Tools for Improving Tactical and Board Vision
Chess.com is great: In an online (correspondence, turn-based) chess game, you can spend hours or days considering all the move possibilities and the tactical consequences stemming from a single position. Thanks to erik and the chess.com crew for their Analyze feature --- otherwise I'd have to keep a chess board beside my computer every time I log on!
In a live game (whether OTB or at chess.com), the ability to recognize tactics quickly becomes crucial. An integral part of such recognition involves board vision --- seeing all the features and possibilities in a given position.
Now, I don't claim to be an expert at board vision; just ask my opponents! However, here are some timed, electronic tools that I use to help me improve my board vision and my tactical recognition:
The "training" tools in Fritz: Within a chosen time limit (I use 2 minutes), Fritz loads random positions from a database and you have to identify:
- every piece/pawn that can move to deliver check ("Check Training"), or
- every piece/pawn that can be captured ("Attack Training"), or
- every undefended piece/pawn ("Defence Training").
I do these in the order given above, because (to me) finding checks is the easiest of the three tasks, and finding undefended pieces is the hardest. For each category, I keep a log of my "personal bests" and try to top the current "record".
CT-ART 3.0: Every time I go through this excellent collection of timed tactical exercises, I set up a different user account and try to beat my current personal best. A friend of mine has also suggested setting a time limit of 5 minutes per problem the first time through the problems, then 4 minutes per problem next time, then 3, et cetera. Most of the problems I can solve very quickly --- some within a few seconds. Occasionally, I get a problem that seems to take me a looooong time to figure out (if I get it right at all)!
Chess Tactics Server at http://chess.emrald.net : If you really want to train/test your tactical swiftness, try the tactical gauntlet at the (free) Chess Tactics Server. Your solution must be correct, and the faster you do it, the better your "rating". The problems also have ratings (difficulty levels), which impacts how fast you are expected to solve the problem to improve your rating. If you can find the time (without distractions) to devote to the site, you can work a hundred problems or more in one session!
I know I can spend more time training with these tools! If you have constructive ideas about board vision or tactical training, please share them.