Translate this page
Motivating Yourself with the Chess King Ladder
There are a great many reasons why using a chess software program like Chess King can be beneficial to your growth and development as a player. Chess King contains a plethora of features (such as engine analysis, database games, a statistical tree, and chess puzzles) that can help you to realize your goal of becoming a stronger player.
But, let's face it, the primary reason most people purchase a chess software package like Chess King is to be able to play a game of chess anytime they wish. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact, that is the reason why commercial chess computers were invented in the first place. Back in the old DOS days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the earliest popular chess programs did not do much more than play the game.
On the other hand, many players (and here I am referring to average, non-titled chess players, not top grandmasters) make a fundamental mistake when they play against a chess computer: they refuse to play against the chess engine at anything less than the program's full strength.
To know why is this a mistake, we need to understand one facet of what makes a good chess player. Beginning players make lots of mistakes and do not understand how to capitalize on an opponent's errors – we have all been there and doubtless remember those days. As one improves as a player, one begins to make fewer mistakes and starts to understand how to capitalize on mistakes made by their opponents. That is when we as players start to become halfway competent. What sets really good players apart from the rest of the pack is that they know how to cause their opponents to make mistakes.
That is a tricky concept and it is not addressed very often in the voluminous instructional literature that accompanies this game of ours. An average player just waits for his opponent to screw up; a good player makes those errors happen.
And when you are playing against a chess engine running at full strength, you are not very likely to induce those kinds of mistakes in its play unless you are a very strong chess player yourself. That (along with the frustration factor of losing all the time) is why playing against a chess engine at full strength is not recommended. When you play against a computer that is running at full bore, you are not going to see it err, and you are thus not getting any practice at inducing (nor even spotting) opponents' mistakes. It is just not beneficial to the average player.
Fortunately, Chess King provides you with the tools you need to set up a game in which your electronic opponent can and will make mistakes. And you can use these tools to motivate yourself to play more chess, becoming a better player along the way.
Let's have a look at this function in Chess King. Go to Chess King's upper left-hand corner on your screen and select the "Train" button:
You will see the panel on the screen's left-hand panel change to display a number of commands and functions related to chess training:
Select "Classical chess" (exactly as you see it highlighted in the illustration) and you will see the left-hand panel change once again:
This is where you will set the strength of your computer opponent. You can set the slider to a specific rating (in increments of fifty Elo points) that determines the approximate strength at which the chess engine will play. You can also set whether or not the game will use the chess clocks ("Fun mode" means that the clock will not be used) and, finally, which color you will play (by clicking the proper "Start now" button).
While it is certainly fun and beneficial to play casual "one off" games against Chess King, I motivate myself to keep playing (and studying chess between games) by using a method I call the "Chess King ladder," in which I play a never ending series of matches against my digital sparring partner. It is easy, it is fun – and I will show you how to do it.
If you are a rated tournament chess player, begin by setting Chess King's rating slider to an Elo value about 100 points above your chess rating. If you are not yet a rated player, start with an arbitrary value: if you play a chess club, set the slider at about the level of the lowest rated player who regularly beats you – otherwise you can begin with the slider at 1400 as a good starting point. You can play either casual games or rated games at your option.
You are going to play a six-game match against Chess King, just the way that top level players square off against each other when playing for a world championship. Play the first game with the white pieces, the second with the black pieces, and alternate colors the rest of the way through the match. Do not allow yourself the luxury of take-backs or hints, because they just defeat the purpose of the exercise.
You will score a point for each game you win, and a half-point (with the other half going to Chess King, of course) when you draw. If you lose, Chess King scores the point. Look at the total match score at the end of six games. If you won the match (in other words, you scored at least 3½ points), go back to the rating slider, set it fifty Elo points higher, then start another six-game match. If you lost the match (e.g. you scored 2½ points or less), lower Chess King's Elo rating by fifty points for the next match. If the match ended as a 3-3 tie, do not touch the slider and begin another match.
I believe you will be surprised by how motivated you will become by using this process. At some point you will find a certain level of difficulty at which you will find it hard to beat your digital sparring partner, and this will likely drive your analysis and study efforts as you seek to better your play and finally take down Chess King at a particular Elo level. This in turn will help you to become a better, more effective player in your games against human opposition.
Give this "Chess King" ladder technique a whirl; it will help you to improve your chess skills while avoiding the frustration of constant losses to the program when it is playing at full strength.
Have fun! – Steve
© 2013 Steven A. Lopez and Chess King. All rights reserved.
Do you have a question for Steve Lopez? Send it along and perhaps it will be answered in an upcoming column. Please include your name and country of residence.
Many of the programs described in this column are available in the ChessCafe.com Online Catalog.
Comment on this month's column via our official Chess Blog!
Purchases from our
Home Page] [ChessCafe
© 2013 BrainGamz, Inc. All Rights Reserved.