15 April 2012

Training Log: Taxing Efforts

My continuing tactics training consists of daily exercises using one or more of four electronic resources: Chess.com Tactics Trainer, Shredder iPad app, Chess Tempo, and Chess Informant electronic publications. The Shredder problems are the easiest, but must be solved fast for full credit. Chess Tempo and Chess.com offer rated problem solving. The difficulty of each problem varies, and is determined by the problem's rating. Each problem's rating drops part of a point each time it is successfully solved, and increases when any user of the site fails in the solving effort.

CT offers many solving modes. I use "Standard" where problems are untimed.  CT presents me with problems that range from slightly higher to several hundred below my own current rating. The Chess.com TT has only one rated solving mode. I am not presented with problems 200 points below my present rating. Some problems must be solved quickly, while others allow several minutes. The score is determined by solving time and number of correct moves. Some problems require a single move, while others may require nine or more for the solution to be considered correct.

Chess Informant Expert software allows me to read all volumes of Chess Informant. clicking on a diagram in Combinations, Endgames, Problems, Excellent Moves, or several others opens a solving window. I also use a software application called Chess Informant Solver's Kit to access problems in the Anthology of Chess Combinations. This software is part of the package on the Anthology CD. The Anthology contains many of the most important combinations in the history of chess. The level of difficulty is generally higher than those in the rated solving modes of other resources.

My Monday morning session with Chess.com's Tactics Trainer was frustrating. I attempted fourteen problems, correctly solving half. The electronic environment seems to have undue influence on my board vision. When I do TT on my iPad, the Board is a good size and stable. When I do it on my notebook computer, part of the board is obscure at the bottom of the screen until I adjust with the browser scroll feature. I must make this adjustment at the beginning of each new problem. In contrast, at Chess Tempo, I need only make such an adjustment once at the start of each session.

My longest training session was Tuesday with Chess Tempo (49 problems), but I continued to use several resources. Most days, I solve a few tactics problems first thing in the morning after making coffee, or even while it steeps in the Bodum Press. The convenience of several excellent chess apps for the iPad makes it possible to solve a few chess problems any time that I am in a position of waiting for something else, or during television commercial breaks for my favorite crime dramas (NCIS, Criminal Minds).

On Saturday, my stubbornness led to an initial struggle with psychological nonsense giving way to a marathon session that seemed counterproductive.

Cumulative Totals

Chess.com (14 problems)

Chess Tempo (312 problems)
Problems Done: 543 (Correct: 325 Failed: 218)
Percentage correct: 59.85%

Shredder (22 problems)

1591 puzzles: 12459/15910 points 78%
last 10 puzzles: 77/100 77%


  1. As a follow up on the Ipad apps:

    I purchased the Hiarcs Ipad app and am very pleased! I like the opening book features and coach features. (kind of nice when playing through a game in a book)

    And unlike Shredder or Chess Tiger, it has the ability to play TIMED, rated games against the engine set at various ratings. Chess Tiger or Shredder do not have BOTH! I wish Shredder would make timed games. That is the only weakness I see in that app.

    Do you know a good FICS client for the Ipad?

    Oh and I love the Anthology of Chess Combinations, the only thing is that it seems a little above my tactical pay grade at the moment. :) Someday!

    1. Chess-Wise is a nice iPad app, and it can connect to FICS.

  2. Tommyg, How good does Hiarcs mimic the erratic play of humble improvers?

    1. If you set it low enough, it will drop a piece.

    2. It is amazing how bad engines are at playin bad chess. Random King moves et al are just too frustrating

  3. James do you have your difficulty set to hard on Chess Tempo? Soon after I did that I started getting problems in the 2100-2250 range and surprisingly I was able to solve them more often then not to boost my rating over the 2000 mark. At the very least it avoids those pesky 1600 problems that appear much more complicated then they are. What's your rating on CT? Also do you study anything besides tactics? I'm reading Botvinnik's 100 Selected Games and I think it's just fantastic, albeit his games are SO much different Tarrasch's (the last master I studied).

    Are the Chess.com problems from games/pretty natural? I find some of the CT problems very computer(y). lol.

    1. Yes, my difficulty is set to hard. I agree that some of the problems are "computery". As I explain in "Dealing with Frustration", I find my current tactics rating at Chess Tempo embarrassing. I'll pass on sharing it for the moment. Suffice it to say that it is well below my USCF rating.

      Both Chess.com and Chess Tempo use computer analysis to choose the problems. Both use Glicko ratings to determine the ratings of problems, which change as solved, and of users. Chess.com gives partial credit: you can get the problem wrong, but still gain rating points when you've solved 5 of 6 moves in the sequence, for instance.

      I suspect that it is important to balance use of such electronic training with books, even books that have been converted to a software format as in the case of electronic edition Chess Informants.