ChessBase's Tactics Training revisited

by Albert Silver
6/30/2015 – Among the various new free Web apps created by ChessBase, the Tactics Training is probably the one that promises the most immediate benefit for your play, whether you’re a master or an amateur. Since it first came out, it has undergone several refinements, making it a must for any student of the game working seriously, or just for fun, automatically calibrating the difficulty.

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There is no question there are a number of free tactical trainers floating around the internet, whether for your smartphone/tablet, or for the web browser, but having tried all the major ones, I can safely say that ChessBase’s is one of the best, and certainly my favorite.

One thing that helps it stand out, is not just the huge amount of positions, but that they all feel distinctly ‘human’. This might seem like strange comment, but after running into tons of computer generated puzzles, many with very odd solutions, it becomes quite appreciable.

The first thing to do is to access the site. Remember, this is not a program you need to download, and should run in any modern browser, meaning it runs in Windows, MacOS, and even Linux.

Click here to open the Tactics Training

Although you can use it as a Guest, if you do, you will miss out on many important features, including its ability to adapt the difficulty of the positions to your level. If you have a Playchess account, log into it here, and if not, just create a free account and log in.

Before starting, let’s take a quick look at the toolbar, and the new buttons and changes. On the left there is a Flip Board button, in case you want to view the position from one side or the other. The next buttons are fairly obvious, until you reach Criticise Position. If you are unhappy with the position for some reason, such as found an alternate solution, you click on it, and describe the problem. The Like Position button is when one position really tickled you for some reason, and you want to share that with others by giving it a thumbs up.

On the right there is a Send Feedback button, and this is for more general comments such as a bug in the site or a suggestion to improve it. You will also see a new Language button so that you can use the Tactics Training in any language you choose. If you don't see your language, nd would like to help translate it, click on the bottom menu option "Your Language Here!"

In the main screen, on the left is the position to solve, and on the right is a list of information such as the difficulty of the position, whether you have seen it before or not, plus the number of positions you have solved, your current rating per the trainer, and your title.

When you first start using the site, you start with a 1600 rating, and the positions it gives you will be quite easy. The more you solve, the higher your rating will become, and gradually the difficulty of those positions will also increase, and the more you stumble on, the more rating you will lose, also leading to easier positions for you.

Even if you already have a high rating (a couple of IMs who use the site quite regularly have ratings over 2500), when you first start a session, the first few puzzles will usually be very easy, even mates in one. The idea is to help you warm up, before challenging you with tougher ones.

Just one warning: if you feel tempted to ‘close the page’ with an unsolved position, it will treat this as unsolved and deduct Elo the next time you come back. To leave without this penalty: when done with a position, simply do not click on Next Position. In any case, much like blitz, the Elo will come and go on any given day or session, so don’t get too attached to this and just have fun.

White to play and win

Here we have a fairly difficult position. I spent quite some time working out the lines. The first line is simple, and was the only one the system tested me with. I was disappointed since the other line is much longer and harder to calculate, and I thought should be the main line.

As a result, I clicked on Criticise Position, and shared this opinion, and my alternate line

The solution with both lines:

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.06.30"] [Round "?"] [White "Tactics Training"] [Black "NN"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1Q6/p1r2pkp/q4bp1/r3p3/1R2N1P1/2p1B2P/P1P5/KR6 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. Bh6+ $1 Kxh6 2. g5+ Kg7 (2... Bxg5 {is the line that was tested, and the much easier one. Unfortunately, solving this position means seeing the other line as well.} 3. Qf8+ Kh5 4. Ng3#) 3. gxf6+ Kh6 4. Qf8+ Kh5 5. Ng3+ {I wasn't thrilled at seeing the king going for a walk, and this made me suspect my line was flawed. Usually when my calculations in these tactics positions start going on a tangent like this, it is a sign I am on the wrong track.} Kg5 6. h4+ Kxf6 7. Rb6+ $1 {An interference shot that took me some time to see from the initial position.} axb6 (7... Qxb6 8. Rxb6+ $1 axb6 9. Qd6+ {The rook on c7 falls and it is an easy win.}) 8. Qd6+ Kg7 9. Nf5+ gxf5 10. Rg1+ Kh8 11. Qf8# 1-0

Sometimes the solution can be a quiet move, albeit vicious

Using the Tactics Trainer is quite a bit of fun, and it is set up so that you are not only challenged regularly, but can plot your progress. If you are using it on your own, feel free to do a few before the start of a round to warm up, or include sessions of solving in your study to improve. You can organize it by a set number of positions, or for a set amount of time.

As you improve and train you will get new ranking titles and feel free to see the Ranking
to see where you fit in

Above all have fun, and May the Mates be With You.

Click here to open the Tactics Training

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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gillo gillo 1/24/2017 04:46
I love the tactical training app but is seems to go down a lot and sometimes becomes unavailable for several hours. I haven't been able to use the app at any time today.

It would be nice to know what is happening and how long until an expected fix is available instead of a boiler plate message in poor English.
Eduard Ottschoffski Eduard Ottschoffski 9/27/2016 03:06
A great tool to improve at any level. I became aware of it through Fritz 15, and have not looked back since. Thank you Chessbase to enhance our great game.
Truffaut Truffaut 8/10/2015 06:14
Also, I'm wondering if it's possible to return to the previous position if you hit NEXT POSITION by mistake?
Truffaut Truffaut 8/10/2015 05:57
Okay, now I see that you can go to the next position by hitting the ENTER key on the keyboard. And you can go back one move each time you hit the BACK arrow (not sure if this is the correct name for that key). Is there a way to go back to the original position with one action rather than having to hit the BACK key for each move?
Truffaut Truffaut 8/10/2015 05:28
What happened to the SEND FEEDBACK button.

I have a couple of suggestions. There should be an easier way to get to the next position rather than having to move the mouse from the board to the NEXT POSITION icon at the top of the page. Maybe a keyboard shortcut or something to click next to the board. Also, I believe there should be a way to replay the position so you can "burn" the pattern into your memory by repeated viewings. PLEASE make these changes, or maybe there is already a way to do them that I don't know about.

Please respond. Other than these suggestions, I think this is a great product. Thank you ChessBase!
Rodolfo2015 Rodolfo2015 7/5/2015 04:17
I am loving this web app , thank you and keep up the work !
soimulPatriei soimulPatriei 7/4/2015 01:46
I have tested the application and it does seem weaker than ChessTempo. Many times the puzzles stop after the first move when they should have continued until it is clear that the opponent is loosing. To be fair also ChessTempo has sometimes this annoying problem but it occurs much less frequent than here.
binnun binnun 7/1/2015 02:10
It's almost great, but still missing a "Replay" - how often have I failed, but couldn't take another look at the starting position to check again... really a pity.
Bertman Bertman 7/1/2015 06:38

I think it is simply a mistaken description and should be "White to play and win" (as in win material) since the idea is simply 1.Qe4 followed by 2.Bxf4. It happened to me once, and I reported it via the Criticise Position button.
rooster85 rooster85 6/30/2015 08:21

Thank you for the article and I will try the trainer some more for sure... but I LOL'd when after reading your comment about chesstempo and computer puzzles/solutions, the first ever position that I got with CB trainer was this one (not sure how to post a screenshot or pgn, so I have to write it out):

W: Kg1, Qe2, Rd1, Rf1, Bc1, Nc3, Ne5, pawns a2, b2, c2, d3, f2, g2, h2
B: Kg8, Qe8, Ra8, Rf8, Be6, Be7, Nd4, pawns a7, b7, c7, f4, g7, h7

The puzzle goes "White to play and draw" (!) and the solution is 1.Qe4 (!!)... I played the move because I could not see anything better there, but how is that not a computer generated puzzle with a computer solution? :-)

Btw I'm wondering if the tactics trainer functionality in playchess software will be the same as in the web app, since the last time I checked there you had 5 mins and the goal was to solve as many (relatively easy) positions as possible...
Bertman Bertman 6/30/2015 03:10

Chess Tempo was what I had in mind when I wrote "computer generated puzzles, many with very odd solutions". By 'odd' I do not simply mean a line that does not strike one as human, though there are those, but some of the solutions can even be a simple recapture. In over 700 positions solved in the ChessBase Tactics Trainer, none of the positions were like that.
Moropo Moropo 6/30/2015 01:59
I'd like to know how this compares with ChessTempo tactic trainer