The man is a maniac. How else can you describe someone who writes a chess work containing not dozens, not scores, not even hundreds, but thousands of tactical problems? And he does this stuff repeatedly. His first ChessBase training CD was the phenominally popular Intensive Tactics Course, which he followed with Killer Moves and later with Deadly Threats (even his titles are scary!).
Now Renko has returned, this time with a second volume of "intensive" tactics training: Intensive Course Tactics 2. Nearly 3000 tactical problems are included. The sheer amount of time and effort involved in creating such a CD is mind-boggling -- positions must be created or selected, the timed training features must be plugged in, and the whole thing then needs to be organized.
Organization was the main bugaboo with the original Intensive Tactics Course which contained multiple training databases organized into a variety of folders. Personally, I thought the whole thing was pretty intuitive (the folders and databases were numbered) but many users had trouble figuring out the procedural methodology. I ultimately had to devote an entire column to the subject of how to use the CD.
The new version is organized in a much more streamlined manner. The number of folders has been reduced and the problems have been organized into various skill levels (as was done on Renko's Killer Moves):
A "Contents" listing in the Introductory database will take you directly to any of the sections listed above (in fact, I cut and pasted the listing straight from the CD).
In the original Intensive Tactics Course, Renko threw us right into the deep end of the pool. There was no "tactical instruction" per se; you learned by doing. The very first game in the database was a timed training question which challenged us to find the correct move. I found the approach to be pretty successful (though arguably hardnosed) -- you got a question and a very limited time in which to answer it. Intensive Tactics Course was the ultimate pop quiz.
Renko has softened the approach somewhat in Intensive Course Tactics 2. An introductory text provides a framework and a few examples of tactics in action. The remainder of Section One consists of untimed tactics problems (and, if you switch the game window's Notation display to "Training" to hide the game moves, you can try to guess the answer). The six databases in the section are organized by theme (exactly as you see them in the list above); you can follow the databases in numerical order and get a crash course in tactics.
The remaining three sections, organized by difficulty, give us the "meat" of the CD: timed training questions in which we're challenged to find the correct move before time runs out. And if you use ChessBase or the included ChessBase Reader to work with the CD, the program will keep track of your progress by displaying the number of problems you've attempted and your running score.
The recurring theme of the CD is the forced move. The basis of tactics is to make your opponent do something undesirable, to force him to reply to your move in a specific way. That's the key to using this CD: look for forcing moves. Just remember that you don't have a ton of time in which to do it: many of the intermediate training questions provide just thirty seconds for you to give the answer, simulating the clock pressure of a tournament game.
As a writer/editor I've created training games myself in which one or more moves have the timed training feature attached, so I can attest to the amazing volume of effort that went into creating a CD of nearly 3000 such positions. I still think that Renko's a bit crazy and/or obsessed to be able to crank out not just one but four CDs of this type.
But I'm thankful for the obsession. George Renko scares me but I love his work. You will, too, if you have any desire whatsoever to improve your tactical ability (and, I suspect, that includes about 99% of my readers). Give Intensive Course Tactics 2 a whirl. It'll sharpen your game a lot and, best of all, it's a whole lot easier to use than its predecessor due to the better organization of the content.
Until next week, have fun!