Chess Tactics Software: Things to Remember

Chess tactics software has experienced a boom in the past 10-15 years, and many good products have hit the market in that time. First appearing on CD and DVD, this material can now be purchased via download. There are many online tactics trainers to choose from as well.

Which chess tactics software should I choose?

It doesn’t really matter which product you choose; pick one you like that presents a challenge.

Convekta chess tactics software
Convekta chess tactics software

A popular recommendation is the free  Chess Tempo, but I have never liked the look or functionality. Another possibility is, which I currently use and think is worthwhile, but far from perfect, and you need to pay to get access to more than about 10 puzzles per day.

I raised my rating from 1850 to 2000 over 10 months in 2008. The two main things I did were work seriously on my openings, and solve 40-100 tactics puzzles each day using Convekta’s Chess Combinations Encyclopedia and CT-Art 3.0. I absolutely adore these two tactics suites…maybe I should go through them again?

I should note that Chess Tactics for Beginners is the same material contained in Chess School 1a and Chess School 1b. Still, I recommend the physical books, especially for kids!

Remember: You are training to find tactics in real games!

Some players solve tactics purely for enjoyment; others want to improve their results in blitz (5-minute or less) or bullet (1-minute) games. Still, I assume most players who spend a lot of time solving tactics want to see results in their over-the-board tournament games.

At minimum, you have 30 minutes of thinking time for each game. There’s no need to bash out an answer for a tactics problem, or worse, a guess. Don’t worry about training for time scrambles; focus your training on the meat of the game.

I admit it’s tempting to play the first answer that catches your eye; I’ve done it more than I would care to admit! This is why I still recommend students use physical books to solve puzzles, even in this day and age — it’s not just nostalgia.

Instead, take your time and calculate! I can’t stress this enough. Some tactics programs give you more or less points depending on how quickly you solve the puzzle. Ignore this! Force yourself to see future moves, not just guess them or hope your moves work.

Hard work pays off

If you normally struggle with calculation, prepare to miss a lot of moves — for you and your “opponent!” If you keep at it, I promise you will improve.

Also, don’t focus on doing as many tactics as you can; do as many as you can while giving 100%.

You will quickly notice your play in longer games (say 15-minute) become much stronger. This is another reason, by the way, why you should give up blitz if you really want to improve your tournament results!

Author: Andre Harding

Since 2003 I've taught chess to thousands of students in public, private, and charter schools in the New York City area, and have given countless private lessons. I also direct USCF- and FIDE-rated chess tournaments.

5 thoughts on “Chess Tactics Software: Things to Remember”

  1. Hi, I have a fide rating of 1612 and I am 15 years old. During this lockdown period (for the next 2 or more months) am wanting to improve to a strength of 1800. Obviously I have 6+ hours a day to spend on studying. Would you recommend that I just focus on solving 100+ otb tactics a day or should I also spend time reading positional and endgame books?

    1. That depends. If your tactics are already strong, work on them but focus on other things. If your tactics are weak, then a lot of tactical training will help. As far as openings, endgames, and strategy, how strong/weak are you in those areas?

      1. Well my tactics rating is 2200 however when I play blitz I see myself not being able to see hanging pieces or the fact that I am hanging mate in 1. As for openings I have a pretty solid repertoire as black however need to fix my white repertoire. I have read quite a few books on strategy and endgame.

        1. Thanks for the additional info! My advice would be to stop playing blitz for awhile and play 15-minute games instead. It seems your tactics are good enough for your 1800 over-the-board goal, so don’t overdo the tactics training. Spend at least 50% of your time getting your opening repertoire in shape. This is time-consuming especially with white because of all the things black can throw at you. When I say 50% that includes playing through lots of grandmaster games in your chosen lines.

          1. Thank you very much for the help! I will balance it like 50/20/20/10 (opening,strategy,endgame and tactics) obviously I will do at least 20 tactics a day to keep in “shape”

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