruction on the CD as well as tactical drill material. You might want to tackle this CD before you do Deadly Threats (the ideas of the CDs are much the same) or even do both of them concurrently, since the material is related.
Chess Tactics For Advanced Players:
Here I'll make similar recommendations to those I made for Intermediates. If you're after tactical drills, I'd recommend Killer Moves and Deadly Threats; both CDs contains "Advanced" sections geared toward more skilled players. Some of the problems on these CDs are even challenging to Grandmasters.
You can check the Chess Middlegame Training page for a look at the chess tactics software available from ChessCentral.
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Â© 2005, Steven A. Lopez and ChessCentral. All rights reserved.