Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Christmas Treats

We have two Christmas treats for you courtesy of ChessBase. First, their traditional annual ChessBase Christmas Puzzle (with animated Christmas card). Update: Here is their Christmas Puzzle Calendar with all of the 2007 Christmas Season puzzles.

Second, it looks like the KPFT interview with Anand is on hold. That may change and we'll let you know if it does. But, ChessBase brings us this Personal Video Portrait of World Champion Anand.
One of our favourite stories is about when he was travelling in a train and was asked by a fellow passenger what he did. Anand said he was a chess player. "But you are also studying somewhere," the man asked. "No, I'm just a chess player," he replied. "You have a job on the side?" "No, just a chess player." This went on for a while until the passenger said: "The life of a professional sports person is difficult, you should think carefully about it. Now if you were Viswanathan Anand it would be different..."

Enjoy. Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth.


Friday, December 21, 2007


PCT Strategy Module 1

Yes, BDK did dub me Tacticus Maximus for my opinion that chess is all tactics. The high-level strategies in chess are to checkmate the opponent and to avoid being checkmated. And those high-level strategies are inherently tactical. So why am I talking strategy? In chess the word strategy is often used to describe a move or series of moves that improves one's position without involving a combination. That usage, although common, is wrong and misleading, in my not so humble opinion.

Anyhoo, the PCT strategy modules mostly deals with the sort of moves that are not combinations but improve one's position. And, I have found it to be excellent training material. I have just completed the first module of 51 units:

(If you are wondering why there are no learnt tactics in the above dialog it is because I have a separate user defined that I use for doing the strategy modules.)

This product is primarily targeted at players below my playing level and I have found many of these Module 1 Strategy exercises to be easy for me, as expected. But not all of them and I have definitely improved my chess knowledge by going through these. I think anyone with a rating below about USCF 2000 would benefit from these exercises. I look forward to going through the other two Strategy modules.

I have not abandoned the Tactics modules (which deal with combinations) and am currently working on PCT Tactics module 3. I'd like to finish that one before the end of the year but it might spill over into 2008.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Houston Chess Meetup

I have been wanting to make it to one of the Houston Chess Meetups for quite a while and was finally able to make it last night. The location was the West Gray Cafe at 415 West Gray, Houston, TX 77019.

From this Chess Meetup link you can find other Chess Meetups around the world.

My wife and I got there early so we could eat dinner first. The food and service was quite good. I'd go back just for the food, nevermind the chess.

Around seven the other chess players started showing up and the games began. We left early, as planned, but had a good time and met some new Houston chess players.

I like the idea of the Chess Meetups and this one is perfect. Except for the location. And the time. The location is not exactly close to home and 7pm is already close to my bedtime (yes, I know I am pathetic). So, I am toying with starting one on the west side of town (near say Hwy 6 and I-10) on Saturday mornings. If you'd be interested drop me a line or leave a comment.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Publishing Games with ChessBase

In the comments to my previous post, Anonymous asks:
When I generate javascript for multiple games in ChessBase 8.0, I get separate playing boards. How do you generate one board with multiple links below, like your problem boards.

I have used trial and error to get the result I want and if I go too long in-between publishing games with ChessBase I may forget and need to experiment again. So, for the benefit of Anonymous and myself (when I forget, yet again, what settings I use), here is the process I use for publishing games with ChessBase 8.0.

From the main Database Window, open a database (double-clicking it is one way),

This opens the Games Window for that database listing the games in that database. Select the games you want to output:

Select "Output ->"
Select "HTML + Javascript Replay..."

Select the options as shown here:

Click OK and save, specifying a "main" file name. The main file and other files using the "main" name as a prefix for the full file name will be generated and saved. Now just open the main file in a browser and you can replay through any of the games.

Other references:
ChessBase Service and Download

ChessBase Main Page
Use the search window. "Lopez" will find many great articles by Steve Lopez on using ChessBase and "Workshop" will turn up many related articles.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Four Problems Part II

In a recent post comparing CT-Art and PCT the subject of the relative difficulty of their exercises came up. I had made the comment that at the highest level of difficulty they were about the same difficulty but some other posters commented that CT-Art had more difficult problems at the highest levels.

So, I decided to investigate by selecting a couple problems from each to examine closer. I am not suggesting that my selections are representative or even fair and this is certainly not a scientific sampling. I decided to take "black to move" problems from the middle of the highest level of difficulty (or as reasonably close as I could easily navigate to, in the case of PCT). Any conclusions apply only to these four problems and not necessarily to all of the problems for the highest levels of either piece of software.

I've created a link where you can play through the problems and variations with added analysis and evaluation by Fritz. The link is: fourproblems. For each problem at that link, ignore the initial white move as it is just setting up the problem and it is not part of the exercise as given by PCT or CT-Art. In the earlier post I gave the initial positions and main line of the solution as provided by the software. I repeat that below with some additional commentary. My comments refer to the additional analysis at fourproblems so you might want to review that or follow along with that open in another tab or browser if you can.

The analysis and evaluations are based on a minimum ten-ply look ahead at each move using the Deep Fritz engine (Nov 2000 edition) from ChessBase 8.0.

Problem A
From PCT Tactics Module 6 Unit 26 Exercise 4

1...e4+ 2.fxe4 Nb2+ 3.Kd2 Rxc3 4.Bd4 Rfc8 5.Bxc3 Bh6+ 6.Ke2 Rxc3
Fritz agrees with this solution. This problem is quite difficult with significant competing lines to consider at three branches.

Problem B
From CT-Art Problem 1177

1...Bxh3 2.gxh3 Rxd4 3.Bxd4 Nf3+ 4.Kg2 Nf5 5.Rg1 N5xd4 6.Bd3 Nxg1 7.Qxd4 Nxh3
Fritz prefers 5. Qe3 (a variation given by CT-Art) but gives an improvement in that line. In this main line Fritz gives 6. ...Qe5 as a significant improvement. I find this position to be more challenging that "Problem A".

Problem C
From PCT Tactics Module 6 Unit 26 Exercise 5

1...Ba3+ 2.Kxa3 b4+ 3.Ka4 Nb6+ 4.Kxb4 Rb5+ 5.Ka3 Qc1+ 6.Bb2 Nc4+
Fritz gives the better defense of 3. Kb2. PCT does not attempt to show multiple variations in a single exercise and I do not know if they elsewhere show this with this alternative defense. To see / know 1...Ba3+ works one would have to consider the 3. Kb2 line. As Liquid Egg Product pointed out in the comment, since white has mate in one, black's key move is easy to find (it has to stop the mate and/or be a check). This is the easiest of the four problems.

Problem D
From CT-Art Problem 1179

1...Nb4 2.fxg4 Qxa2+ 3.Kc1 a5 4.Rhf1 Ne4 5.Qe1 Rc4 6.Rf4 a4 7.Rxe4 Rxe4 8.Qg3 h6
Fritz prefers 2. Nc1 (a variation given by CT-Art) but otherwise agrees with CT-Art. I found this problem to be similar in difficulty to "Problem A".

My conclusions: The most challenging problem of the four ("B") came from CT-Art and the easiest ("C") from PCT. I thought that the other two "A" (PCT) and "D" (CT-Art) to be similar in difficulty. If these are typical then CT-Art does indeed have more difficult problems at the highest levels than PCT.

My intent was to consider difficulty but I must add a word about quality. CT-Art made multiple errors in their analysis of what appears to be the most difficult problem. The only way I can get real value from CT-Art on such problems is to independently determine and verify the solutions. While I learn something by doing that, I can do that completely without CT-Art in the first place.

As always, your thoughts, comments, and criticisms are welcome.

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Friday, December 07, 2007


Four Problems

Update: 12/8/2007: I've created a link where you can play through the problems and subvariations with added analysis and evaluation by Fritz. The link is: fourproblems. For each problem, ignore the first move as it is just setting up the problem and is not part of the exercise as given by PCT or CT-Art.

Four tactical chess problems are below each with a main line solution. They are meant to be challenging.

Two of them are taken from the middle of the highest level of CT-Art and two of them are taken from the middle of the highest level of PCT. What do you think of these four problems and their solutions? What about the quality of the problems?

Which is the easiest to which is the hardest? How hard or easy is it to find the first move or understand the point? How close or far apart in difficulty are these four? I intend one or more follow up posts to look at these four problems in more detail.

Problem A

1...e4+ 2.fxe4 Nb2+ 3.Kd2 Rxc3 4.Bd4 Rfc8 5.Bxc3 Bh6+ 6.Ke2 Rxc3

Problem B

1...Bxh3 2.gxh3 Rxd4 3.Bxd4 Nf3+ 4.Kg2 Nf5 5.Rg1 N5xd4 6.Bd3 Nxg1 7.Qxd4 Nxh3

Problem C

1...Ba3+ 2.Kxa3 b4+ 3.Ka4 Nb6+ 4.Kxb4 Rb5+ 5.Ka3 Qc1+ 6.Bb2 Nc4+

Problem D

1...Nb4 2.fxg4 Qxa2+ 3.Kc1 a5 4.Rhf1 Ne4 5.Qe1 Rc4 6.Rf4 a4 7.Rxe4 Rxe4 8.Qg3 h6

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007


A Challenge

When I awoke and checked my email this morning I found a chess challenge from likesforests (and who doesn't? Like Forests, I mean).

Anyway I headed over to his blog and played along. If you want to see how you compare to him and me just head over to his blog and take the LikeForests Challenge: Is gxh6 safe?.

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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