Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chess Program: Intensive Course Tactics 1

I wonder how the great chess masters of the past got their high levels of proficiency. It isn't that their skills are duller than what we see nowadays. Say, a three-move combination looks as good now as it did back then. So how did they train? How did the Morphys and Alekhines got to be so good? Having not researched the question, I can give no definite answer, but we can be sure that they had a harder time than we have now. You see, if they wanted to find a certain game, I feel pretty sure that they had at least to go to their local library, or perhaps send letters around to see if someone had the game or book they were looking for; all with large amounts of wasted time. Practice, practice, practice must have been a pivotal piece to improve their natural abilities, whatever those might have been. Now then, we don't have to go the same way as they did, do we? The goal is still the same, but we have now the benefit of over two centuries of accumulated chess to draw upon and, best of all, the miracle of personal computers.

I'll discuss more of chess tactics in future posts, but for now let's assume they are of high importance. If you want to get better at chess, you'd better have more than a good feel for tactics. The easiest way to improve in them is to solve chess puzzles (another, may be playing lots of blitz games) and for that you need to get hold of a collection of such puzzles.

Intensive Course Tactics I by George Renko for Chessbase is such a collection. It holds over 4000 tactical exercises divided  in 104 themes. Each theme illustrates a tactical motif. The themes themselves are grouped into two parts:  1) direct methods, where the tactical motifs work directly such as a fork, pin, entrapment or skewer; and 2) support methods, where you have to prepare the position first to enable a direct method tactic, such as by interference, deflection, or decoy. The first few examples of each category illustrate the motif. Those positions that follow, typically in the dozens, are for you to solve.

On CbLight 2009

Solving relies on the Chessbase training feature, where you are given a certain amount of time and a par score for each correct move. More time and points are granted for more difficult problems. If you cannot solve the current problem correctly on the first try, you're given the opportunity to try again or to see the solution. Or, if you wish to verify or have an idea of your own you can fire up a chess engine and see what it has to say. There are some groups of exercises where all the previous motifs are mixed. In these  you're not given any hint as to what is the tactical motif. I use these separate exercises to verify my progress because these are closer to actual gameplay.

Included reader

The course has very little text, and that is a good thing because it is focused on solving. When relevant, you are given variants and symbolic evaluations. On some positions there are even graphical notations such as arrows and highlighted squares. 

To go through the exercises you do not need to have a previous Chessbase product such as the database program or Fritz, but I would recommend you do. There is an included Windows reader, but looks like something from circa 1998.

The only other downside that I can find is that the positions do not allow for alternate solutions. If you do not give Renko's intended move, you get no points, even if your solution is equal or better. My guess is that there are about 200 of these positions scattered around the course.

Rating-wise, I would recommend this to players rated 1300-2000, but higher non-titled players can also benefit.

If you can find it, it costs about $25. Highly recommended.

PS In case you master the material in this course, there are three further discs by the same author. Intensive Course Tactics 2, deals with forcing moves. Killer Moves explores multipurpose moves. Deadly Threats, looks at quiet, non-forcing moves.


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