Saturday, December 01, 2007


CT-ART 3.0 vs. PCT

First, ordering CT-ART was bumpy. I ordered CT-ART Aug 26 and did not get a download link until 4 days later and then only after sending an email inquiring about it. Second, to install CT-ART after downloading requires a writable CD drive. The first time I went through the install process the software would not run. I later uninstalled it, make a new CD image and re-installed it and, finally could use the software.

My initial impression of CT-ART was not favorable. I have used it a bit and explored the practice and test modes, created users, did all of the Level 10 problems (easiest level) until I could complete them all in one sitting at 100% and I'm working on the same task for the Level 20 problems. There are nine Levels, 10 - 90+.

The CT-ART user interface is horrible and distracting from the task of learning the tactics. Various things happen to "help" if you attempt a wrong move -- hideous colored markers on the board, a separate 5x5 board of a different position pops up, various buttons that one has to click or dismiss to continue etc. I have read some reviews of this software where the reviewers find these features useful. I find them a distraction and there seems to be no way to turn them off. Also, in some positions the software automatically animates through the rest of the solution after playing one or two moves. Again, this is distracting and frustrating.

As compared to Personal Chess Trainer (PCT), CT-ART requires greater computer literacy to use, more self-direction to use, and CT-ART has far fewer tactics exercises (1209) than PCT (4320). CT-ART starts off with more difficult problems but from a quick review of the higher levels of both they both seem get to similar levels of difficulty -- but I have done little with either at their highest levels so I may be mistaken.

I have learned from the software, but it makes learning painful. I have the software so I may continue to use it from time to time but I can not recommend it. For a little more, buy PCT. It is better at the tactics training, far better and easier and more efficient to use and in addition its strategy module is great! Disclosure: I am not affiliated with either company.

Folks that have used CT-ART 3.0 and like it are free to add their comments and suggestions on how best to use it.

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I'm so glad I didn't pull the trigger on CT-Art before trying demos for it and PCT. I agree the 5x5 and arrows and stuff are confusing.

I'm loving PCT- I just got to the mate in twos which came mid exercise out of nowhere much to my surprise.
gorckat: Excellent point. Trying before you buy is a good way to decide for yourself. Different people have different learning styles so what may be awful for me may be great for someone else....
I strongly disagree on everything except ease of installation (CT-Art is a ridiculous pain in the ass on that count).

Note you can turn off those arrows (key lines) and colored squares (key offensive and defensive pieces) that pop up. Go into Options, Preferences, and unclick 'Prompts after errors.' I found them very helpful though.

For one, unlike PCT after finishing a problem you can scroll through it as many times as you like. This was really helpful (in CTArt's cousin CTB) for imprinting patterns in my memory, for checking, rechecking the solutions at each step. With PCT it is literally impossible to use my tactical imprinting method, which biases me strongly against it.

CT-Art maintains percent correct statistics, which I find much more motivating than the PCT method: show you the answer and keep going, no record of how many you got right on the first time (this became a huge motivator for me as I got further into my Circles). This makes it easy to be lazy with PCT and just go through the answers. With CT-Art if you are really wanting your percent correct to go up, you cannot afford to be lazy. It is really useful to know you are improving.

CT-Art you can fire up Crafty if you don't believe the solution to a problem. Perhaps you can do this in PCT but I haven't seen how.
There is no time limit on problems in CT-Art so you can spend as long as you want (or as briefly as you want).

I've played around with the higher level of both and CT-Art seems significantly harder (though I think that is a liability since for Circles you really want simple problems).

The 5x5 board is great, a little mini tactical puzzle that distills out the essence of the position when you get it wrong. That really must have been a labor of love to put that together. I can't see any downside to that. Indeed, I've considered going through all of those for circles before. :)

CT-Art is the gold standard. PCT is good too, but I think it isn't better than CTA or CTB.
I own CT-ART, CT-B, and PCT.

Convekta's software is flexible. I can open CT-B and choose to solve just the mate-in-N problems to help my pattern recognition. Then I can open CT-ART and solve some more difficult calculation problems, and then go to Strategy 2.0. I can do as many or as few problems in a session that I like. Of course, the interface is dated and installation is terrible--no news there.

PCT's software is simple to use. I click on my "Daily Training" and up pops a mix of new and old tactical problems to train both my patterns and my calculation. It also has strategy problems. If I haven't trained in awhile it will suggest a review regimen. Keyboard hotkeys help you navigate quickly through problems and installation is a snap. Of course, you have to follow 'their' study program.

"CT-Art you can fire up Crafty if you don't believe the solution to a problem. Perhaps you can do this in PCT but I haven't seen how."

In PCT 2007 it's very easy. Just click on the icon on the right that looks like a board. That is the key reason I why I waited for the 2007 version before purchasing.

"I've played around with the higher level of both and CT-Art seems significantly harder."

I agree. CT-ART levels 60+ seem to me to be harder than anything I have found in PCT. It's telling that FMs use it to reach IM.

I often recommend Chessmaster as a first software package. The more I think about it, the more I think I would recommend PCT as a second one as it's easy to use, pushes good study habits, and includes more bang for the buck. Once a player knows all its puzzles, then using CT-ART is the next logical step. :)
From a user interface point of view I have found very few chess programs that aren't crappy. Terrible are: Fritz, Convekta, Chessbase, Arena, Rebel, Scid, Babaschess and Bookup. PCT is definitely an exception. All programs show an interface that has grown overtime instead of an overall design from the beginning on. The matter is, do the extra possibilities outweight the fact that their existence is hidden for you and their use is incomprehendsible without serious study?

Common practice is that I use only the part of a program that is easy since I don't want to spill my time to follow the fuzzy ways of chess programmers.
I strongly disagree
Cool. Controversy. And not just about semantics! :)

Go into Options, Preferences, and unclick 'Prompts after errors.' I found them very helpful though.
Thanks! I just tried that and it works and the program is less hideous and distracting. But when all prompts are turned off it will apparently *never* show you the solution. If you really get stuck how do you see the answer?

PCT has a "show moves" button that shows the solution. Also, after one wrong attempt it will show the piece to move and after a couple more the square to move it to. It is designed to teach, not torment.

CT-Art you can fire up Crafty (Apparently not from test mode, btw).
In PCT you can click the "Assistant Board" icon any time you are looking at an exercise and play through it with Crafty.

There is no time limit on problems in CT-Art
You can set PCT for up to 30 minutes per problem so I can not
see this as a practical limitation.
(Also PCT has a pause button that can be applied during an exercise for virtually infinite time).

In fact, I would argue that the default setting of 3 minutes may be too long...but I guess that goes to issues of how we approach using the software differently. (And PCT automatically reduces that time in subsequent exposures to the same problem so you have to be getting faster).

With PCT just start at the beginning and go. It manages exposing you to new problems mixed in with old. It manages that you will see each problem six times before it is considered learned. It leads you through a structured and well thought out learning process. CT-ART is undirected (which can be either an advantage or a disadvantage).

Bottom line for me: if you want to use software to imprint tactical patterns quickly and efficiently then PCT is brilliant and CT-ART is a poor second choice.

CT-Art is like an automated version of the book "Encyclopedia of Chess Middlegames" -- which is meant as high praise. That is a great book. But how should one use it? PCT goes beyond the automated book model. It is software that automates a teaching/learning process.

I do wish that PCT would keep history and statistics per module, unit and exercise for the student and potentially the coach/teacher. And, then let the student automatically review problems that they answered wrong the last time they tried (CT-ART can do this), or that were ever answered wrong, or that were only answered right once since answering it wrong, etc.
For one, unlike PCT after finishing a problem you can scroll through it as many times as you like. This was really helpful (in CTArt's cousin CTB) for imprinting patterns in my memory, for checking, rechecking the solutions at each step. With PCT it is literally impossible to use my tactical imprinting method, which biases me strongly against it.

PCT has the option that will repeat the exercise until the correct solution is entered. I suppose even more flexibility for this option would be nice.

But there is also the "repeat" option that allows the user to repeat the given problem as many times as they like. So, I'm not sure why you say it is impossible to use your tactical imprinting method.

I am using PCT 2007 version.

It is true that there is no feature to navigate to a particular problem in PCT. But once on a given problem you can repeat it as many times as you like.
BDK: Doesn't the way CT-Art animates through part of the solution (for some exercises) actually prevent you from playing out the moves yourself? Is there some way to play out the entire solution instead of having CT-Art animate it?

Yes, I can force it to let me right-arrow through the position but I can not find a way to force it to let me play out all of the moves of the solution when it thinks they should be animated.

I play X, you play Y then I play Z and then zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom,... what just happened?

I can back up and right-arrow through it but I don't get to make the animated moves, I can only just click "next".

I responded to the absolutely crazy claim that CT-ARt is like a book over at my blog.

It seems I was using an older version of PCT that didn't have the Crafty engine link and didn't have the 'do again' button, and had shorter time limits on problems.

All of these are huge improvements, and take away two of my major criticisms (one minor).

I have to admit the new PCT looks much nicer than the older version. If they add more short-term feedback in individual problems (see comment at my blog), and long-term feedback on overall progress in the form of percent correct changes on problem repeats (e.g., PC on problems you've seen once, PC on problems you've seen twice, and so on) then my opinion of PCT would be that much higher, then it would be truly Circles-ready :)

The 5x5 board, is such a thing of beauty and cunning that it will never be replicated.
Glenn: that way it will randomly do moves for you is something I never understood, and never figured out how to stop it. I looked at it as the ghost of Morphy helping me.

There are definitely problems with Convekta software.
PCT 2007 I set time per problem to 30 minutes but it only gives me six minutes. Bastards!!!
PCT 2007 I set time per problem to 30 minutes but it only gives me six minutes.
The 30 minutes would be for the first exposure to the problem. The time is automatically reduced for subsequent exposures. I don't know if that applies in this case.
Glenn, not much that i can add to the many excellent comments, above. just a few things, off the top of my head:

i really enjoy your blog. while i am getting around blogger and kin less these days, my chess study is as strong as ever, so it is refreshing as i move through my links to find you fast, or early in the que, and read so much good sense. thank you.

while CT-Art 3.0 is obviously full of kinks, i take it as it is. i use it very slowly. while on a long, fruitful vacation in early september (staying close to home AT home), for example, i would use the preview screen and set up the board positions, and stare at them on my back deck cathching some 'rays' as they say...

what i DON'T want is to start a problem and be stuck with my pc running for three hours on one problem. extreme? yes, but i want to calculate deeply and in ALL variations. i have CTS for speed, and review of GM games for volume across many positions, and this is my one big chance to grind.

it would be nice to see what rating you are getting. loomis and i have all posted these, but perhaps it is not significant as you are leaps and bounds advanced in accomplishments in chess above many here, including me...

i have not tried PCT and think about it, but am assiduous in CTS, GM games (1,735 games, i am at number 1290, and have viewed 279 of them since 17July07) and even have the Dvoretsky CD of his Endgame Manual, so as highly recommended as PCT is and beyong question, i already have 'enough'.

so its--for me--not a question of whats best as in the adequacy of what i already have: ample timed training, ample endgame work, ample familiarity with postions, and too many books unread such as soltis pawn structure or Find Idea Behind the Chess Openings, or Art of Attack.

i am reading Euwe-Kramer, the middlegame, without a board, and while much missed, what i do in my head is a good brain workout, and find i can follow along a bit, as a good exercise. the second chapter now in volume II has a simply marvelous primer on attacking the king castled kingside, and seems to compress all the best of Art of the Checkmate, Art of the Combination, How to beat your Dad at Chess all into one. wow.

warmest, dk
ITs horror to install CT art. After installation gets lot of run time error. Ca not use at all
"CT ART 3.0 user", everyone faces that the first time. The trick is to actually follow their instructions and burn the program to a CD before you install it. If you don't have a CD burner you can download a free demo of Virtual CD online and after 30 min of fiddling with the settings you should accomplish the same thing.
I wrote them an email telling them their instructions suck and need to be less ambiguously written (I can't remember the details, but it was ambiguous, but crucial, what file structure to save to CD). I was so pissed.
I am guessing that where I went wrong on the initial CD is due to their instructions not saying :
Put these files AND NOTHING ELSE on the CD. I added an "extra" file to the CD that I thought would be useful to archive with the software on the CD.

On my second attempt I did not do that. That is my guess as to what I did wrong.
I think they had a picture of the files to save to "aid" installation, but it included the parent file too, which is not supposed to be saved, and I saved the parent and children and it didn't work.

If PCT adds percent correct tallied for problems you have done N times I think it will be almost ideal. Simpler problems, which is good for the Circles. I'm not sure more problems is better, but it probably doesn't hurt. I just like having a monument to all my work, more than just their table that says what modules I've finished.

I look at CT-Art as ideal for developing calculation and understanding. PCT with a little tweaking would probably be better for simple tactics (though note I have only worked up through mate in two problems). I still love CTB though. The progression of problems was ideal for me when I started.

Like many blogosphere arguments based on subjective preference, we need NSF funding to settle it. We need two pools of 100 chess players matched for playing strength. Have one group use PCT, another do Circles with CT-Art or CTB (from my cursory inspection I think PCT high level problems are more like high-level CTB than high-level CT-Art), and then have them play in a big tournament. :)
I have used CT-ART and PCT.

1. CT-ART is targeting the higher level group. You have to finish CTB and/or CTI and go to CT-ART.
But in PCT you are build from simple to high level.

2. PCT does not teach you how to calculate all the variation, but to help you recognize if there is any tactic available. You will trained the sense that there are tactics or not, but in real game you have to calculate all of the variation by yourself. You will know one or two tactical variation to execute the position but not all.
So the target or PCT is perfectly appropriate for beginner and busy person who do not need to calculate all variation yet.

3. CT-ART is trying to help you know all the variation and the detail of the position. That's why its a little bit confusing. But for a higher level player that is what they need. The user interface is more difficult, but if you already worked with CTB or CTI you can go easily.

So my suggestion is use PCT if you are beginner and you can skip CTB and CTI and go to CT-ART.
But if you are rated >2100, you dont need PCT, you can go directly to CT-ART and use the first part levels as your refresher. Because if you use PCT you will be trained incomplete. That's the reason when you go the website of PCT you will be told that PCT is for the busy people.

NB: I put my daughter (6 & 8 yo) in the 7 circle method also but in smaller cycle and slower pace. I use PCT for them.
I just left a comment on BDK's post, and since I'm a lazy bastard I'll just copy and paste the same comment here:

Hmm Iím a little late to the party here but just thought Iíd throw in my two cents.

I bought CT-Art earlier this year before I bought PCT. I actually ordered it from Amazon, and I did not have any issues installing it from the CD it came on (installing the downloaded version seems to be one of the big headaches so Iím glad I didnít have to go through that). PCT download and installation was smooth sailing too, so both programs score equally well on that in my book.

I do have to say that when I first used CT-Art, the user interface was a big turn-off. Is it really that hard to make a better-looking, smoother interface? PCT was a pleasant surprise in this regard.

I did a bunch of CT-Art problems of varying difficulty and found them to be harder than the PCT exercises I have encountered up to this point (even though that is not saying much since Iím still in module on PCT). For now, I agree with some previous comments that suggested going through PCT first, then doing CT-Art, so thatís my battle plan at this point.

As has been pointed out several times, the functionality that I think is sorely missing from PCT is the history/statistics overview. With that, PCT would be pretty much perfect in my eyes. Also, CT-Artís 5x5 board is a neat and unique way of helping you find the solution without just presenting it.

Bottom line is, I just seem to have more fun using PCT, and in the end thatís what I care most about Ė studying chess in a way that I enjoy. I think CT-Art can be hugely beneficial though (especially for studying more complex combinations), and it will certainly be part of my training regimen in the future.
Chess Mentor baby!

I was browing for info on other peoples' experiences with CT-ART, which I've been using for a while, and came across your blog.

To turn off the "help" markers, simply right click on the board and choose "hide markers."

There are number of minor things about CT-ART that bug me- the fact that the pieces move VERY SLOWLY for a few problems before settling into a faster speed after a bit of use, occasional lack of knowledge about alternate lines, the fact that you can't flip the board, and the fact that the program will "help" you about the initial key to the puzzle when you're deeper into the combination.

However, the fact that CT-ART has such darn good puzzles keeps me coming back to it time and time again. I also like the scorekeeping function. I love setting up a new user and watching my ELO go up-up-up. It provides motivation for me to get the answers exactly right. I also like the fact that the program keeps track of how long each puzzle took for me to solve.

Brad Hoehne
No one thing is 100% perfect, and no one thing may be better than the other. Luckily some programs have "trial" or "demo" versions. Try them -if you like it, buy; if not, don't! If there are no demo versions, read as many reviews as possible, just to make sure you make an informed decision.
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