Wednesday, July 11, 2012


White to move

This problem is in both Bain's Chess Tactics for Students and Chessimo Tactics 1.  So I see it a lot; I've probably encountered it 7-10 times, and I'm not sure I've gotten it right even once.  It's not even that hard.  But for some reason, I never see the initiating piece.  It's like it's not on the board.  And I don't seem to be learning the pattern at all!  Maybe this action will burn it into my brain.

Tactics Training Status
Chessimo:  Studied 4866, Learned 360 (Overall Completion: 10.1%!)
Bain:  1.75 Circles completed

When you're tired and bored, it gets easy to play Whack-a-Mole on the problems, even if you try to avoid it.  I do keep telling myself that just seeing the patterns and going through the motions (the moves are easy to remember one at a time) has some value.  Added is the frustration that they're getting harder, and they're all Mates or pseudo-Mates.  The difficulty increase is a bit faster than my skill increase.  I would prefer a bit of a go at similarly leveled Win Decisive Material problems, to prolong the training at one skill level.  It will be a bit silly if I get to the end of Tactics 1 having done Mate in 6/7s, and then half of Tactics 2 is 2/3-move forks and skewers.  It's a bit unbalanced.

However, once again, about two units after I started to get discouraged, GM Milos gives 2-3 units of pure review to let you catch your breath.  It's a wise scheme.  I've also been making an effort to visualize or understand the entire problem before whacking, even pausing the timer, and definitely if I clearly don't understand the problem.

I located a PGN of Bain, and that has made a world of difference.  I'm running through this set again, and it's pretty easy to run through 100 or so in a sitting.  I think my favorite tactics training method is simply a PGN and Scid vs. PC, or Scid on the Go for my Android tablet.  I never Whack-a-Mole, there's no timer, but I'm willing to give up and move on if I'm stumped (doesn't happen too often with Bain, of course).

I don't know if I'll do a full seven with Bain within the calendar year, but probably at least three.  Next set likely will involve  Hays' Chess Tactics for Juniors (people say it's harder), CPT 3.3 Tactics set L2, a set from, or a combination of the three.

Generic Amazon Customer Chess Book Review:  "I loved this book!  It definitely helped my chess!  Beginners and intermediates will benefit the most!"

How do you know you've improved?  Did you take a canned exam?  What was your rating improvement?  Maybe you got worse!  Granted, I understand that some chess knowledge can have a delayed benefit, and that chess skill isn't all about ratings.  But we have reasonable ways of measuring chess skill, and I'm worried about people thinking they've learned a damn when they haven't.  Of course, to some extent, any exposure to good chess positions is good, but that's pretty weak sauce.

So I say all that to say that I'm sure I'm improving, but I can't prove it.  My CTS rating has bumped up a solid 50 points.  I know that doesn't seem like much, and certainly I would have hoped for more by now, but it's consistent (both the initial rating and the current rating).  It'd be higher if I was more committed to speed over accuracy.  I haven't done ChessTempo in a while, but the problem with that is that by doing Standard, my rating seems artificially inflated.  Honestly, given infinite patience I imagine I could have a 1800-2000 rating at ChessTempo.  I'm not in the mood to do more timers ala Blitz mode, but we'll see.

Regardless, tactics really are popping out more.  The "I know this theme!" recognition is a bit better.  My skill is laughably lopsided.  I'm much better at the Mates, compared to the Decisive Materials.  One emphasizes things like absolute pins and attacks on mating squares.  The other emphasizes forks, skewers, etc.  Hopefully, Decisive Materials will improve and so will my ratings.

I might invest in one of those canned Chess Exam books.  Or something like that.

I hope everyone is doing well.


  1. Your nemesis problem should be easy. Look at the checks. There are two of them, and they both just lose material. Look at the captures. There are two of them. Qxb5 just loses the Q. Rxa6 looks good. The rook cannot be taken by either piece without allowing mate in 1. Check all the other defences. Nothing works.

    Just remembering moves one by one is not likely to be very productive. You need to take the trouble to understand why the tactic works, and how to spot it. Both the Q and the R are overworked, both defending the pawn and defending against mate. If you spot that, the solution reveals itself. You need to work out all the moves from the diagram, before looking up the answer, or trying it on a computer.

    It is not easy though. I failed to spot a tactic that should have been obvious to me earlier on. If I had followed ALL the checks and captures, I would have found it.

    Woolum is good for mates.

  2. If you know there is a tactic:
    What is the tactic about?
    Its for example clear that white will not win blacks knight. The black king is still in the center! There is an open line close to the black king open and ocupied by white. The black queen is without protection...

    So with some experience you will see that this tactic is about
    -the black king and/or
    -the black queen and/or
    -the black rook at a8

    You can see that estimatingly the white bishop and knight are not involved in that tactics...

  3. Hey I too own the Bain book but haven't been able to locate a PGN file of it. Can you tell me where you found it?

  4. I have a copy of Bain's book as well. I've been looking for a PGN file of it. Could you let me know where you found it?

  5. I highly recommend tactics books rather than software.

    For myself the benefit to that is that you can go to specific problems as often as you like. Plus, they're just fun.

    I often read Alburt & Palatnik's book Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player, along with Chess Tactics for Champions by Susan Polgar. I also have about 15 other books.

    Good stuff.

  6. I wrote in a future post that I was tending back towards books. That was due to frustration over the easy tendency in Chessimo to "cheat" - you take your best guess and fail your way to victory on each problem. Despite promises of self-discipline, when you're 60 problems into a 150 problem set, there becomes a fine line between certain of the right move and being fairly certain. I was also annoyed at the endless sets of Mate problems. I agree with Heisman and wanted more Win Significant Material problems.

    Still, as I've gone back to books and PGNs of books, I'm much better at the Mate problems. Chessimo sunk in. It strengthens my belief that "cheating" in tactics problems is a-okay. We're learning patterns, less so solving problems.

    This is also moving me back in favor of the PGN. Firstly, the Bain diagrams are a little small. But more important, after I solve a problem, I often press Forward through the moves, to ingrain the patterns in my brain. So, I not only see the problem, I get to see all the steps towards the solution. Store 'em up in my brain, please!

    To those who asked me for PGNs: I'm hesitant to send out any PGN files

    a) I've heard Bain has a lot of Reinfeld in it. You could probably do a dupe list against the public domain Reinfeld PGN, and get most of the book. Then find a few friends and split up the work.

    b) Finding the PGN on the web, and then finding the unlocking password, is possible. That's how I did it.

    c) I suppose if one sent me a pic of his Bain book lying atop a recent newspaper, I could part with a PGN.

    P.S. I encountered my Nemesis today. Nailed it!