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Ray Cheng - 600 lessons from Tactics to Strategy

  • 15 months ago · Quote · #1


    I strongly recommend "Practical Chess Exercises - 600 lessons from Tactics to Strategy" by Ray Cheng. You can find it on the web at Amazon or similar sellers. What makes this book stand out is that on the left page, it simply shows the Chess position with the simple instruction "White/Black to move".

    The reader has to work out what is the challenge or what is the best move. The problem with many Chess Challenges is that they are obviously mate-oriented, either by simple inspection or with hints like "Mate-in-3-moves".

    The answers are later supplied on the right page, which should be covered with a card or postal envelope, until you have decided on your move or give up.

    Then Cheng explains, such as (1)* Fork 1....Nb3! 2. Rb1 Nc5 (forking Rook and Queen) wins the exchange, taking a rook for a minor piece. Note that the number of "*" for each challenge indicates its approximate degree of difficulty.

    An example of a more difficult challenge is (14) White to move. The answer is given as (14)*** Swap defender of outposts (Cheng suggests what should be white's objective in this position). He then describes the 3-move forced sequence with additional explanatory notes, ending up with the white Queen nicely placed near the Black King, after which white can play Nd2-c4-d6, and threatening mate next move.

    In my opinion, these are real exercises in Tactics and Strategy, and would complement Tactic Trainer on Chess.com



    I do not know what the law and commercial arrangements would be, and we would want to be fair to Ray Cheng and the publisher (Wheatmark). However, given we could get permission, it would not take too long for a cooperative effort to create and upload the pgn files for the 600 Lessons.

    For example, it might be possible to negotiate  a buy or prove purchase of Cheng’s book via Chess.com, Amazon, etc. as a prerequisite to accessing the 600 pgn files. We do not want to foster a "black market", exchanging pgn files

    Chess.com feedback please!


    Susan Polgar reviewed the book in 2011



    “Chess is a complex game, I doubt there is much of an argument about that. I have less certainty as to whether we play because of that complexity or in spite of it. Progressing through chess is a tidal effect of emotion as we improve and find accomplishment, then run into barriers that cause us to feel failure. The complexity is more than just a puzzle that perplexes us until we find a solution that turns out to be fairly simple. Yes, we have all found those kinds of situations in chess, the solution seems simple once we know it. Yet, the maze of chess is not solved with a simple algorithm of any sort, at least not for humans. 

    In reality, it is a number of complexities that exist in chess. As improving players it seems that we have barely conquered one idea or concept and another appears. The number of terms used in chess spans generations or players and the languages they speak. Opening, middlegame, endgame, zugzwang, en passant, fianchetto, tabiya, prophylaxis, doubled pawns, passed pawns, strongpoint, bad bishop, good knight,... it seems endless. Still, in the end there we are sitting at the board with our heads in our hands trying to find the right move. Perhaps the right concept will give us some clue, but it doesn't matter as the clock ticks away. How do we prepare for this setting? 

    "Practical Chess Exercises" aims to help us with such situations. The author, Ray Cheng, relates that he had been working at chess and found the problem solving books to have an inherent problem. Problem books start out telling the reader what to expect. If you get an endgame problem book, it is not likely to have rook sacrifices and conversely if you have a tactics book there isn't much chance of solving a queen-and-pawn versus queen ending. 

    This book presents 600 "problems" that could potentially fall into any category. There aren't any groupings or specific arrangement to the problems, endgames in with tactics in with defense and even opening positions. This is quite a good idea as it introduces the bite of uncertainty to solving the problems. In other words, the reader is deprived of the little bit of extra info that most of us lazy players lean on when we are going through problem books. Diminishing the complacency that can become standard for improving players is worth reading this book alone.



    Patrickregan posted a topic “Chess Exercises” in February 2013. In hindsight, he may have attracted more attention by emphasizing “Tactics to Strategy” (not being critical of Patrick)


    “I have been doing chess exercises in a book called "Practical Chess Exercises" by Ray Cheng. The exercises are a mix of tactics and strategy exercises. So far I have gotten 3 out of 8 or so. The one I just did involved moving a pawn forward. When looking for solutions to chess problems I tend to consider first attacks on the king, next queen moves and then rook and minor piece moves and finally pawn moves. So, it took a long time for me to figure out the puzzle but I did. I imagine that a trained chess player would be able to look at the shape of the board (the arrangement of the pieces on the board) and more quickly zoom in on the correct answer. To be able to do this is one of my goals as a chess player.

  • 15 months ago · Quote · #2


    Ray Cheng's 600 lessons hae been cited today (May 3) in the following Forums. Hence, I thought it useful to promote the benefits of Cheng's fresh and more realistic approach to chess challenges, which make his exercises stand out as different from your usual Chess tactics or puzzle books. Do not misunderstand me, I regularly use TT and have 1001 Mating Puzzles, but Cheng's puzzles are more like the puzzles which arise in a real game, around the idea of "here is the game situation, it is my move, what is the best move which I should make next - I might need to consider a new attacking or defensive move, a continuation of a move sequence, or a new plan, or indeed, a potential forced mating or drawing sequence". 

    Topic Posts & Number of Replies:

    Top 100 chess.com active bullet players september 9

  • 15 months ago · Quote · #3


    Thanks for the interesting and informative post.  There for a while, I was using Cheng's book every day, now I am replaying some of Fischer's games where he used the Pirc and Alekhine's Defense just to give myself some practice on some openings other than The Sicilian or Ruy Lopez.  This post will now get me back to Cheng's book!

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