Deadly threats

10/12/2003 – George Renko, author of Intensive Tactics Course and Killer Moves, has done it again with a new ChessBase tactical training CD: Deadly Threats. Check out a preview in this week's ChessBase Workshop ...

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previewed by Steve Lopez

Two days ago (as I type this) I received a big package from ChessBase, chock full of the new goodies. We'll be looking at them in ChessBase Workshop over the next several weeks. One CD practically leaped off the counter at me, because I'm a longtime admirer of the author's work. I couldn't wait to get my mitts on George Renko's Deadly Threats.

George Renko has written two previous CDs for ChessBase and they're among my personal favorites: Intensive Tactics Course and Killer Moves. Both of them are excellent tactical trainers. The former is aimed at the beginning to intermediate player, while the latter is for intermediate to advanced players.

So where does Deadly Threats fit in? It's definitely in the "intermediate to advanced" range but, while the author's approach is similar to that used in his two prior CDs, Deadly Threats isn't a "general tactics trainer" -- it's a CD with a theme.

We've all heard the old story about Aron Nimzovitch saying that "the threat is stronger than the execution". If I had to characterize this new CD, I'd say that Renko's theme is "the threat is part of the execution". Quoting from his Introduction to Part One:

Irresistible threat is the move that creates a position where the opponent King is not in check but there is no escape from checkmate or loss of material....An irresistible checkmate threat is as good as checkmate itself. Therefore, all sacrifices on the way to the irresistible checkmate threat position are overcompensated at the end.

And there you have it, friends and neighbors. Deadly Threats is all about how to set up and follow through with irresistable (i.e. deadly, game-winning) threats.

The CD is organized in three main parts. I'm often asked to provide a "methodology" for using ChessBase training CDs; in the case of this CD, it's very simple. The CD contains many databases, only three of which are visible in the "root folder" of the CD. That's all you'll need; I'll show you how to get to the other databases in a moment. (And I'll be using ChessBase 8 as the program for reading the CD, by the way).

The first database is called "Introduction Part 1". When you double-click on its icon, you'll see the opening text to that database (if not, you'll get a game list instead; just double-click on the first entry ["Intro"] in the database). This opening text describes what the CD is about and gives you a tutorial on irresistible checkmate threats using over a dozen examples from practical play. They're all pretty short and you should have no trouble following the moves in your head (and I strongly suspect that they're provided to you in text form rather than as replayable examples on purpose, to get you used to the idea of doing the work in your head. You don't get to shuffle the pieces around when contemplating your next move in an over-the-board tournament, do you?).

At the end of this text are links to eight separate databases in which the problems are segregated according to tactical themes:

  • Ambush
  • Exercises
  • Mate Threat
  • Mate Threat-at the end
  • Mate or Material
  • Mate or Material-at the end
  • Material
  • Pawn Promotion

Clicking on one of these links will open the database for that particular theme. Note that in CB8 it'll look like nothing has happened. But if you drop your mouse down to your Windows Taskbar (at the bottom of your screen -- the panel containing the "Start" button), you'll see a new button for the database you just selected:



Note that there is now a new button for the "Ambush" database. Click on this button to maximize the game list for the Ambush database. When you double-click on a game in the database, the problem will open. All of these chess problems are timed training questions. A separate box will prompt you for a move -- and the clock will be running:

As was the case with Intensive Tactics Course and Killer Moves, Renko doesn't give you a lot of time to solve the problem. The idea is to simulate a tournament "clock" game; you don't get hours (sometimes not even minutes if it's late in the game) to come up with a reply to your opponent's move, so time is of the essence.

You make your move on the chessboard. If it's correct, the program will tell you so and will award you points based on the speed and accuracy of your answer. If you get it wrong, you can keep trying moves until your time runs out. Note that you can score bonus points for getting the answer quickly on your first try -- I received two points (instead of the stated singleton "max. score") for making the move within ten seconds when trying the first problem in the database.

So how do you know how you're doing? If you right-click on a database's icon (in CB8's Database window), select "Properties" from the popup menu, and click the "Training" button, your running score for that database will be displayed.

When you finish the problems in the "Ambush" database, you can move on to the "Exercises" database, and so on until you've finished all eight databases. Then you can proceed to the "Introduction Part 2" database for the more advanced instruction and problems it contains.

You'll recall my saying that the goal here is to approximate actual tournament conditions. In a real chess game, you don't get some red flag or "beep" to tell you that there's a tactic on the board and you certainly don't get some notification of what kind of tactic it is ("Hey! There'a a mate threat here!"). That's where the third database ("All exercises -- Random training") comes in. This database contains all 2,300 timed problems from the whole CD, grouped together into one big bunch. If you set CB8's training feature for "random training" (I'll show you how in a minute), the program will randomly choose problems for you to solve. You'll have no way to know what "category" of exercise the problem fits into -- you just need to solve it without that little extra hint. You'll still know that there's some tactical shot in the position, but you won't have any extra hints as to the type of tactic.

To set up this random training mode, right-click on the icon for the "All exercises -- Random training" database and choose "Properties" from the popup menu. Click the "Training" button and place an "x" in the box next to "Random training":

Now the program will randomly choose training exercises for you to solve.

I don't mean to riff on the title of a previous Renko CD, but this really is a "killer" disk. It's not something you're going to finish in a couple of evenings, so you'll get a lot of bang for your buck with Deadly Threats. And if you successfully complete all the exercises on this CD, you'll definitely become a "deadlier" chessplayer. That's not a threat, that's a promise.

Until next week, have fun!

© 2003, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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