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I recently purchased CT-ART 3.0. To my surprise I got quite an high Elo score (consistently around 2400-2500).
I was wondering about the Elo scores some of you obtained?
I know that the Elo measure of CT-Art has nothing to do with actual playing performance but I find it nevertheless interesting. Also, did the use of CT-Art improve performance in the long run? (Mine are worst since I started using it, I guess I'm looking too much for creating potential tactics without improving my position)
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I don't like CT-Art. I don't think it's very practical. It doesn't really help your actual playing. You may develop an ability to calculate deeper, but unless you get good at real-life playing chess (I mean the psychological aspect of chess), CT-Art won't help you much.
I found Personal Chess Trainer. It trains in tactics (these are just mates), endgame positions, and strategy. The idea behind the program is to develop a second nature in basic tactics. You will start with very easy problems with a time limit. As you move onto more advanced problems you are still repeating the basics but at a much quicker time limit. In this way, you actually get the tactics into you instead of just getting an ability to calculate. (The Endgame training is awsome)
CT-Art has some really deep puzzles but they are impractical because they don't teach you the way to use what you're learning in real-life. Personal Chess Trainer tries to make the tactics you practice a part of you that you can call on during real games. It can also put pressure on you. As the time limit decreases you're almost forced to already know what to do in the position, and you can always set it to repeat the position until you get it right (I think this is a really good idea). BTW, the endgame training is awsome.
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I really like CT-Art so far, its the best chess app I've ever seen! I'm getting usually a 1900-2400 rating... I think the way to use it is to do the exercises and then repeat them again and again, and use the dynamic ELO thingmy to see if your getting better.
It should also show what area you are weak in and need to improve.
Although I think though finding mates is the easiest bit of chess, especially with forcing play, getting yourself into a winning position is a different matter.
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I think it is better to master lighter tactics first and work hard at positional play. You usually don't get a position with tactical posibilities without positional play. And you might not need to find the mate in two or three. You may just need to win a pawn or a piece or block an enemy passed pawn or shut the king out or lock out an enemy bishop or something to get a win. If you gain an advantage and you press it with accurate play, then you will probably get a win. You should rather go for smaller more common edges and get a winning position. This is a lot better than playing from the beginning with the goal of trying to get a big checkmate (at least until you are an expert).
My main complaint with CT-Art is that it does not help with your total game, only your ability to find a mate. This may be good in some situations when either king is exposed to attack, but no one should limit their tactical training to CT-Art. It should expand to include say Personal Chess Trainer or 303 Perplexing Chess Puzzles. You should work on other areas of your tactical play in addition to calculating mate. (Personal Chess Trainer also helps to teach you to get to a winning position too)
(Also I can't really focus very well on CT-Art's board anyway. I like Personal Chess Trainers layout a lot better. Maybe Personal Chess Trainer just happens to be the best for me personally but I'm quite sure the board and pieces look a lot better than CT-Art's)
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doctor_knight, I'm not in total agreement with all your points, I'll try to make my case adequately but bear in mind I'm not trying to be argumentative, just trying to promote discussion. :)
"I think it is better to master lighter tactics first and work hard at positional play."
I definitely agree with tactics work being important, I'm not so convinced as to placing so much value on positional play in games of players rated similar to us (I remember reading your OTB rating is in the 1500's.) I have found little need allocate specific study to positional concepts at all, basic principles and guidelines that I have accumulated over time have easily sufficed for the quality (or lack of..) in the games that I and my opponents produce. I can see the argument that positional play might generate tactical posibilities, but I don't think that is necessarily the case at our level - I would hazard a guess that it is almost always short term blunders that account for the vast majority tactical opportunities for us or our opponent and not some long term pressure requiring accurate play. I think analysing games with Fritz afterwards demonstrates this quite well. In your last game against Ogora there are a few examples that illustrate this (I apologise if you would have preferred that I had not used your game). According to a very quick analysis by Fritz, on move 17 you were marginally better, but the tactical error 18. g3 lost a pawn, then 24. b5 lost about a pawn and a half, then 27. Qb4 lost about another pawn and a half, Rf1 loses another pawn, 39. Kf4 loses about another pawn and a half, 54. Ba1 loses about five pawns, 55. Bc3 loses about ten pawns, 58. Bc3 loses three pawns. All that is assuming that your opponent makes the best replies but he didn't spot many of these tactical opportunities and immediately lost the advantage presented by the previous move. I may not have chosen a great game to look at but the point is that no amount of positional pressure is going to make up for all the big innaccuracies that are common in games of our rating.
"If you gain an advantage and you press it with accurate play, then you will probably get a win."
Very true, but like I tried to illustrate above, accurate play is not common at our level. Even if the majority of our moves are at least moderately optimal then that is often not good enough to win a game if we play bad moves on even just a couple.
My view on the tactics/strategy balance is that lower rated games are most often decided on tactical mistakes and as the ratings of the players increase the balance gradually shifts to the strategy side of things, but we never get perfect of course! Until we can iron out all major blunders (i.e dropping piece or more) then a bit of logical thought and basic principles should suffice. Besides, I feel I have learnt a reasonable amount about optimum piece placement just from studying tactics, when you see time and time again a tactical opportunity arising because of a Rook on the same file as a Queen or a Knight on an outpost or a fianchettoed Bishop then you have a practical reason for doing so, which in my mind is much more likely to be recalled at the correct time than if I had just read it in a book somewhere saying that it is a good thing to do.
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About tactical abilities and blunders. Many blunders that you see are mainly due to errors in thought process and psychological conditions not tactical ability. Ability implies potential for example, "I have the ability or potential to do this." Now whether I can live up to my actual ability under psychologically stressing situations is another thing entirely. My tactical ability is much stronger than that of many people I have played (especially in OTB), but I have often blundered due to psychological effects that had very little to do with my tactical ability. Strengthening tactical ability will help you to not blunder as much, but not nearly as much as gaining experience in real battle. Gaining mental toughness and developing an instinctive and effective thought process are probably the best ways to reduce tactical blunders. Tactical puzzles are a real good way to practice your thought process though :)
And when I say accurate play, I guess I mainly mean safe play (for this level) and I guess I'm mainly talking about OTB.
And about the significance of positional play. A lot of that has to do with what openings you play. I didn't really clarify that.
I suppose that my analysis on the chess software has a strong influence of OTB playing. I think Personal Chess Trainer is probably better for OTB and maybe CT-Art is better for CC, but Personal Chess Trainer is better for helping with blunders because it focuses on developing a tactical second nature. Second nature (instinct) is much more reliable than memory or problem solving skills because it is what your body or mind automatically does everytime something happens even under very stressful conditions.
BTW, some friendly advice. It is a good principle when trying to make a point to keep the focus on the point and not direct it elsewhere. When one refers to a game from someone else and starts saying their name or saying "you," it tends to direct the attention away from the topic and towards the person involved. It's probably better to say that "white" played this or "black" should have done that. It isn't a huge thing, but it will help promote discussion and not argument. Saying "you were marginally better" makes things personal and encourages defending oneself rather than discussing a topic. Honestly, the first thing that I did upon reading your post was type up a big paragraph defending the game and myself. I didn't even think that much about CT-Art or tactics. And subconsciously, other readers of the post develop a view that someone is the "badguy" of the discussion. So it's best to be careful and keep specific personal references in personal messages and general ideas and anonymous examples in the public light. Maybe I'm a little picky, but this is important to promote discussion and not argument.
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"BTW, some friendly advice...
...but this is important to promote discussion and not argument. :)"
Sorry, yes you are right about that. I didn't really see it as confrontational when I was typing it, but that can happen when the tone of voice, vocal inflections and facial expression are not included. Thanks from refraining from making it an argument, I'll keep things to white and black next time. :)
However! ;) I am still not totally convinced. In the first paragraph you say, "Many blunders that you see are mainly due to errors in thought process and psychological conditions not tactical ability." then in the fourth paragraph you say, "Second nature (instinct) is much more reliable than memory or problem solving skills because it is what your body or mind automatically does everytime something happens even under very stressful conditions." which seems possibly a little contradictory to me, the first suggesting that adverse psychogical conditions are responsible for many blunders and not tactical ability, then in the second it seems like you are suggesting tactical awareness (which is intrinsically linked to, if not the same as 'instinct') is what your body defaults to under times of psychological stress. So if that is the case then an improved tactical ability should greatly reduce the errors when under stress rather than just 'getting used to' these conditions. Which also doesn't agree with this!:
"My tactical ability is much stronger than that of many people I have played (especially in OTB), but I have often blundered due to psychological effects that had very little to do with my tactical ability." If instinct does becomes the human bodies default under stress, as you said (and I agree), then would it not be the instinct that is the problem and not the fact that you are under stress? If we have developed great tactical instinct through practice then the stress becomes much less of an issue as we have something to fall back on.
I guess the question is this: Is it psychological stress that decreases our tactical ability or that poor tactical ability becomes apparent in times of stress? Either way, I'm sure you'd agree that both are worth working on to improve.
I agree with the importance of a reliable thought process - this is something which I have been particularly interested in developing recently. As you say, it is through practice of tactics that we become efficient in our processes, visualisation of what would have been 'complex' sequences become rather easy when they are just a combination of motifs.
But back to the original matter (tactics v. strategy), I agree up to a point (probably marginally more agreement than disagreement this time ;)) that choice of openings will shift the relative importance of those two factors but I still think that in the vast majority of games from around our rating and below (and probably quite a few above) there will be 'game losing' blunders regardless of how strategic the opening was. It just seems logical to work on the things which are most beneficial and are most easily improvable - which is tactics to me. I am probably slightly biased in this respect (no, really! ;) ) because tactics have probably made up about 95% of things I have practiced but I am happy with my progress so far.
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you seem to be familiar with both programs. Could you describe in more specific, nuts and bolt terms the differences between the two? Not owning either, I've been under the impression that they both present sequences of tactical puzzles. How do they differ in their approach to training? Thanks. ws
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I think the most obvious difference to me is that the actual board used in Personal Chess Trainer looks more professional. The CT-Art board looks cartoony and grainy and low-resolution to me and it seems harder to visualize positions on it (at least for me). I don't know if you can download better boards for it or what, but I definately don't like how it looks compared to other software.
There is one nice thing I like about CT-Art: when you fail at a position too much, it gives you a small, easy position that shows you the main idea involved in the main puzzle. The problem with this is that some of these small puzzles don't match up with the main puzzles.
You can either work through topic specific puzzles or do comprehensive sections that cover random themes. There are a lot puzzles that where you win pieces instead of just checkmate which is good. And actually, I just gave CT-Art another shot and have decided that it's pretty good, but the issue of the board still stands and sometimes the random helpers that don't really help you at all lead you to think in the wrong directions. Also you can't get anything out of CT-Art if you are short on sleep and struggling through classes and homework like me. Personal Chess Trainer will still get something into you even in this condition; I can testify to that.
Personal Chess Trainer starts you with really basic positions that develop fundamental tactical ideas. Then you move on to slightly harder positions that are basically built up from the fundamental tactics you develop. Then you repeat the basics. Then you learn some more new and harder positions and then repeat the basics, repeat the harder positions, learn new ones, repeat, repeat, repeat, learn, repeat, repeat, repeat. There is a lot of repitition in Personal Chess Trainer that really helps to develop the things that you learn into instinct. Something that I really like about Personal Chess Trainer is that you can train your endgame skills. With PCT, you can really improve your endgame play. The strategy training is also very good. CT-Art does a little more in terms of improving tactical ability, but Personal Chess Trainer aims to improve your entire game and to make it permanent. Maybe I'm just biased, but I really only barely have time for PCT much less CT-Art. Maybe if I had a lot more freetime I would use CT-Art a lot more too.
mattdw, I think our main problem is not that either one of us is wrong, but rather that we aren't really understanding each other.
First of all, I don't really know how exactly the chess world uses the term "tactical ability" in a very specific way, but to me personally it refers to the ability to work out a tactical problem in your head without any outside effects. I think this could easily be related to martial arts. There are those who study and practice sequences of moves and intricate counters to punches and other techniques, and there are those who practice hardcore sparring and grappling without a whole lot of delving deep into tricky maneuvers and such. Who do you think will win in a streetfight? The guys who actually are hitting each other and making each other tap out are much more suited to real-life fighting than the former. They have developed their strikes to be very quick and powerful, much too quick and powerful for most of the intricate manuevers to work in a situation where the blows are coming in at random. They also are tough. They can take a lot because they have been taking a lot. The tougher people have learned to keep all their weaknesses covered by experience. On the other hand, if they were told to stand still and throw a single punch to a specific area of the body of one of the guys who practiced tricky, advanced skills, the defender would destroy the attacker because he is ready for the attack and will be ready to apply a specific technique. The martial artists who train hard by actually fighting (with sparring gear of course, or they wouldn't be fighting fit. They'd have too many bruises and temporarily damaged tissue otherwise to be a good fighter. Unless you're a grappler) still needs to know and practice technique in order to be effective, but this fighter also trains much simpler but effective techniques (like simple parries and jabs that are easier to execute) until they are second nature. It is much easier to develop good technique for simple tasks into instinct than it is with the fancy, tricky moves. You may have the ability to apply a technique but not the instinct, confidence, and experience to pull it off in a real fight. My instructor taught me to parry be poking with me a broomstick randomly sometimes feinting a blow and sometimes really attacking so I wouldn't know if I really needed to block or retreat or whatever I was supposed to do; the only way for me to defend was to make my technique my second nature. Hopefully this helped to clarify. I'm really tired now so I don't want to say too much. I will say that you need to practice tactics; it would be practically heretical to say that a good player doesn't need to practice tactics. However, it is most profitable to practice them in a way that promotes developing instinct (why I like Personal Chess Trainer so much).
In regards to the tactical vs. positional aspect. At our level many are indeed won because of some tactical blunder or something. However, in many of my more recent games since delving into positional play in a deeper way, I have actually provoked tactical blunders with positional pressure. It seems that many players at our level cannot deal with positional pressure and almost destroy their own position when it gets too great. I'm sure I've done it sometimes, but not that much recently after becoming much more aware of positional factors. It also has a lot to do with the openings you play. I play a cautious, flexible game. I try my hardest to keep my position very solid and make it a point to not let in any real serious weaknesses. I'm sure I still let in a lot of weaknesses here and there, but it's becoming much better and I've noticed less tactical blunders on my part because of my positional play. One game I won was almost funny to me. I played a hypermodern opening and eventually dominated the center and got a some advantage; however, if my opponent played more smartly under pressure, he would have made things very hard for me. He had a very defensible position that would have been very hard for me to crack even with extra material. All I had to do was start improving my position though. I started to make my pieces more active and tried to produce the most possible threats with them I could. My opponent couldn't take it. I don't know if he even knew what I was doing, he just instantly brought protection away from a weakness in his position and allowed me a way in. My position was so good that my pieces were instantly activated and totally blew his whole position up. Checkmate followed shortly. Tactics are extremely important (tactics are the justification for positional play after all), but if you play certian openings like me you need to improve positional play and you'll get good results.
I'm too sleepy to go any further.
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for going back and looking at CT-Art again and revising your thoughts. As I said, I'm not familiar with either program. CT-Art is the one that has been most recommended to me though.
In fact, I played in a OTB tournament last weekend. My first game I lost to a player rated 400 points higher who later on beat a player 400 points higher than him. As we were walking out at the end of the day, he recommended Ct-Art, saying that his biggest rating jump had occurred after using the program regularly. I don't know if I'll get it, but it was interesting that this thread pooped up just about the time I started thinking about it. ws
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"mattdw, I think our main problem is not that either one of us is wrong, but rather that we aren't really understanding each other. "
That seems like a good compromise. ;)
"First of all, I don't really know how exactly the chess world uses the term"tactical ability" in a very specific way, but to me personally it refers to the ability to work out a tactical problem in your head without any outside effects."
That's roughly how I see it. In general I look upon it as the brain's equivalent of muscle memory - the thing that allows top sports people to carry out complex tasks under pressure (most of the time!) and like I acknowledged earlier, things can go wrong under extreme pressure but whether this is actually due to the pressure itself or if the pressure exposes that they do not have that specific skill totally mastered (hypothetically speaking).
It's interesting that you bring up martial arts as a comparison, it was something that I did for many years in my teens before repeated injuries from excessive training ended it (I just don't know when enough is enough! ;)). I totally understand the need to have the absolute basics down, any competition I ever won was almost always due to applying the basics well, simple shoot take down plus a basic lock for example, and when standing the ability to block and avoid all the usual strikes was much more useful than a specific elaborate reply to one particular attack. I'm assuming that you are suggesting that in chess terms this means that it is important to learn the basic motifs well and pay less attention to the more complicated tactics to begin with, which would be good because that's what I think! If it seemed like I was suggesting that beginners concentrate on difficult combinations then that was not intentional, I meant that the vast majority of time should be spent on making the basic motifs become automatic in recognition. I bit of work on harder problems might be beneficial at the right time, I know it has opened my mind to some less obvious ideas.
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Yeah I think that's about right (about learning basics first). That's why I suggest Personal Chess Trainer over CT-Art (mianly for beginners) because it really gets the basics into you. CT-Art is really good if you already have a tactical foundation (and you don't mind the board layout). However, I don't think it's as good for getting a solid foundation. And besides it only trains tactics. If all you want is to improve your tactical ability, go for CT-Art, but if you want something to really help with your entire game, Personal Chess Trainer is great.
BTW, I have a friend who plays on UTD's chess team and is rated at roughly 2100 who recomends tactic books over software. He has told me of his getting tired and being lazy with the software since it usually helps to find the solution. With a book, unless you cheat, you have to find the solution all by yourself. Of course software does have the advantage of more positions and like Personal Chess Trainer, a pressure environment with lots of repitition. But I have noticed that my play seems to be better when I work through tactics books. I really like the feel of actually having the book in my hands too. In addition, you can bring the book around with you everywhere. Last summer, I brought the tactics book I was going through pretty much everywhere with me. At the beginning of this semester, my middlegame tactics were extremely sharp and deep (at least compared to how they used to be. I have been humbled a number of times by my friend's tactical ability so they definately weren't expert good, but they were a good deal stronger than almost anyone I played at that time). Ever since I started classes and have gotten really tired and haven't had as much time, my tactics have decreased. My tactical understanding (maybe this is a better way of saying what I was defining tactical ability as) has remained at a steady level, but my focus and sharpness have definately declined. I've been using tactics software because it's practical since I'm on the computer a lot for my homework, but my tactical ability is still lower than it should be. This probably has a lot more to do with the fact that I have a lot more on my mind than I did last summer though. I thought it interesting however when I showed my friend Personal Chess Trainer and he said something like, "Real books are still the best."
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very interesting discussion
By the way, how are you using CT-ART 3.0??
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Actually, the only software I'm currently using is Chess Combination Encyclopedia made by the same company that makes CT-Art. I like it better than CT-Art. I don't think the puzzles are any better or anything; I just like the feel of it better I guess. If I had the time, I would probably use Personal Chess Trainer for endgame and mating skills too.
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ct art good but not annotated
I am sure ct art 3 has improved my chess by working through the 10, 20 and sopme 30 point problems. But it is not annotated. So even though it shows me the solution i am completely stumped as rto the reason for some of the moves for problems of difficulty greater than 30 points.
Does either personal ct or cce explain the reason for each move?
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cce has a teaching section with that teaches you about different kinds of tactics. That is annotated. Otherwise neither are annotated in their puzzles. With personal cc, you are working on reacting with correct tactics so at first, the puzzles are quite easy to understand and by the time you get to the more difficult puzzles you will be so good at seeing mates that it you will instantly understand how it works if you get it wrong because you've already seen all the different kinds of mates before. Personal chess trainer uses a certain process to train you. First you learn the basic mating positions (and you learn them quite well), then you learn how to get there. And then you learn how to get to the positions to get to the mating positions and so on. If you want to practice the endgame with personal cc, I recommend you read a good basic endgame book first as it may be hard to understand why certain moves are right otherwise.
You also have to undertand that with the amount of positions in these programs, I don't think it would be practical to come up with annotation for each position.
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can you please exlain what types of information you learn from the annotated area?