I recently had an interesting e-mail discussion with one of my customers, Matt S. You can read excerpts below (emphasis added by me).
Matt signed up for my free chess tactics e-mail newsletter, and tried out the sample of 25 chess problems that I include when you sign up. Matt wrote to me
Nice work, I tried the sample database this morning, odd… I am over 1600 at Chess.com in Tactics, but got 9 out of 10 wrong in your sample database..
I’m now officially intrigued.
I think I’ll give your product a whirl tonight.
I wrote back:
I like to do problems on chess.com too. My main problem with their problems is that a lot of them are a little too “perfect”, and composed.
So it is easy to get in the habit of getting good at solving their problems – for example sacrifice the queen for mate, but these are not really transferable skills to “the real world”.
They do have some problems from real games, and you can normally tell the difference after a while.
Also the ratings on chess.com are based off of the time it takes you to solve. So you get a “bonus” if you solve it fast, which may or may not always be good, if you are just guessing at the answers trying to inflate the rating.
Overall though I do like the chess.com tactics, and I use them myself sometimes. Their iPhone app is cool too.
So that is probably the main way that my problems are different. A lot of games between amateurs end up with “messy” positions – uneven material, questionable and dubious openings, etc.
I have noticed too that a lot of books and sites are just copying the same problems over and over.
So you might be good at solving a problem, but it is really because you already saw the exact same problem before!
I try to have all original problems.
Thanks again for your note!
Matt responded with a real eye opener and cautionary tale:
The really sad part of all of this? I’ve done over 10,000 Chess.com Tactics, and while I’m great at finding smothered mates and crazy queen sacrifices my Chess hasn’t improved that much..
Imagine if I’d done 10,000 of your Chess Tactics over the last year and a half..
Yeah, I kind of noticed that A LOT of tactics collections have way too many “cool” problems like you mentioned -
- smothered mates
- under promotions
- queen sacrifices
These are great, but in reality don’t happen that often.
Then people see my tactics problems from real games and then complain because they are kind of boring in comparison (which is true).
I think it is good to have a balance, so I don’t think your time was wasted, but I am trying to fill a niche that I think the chess world is missing (real tactics from real games).
I am constantly working on improving the database, and tactics that are included. There are a lot of problems in the database, but also quite a lot in the newsletters and eBook that I include. The newsletters and eBook have a lot more of the “cool” and “beautiful” type problems, and the database has a lot of the “ugly” tactics that are happening in real life all the time – pawn forks, hanging or under defended pieces, missed back rank mates, etc.
Matt asked me a little more about the database and I responded:
There are 10,001 games in the chessbase database, and each has at least one tactics problem in them. There is also a PDF eBook with about 240 problems in them, which is basically from the “Tactics Time” column I have written the past 8 years or so for the Colorado Chess Informant magazine. There are also 160+ newsletters on there each with a tactic in them as well.
The updates are all free for life I am on version 2.0 right now. I am constantly gathering new games, and doing analysis on them. People give me suggestions and feedback too which helps (like the idea for the User’s Guide came from a customer suggestion).
And if you don’t like it for any reason there is a no hassle 100% money back guarantee as well, so no risk (and you can keep all the stuff as my gift for trying it)
Matt checked it out, and reported back “Nice work Tim.” and that working through the problems was a “humbling experience”.
So remember, just like you don’t want to spend too much time reading Playboy magazine, you don’t want to spend too much time on unrealistic chess problems