Slightly different type of suggestion here: A suggestion for how we end users can make better use of Tactics Trainer. I've posted it here because it's very closely rated to many of the suggestions for changes to Tactics Trainer.
I've got a question for the other members who are passionate about Tactics Trainer: What's your objective in using Tactics Trainer? I'm not trying to be clever or sarcastic, it's a real question that has strong implications about what functionality TT should have, and how to use it. These are the reasons I can think of to use TT:
For me, the real goal is to get better at playing chess in actual games.. And for this reason, I use TT in a specific way that from the forum comments seems to be fairly rare.
Why do it this way? In order to make sure I'm using these patterns in real games every time I need to recognize them quickly, and make sure the patterns actually work in the current position. The patterns will suggest candidate moves in the current position, but in a real game I need to calculate the line through and make sure that the move is safe and successful all the way through before I move a piece. This is the combination of skills that I want to practice with Tactics Trainer: finding candidate moves and calculating them through to the end of any tactics, quickly and reliably enough to use in a real game.
Why not show the timer? I see a lot of complaints from people that Tactics Trainer "forces them to move quickly". I can see how you'd feel that way, and that's why I turn off the timer. It's artificial anyway, and it's good for me to learn to see from the position whether it's a simple or complex tactic.
Won't taking all that time drop your rating? Using the above approach, I'm aiming for a very high pass rate, even if I sometimes take too long on the tactic and end up with 20% and a negative rating adjustment. That's ok, it doesn't mean I'm a bad person or worth less, but that I need more practice with this type of tactic to get it cold and recognize it right away, or to be able to calculate better/faster in these types of tactics. The alternative is to impulsively make a move once you see a pattern, even if you don't know if the move is safe. Doing that gives you bad habits, and the ratings hit from a number of 0% failures is worse than the occasional 20%. When I first started this approach I had a drop in my ratings for a week or two, but I quickly jumped 150-200 points above the plateau I'd been on for quite a while. My Live game ratings have also jumped since I started this.
Why always have white on the bottom? Because tactics aren't always about offense. In fact, probably the most important use of tactical skill is when testing whether one of your candidate moves is safe: if I move my piece here, does my opponent have any tactics against me? Keeping white on the bottom means that any "black to move" tactics are giving you practice recognizing tactics from the other side. For some tactics that's not too hard, but I don't mind telling you that I have a way harder time recognizing some patterns like the the Philidor Legacy mate from the other side!
I hope you've found this novel useful, and at least got you to think about what you're really looking for from Tactics Trainer. I'm curious to hear from other people what your goals are for TT, and how do you use it?
I have a Chess Mentor suggestion.
CAn we see the players ratings in chess mentors? You can see them in tactic trainers so why not Chess Mentor?
I'll try this. Thanks.
this is interesting and some good suggestiongs. i use tactics trainer as a combination of 1 and 3. i pay attention to my rating, but don't live and die by it. i think the main use of it is to find tactics that are challenging and will continue to teach you. i am kind of at a mode where my rating will get to 1400 or so, increasing the difficulty of the tactic. then i drop down a few hundered points, decreasing the difficulty of the tatic. then, it rises again. obviously, i need to work more on the harder ones and then i will rise to another level and repeat the process.
my only problem with "see all moves before moving" is that i get surprised by the opponents moves. i have not yet figured out how to tell what they are going to do, so at some point i have to start playing it out to see where they are going to go. often times part of my post-failure analysis is why the TT moved the way it did. but this is still one of the weakest parts of my game.
That's a really good point, and exactly one of the things I'm trying to practice. Dan Heisman's mantra is "checks, captures and threats". In that order, we should be looking for any moves that the opponent can make that will check our king, capture a piece, or create a threat. These are the possible opponent moves that we need to worry about and make sure we have a good enough answer for it. If we don't, then the move we're considering isn't safe, and we can't play it. Checks and captures are easier to look for, threats covers many more possible moves.
Just think though, how many more games would you win if you even just saw all the checks and captures coming?
BTW, I can't recommend Dan Heisman's Novice Nook columns at chesscafe.com enough for beginning to intermediate players.
What about my suggestion?
also, "i check here, then he can move to one of 8 squares, block with this piece"...etc. rarely do i actually get the correct defensive move. even when i think i have it solved all the way through TT throws a wrench in it by playing the "wrong" move. also, i have had it where i plan three or four moves and then TT stops after the first one.
i don't understand it.
Your suggestion is interesting, but slightly off the topic of TT and how to use it. ;)
That's exactly the reason that I want (and need) to practice this! ;) TT very rarely chooses anything but the objectively best move for your opponent once you've made your first move, so this is great practice to get better at identifying the best response your opponent can make.
I sometimes get that too where I plan past where the end of the line in TT, take a bit longer and drop a rating point or two, but my chess is better for it.
Firstly I think that one minute on TT is worth ten with your head in an opening book, all improving players need to practice tactics at least three times a week.
I find the time element frustrating, when you solve a puzzle to be rewarded with -10 is not positive reinforcement of good behaviour, Chess Tempo has a standard rating which takes the time element away fom it and better duplicates OTB conditions, in my view this improvement is essential for TT.
based on my chess games where time is not a factor, i could spend hours and still not see it. maybe if i planned my move, flipped the board and planed the other move, flip board...etc. but my way is like a bonus. i get to solve three puzzles in one when TT doesn't do what i expect.
cdir, I use TT in much the same way you use it, with the ratings on and the timer off, for the purpose of improving my play OTB. If I occasionally take a point deduction for solving the tactic in a long time, I don't mind. Since turning off the timer and increasing my TT rating (as high as 1727 or so), my "Live" rating has gone up as high as 1456 or so. This is at least a 200 point jump in my rating; often my rating would dip into the 1100s before using TT in this way.When I play "Live" games, I play only "Standard" games of at least 15 minutes. I prefer 25 minute games with no time added per move, but 15 minute games with no time added are as short a game as I'll play.
I don't put White at the bottom, but I do look at the correct solution when I don't solve the problem. If the solution completely surprises me (as in, "I never would have thought of that"), then I "Try Again" until I can do it correctly. I don't try to think of each move all the way through the tactic before making the fist move. Instead, I look for the most forcing move that is safe. In other words, as Akiba Rubinstein put it, "No counterplay!"
Also I've noticed that, by not practicing tactics at least three times per week, my TT rating plummets (300+ points) the next time I begin training.
Finally, I'm convinced that my "Live" chess rating has improved not only as my TT rating has improved but as I've continued to read chess books and play once a week at my local chess club where I am the weakest player except for the children. My opponents there see improvement in my play and, like me, they also see inconsistency in my play.
My new goal is, in addition to continuing with all of the above, to thoroughly understand the material in Susan Polgar's Chess Tactics for Champions book.
I don't try to think of each move all the way through the tactic before making the fist move. Instead, I look for the most forcing move that is safe. In other words, as Akiba Rubinstein put it, "No counterplay!"
Interesting, it's always good to hear the techniques other people use as well. Quick question, how do you check to see if a move is safe? The only way I know of is to try to visualize the move through to quiescence, or until there aren't any more tactics. This is of course harder (for me at least!) in practice than in theory, but that's the weak point of my game. I'm quite impulsive, and tend to play forcing moves that look good at first, but turn out poorly for me in the end. Thus the "sit on my hands" practice in TT.
At TT I figure a move is safe if by making it I create a threat that wins if my opponent doesn't find a way to meet it. Another way of looking at it is to say a safe move forces the opponent to think if not play defensively. That means I keep the initiative and my opponent has to play the game my way. The thing is to look at what options are available to the opponent's defense as it often happens that a defensive move is also an offensive move. I think that's what makes a trap a trap. With positional understanding, any move is safe that improves the overall position of one's pieces. But positional play is outside the scope of TT. That is more of a Chess Mentor sort of thing.
PS I've begun to track this forum topic, so any further participation from me will likely happen more quickly than it did in this case.
My TT rating zoomed up to an all time high, and then dive bombed about 100 points. I need to remember to stop after failing a few problems in a row and take a break.
I did see a pattern emerge, a certain tactic that I kept missing. Someone suggested Chess Mentor.
With Chess Mentor, you can always close it down and open it back up again without losing any ratings. I don't think it keeps track of whether you were on the 3 or 5th move, but you can start the lesson again.
I definitely use TT to improve my chess, and i think it has definitely helped me, especially when it comes to smother mates. But I still have trouble in some problems, because as an earlier poster said, sometimes I see a move that looks right, but I can't see why my opponent can't just move or block to mitigate it- then i make the move, and they make a move that, once i view analysis , makes perfect sense. TT is good for me for 1-3 ply moves, but beyond that i have trouble.
That's exactly where I'm struggling, and why I try to use it as I suggest above. My personal goal is to stop playing tactical moves on general principles and "fuzzy" pattern matching, and really calculate whether I'm guaranteed material or whether there's a clever escape for my opponent.