Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keep it "fresh"

It's easy to get stale. You've been working on the game so hard that it suddenly stops being a game and becomes WORK. Happened to me a few years back and I just stopped playing the game completely. So keep it fresh, find different situations that force you into changing your outlook, make you use different strategies. In this way you will develop into a more rounded chess player.

So maybe, instead of studying the opening books, you could record some opening lines in an easy to use format. This will allow you to see any gaps in you opening repertoire. I'm thinking of the free Chess Position Trainer program. As far as I can see at this stage, the program is first and foremost for categorising your opening variations - the ones YOU want to use in your games. Here is their description:

This chess opening software will change the way how you create, manage and study your chess opening repertoire. It will become a major time saver for your daily work and make it even fun to train your chess openings. Even if you have never before created your own repertoire this chess software will make it a piece of cake.

Classical chess game databases use pseudo-chess-games to represent your chess repertoire (by using endless variations). CPT is following a more natural way by using a position database where every position is stored only once and transpositions are instantly discovered. It's more like an editable chess opening tree.

    * Very intuitive and customizable user-interface accompanied by a printable 65 page manual.
    * Import or enter your chess opening repertoire and manage it with ease.
    * Use more than 70 training options just for the chess opening alone - unbeatable capabilities.
    * Use the applied flash-card concept making chess training more efficient and fun than you ever dared to dream of.
    * Train your own repertoire blindfolded - no other chess software let you do that.
    * Use special functions like running your (internet) chess games against your repertoire, backsolving and other sophisticated features.
    * Many more unique features make Chess Position Trainer a unique chess software.

Put your chess books, CD's and chess game database to good use and manage your chess material with Chess Position Trainer!

Version 3.3 is can be found on their community page - which seems to be a better download site than the one you arrive at via their Home page .

Continuing with the theme of 'staying fresh', I have stumbled upon other ways of playing chess on the net. My usual poison is the Internet Chess Club (ICC) whose membership payment provides a full range of services. I have never regretted joining up with them! But there are alternatives available - and they are free. And you can try interesting variants such as the so-called 'Fischer Random Chess' - which renders opening theory null and void (an appealing thought in many ways).

One is called the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) and is described as having "over 300000 registered users", being "one of the oldest and one of the largest internet chess servers". So FICS has a worthy pedigree and certainly "does the job". Having used it for some time now, I confess to finding it hard to find my way around the (Babas) interface, certainly the controls are not 'intuitive'.

A better one is at the 'Chess Boss'. This one is relatively new and is improving all the time. I find it a little awkward to choose opponents of a particular strength. Players seem to be chattier and more polite than on the FICS, so it's a valid option (includes various chess variants, including Fischer Random).

The best of the free options for me is 'Chess Hotel'. It's a little easier to invite players of a particular strength

It's always 'fun' to compare a free service with a paid one. I confess to a personality, forged as a northerner in the post-war fifties, which always has a tendency to go for "something for nothing"! In this case it seems to me that the paid ICC service has a lot of advantages over the free services. For me it's well worth investing in.

The ICC offers great support for its members, a huge variety of events and tourneys that you can join and lots of videos and other materials eg graphs to show how your rating has changed over time. It's like anything else, you make a decision about what you are getting for your money - and if you don't intend to actually use the extras that are on offer for a payment, well, just use the free service.

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