Sunday, January 11, 2009


Passing the Scepter

I joined the Knight's Errant in August 2007 and became the Secretary Knight in February 2008.

I had been doing circles-like chess exercises for many years before joining the Knights and have continued since becoming a Knight although my blogging about same has been decreasing. I intend to continue on as a Knight Errant (assuming I blog frequently enough to not be kicked out) but I feel the group will benefit from a Secretary who is blogging more frequently and with more enthusiasm from his or her current chess journey and discovery.

It is my privilege to pass the Secretary of the Knight's Errant title on to Likes Forests, The Endgame Tactician.

What are the Knight's Errant, you ask? You can start with the FAQ and Likes Forests recent post Who are the Knight's Errant?

All hail the new Secretary of the Knight's Errant!


Sunday, December 28, 2008


Working Knights

It's been a while since we've dropped in on recent blogs from other Knight's Errant.
So I played in a small tournament this weekend, my first tournament in quite a while. I was afraid I was going to be rusty, but I did OK. It was a four round Swiss (G/60), but I had a bye in the first round so I only got to play three games. In those three games I went +2 =1 which I am happy with, even though I should have won that drawn game as I had a slightly better position in the endgame. I will post that game shortly with some analysis.

Himalayan Knight:
I played good against Daniel, was 2 pawns and then learnt some psychological aspects of the game in the process! how to never stop calculating the situations and fear not the tactical positions. Daniel saw great tactics at the end which I didnt in my clouded euphoric state and engraved my doom with a cute checkmate.. Heres the very interesting game.

Likes Forests:
fter my first coaching session, I spent an evening going through 50 positions in Hertan's Forcing Moves, while focusing on checks - captures - threats. Also I avoided a lay-off, renewed my commitment to fitness and lost four pounds, and started taking DHA supplements to boost my chess concentration. A busy time.

I then turned in this miserable performance:

Sir Banatt
my new reason for studying [$50,000 in cash Scholarships]

Special Bonus Section! Knight's Alumni with Recent Posts:
Blue Devil Knight:
When I first learned what a 'weak square' was, I was so concerned with them that I actually gave away a Bishop rather than capture his attacking piece with a pawn, so as not to create weaknesses in my pawn structure. Needless to say, such play is abysmal and reflects a misunderstanding of the relative importance of evaluation factors in chess.

As preparation I have read a lot about positional play. I intended to do some positional exercises too, but every exercise raised so much questions that I ended up reading in stead of exercising. So I don't feel quite ready, but I am in the best shape to learn something (with a lot of buzzing questions in my head and half-formulated answers).

I skipped the opening preparation totally, which is quite liberating.

From a real blitz game I played. My opponent was rated 200 points higher, but I guess he hadn't done the Circles of Death. Black just took my Bishop on d3 and to him it looked very bad for me.

His most resourceful moment was in round 20 against Jose Capablanca. Yates had the white side of a Ruy Lopez . Capablanca managed to grab a strong central defender in the middle game which caused a lot of problems for Yates as Black’s bishops pinned pieces and limited his mobility. Yates sends off a desperado in this position and manages a draw a few moves later with a perpetual check.

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year and success in all of your endeavors!


Sunday, October 26, 2008


Himalayan Knight

Welcome our newest knight: Himalayan Knight. From email:
I am working on CTART3.0 My strategy is little different from Michales Mazas circles.
I plan to redo each level problems until i achieve 90%. Also I dont plan to do the very tough problems in the end...
So my circles would be of about 850 problems (level 4 or 5 i think)
Please visit and welcome the Himalayan Knight.


Saturday, July 12, 2008


Working Knights

Likes Forests
He has upheld the honor of the Knights Errant and returns triumphant from the Whirled Open. He is setting his sights on improving his rating by studying "Tactics, tactics, tactics."
I removed advanced endgame books from my study tracker. You could become a GM without ever reading "Secrets of Rook Endings", and I got the optimal result from every endgame I played in the tournament, so that's not my weakness.

Sir Banatt
Training and circles and games! Oh my!. His blog has it all and lots of it! He has some of the most instructive games evah!
I really am absorbing tactics! I was playing a few games against my dad (Who I must say is amazingly strong for a casual player), and beat him in a beautiful combination that involved hanging a knight... for a skewer on his king to his rook! Then I beat him by seizing seventh rank absolute with both rooks, than getting a mate in 2.

And here I was thinking it wasn't transferring into my OTB play!

Resisting buying new chess software. And playing in the tournament of Lepers.
I played round 4 against Tom a.k.a. Rhuiden tonight and had a good time except that well, I lost. Things were going well as we transitioned into the early middle game, when...

Haunted Knight
Last night I played Louise for the first time in a long time control game. My idea was to play the closed Sicilian against her, but as is typical for my memory, I forgot move 3 was supposed to be g3, not d3. This didn't seem to make much difference to the game, and I suppose shows that learning openings is a waste of time for me and I might as well play any old move that develops or helps strengthen my position to get to an evenish middlegame.

Retired Pawn
If you look back by the vending machine, you will find me wearing a yellow shirt at board 7. One of the brighter spots of not moving off the last board is the proximity of the coffee Enjoy the following annotated game.

Sir Augusto
I finished CTB and i'm going through it again for a month, doing all the exercises in on week.

Sir Sparfy
also i read the josh waitzkin book The Art of Learning. which is a bit less about learning and a bit less about chess but a lot about life and some good stuff on the micro digging needed to be good at something. i would suggest reading it - even though you will not learn any chess from it you will learn something of what a successful chess and martial arts guy does. one of his best comments is about investing in loss. you learn by losing more than winning. and winning makes you think you are doing things right. but losing gets you to become better.

Tacticus Maximus
Me? It's been all ChessFlash and Paul Morphy for a while around here. I did meet Donnie of Liquid Egg Product in person at a Houston Chess Meetup. The LEP mascot was not able to attend.

I've been working on the ChessFlash store to offset some of the associated ChessFlash costs. In the process I have run across one really great deal: Pandolfini's Endgame Course $4.99; Chess (the "Polgar Brick") $4.98 (they were still available this morning at the book closeout link but probably won't last long).


Friday, June 06, 2008


Welcome Sir Banatt!

Welcome out newest (and youngest?) Knight: Sir Banatt!

From a recent post of his:
I am a 729 rated scholastic player. I recently went to the National Junior High Chess Championship in Dallas, Texas.
Good luck!


Thursday, May 15, 2008


Working Knights

What have the Knights been up to lately? Here are some brief excerpts from the posts of Knights Errant in the Heat of Battle that have posted since April 6. Visit their blogs for more details!

Likes Forests
Someone compared the chess blogosphere to a cult. It's true we praise Caissa, the Goddess of Chess. And sometimes she demands expiation, the sacrifice of countless hours studying tactics and positions from master games.

Oh, and I chant: "DaDaPiSkReMa, DaDaPiSkReMa, DaDaPiSkReMa".
A break-away from the DaBattPinOlC cult?

Haunted Knight
It was the first time I'd played him as white, he played the French. I'd just been reading about the best way to play Kings Indian Attack against different openings a couple of days ago,...

Vassily Ivanchuk is on fire at the MTel Masters in Bulgaria. He has won all five of his games, which is a pretty crazy feat at a category 20 tournament. With five out of five points, his performance rating is a whopping 3537.

Sir Kaan Kara
I have just two days... What should i do to prepare the most as i can? Please comment if you have any idea.
My situation is i don't know anything about 1.d4 or anything varies from 1.e4 as black or white

Sir Augusto
I take a vacation from chess and i'm returning now. In this time I lost a couple of games at, this dropped my rating to 1580 +-.
It's very hard to conciliate chess with life.

Sir Nemo
I finished with an overall success rate of 64%, which according to the Petrosian school of chess, I should be playing at master level haha.

Caquetio Knight
I’ve started my cycles and right now I’m halfway cycle1. Last Tuesday I played a game of rapid chess at the chess club in Leiden (the Netherlands). I played with black and it was a Benko gambit, nothing unusual. But I was seeing tactical opportunities very fast, and the guy was blown away.

Retired Pawn
This is a position from my last game in the Kansas City Quick Championship. At this point I was tied for first place and had the white pieces; however, in time pressure I lost the tread. What is the winning sequence of moves? White to move.

Sir Sparfy
just hanging out workin on the old house. :-) been working on the dutch system a bit. having trouble with ... computer says go ahead and grab dem pawns. so i do. but then trouble is not far behind usually with a Q comming and rooks and all sortsa unleashed madness.

Sir Miklos
I've been thinking about getting a tactics training program, what would you guys recommend? CT Art probably is too hard for me atm, so the question is CTB, or the intermediate level Convekta program?

Tacticus Maximus That's me. I've been redoing the PCT Tactics module 1 exercises lately. I started module 4 but found the exercises harder than what I want from a circles-type approach. I'm sure I'll revisit the module 4 (and higher) exercises at some point when I want to spend more time on each problem.

I have also been developing for ChessFlash (flash based pgn viewer and chess authoring tool, etc) and teaching chess at an after-school program and working with my private students.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 02, 2008


Forks and Skewers


I picked up Michael de la Maza’s “rapid chess improvement” at Barnes & Noble and was intrigued by the concept of tactical study. I read about the “ Concentric Square ” exercise and being a programmer I immediately thought; “I could make this into a program. I have done just that. My first idea was that I could sell the program to Michael, hoping he might include it with his book. I later decided that I didn’t need to make any money with this program and I’m willing to give it away for free. My program sits unused but a few friends that I’ve personally given it. I thought the “Knights Errant” group may like to check it out. It’s currently only for Windows, but that may change.

Just go to my website to download a zip file that contains the application and a help file. There is no installation required.

Mike Anderson

I did download the file, unzip it and virus scanned it (no virus found) and ran the program a bit. It looks great.

Thanks Mike!


Friday, April 25, 2008


Welcome Likes Forests!

I have updated the official roll of the Knights Errant to include our newest Knight Likes Forests also known as The Endgame Tactician! A long time friend of the Knights with an excellent blog we are very glad to add him to our group.

Likes Forests is added to my navigation bar as Knights in the Heat of Battle and the Knights Errant FAQ nav bar is updated. Fellow Knights: please update your list of Knights. Note that if you are using this technique then your list of Knights has been updated for you automatically.

The list of Knights is sorted with a) the new Knight first, and then b) the other Knights in order of their most recent post. The ordering is not dynamic -- it is based on the dates on posts from this morning. Also note that two fellow knights that have not posted in two months have been dropped from the list (see the FAQ).

Please visit Likes Forests blog and give him a hearty welcome!


Sunday, April 06, 2008


Working Knights

What have the Knights been up to lately? Here are very brief excerpts from the posts of Knights Errant in the Heat of Battle that have posted since March 8. Visit their blogs for more details!

Sir Kaan Kara My second quest is 40k problems in chess tactics server.

Silver King I just finished section 2 of TCT completing my warm up.

Sir Augusto I'm doing the routine, (Finish level 10 in two days) playing some blitz and trying to play some slow with Fritz, but I always play quickly.

Sir Miklos After I had tp return my tactics book to the library, I've gone back to CTS, like many other knights.

Sir Sparfy just got the leningrad dutch book by some german guy in english. hmmm...

Sir Nemo So it's that time again; I've finished the second circle in this lovely tactical foray!

Haunted Knight Last night I played David Brown for the first time, in round 6 of the Derbyshire Individual. I was expecting to get smashed early on as he is much higher rated, but...

Chessaholic I have been playing around with the Trompowsky a bit lately, and this is a position from a recent game....

Retired Pawn Teaching our children how to think is what chess in education is all about.

...and then there's me. Here's a brief update:
Tacticus Maximus (me) I quit my job of 10+ years. I lost to drunknknite in the LEPer tourney. I bought Silman's Complete Endgame Course because of BDK. I'll post more about me soon. :)

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Chess Vision and Troyis

I find the posts on Chess Vision to be excellent for Chess improvement and recommend that you take a look. A recent post talks about the game Troyis which is both fun and great training for knight movements.

Troyis fits in with the philosophy of many of the Circles exercises. I am currently rated #6424 in the world with a high score of 165,800 as Tactics max. Not impressive, but can you beat that?


Sunday, March 16, 2008


New Knights!

It is my pleasure to announce the addition of two new members to the Order of the Knights Errant:

Sir Kaan Kara

Silver King

Sir Kaan Kara and Silver King are added to my navigation bar as Knights in the Heat of Battle and the Knights Errant FAQ is updated. Fellow Knights: please update your list of Knights. Note that if you are using this technique then your list of Knights has been updated for you automatically.

Please visit our new Knights' blogs and give them a hearty welcome!


Saturday, March 08, 2008


Working Knights

Caquetio Knight has the pattern up for the drill King and Knight versus Queen. If the knight is on a blue square there is a square to place the queen that wins the knight. That is the meaning of the diagram, right?

Simple Knight ponders security versus activity.

Sir Augusto loses to a 10 year old (Fide Master Arthur Gontijo!).

Sir Miklos needs help with Chess Publisher.

Sir Nemo has games and tactics from the UNM Octagon and plans his assault on the Seven Circles with CT-ART.

Chessaholic gives us this glimpse into the soul of Kasparov: "The position, where the small pawns were victorious over the enemy, was so surprising that it seemed like a fairy tale and I was unable to live without chess after seeing it."

Retired Pawn tells us in Chess in Education Part V that "researchers report that playing chess reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease since the game keeps the brain active, and the practitioners’ of the game are 260 percent less likely to develop the malady".

Tacticus Maximus (that's me!) has been drilling tactics with Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors by Lou Hays. I'll resume my tactical studies with PCT in the near future.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Working Knights

A quick rundown of what the current Knights in the Heat of Battle have been up to lately:

Caquetio Knight has "started my training with step 1" and has the diagrams to prove it.

Simple Knight "In ... this" Ok my French translation is slow and bad, but he links to a nice tactical bird opening game that translates well.

Sir Copeland should be reminded that if "You break it, you bought it!"

Sir Miklos plays fill-n-the-blanks and is looking for advice on a pgn viewer applet for websites.

Sir Sparfy calls out Tempo for his "rudeness" but I think he really means me now that I am the Secretary Knight. So, Sir Sparfy, welcome aboard and I dub thee, uh, Sir Sparfy? Is dubbing part of my new responsibilities? Samurai and BDK just promised me power and glory. I need to review the FAQ.

Sir Nemo is talking upsets, chess and poker and says "SIT ON YOUR HANDS!" Is that advice for Poker or Chess? For Scotch fans, he has a nice mini on display.

Chessaholic laments the loss of Samurai and plans to buy a book on planning. But does he plan to read it?

Retired Pawn continues his excellent Chess in Education series with Part IV.


Friday, February 22, 2008


Welcome to New Knights!

Samuria has passed the post of Secretary Knight of the Knights Errant on to yours truly. We wish him the best in his future endeavors and thank him for his service to the Knights.

It is my pleasure to announce the addition of two new members to the Knights Errant:

Caquetio Knight

Simple Knight

Caquito and Simple are added to my navigation bar as Knights in the Heat of Battle and Samurai removed. I'll update the Knights Errant FAQ this weekend. Fellow Knights: please update your list of Knights. Note that if you are using this technique then your list of Knights has been updated without you having to do anything.


Sunday, February 10, 2008


Working Knights

A quick rundown of what the current Knights in the Heat of Battle have been up to lately:

Sir Augusto is testing out the King's Gambit and asking for opening suggestions.

Sir Copeland in his post Chess Software wants to create the perfect chess software when he is done with his studies, or maybe next weekend! Go tell him what you need your software to do.

Sir Miklos has a New Plan. Will it work?

Sir Nemo goes to Tactics Church for some good old fashioned GrandMaster preaching ... and plots for victory at the National Open.

Chessaholic reminds us in Heavy Hitters of an upcoming and important Super GM tournament.

The Retired Pawn has his highest PlayChess rating evah! Naturally, the Knights deserve all of the credit.

Tacticus Maximus just posted this. But scroll down and take a gander at my previous posts!



Saturday, February 02, 2008


Working Knights

A quick rundown of what the current Knights in the Heat of Battle have been up to lately:

Samurai Knight our esteemed Secretary has been moving, and moving and moving again. We hope life settles down for him soon.

Sir Augusto beats a friend with a Sicilian. Check out move 19!

Sir Copeland updates his elo chart.

Sir Miklos is, in his own words, not dead yet.

Sir Sparfy needs to toughen up and stop feeling sorry for the poor, little enemy bishop.

Sir Nemo is on a massive winning streak and credits "repeating tactical exercises."

The Haunted Knight broke his drawing streak. That's the good news. The bad news ...

Chessaholic got a good position just playing logical moves.

The Retired Pawn continues his Chess in Education series.

Tacticus Maximus just posted this. But scroll down and take a gander at my previous post!



Knights in the Heat of Battle

It is not that big of a deal but it can sometimes be a little bit of a challenge to keep the list of links of the current Knights in the Heat of Battle up to date. Knights come and go and when they do I eventually go to Blogger and edit my template and then republish my site. Wouldn't it be nice if you could always have a current list without needing to pay strict attention to the comings and goings of Knights and without having to edit your blog or template?

Now you can. To avoid having to edit my template when the list of Knights change I've created a javascript that can be referenced from any webpage and when it is updated that webpage automatically uses the newest Knights list without editing or republishing. If you would like to use this Knights javascript, just add the line:
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
where you want the list to appear on your webpage.

That is how the Knights in the Heat of Battle list in my Knights Errant navigation bar is currently showing up, and just for demonstration purposes, here it is again:

I have viewed this with IE and FireFox 2 and both seem to work. There are disadvantages: it takes a bit longer to load the page and if javascript is disabled in the visitor's browser the list will be empty. And you are dependent on me keeping this script current (I'll try). If you try it and have any problems or if my list looks screwy in your browser, let me know.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


PCT Tactics Module 3

Work has been very busy as of late and I have done very little blogging and commenting on other's blogs. But I have continued with the exercises in PCT Tactics Module 3 and completed it this morning.

Since getting the software on August 9, 2007 I have completed three Tactics modules and 1 Strategy module for a total of 4*51 units = 204 units in 167 days or 1.22 units per day. I don't expect to keep up that pace going forward.

What is my next step? Tactics Module 4? Strategy Module 2? Reviewing each of the completed modules before moving forward? Taking a break?

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: , ,

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

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 23, 2007


PCT and Circles Update

I have finished Module 1 Tactics (after having previously completed all of Module 2) so I now have two completed Personal Chess Trainer Tactics Modules and I am now on Unit 4 of Tactics Module 3. There are 51 Units in each Module (with 60 to 720 positions per Unit) so that is 105+ completed tactics units since getting the software in August or about one per day. Some days I do none or part of one and other days I complete several. This software is just fantastic for studying tactics. Which is all I bought it for and I consider it worth the price just for the Tactics Module.

What about the other modules? In addition to Tactics, the software includes Endgames, Commented Endgames, Strategy and Openings. I have spent some time in each of these modules. As I go through these I try to view them not only through the lens of my level and experience but also from the perspective of someone relatively new to the game.

I do not see the value of this software for studying openings, except that a database of games is included that can be accessed via the Openings Module and playing over good games is always useful but there are much better tools for that. The Commented Endgames Module is a useful introduction to some endgames and the Endgames Module has good exercises that work well but there are ideas that are hard to convey in this format. To be fair, I have not spent much time on Commented Endgame or Endgame Modules but it seems a newer player would need help understanding the "why" behind many of the endgame moves.

But the Strategy Module. Wow! I have completed 9 of the Strategy Modules and am very impressed. These are fantastic. Explanations are given that are simple and clear. There is an occasional translation problem to English but even then the ideas come through.

So, if you have this software or are thinking of getting it I strongly recommend the exercises in the Tactics Modules and the Strategy Modules. The Commented Endgames and Endgames Modules are also very useful but don't quite stand alone (other material or instruction will be required to get the best value from them). I don't see much value in the Openings Module.

For others that have used this software, what are your thoughts?

If you have Questions for World Champion Anand record them in the comments to that post.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Goals and Circles Update

I have continued using PCT for tactical training and I have completed 17 units since the last major update about 22 days ago which works out to about 3 units completed every four days. I continue to be impressed with the PCT software and their selection of positions. I use PCT and I am doing this form (circles!) of tactical training mostly because I enjoy it. The Knights Errant add camaraderie and motivation because of the the public commitment in "joining" the Knights.

I am a big believer in increasing chess ability through tactical training of this nature and believe it is the major reason my chess rating increased over the years from the 1200s to over 2000. In the past I did not follow a strict circles regimen but I did study tactics aggressively. If I can now raise my rating 800 points in 800 days I may be the highest rated player in the world by 2009! Of course, I do not expect such results.

So what do I expect and why do I do this? My rating is already in the territory that many set as their goal when they commence circle training. I would expect smaller rating increases starting from 2000 than starting from 1200. Arguably, much of what I can learn from PCT, for example, I should already know. Much, but not all.

If I am going to play chess I will regularly study and using a program like PCT is fun and easy and keeps me sharp. It may also lead to improvement for me but that remains to be seen. I am past the peak age for chess players:
the peak age for a GM : 28-29 years

most players reach their peak in their early thirties and begin to decline significantly by the time they reach their early forties.

So I feel that I need to work just to maintain my current level (rating). I would like to obtain a 2200+ rating (USCF Master). Is that amount of increase possible at my age? I suspect the answer is yes but I also know that making master is a challenge and a significant investment in time at any age. I believe that reaching 2200 is for me, mostly a matter of getting better and more consistent at tactics. But I may not have the time to do that. Meanwhile I get older and further past the peak chessplaying age.

While chess is important in my life it is not the most important intellectual challenge in my life. And intellectual challenges are just a part of the big picture. I'll keep playing chess and studying tactics using circles while I enjoy it and while I have the time. Speaking of time, work is about to get crazy busy so circles, posting and commenting may be less frequent. Just another hurdle on my way to 2200.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Counting Problems

Counting Problems or Problems with Counting?

To create a grand unified theory of counting for captures in chess it should be either applicable in general, or, if that is not possible, then we need to be able to at least distinguish the cases where it can be relied upon from those cases where it can not. Otherwise, we are left with something that can be applied only in situations where it works but we have no way of knowing which those are.

Blue Devil Knight and Temposchlucker seem to be attempting that feat and I urge you to read their posts on the subject for background, if you're interested. I do think that what they are doing is useful (in an educational sense) and is interesting but I'm not sure if there is any practical applicability to their research.

My challenge to them is to consider the following positions with regard to counting. These examples are taken from Chess Tactics for Advanced Players by Yuri Averbahk and are from real games. I am showing the diagram for the position after the key move, which was in each case, a capture. The line given is a main line but there are other variations possible.

Could we have predicted or expected the move via counting? If counting should not apply in this position or for this capture how can we know?

Ahues - Kurpuhn
White has just taken a Bishop on d6 with his Rook. Why isn't he just losing the exchange?
1.Rd1xd6 Qxd6 2.e5

Hubner - Tal
Biel, 1976
Black has just taken a pawn on h3 with his Knight. Why isn't he just losing his Knight for a Pawn?
1...Ng5xh3+ 2.Qxh3 Bxc3 3.Rxc3 Ne2+ 4.Kh2 Nxc3

Alekhine - Euwe
White has just taken a Knight on d7 with his Rook. Why isn't he just losing the exchange?
1.Rd1xd7 Bxd7 2.Ng5 Qb8 3.Bxa8 Qxa8 4.Nxh7

Pogrebysski - Kortschmar
Kiev, 1937
White has just taken a Pawn on c6 with his Knight. Why isn't he just losing his Knight for a Pawn?
1.Ne5xc6 bxc6 2.Nxd5 Kh8 3.Nxe7 Qxe7 4.Qb4 Rf6 5.Rxc6

If anyone can create a grand unified theory of counting that works for these positions (before the key move) or in which we can easily distinguish when it can be applied and when it can not I will be most impressed.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Blitz and Circles Update

I just played a few ICC blitz games. They did not all go well, but this one is fun:

GlennWilson (1501) - Vercingetorix (1358) [B21] Smith Morra Gambit

ICC 1 3 Internet Chess Club, 28.10.2007

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.Bc4 a6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 Bg4 9.Rd1 Ne5

White to move and win.

I believe that I saw this tactic because of the tactical training (Circles!) I have been doing using PCT. I recognized this pattern from that training. I was also making a conscience effort to see tactics based on my just completed review of my blitz performance. I would have found this before in a slow game but not, I think, at blitz.


I have now completed 25 units in module 1 of PCT and I'm plugging away at about 1 unit per day.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Circles Update

After completing Module 2 of PCT and then experimenting with Module 3 and Module 6 I ultimately decided to go ahead and complete Module 1 as my next task. I had initially skipped Module 1 after doing a few exercises as I deemed it as too easy for me. While I do still find Module 1 to be easy my attitude towards the value of lots of practice of easy problems has changed. Anyway, after wandering aimlessly for awhile I am back in the saddle again and making firm progress in Module 1.

On another note, as experienced by Rocky Rook and described in the post
Need for Consistency I was away from Chess Tempo Server for awhile and experienced a quick 200 point rating drop on my return.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Circles Update

I completed PCT Tactics Module 2 on August 25. After that I explored a couple of possibilities for my next circle. I bought and installed CT-ART but it does not run (I will revisit this at some point). I explored a tactics unit from PCT Module 6. I ultimately decided to back up and do all of Tactics Module 1 as my next training. I have now completed the first nine units in PCT Tactics Module 1.

Thanks to Likesforests for prompting in the comments me to post an update on my circles progress.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Chess Tempo Tactics Server

In addition to doing training with PCT I am using Chess Tempo Tactics Server. My rating has surged up lately, breaking 2300 for the first time:

You can see my current stats (and a better image) here (and it is likely different than when I posted this). I am following some of LikesForests advice from this post and trying to go slower.

Anyway, is the Chess Tempo rating surge just part of the normal rating ebb and flow, or because I am using Chess Tempo more, or because I am using PCT or due in part to everything I am doing?

Update: About 24 hours later I broke 2400 with a new personal best of 2401.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


Circles, Tactics, Positional Play and Openings

First an update on my circles quest with PCT. I have completed 40 units in module 2 and have eleven left to complete the module. I skipped module 1 but I have gone back and done a few units in module 1 (including the monster 720 problem unit 51) and I will probably finish module 1 after I finish module 2.

I am clearly learning new tactical motifs, patterns and positions. I'm not sure how or how much this will impact my play but I am curious to see that over time. I'm quite happy with the software and the selection of positions.

I've been dubbed Tacticus Maximus by Blue Devil Knight based on my claim that there is not more to chess than tactics. It is only our inability to calculate far enough that causes us to use strategy and positional factors and guidelines and general principles to help guide our play. In other words, these things are all less than and subordinate to tactics. But we rely on them because they are the best we have in many situations.

How can I reconcile that claim with my play in the following game? A diagram I showed before from one of my games on August 11 (Black to move) :

First, look at the position and the relative positions of the two Kings. The White King is well defended by many of his faithful companions. Or, he is quivering in the corner depending on your perspective. The Black King is denuded of all protection and is an easy target standing in the middle of an open field. Or, he reigns supreme over all the lands enjoying a nice picnic.

There is a tactical shot here and Black wins immediately. But, ignoring any immediate tactical shots (say the position were subtly changed to eliminate them), who is winning and why? If someone is winning is the reason tactical or positional?

In this game I had played the Moron Defense which tends to de-emphasize early tactics by offering to trade Queens. It has been played as black by such noted players as Mikhail Tal, World Champion. The Magician of Riga. One of the most outrageously tactical players ever. Maybe he just wanted a rest day? It is an opening system I know well because I have played over many Moron games. I have never read a book on it and I don't think any exist. It is part of my standard opening repertoire and can transpose into a King's Indian or Pirc. It is one of my (not so secret) secret weapons.

During this game I did very little calculation. What I calculated was generally ways to keep my space advantage, keep the kingside closed and to keep the option of opening the queenside. I considered the effect of White taking on c6 and of Black taking on d5 or pushing b5. You might say that there is not much overt tactics in the game, but Black is attacking. Right? Attacking without calculation? The threats are longer term than I can calculate. But they are there. So it is tactics, just longer term than we can calculate. In other words, positional. Right? And would you consider positional play more in the category of strategy or of tactics?

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Obey the Tactics

From my recent Knights Errant post:
Chess is not more than tactics. Chess is tactics. If we could calculate tactics perfectly, instantly to any depth there would not be any talk of "strategy." Strategy is the application of an accumulated common experience as a (poor) substitute for perfect tactical skill. The same is true of opening theory.

Quoting GM Yuri Averbakh from Chess Tactics for Advanced Players (a wonderful book on tactics):
The grandmaster Teichmann once aptly remarked that chess was 90 per cent tactics. Each one of us -- from beginer to world champion -- knows how true this is.

From Wikipedia:
Chess Tactics
Chess computers are considered superhuman at tactics and rather spotty at strategy. The fact that computers can dominate the best humans suggests that chess is primarily a tactical game.

Strategy versus tactics is similar to the difference between Heuristics and Algorithms.

Checkers has been solved:
Solving Checkers

Chess may never be solved in the same sense as checkers but it has become apparent in the last twenty years that computers doing "just" brute force calculation can beat the best humans. Calculation is a tool we use to evaluate moves and sequences of moves. It is a tool that computers wield better than humans. Humans look at a very small subset of the moves and sequences that computers consider. Humans prune this move tree using knowledge of chess, general principles, guidelines and strategy to find their way through the maze of possibilities. Humans must do that because we are not capable of doing what the computers do -- calculate every possibility to some significant depth. If humans were capable of calculating all of that they would not rely on those general principles, guidelines or strategy. Strategy is a heuristic while calculations are an algorithm.

It is even possible that future chess programs will incorporate more and more chess knowledge and strategy as they reach the limits of brute force. If so, they will be doing it for the same reason human players do it -- there are limits to how much they can calculate.

In practice, most chess games between non-masters turn on simple tactics. In master games they turn on tactics, less simple.

Is my point that General Chess Knowledge or Strategy or Endgame knowledge or Opening Theory does not matter? No, not at all. But tactics rule. If the general principal says "capture towards the center" but the tactics say otherwise in that specific position, obey the tactics.


Friday, August 10, 2007


Knights Errant

I am joining the Knights Errant. The Knights Errant FAQ explains what it is all about. In the side navigation bar there is now a Knights Errant Section that lists other Knights.

From the FAQ:
The Knights Errant are a group of bloggers that are trying to improve their tactical pattern recognition using a method known as the Circles. The Circles program involves working through a large (usually 1000+) set of tactical problems multiple times until they can be solved without a lot of thought.

I will be using Personal Chess Trainer 2007 to assist in this progression and repetition.

14. This seems like a very narrow approach to chess. Isn't there more to chess than tactics?
This is the most common criticism of the Circles. Jeremy Silman voices it quite stridently in a review of de la Maza's book here. Clearly, chess is more than just tactics. Strategy, opening theory, and the endgame are important aspects of the game.

A common misconception, in my view. Chess is not more than tactics. Chess is tactics. If we could calculate tactics perfectly, instantly to any depth there would not be any talk of "strategy." Strategy is the application of an accumulated common experience as a (poor) substitute for perfect tactical skill. The same is true of opening theory.

That said, we still work on strategy and opening theory and endgames. But they are not in any way superior to tactics -- they are a poor substitute for tactics. We work on those areas and concepts because as mere humans with limited tactical skill it helps us create favorable positions. Favorable for what? Tactics that benefit us, of course!

A special thanks to Blue Devil Knight for bringing my attention to the Knights!

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]