Review - Finding The Right Tactics Trainer For You
As all my students know (and hear on an almost-daily basis), tactical training is the key to fast tracking improvement from class E to A. After that strategy and openings and especially endgames (although all 3 are very important) may tend to carry greater weight than simple tactical training, but until then I am convinced that 50 minutes on every hour of chess study should involve studying tactics.
With that in mind, I've decided to briefly review some of the tactics trainers that I've been exposed to.
The problem quality is high, the website looks pretty, and the concept of making tactical training a 'game' is pretty neat. On the downside, your 'opponents' in these 'games' are just computers, so it takes a little bit of the competitive rush out of it for me. The biggest downside is that membership is relatively expensive and free users are severely restricted. 3/5
Of course, I should review the chess.com tactics trainer! The trainer on this website has a huge (and I mean huge) collection of tactics for players of all levels. The interface is well designed and easy to use. The tactics vary from simple-ish ones that you should be able to see very quickly, to more complicated tactics where you're allotted much more time. The biggest downside being that chess.com is way behind in terms of allowing puzzles with multiple solutions. 3/5
This website does not have a pretty interface. In fact, it's almost a little bit annoying to use, and I'm not sure it even supports all web browsers. However, if you're able to use it, it's amazing. This website has an entirely unique concept of giving you only 3-10 seconds to solve each puzzle. This website is extremely beneficial for class C-A players who are looking to train pattern recognition. Being hit with 100+ tactics/session really teaches you to check "All checks and captures". 3.5/5
This is my favourite. If you've never been here stop reading and go now. The interface is excellent, the website is very user friendly (there's been a recent update which confuses users of the old version, but they were nice enough to allow access to the old version for stubborn guys like me), and it just looks amazing. Perhaps my favourite part is that it allows puzzles with multiple solutions. This means that if there are two different mate in 2's, it will accept either move. If there is a mate in 2 and a mate in 3 and you play the move that leads to mate in 3, it will ask you to try again without penalizing you. This feature allows for a much broader range of tactical puzzles, most of which are more practical for real life play. The website has two tactic modes, blitz and standard. In standard you are not given a time limit (I've had 1 hour sessions where I only solved 2 puzzles), but the tactics are often extremely difficult to calculate (and you have to see the whole thing because a wrong move on move 4 of 5 fails the entire puzzle). The tactics in blitz mode are usually a little bit easier, but your score is affected by the amount of time used. The only downside is that they have used a pretty poor business model. Free users get so many features that it's really not worth paying for a membership. 5/5
For a nice balance of fast (pattern training) and slow (calculation training) tactics, I like combining chess.emrald.net and chesstempo.com.
If you know of any other good tactical sites, please feel free to comment below!