28 February 2013

Training Log: February 2013

I posted my chess improvement resolutions for 2013 on the last day of 2012. In February, I progressed well in my tactics objective, and made some progress on the other resolutions as well.

1. In 2013, I will solve correctly 300 tactics problems each month.

I met this goal in two weeks. Solving tactics every day made 300 correct an easy goal. I solved over 250 on Chess Quest, which I started using the second week of the month. See my review "Chess Tactics Training on the iPad." Beginning use of this app has slowed my use of Chessimo, where my average per problem is under ten seconds. Although I have solved over 2300 problems on Chessimo, I count towards the month's total only those probems solved six times.

Lev Alburt came off the desk, briefly. I solved six problems.

I finished my second run through the puzzles in Shredder's iPad in January, but my pace through the third cycle is too slow to meet: "the third cycle will be completed in 2013 with the goal of 80%+ score." I finished the 300 exercises in Chess-wise Pro, and reset the program for the second pass.

My web-based training (Chess Tempo and Chess.com) remains light. My pace through the Anthology of Chess Combinations is not a source of pride.

2. In 2013, I will study whole games and whole books.

I continue with a disappointing slow pace through Logical Chess: Move by Move, but it is not my sole source for whole games. After struggling with one combination in the Anthology, I spent some time studying the whole game: Polugaevsky -- Nezhmetdinov (1958). The combination was also featured in a YouTube video that I watched: "Nezhmetdinov Chess Biography, part 3."

I count my February progress on this second resolution adequate.

3. In 2013, I will finish my Pawn Endgame Flash Card project.

I am continuing to use these flash cards in elementary classrooms while teaching beginners chess, and some of the positions came up in the first endgame lesson that I completed in Chessimo. Nonetheless, progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and mastering the blue diagram positions must be rated substandard.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

Not at this rate, I will not. I have added Wii boxing back into my exercise regime. As the whether improves with winter becoming spring, and my wife's broken leg heals, my time on the Spokane River Centennial Trail with my puppies will increase and the weight will come off.

When I walk one puppy, the other sits at home and howls.

27 February 2013

Lesson of the Week

This week's key position was reached by Siegbert Tarrasch when he was a young man.

Tarrasch,Siegbert - Mendelsohn,Jozsef [C80]
Breslau, 1879

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Ne7 9.Re1 Be6 10.Ng5 Nxg5 11.Bxg5 h6 12.Bf6 c5 13.c3 c4 14.Bc2 gxf6 15.exf6 Ng8 16.Qh5 Qb6 17.Qxd5 Rd8 18.Qf3 h5 19.Bf5 Rd7 20.a4 b4 21.a5 Qd8

White to move

22.Rxe6+ fxe6

My computer played 22...Be7 23.Rxe7+

(less good, but still winning is 23.Re1 Nxf6 24.Bxd7+ Nxd7 25.Nd2 Rh6 26.Nxc4 Kf8 27.Rad1+-)

23...Kf8 24.Rxd7 Qxf6 25.Nd2 Nh6 26.Be4 Qe6 27.Rd8+ Kg7 28.Rxh8 Kxh8 29.Qxh5+-

23.Bg6+ Rf7 24.Qc6+ Qd7 25.Qa8+ Qd8 26.Bxf7+ Kd7 27.Bxe6+ Kc7 28.Qa7+ Kc6 29.Qxa6+ Kc5 30.Qxc4+ Kd6 31.Qd4+ Kc7 32.Qb6# 1–0

The students also worked through Beginning Tactics 15

25 February 2013

Cramping the Stonewall Dutch

My first effort to play an anti-Stonewall system against Jeremy Krasin was successful. Last July I played a variant of the Staunton Gambit, winning the game and the event. Yesterday, I did not have time to prepare beforehand and decided not to try the Staunton Gambit a second time. It was a useful surprise weapon last July, but Jeremy would be better prepared this time.

I started the game with a simple plan to employ a slightly uncommon move order in hopes of denying him the comfortable position that he sought. Then, over the board, I concocted a plan to cramp his game. IM John Donaldson told me after the game that he thought I had a nice position.

Stripes,James (1949) -- Krasin,Jeremy (1904) [A85]
Collyer Memorial Spokane (4), 24.02.2013

1.Nf3 f5 2.d4 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.c4 Be7 5.Nc3 c6

White to move

The strongest players who have reached this position had a long draw:

5...0–0 6.e3 b6 7.Bd3 Bb7 8.0–0 Nc6 9.Rc1 h6 10.Bh4 Ne4 11.Bxe7 Nxe7 12.Bxe4 fxe4 13.Nd2 d5 14.Qg4 Rf6 15.Ne2 Qd6 16.Qg3 Qxg3 17.hxg3 c6 18.b4 Nf5 19.a4 Nd6 20.c5 Nf7 21.b5 e5 22.Nb3 Rb8 23.Rc2 Bc8 24.Nc3 Bd7 25.Rd1 Re6 26.Rdc1 Ree8 27.cxb6 axb6 28.bxc6 Bxc6 29.dxe5 Nxe5 30.Nd4 Bb7 31.Ncb5 Nc4 32.Rc3 Rbc8 33.Rb1 Ba6 34.Na3 Nd2 35.Rxc8 Rxc8 36.Rxb6 Rc1+ 37.Kh2 Bd3 38.Rb2 Nc4 39.Rb8+ Kh7 40.Nab5 Ne5 41.g4 Nxg4+ 42.Kg3 Nf6 43.Nd6 Rh1 44.Ne6 Kg6 45.Nf4+ Kh7 46.Rf8 Bf1 47.a5 h5 48.Nf5 Bb5 49.Rf7 h4+ 50.Nxh4 Kg8 51.Rb7 g5 52.Nf5 gxf4+ 53.Kxf4 Bc4 54.Rb6 Kf7 55.a6 Nd7 56.Rc6 Ra1 57.Nd6+ Ke7 58.Nxc4 dxc4 59.Rxc4 Rxa6 60.Rxe4+ Kf7 61.g4 Nc5 62.Rc4 Ra4 63.Rxa4 Nxa4 64.Kf5 Nb2 65.f4 Nc4 66.e4 Ne3+ 67.Kg5 Ke6 68.f5+ Ke5 69.f6 Nxg4 ½–½ Nogueiras Santiago,J (2575) -- Jussupow,A (2610) Rotterdam 1989

6.c5 Nd5N

The two other games that reaced the position after my 6.c5 were between players with ratings close to those of Jeremy and I (mere patzers).

7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.Qc2 b6 9.Nxd5 exd5

White to move


I thought about 10.Qxf5, which might have led to 10...bxc5 11.Qh5+ g6 12.Qe5 Qxe5 13.dxe5, but something in Black's mass of center pawns looked menacing to me. Besides, I thought that I could keep Black severely cramped.

10...0–0 11.g3

This move was part of a long-term plan to render Black's light-squared bishop an impotent piece. This plan failed in the end. Maybe 11.e3 was sensible.

11...Ba6 12.Rb1

Perhaps 12.Ne5 was better here.


Black's position is cramped, but his bishop has a strong forward outpost. My idea that I could play around the light-squares controlled by this bishop was a risky decision.

White to move


13.Ne5 b5 14.Bg2 d6 15.Nxc4 bxc4 16.b5 may be equal. It is hard to find the correct equalizing moves while laboring under the belief that one has an advantage.

13...b5 14.Ne5?! Now, this natural looking move wastes time

14.Bh3 was better


Black has the advantage

15.bxa5 Rxa5

White to move


16.Bh3 was still better

16...Ra7 17.h4 d6 18.cxd6 Qxd6 19.Bg2

19.Nxc4 bxc4 20.Bh3 and Black has a clear advantage

19...Nd7 20.Nxd7 Qxd7–+ 21.0–0

Black to move


21...f4 was the correct move. My opponent mentioned it after the game as something that he had considered. Such a move is natural for one who plays the Dutch Defense.

22.Ra1 Qe7 23.Bf3 Ra3 24.Kg2 R8a4 25.Qf4 g6

Somehow Black has escaped the chains and used them to wrap up his would be captor.

White to move


26.Qb8+! Kg7 27.h5 Ra8!

27...Rxa2?? would be lead to 28.Rbxa2 Rxa2 29.Rxa2 Bxa2 30.Qa8 Bc4 31.Qxc6=

28.Qf4 and Black retains a clear advantage

26...Rxa2 27.Rbxa2 Rxa2

White to move

I was conscious when I played 25.Qf4 that my real target was the pawn on c6. When the critical position was reached, however, I lost sight of this goal and played the wrong sequence for my planned moves. I correctly assessed that my king was in the square of the b-pawn, but with a bishop guarding the promotion square, it was necessary to catch the pawn on b2.


28.Rxa2! Bxa2 29.Qb8+ Kg7 (29...Qf8? 30.Qb7 and White may have a slight advantage) 30.Qa8= winning the c-pawn with a fork.

28...Qf8 29.Qxf8+ Kxf8 30.Rxa2 Bxa2 31.hxg6 hxg6 32.Kf1 b4 33.Ke1 b3 0–1

This was my first loss in the Collyer Memorial since 2008, when I lost to an expert. I drew that expert in 2009, did not play in 2010 due to taking a high school team to state the same weekend, and in 2011 had to work Saturday and played only one game on Sunday. In 2012, I won all my games and placed second in the event.

In the final round, Krasin had Black against Donaldson. The International Master prevailed against his Dutch.

24 February 2013

Tactical Failure

My second game in the 2013 Collyer Memorial chess tournament was a series of missed opportunities. I built up a strong position, and failed to deliver the knockout blow. In the end, my opponent blundered in time pressure in a drawn ending (that it was a draw was not clear to us, but is confirmed by the six-piece tablebases).

Perhaps my readers can do better than I did in a series of critical positions. In each of the positions below, I played a suboptimal move.

White to move

White to move

White to move 

White to move

I stopped recording the game when my opponent and I were both down to two minutes. We reached this position.

Black to move

My opponent made the worst possible move.

23 February 2013

Blitz Tactics

This weekend is the 21st annual Dave Collyer Memorial chess tournament. IM John Donaldson is the top participant, and should win easily. As far as I know, there are no other masters and only one expert registered. It does appear, however, that half of the rest are A-Class players. Last year I was the twelfth seed and finished second in the event. My rating is much higher this year.

While I am taking care of business in the first two rounds, readers of this blog can entertain themselves through some easy blitz tactics from yesterday's warm-up games.

Black to move

I was Black and found the correct move.

Black to move

I was White and my opponent threw the game away in this position.

White to move

I was Black, and my opponent blundered with 43.Rxe5.

20 February 2013

Chernev's Errors

Irving Chernev explains every single move in thirty-three games in his classic text, Logical Chess: Move by Move (1957).* It seem reasonable to expect, therefore, that his comments would expose the errors in each decisive game. In game 18, however, Chernev finds no clear flaws in Black's play before stating after White's 19.b4, "White has a won game, strategically" (116). Errors must have been made. If the annotator cannot identify the errors that led to loss, then the annotator has failed.

Noteboom, Daniel -- Doesburgh, Gerrit [D51]
Logical Chess, Move by Move #18 Holland, 1931

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5

Black to move


What were the alternatives?

With modern database numbers, we know that 4...Be7 is more popular, and played twice as often as 4...Nbd7. Is one move better than the other? Chernev explains why the knight would be ill-placed on c6.
At d7 it supports the other knight and helps prepare the advance of the c-pawn to c5. The b8-knight must not move to c6, where it obstructs the c-pawn. The c-pawn must be free to advance and attack White's centre.Chernev, 112.
If d7 is the correct square for the knight, then moving it there immediately seems appropriate. Do we know the best square for the dark-squared bishop? It may go on d6, but nearly always goes to e7 when White posts a bishop on g5.

Chernev's comment offers a clue to Black's failure: c5 was never played, and as a consequence, Black's light-squared bishop was locked out of the game.


Because Black did not play 4...Be7, White might believe the d-pawn is vulnerable. Chernev explains the "trap" set by Black. The d-pawn is perfectly safe.

5...c6 6.a3

b4 was another possible square for the bishop, but now that square is removed from consideration. Reading Chernev's comments, one gets the impression that Black's move order is the most precise. Nonetheless, soon, he will be lost strategically.

6...Be7 7.Qc2

Black to move

White's 6.a3 and 7.Qc2 are relatively uncommon moves, and yet Black's position is becoming critical. He has made no errors, but soon his game will be lost.


Here, and here alone, Chernev suggests an alternative for Black.
Instead of passive kingside castling, Black should have tried for counterplay by 7...dxc4 8.Bxc4 e5!, which disputes control of the centre and helps clear a diagonal for the c8-bishop. (113)
Chernev's advice to not rush into castling without considering the needs of the position is sound. His recommended line was played in 1991 (many years after publication of the book) and White won in 59 moves. See Soppe -- Bauza, Argentina 1991.

A better alternative might be the immediate 7...e5. Korchnoi -- Hector, Malmo 1996 continued 8.dxe5 Nxe5 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.cxd5 cxd5 11.Bb5+ Nc6 12.Rd1 and perhaps here Black could castle, or secure the pawn with Be6. Hector played 12...a6 and Korchnoi maintained the initiative into the endgame.

Was castling the critical error in Noteboom -- Doesburgh?

8.Nf3 a6 9.Rd1 Re8 10.Bd3

Chernev offers a mini-treatise on the concept of development here.
With the entrance of this bishop, White's development is nearly complete. Notice that he plays no combinations of any sort, either to win material or to start an attack on the king, until most of his pieces are brought off the back rank and into play. It is only after these pieces are posted where they are most effective -- where they control the centre, enjoy their greatest mobility, and take possession of a good part of the important territory -- that White looks around for a combination, a stroke that will decide the game quickly. (113-14)
Black to move


Chernev finds no flaw in opening the d-file while White's rook eyes Black's queen along it. Rather, he points out a general principle in the Queen's Gambit: Black delays capturing the offered pawn until it gains a tempo. Castling early is a general principle, too, but Chernev found fault with that in this game. Here, perhaps, he might have guided the reader towards concrete analysis of the demands of the position.

Is 10...dxc4 a losing move? Perhaps not, but White's advantage is growing bit by bit, and this move does noting to resolve Black's looming problem: finding an ideal square for his light-squared bishop.

11.Bxc4 b5 12.Bd3

Chernev stresses that Black has gained a tempo by forcing White's bishop to move twice, and has gained a square for his light-squared bishop. He neglects to mention at this point in the game that if c6-c5 cannot be played, Black's bishop will be useless on b7.


12...c5 is impossible due to the discovered attack on the queen, as Chernev points out.

13.Bxf6 Nxf6

Chernev points out that capturing with the knight improves the mobility of Black's queen and light-squared bishop.


White, too, might have considered the concrete needs of the position before castling. Here, 14.Ne4 looks to be a stronger move.

14...Bb7 15.Ne4 Nxe4 16.Bxe4 f5 17.Bd3

Black to move

Chernev makes clear that Black must play c5 at some point, and he points out several moments when it was impossible due to tactics. Chernev did suggest the alternative move e5, which would have given Black's light-squared bishop mobility along the c8-h3 diagonal.

Chernev does not find Black's missed opportunity to play c5. Rather, he praises White's successful efforts to restrain this idea. Is Black's defense fundamentally flawed? Is this opening simply winning for White with precise play, including the relatively unusual moves 6.a3 and 7.Qc2?


17...Qd6 was Black's last chance to prepare c5. Chernev missed this opportunity. His only comment here: "Once again preparing the liberating pawn-push" (116).

Play might have continued 17...Qd6 18.Rc1 Rec8 19.b4 a5 when Black still cannot play c5, and White's pieces are better coordinated. Nonetheless, Black has some play.

18.Rc1 Rac8

Perhaps this rook was the wrong one. Both the a5 push and the c5 push offer Black some prospects of liberation.


Chernev notes, "White has a won game, strategically" (116).

19...Qd8 20.Ne5 a5

20...Bd6 or even Bf6 would be better here. Chernev mentions White's plan against Bf6.

White to move

Now White wins the game tactically.

21.Qb3 Bd6 22.Bxf5 Qf6 23.Bb1 Bxe5 24.dxe5 Qxe5 25.Rc5 a4 26.Qa2 Qd6 27.Qc2 Rcd8 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Bg6 Black resigns here. 1–0

Chernev's analysis guides the reader into his or her own analysis of the game. He offers clues to Black's failure. Although his analysis identifies one of three or four key positions where Black might have stayed in the game, his suggested improvements for Black's game leaves a player facing the Queen's Gambit without an adequate plan.

Is the Queen's Gambit simply winning for White? Chernev seems to lead his readers towards this conclusion.

*I am using the algebraic edition, first published in 1998.

18 February 2013

Lesson of the Week

Each week through the school year, I post my "lesson of the week" on this blog. I run chess clubs in several schools, teach chess classes for home school students, and teach beginning players in elementary school classrooms the rudiments of the game. There are many lessons that I use year after year, but I also create one new lesson each week. That lesson becomes part of the normal experience in each after school chess club. All of these lessons, going back to fall 2011, can be accessed by clicking on the "Problem of the Week" label at the bottom of this post, or in the index in the right column (scroll down).

This week's lesson concerns a quick loss that Siegbert Tarrasch suffered at the hands of a local chess master in his hometown of Breslau.

Tarrasch,Siegbert -- Riemann,Fritz [C67]
Breslau, 1879

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nf5 9.g4 Nh4 10.Nxh4 Bxh4 11.f4 Be7 12.f5 d5 13.f6 Bc5+ 14.Be3 Bxe3+ 15.Qxe3 gxf6 16.exf6+ Be6 17.Kh1 Rg8 18.g5 

Black to move

Riemann played 18...d4 and Tarrasch resigned.

Why did he resign? How was Black planning to finish the game?

During the school year 2012-2013, my weekly lessons have all come from the games of a small number of select players who were instrumental to the beginnings of strategic chess play slightly more than a century ago. From September to the end of October, lessons came from the games of Akiba Rubinstein. Rubinstein has been called, "the most brilliant" proponent of the Steinitz School (one name for the revolution in chess theory that began in the late-nineteenth century).

In November and December, lessons came from the games of Paul Morphy. Morphy was active in the 1850s before positional concepts (development was a key idea for the Steinitz School) were articulated. However, Morphy's play reveals that he understood these ideas that would be articulated by a later generation. Known for his brilliant attacks against the king, Morphy was able to achieve these victories because he routinely developed all of his pieces quickly.

From the beginning of January, lessons have come from the games of Siegbert Tarrasch, who articulated the concepts first set out by Steinitz (but practiced by Morphy). Tarrasch's Dreihundert Schachpartien (1896) translated as Three Hundred Chess Games (1999) has been one source for theses lessons. When Rubinstein was beginning to take a serious interest in chess as a youth, he studied Dreihundert Schachpartien. Several of Tarrasch's later victories are illustrative games in the classic text, Logical Chess: Move by Move (1957) by Irving Chernev. Some lessons have come from this book.

Ideally, lessons from these players could introduce young players to the elements of strategic thinking as well as honing their tactical vision. That is my hope. However, most of the young players overlook simple pins, forks, decoys, and skewers. In order to train beginning players in simple tactics, I have developed a series of worksheets featuring artificial positions with ten pieces or fewer. Some students struggle to finish these worksheets.

Beginning Tactics 14

Find the best move for White in each diagram.

15 February 2013

Evaluating the Future

Jeremy Silman calls it a fantasy position: imagine the pieces on their ideal squares.* Such a position must be evaluated correctly in the imagination. If the fantasy position contains a tactic that was overlooked, the evaluation will be incorrect.

White to move

White has a winning tactic that is not terribly difficult to spot. I reached my fantasy position, but had overlooked this tactic.

The game ended 42.Rxb6 axb6 43.Qxa8 Qb4 44.Rb3 Qc4 45.Qb8 Qf1+ 46.Ng1 1-0

This losing fantasy position was imagined ten moves earlier.

Black to move

I considered 32...a5 offering White a choice of weakened pawns on the queenside, or a position that is completely locked down. This pawn thrust remained a possibility for several moves longer. I did not play it because I observed Rxb6 only after White's rook was firmly planted on a6.

The game continued:

32...Qh6 with the idea of provoking 33.g3 Qf8 34.Qb3 Qg7

My fantasy included this transparent tactic.


Black to move

Now might have been an opportune time for 35...a5. It was certainly time to reassess my fantasy position. Instead, I defended against a phantom threat on f7. It was my last chance to save the game.

35...h6 36.Ra6 Qf8 37.Qa4 Qe7 38.Re3 Kg7 39.Qa3 Re8 40.Qa4 Rd8 41.Ra3 Ra8 and we reached my flawed fantasy position (see the first diagram).

During post-game analysis, Nikolay Bulakh and I examined 35...a5 36.bxa6 Rxc6 and it seemed that both sides had chances. Congratulations to Nikolay for scoring his first standard rated tournament win against me.

Note: After writing my assessment of the end of this game, I ran some computer analysis. Stockfish 2.3 believes that White is already winning in the second diagram (the earliest). After my possibly dubious plan from limited home preparation that gave me the doubled f-pawns, I had equal chances for most of the middle game. There were several points where my imagination (finding the plan) and calculation (assessing the consequences) failed me. This game was my second loss in the Spokane Chess Club Championship. The last time that I lost two games in one event was the 2011 Taxing Quads. That event dropped my rating from 1839 to 1824 ("Playing Crazy" offers my only win from that event). The winter club championship will drop my rating to mid-1900s.

*Silman did not invent the term, but it was from his writing that I became acquainted the concept and began to apply it in my thinking. See How to Reassess Your Chess, 3rd ed (Los Angeles: Siles Press, 1993), 30ff.

12 February 2013

Lesson of the Week

Where did Black err?

This week's lesson differs from the norm. Young chess players will be handed a game score with instructions to identify Black's key errors. For each major error, they are to explain why it is bad, and to suggest a better move.

Those who access this blog will have an advantage, for here I present the game score with the winning player's annotations. The annotations appear in Siegbert Tarrasch, Three Hundred Chess Games, trans. Sol Schwarz (1999), a translation of Dreihundert Scachpartien (1896).

Tarrasch,Siegbert -- Mannheimer,Nathan [C56]
Breslau, 1879

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 Nxe4

This will cause a loss of several tempi.

5.dxe5 Nc5

The threat was 6.Qd5

6.Be3 Ne6

This is necessary on account of the threat 7.Bc5 followed by 8.Bxf7+ and 9.Qd5

7.0–0 Be7

Better was 7...d6

8.Nc3 0–0 9.Qe2 f6

White to move

White has developed* all of his pieces very fast and this move gives him a chance for direct threats.

10.Rad1 Qe8 11.Nd5 Bd8 12.exf6 gxf6 13.Bh6 Rf7 14.Rfe1 Ne7

Black can hardly move.

15.Nf4 Nf5 16.Qd2 Nd6

On  16...Nxh6 White plays 17.Nxe6 Even so this was preferable.

17.Bb3 a5 18.Nd4 Re7 19.Ndxe6 dxe6

White to move

20.Nxe6 Bxe6 21.Rxe6 Rxe6 22.Re1 Kh8 23.Rxe6 Qg6

The pawn win has decided the game, but the final phase of the game is quite interesting.


This threatens 25.Rg3. Of course the Bh6 is immune from capture because of 25.Re8 winning the queen and or mate with 26.Rg8#.


White to move
25.Qd7 Nxe3

Better was 25...Be7

26.Bg7+ Qxg7 27.Qe8+ 1–0

Mate comes on the next move.

*The notion that one should first develop all of his or her pieces, and only then attack seems common sense today, but it was a new idea when Tarrasch was a young chess player.

11 February 2013

Chess Tactics Training on the iPad

Comparing Applications

Chess apps for the iPad and other iOS devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad Mini) proliferate. When I wrote my initial review of iPad chess apps, there were slightly more than a dozen. Now, it would take some effort to count all of the available programs in the Apple App Store. There might be dozens of applications specifically designed for chess tactics training. Other multipurpose apps offer training resources. Currently, I am using five apps in my tactics training: Chessimo, Chess Quest, Chess-wise Pro, Shredder, and Tactic Trainer. What are the principal features of each? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Read on.


Chessimo offers training in tactics, endgames, strategy, and openings. It also has a rating estimator offering play against Crafty, and can transform the iPad into a chess set with clocks. There are over 800 classic games included for playing through, and these are referenced in the opening training.

The rating estimator should not be taken seriously. I found that Crafty played typically absurd "weak" computer moves until my rating was near 1400, then became far tougher than players at that level. Nevertheless, I discovered a weakness, and by playing the same game repeatedly was able to push my rating over 2300.

For players just beginning tactics training, Chessimo is worth considering. It may also be useful for improving board vision for stronger players (I hope so). The app is free, and lets the user play through the first four units of the first training module. Each unit introduces thirty problems, and then repeats them, or repeats exercises from previous units. An in-app purchase ($2.99) opens the rest of the tactics modules (five total, consisting of 51 units each). For $7.99, the user may purchase all modules in tactics, endgames, commented endgames, strategies, and openings.

Chessimo's method is repetition. Each exercise is repeated six times. The tactics begin with one-move checkmates, then two-move. Eventually, checkmate threats are present, but such tactical motifs as interference must be employed for the solution. The exercises are timed. If the answer is not found before time runs out, the app executes the solution. The time per exercise can be modified by the user, and the solution can be turned off.

Chessimo has vastly more exercises than most other training apps, but the difficulty level of these may be of little benefit to advanced players. Even so, the large quantity of problems that gradually increase in difficulty drills essential patterns into the memory. At least some of the checkmate in two problems come from the same games as the checkmate in one.

The app tracks haw many problems I have solved, the average time for each set, and the total time.*

As with all automated chess training programs, alternate solutions are not always supported. Sometimes, the preferred solution is not the best (see "Endgame Training with Chessimo"). Chessimo works in landscape mode on the iPad and does not rotate.

GM Gilberto Milos selected the exercises.

Chess Quest

Chess Quest offers 1200 exercises in six levels (200 each). After the so-called "Basic Level" for beginners, the exercises in the Level 1 are comparable to the educational exercises in the Anthology of Chess Combinations. In fact, some of them are the same exercises. Exercises in level five are challenging for advanced players, perhaps even for masters.

An advantage of Chess Quest is that completed exercises can be returned to for further study. Another advantage is the option of playing through alternate responses by the defending player. A small tree symbol appears in the game annotation where alternate responses are possible. Some exercises have complex trees.

The app has a simple design. Pressing a plus advances through the exercises in each level, or through the several levels. The user may configure whether the objective (White to checkmate, White to draw) is announced at the start of the problem, or remains hidden. I find this feature useful, and have turned off the notification. Hence, I must assess whether I am playing to win or to draw. Sometimes. the objective is merely to gain an advantage, or to avoid losing equality.

The quality of the problems selected is a significant strength of Chess Quest. They are well chosen.

The app works in portrait mode and does not rotate. I paid $4.99 for the app, but this price is a sale price "for a limited time."

GM Leonid Yudasin selected the exercises.

Chess-wise Pro

Chess-wise Pro ($4.99) is a comprehensive chess program offering play against the computer, six-piece Nalimov tablebase access, online playing at FICS, database features, and tactics training. There are 300 training exercises. Through the first 100, a hint can be seen on request.

The exercises are moderate in difficulty (comparable to levels one and two in Chess Quest). Some classic exercises appear in both apps, and can be found in many tactics books. One drawback to the program is that it asks only for the first move. If a user sees the correct move, but miscalculates a sequence, he or she gets the problem correct. In Tactic Trainer below, one error in the sequence causes a fail on the problem as a whole.

The app tracks which exercises have been completed. All exercises are accessible from the entry screen, making it possible to solve them in any order, and to return to any problem at any time. After I completed all 300 exercises, I was able to reset the list so that all are marked as unsolved. I like the possibility of going through the whole set a second time.

I use Chess-wise Pro as an integral part of my training, but do not rely upon it. I recommend against using it to the exclusion of other resources.

Several sets of chess pieces are available to suit different preferences. The app rotates fully.


Shredder ($7.99) is a terrific training tool as a playing program, and it offers 1000 tactics problems to solve with the clock ticking. Speed and accuracy are necessary for full score.

Tactics training with Shredder resembles training with Chess Tactics Server or Chess Tempo in blitz mode in that problems are scored and time counts. Wrong answers and too much time both reduce the possible score.

Most of the problems are slightly less challenging than the norm in Chess-wise Pro, but the timer balances the  effort needed. Shredder is an integral part of my chess training. Recently, I completed my second pass through all 1000 problems. In 2013, I aim to complete my third, but with a higher scoring percentage than achieved through the first two passes.

There are several board colors and piece sets from which the user may choose to render the appearance aesthetically pleasing. The app rotates fully.

See my more in-depth review at "Tactics Training: Shredder iPad App."

Tactic Trainer

Tactic Trainer ($2.99) offers exercises to be solved that increase in difficulty after success, and decrease in difficulty after failure. The developers claim that it contains more than 20,000 problems. Solving the problems produces a rating--Glicko rating system--that determines the level of problems presented.

Strengths of the app are that it is simple and offers problems of an appropriate degree of difficulty for chess enthusiasts of a wide range of skill levels.

Weaknesses are that access to problems previously solved does not permit trying again. An update in May 2013 added tracking for number of problems attempted, and how many were solved correctly. The app is like a Chess Tempo lite with minimal capabilities for review, and with limited performance data. However, Chess Tempo requires a web connection. Tactic Trainer can be used in the back country or on an airplane far from internet access.**

The app offers a range of chess sets and pieces from which to choose (slightly fewer than Shredder). It rotates fully.

See my in-depth review at "Tactic Trainer for iPad, iPod, iPhone, Android: Review."

I believe these five apps are among the best resources for tactics training using the iPad (or iPhone and iPod touch). But, it may be that there is a terrific app unknown to me. Please leave a comment if you know of one that should have been mentioned in this comparative review.

*In two and one-half weeks use, I have spend more than five and one-half hours on tactics (1707 exercises) and another two and one-half on endgames (307 exercises).

**This paragraph was altered 8 June 2013 to reflect changes included in an app update several weeks earlier.

10 February 2013

"A brilliant and sound queen sacrifice"

Working my way through the Anthology of Chess Combinations, some of the so-called "educational" problems are proving challenging. In Problem number 117 this morning, I found the key first move and then faltered. The motif is discovery (ECC classification). The key move sacrifices a queen to set up a double-check--the most potent of discovered attacks. The Anthology features the analysis of Rashid Nezhmetdinov on his stunning combination. Nezhmetdinov did not have the ability to check his analysis with computers.

Polugaevsky,Lev -- Nezhmetdinov,Rashid [A53]
Sochi 1958

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e4 exd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd2 g6 7.b3 Bg7 8.Bb2 0–0 9.Bd3 Ng4 10.Nge2 Qh4 11.Ng3 Nge5 12.0–0 f5 13.f3 Bh6 14.Qd1 f4 15.Nge2 g5 16.Nd5 g4 17.g3 fxg3 18.hxg3 Qh3 19.f4 Be6 20.Bc2 Rf7 21.Kf2 Qh2+ 22.Ke3 Bxd5 23.cxd5 Nb4 24.Rh1

Black to move

24...Rxf4 25.Rxh2 Rf3+ 26.Kd4


The editors of the Anthology insist that this move is best. Engines disagree, as pointed out by Kingscrusher in his YouTube video on the game.* My title for this post comes from that video.

27.a4 c5+ 28.dxc6 bxc6 29.Bd3 Nexd3+ 30.Kc4 d5+ 31.exd5 cxd5+ 32.Kb5 Rb8+ 33.Ka5 Nc6+ 0–1


I left Stockfish running for an hour after posting. It now considers 26...Bg7 the best move. The search depth is currently 28 plies.

07 February 2013

Lesson of the Week

In my youth chess clubs this week, we looked at a position late in the opening from a game played by Siegbert Tarrasch in 1889. The game is presented in Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev. However, Chernev gives as the conclusion of the game what Tarrasch in his Three Hundred Chess Games says would have been more accurate than the moves he played in the game.

Tarrasch,Siegbert -- Kurschner [D20]
Nuremberg 1889

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 Bf5 4.Bxc4 e6 5.Qb3 Be4 6.f3 Bc6 7.Ne2 Nf6 8.e4 Be7 9.Nbc3 Qc8 10.d5 exd5 11.exd5 Bd7 

White to move

Tarrasch's plan keeps the Black king in the center where it will be vulnerable.

12.d6 Bxd6 13.Bxf7+ Kd8

If 13...Kf8, 14.Ne4

14.Bg5 Nc6 15.Ne4 Be7 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.0–0–0 Ne5 18.Nf4 Qb8 19.Qe6 Rf8 20.Nxf6 Bd6

White to move

Chernev gives the finish as 21.Nxd7 Nxd7 22.Rhe1 with the idea of 23.Qe8+ Rxe8 24.Rxe8#

Tarrasch states that he preferred the "pretty" queen sacrifice over "correct" play.

21.Qxe5.Rxf7 22.Nxd7 Bxe5 23.Nxe5+ Ke8 24.Rhe1 Re7 25.Nd5 Rxe5 26.Rxe5+ Kf7 27.Rd4 c6 28.Rf4+ Kg8 29.Nf6+ Kg7 30.Rg5+ Kh8 31.Rh4 Qc7 32.Rgh5 1–0

We continued the beginning tactics series this week.

Beginning Tactics 13

For each position, find White's best move.