Thursday, August 23, 2007
How to Use Personal Chess Trainer 2007
One thing that separate masters from amateurs is the ability to recognize tactical patterns. A popular tool that's available to help amateurs is Personal Chess Trainer. After using it for some time, I believe that how we use the tool makes a big difference.
When you're faced with a position you either recognize the pattern or you have to calculate it. In the first case, you already knew the pattern. In the second case, make sure you spend some time looking at the solution and the elements that made it work! If you don't store an accurate pattern in your short-term memory, how can you expect to recall it during your next game? Our human tendency to look at the problem more than the solution--that's backwards!
If your time for a unit was slower than 3-6 seconds per position, you obviously didn't recognize all the tactical patterns. So repeat it! What's the point of continuing on unless you have actually learned the patterns? There's no prize for finishing a module quickly. If you ensure the knowledge gets into your short-term memory, a good portion of it should reach your long-term memory, and then PCT's frequent reviews will help you to retain it.
On my first pass through PCT I was in too much of a rush, and as a result didn't learn the patterns very well. If it takes me 35 seconds to spot a tactic when I'm told it's there, my chance of spotting it over the board under time pressure is slim.
This second pass, I'm going slow. Slow and accurate. That's the formula that worked on Chess Tactics Server and I think it works here as well.