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by Chris Wainscott
Chess Tactics in Slav Defense, by ChessOK, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Download, $19.95 (ChessCafe Price $17.97)
"Chess is 99% tactics" proclaimed Richard Teichmann. While this is a slight exaggeration, tactics are surely one of the most important areas of the game. ChessOK has released a series of ten Chess Tactics courses, each of which features a different opening. In this review we will examine Chess Tactics in Slav Defense. This course is aimed at club and intermediate players and features many exercises to solve, along with theoretical overviews of the major lines after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6.
In order to use this course I first had to download the free Peshka interface. While I am reasonably computer literate, it took me well over an hour to install and become familiar with it. My recommendation to those who purchase any Peshka program is to spend a few minutes reading the installation instructions and the user's manual. You will find all kinds of helpful and time-saving tips.
The interface is a nice, crisp GUI display:
You can see in the upper right hand corner that there is a task list. For example, above it says Task 1 and there are left and right arrows. You can use the arrows to flip from one task to the next.
Each of the tasks is a tactical position that originated from a Slav game. The first moves of the game are made automatically until the position for solving arises. At that point the user is asked to make a move on the board. If your move is correct, the rest of the sequence will play out automatically. If your move is incorrect, then the piece that should be moved will blink. If you then make an incorrect move with the blinking piece, you will be considered to have failed the task and the rest of the sequence will play itself out.
Once you get to the end of the task, you will be taken to the next lesson. The lessons are grouped by opening system:
There are 248 tasks associated with the courses listed in Practice mode.
Each position is presented from the viewpoint of the side that is to move. For example, if the tactic is from the white side, you will have the white side of the board facing you. If it is from the black side, you will have the black side facing you.
One item of note is that this is not necessarily an opening trap trainer. Many of the positions are opening traps, but there are some that are simply tactical shots later in a game and have nothing to do with the opening as such.
Some examples stem from analytical variations. For instance, after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 Qd7 7.Nf3 e6 8.Ne5 Qc8 9.Bb5+ Nbd7, the game Alekhine-Lamb, from a Los Angeles simul in 1932, reached the following position:
According to the program, Alekhine should have played 10.e4! dxe4 11.Bg5! a6 12.Rc1! axb5 13.Nxb5+/-. Instead the game continuation was 10.Bd2+/=. The full game score is not given, but Alekhine went on to lose in thirty moves.
Also, many of the examples are from amateur games. Some are even taken from low level amateur games. I found this to be a useful attribute, as most users of this program are likely to face opponents who make those same types of moves.
I would have liked verbal commentary to go along with the answers accompanying the tactical shots. For many people, myself included, learning comes easier when there is a combination of both graphical and verbal explanations. As it is, the answers are solely presented via analytical variations:
To access the theoretical content, simply click on the Theory button in the navigator window:
Here, there are 117 associated tasks to click through:
One feature that I rather enjoyed was Test mode.
You can click the Test button and a pop-up will open allowing you to test yourself either on the current lesson or on the whole course. This is a nice option that will allow users to ensure they are getting the most from the training course.
Another selection that you can see from the screen capture above is that the players Elo rating is tracked as you progress through the course.
Overall, my impression of this program is favorable. While I was frustrated at first, once I had the program installed it became a rather useful tool. A user may experience some minor issues, but there is much to be gained in return. I got a lot out of this course in the end: I was able to pick up on tactical themes in an opening I play. Even so, the tactical exercises are useful in and of themselves, even if you do not employ the Slav Defense in your repertoire.
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