CT-ART 4.0 vs. Chess Tactics for Beginners
First off some stuff to talk about before we get down to business...
Blunder has semi-retired from blogging. OK so I put the semi in there, but he did leave the possibility of coming back, but no time soon; apparently he has a life to take care of as well. Who knew? BDK has a new person living with him, mainly his beautiful baby girl Ella. I wish both of these elder statesmen of the chess blogging world much success and in BDK's instance sleep as well (although I don't know that he's getting much for awhile), gentlemen good luck in your new endeavors.
OK Kids just to show you that I am willing to do what no other chess blogger is...
Spend my hard earned cash to answer my own questions about products and then post reviews about them so you don't have to. I am truly providing a valuable service, no?
So back in the day, after reading De La Maza's insanity (Rapid Chess Improvement) I rushed to buy CT-ART 3.0. It cost $25 and it left a lot to be desired, the solutions weren't always fair; there were instances where alternate variations would not be included, the interface not appealing to the eye, and I always found the controls to be a bit temperamental, the piece I was moving would drop on a square before I dropped it, giving you credit for a wrong answer etc...
When my computer croaked a few months back I had to upgrade to Windows 7 and while Windows 7 has run better than XP has all my software wouldn't play with it. So I bought Fritz 12 (I had been using 9) and I bought CT-ART4.0 that had just been released.
The interface has been redone and now it runs in a shell program called Peskh@. This interface allows the user to download other courses from the ChessOk website (they are the folks that make Chess Assistant). They have some free courses and demo courses so you can try before you buy. Most courses run $25 (if you download them). The interface is a bit clunky and not always intuitive, but it is worlds better than the CT-ART 3.0 interface.
The solutions are better, more alternatives seem to be included, so that is another improvement.
The problems are quite frankly a bit advanced, the website states that the problems are for ELO 1700-2400, so that is a pretty wide spectrum I find that the easy level 10 and 20 problems fairly complex.
A good program that is better in its second iteration. Downloading is an easy way to buy, perhaps not what this impulsive chess buying author needs in his life. Highly recommended...with an asterisk (See below)
Chess Tactics for Beginners:
This is based on the Chess School tactics books by Sergey Ivashchenko. Igor Khmelnitsky recommends these puzzle books to beginners to improve their tactics in his excellent book Chess Exam and Training Guide. I thought I had reviewed these two books already but if I did I deleted the post or I merely thought I reviewed it. Either way the books (Vols 1A and 1B) are simply the best tactical puzzle books I have ever owned or even seen.
This software has the exact same problems laid out in a similar fashion to the books. Once again the Peskh@ interface is used and it is OK in itself but excellent once you consider all of your ChessOk software will run through this thing and well that's just pretty darned convenient. I've gone through the problems that correspond the Vol 1A and found that there are no errors, just like its paper counterpart.
Now there is one point of potential confusion, the books are labeled as Volume 1A and 1B the software can be bought for $25 (download) and it includes both books, however each volume sells for $15 by itself and are labeled separately as Chess Tactics Level 1 and Chess Tactics Level 2. Now if you go for the Chess Tactics Level 3 that would be the Chess School Vol 2 book. which is the last in the line that Mr. Ivashchenko wrote, but more on that later. Is this a huge deal? Maybe not but I think that it should be painfully obvious to potential purchasers what they are downloading. The curious thing is ChessOk sells the books in question, it seems to me that they should tie both in and clear up any potential confusion.
This is a great product, the books were good and error free (I got through both Vol1 books) and I highly recommend it.
Final Verdict who is the winner?
This will depend on how strong a player you are. The ChessOk website is a little confusing in its labeling. Their break points seem to be Kids and Beginner', Club Players, Intermediate, and Advanced, with programs overlapping in ranges, Chess Tactics for Beginners for example can be found in the Kids/Beginners section as well as in the Club section where it is joined by Chess Tactics 3 and CT-ART 4.0. The cover art for the titles doesn't always match from one section to another either.
I myself prefer Chess Tactics for Beginners as the problems are spelled out for you at first (win a rook, win a queen etc..) before you go screaming for the hills at how basic it is, are you rated over 1700? If not you probably need to be starting right here chief. By the time you get to the last 234 problems it simply asks for the best move. In the next program it is all laid out in this fashion, if it follows the book, which I'm pretty sure it does. The problems are broken down into small groups so you can go section by section with between 30 to 50 problems per section, which is nice if you don't have limitless time to do tactics problems all day.
CT-ART has not instruction just whose move it is, it can also be broken down by level, problems with a difficulty of 10, 20 and so on to difficulty of 80. This is better if you are actually doing circle training as you can start with the easier problems and work your way up ala a Knight Errant.
Bottom line is they are both good and at $25 each they are cheap and should replace any tactics book that you have and give you enough tactical problems to last a good long while.
The program is convenient although you'll have to play around with it a bit in order to figure it out, overall its not too bad. If you have a hard time controlling yourself with chess related purchases; BEWARE! It is super easy to buy stuff off the ChessOk site, but if your downloading you can only buy one item at a time, you'll have to fill your virtual shopping basket for each download purchase.
I like their training software a lot! Now only if they could make Chess assistant less buggy they would be able to rule the chess world. In their defense they are super nice and respond quickly (within 24hours) to inquiries. Unfortunately in the case of Chess Assistant their answer usually consists of uninstalling and reinstalling the software.
About the Chess School books:
Vol 3 (tactics) is out but that has very difficult problems and to my knowledge he (Ivashenko) wasn't involved in putting that book together. How difficult are the problems you ask? Well in the Vol 2 book there are many, and I mean many 6 to 10 move solutions, so let your imagination run wild with how Vol 3 is.
Volume 4 is the endgame book which I have reviewed (check the Patzer Book Review page here) and it is also excellent, but once again it was put together by a different author. It seems that after the initial success of the chess School Vols. 1A & B and Vol 2 the publisher continued with the winning title.
So if you are trying to decide which one to get, hopefully I have made the decision easier for you.