I have written a fair bit about how you’d want to be careful about choosing the openings that you play and opening preparation in general. But how do you actually remember the multitude of lines that constitute your repertoire? If you carefully analyzed certain openings, and your repertoire consists of your original ideas – memorization likely won't be an issue. But if you never played a line before, and barely can think of a couple of plans – as soon as a position on move 10 comes up on the board, you'll realize pretty soon that:
- The devil is in the details – understanding positional ideas is great, but you still need to play specific moves to implement those ideas
- Move order matters
- some positions look similar, but the move you remembered and thought should be played in this particular position is actually good in a different sub-variation, but is inappropriate in this particular case
To test and refine my understanding of an opening – I usually play blitz games on ICC, look at them later and see whether I deviated from my own repertoire, or whether there is actually a gap in my repertoire that this game revealed. While practice games are super-useful, that type of training has some limitations:
- you have no control over what opponents will throw at you (you really did not want to test your knowledge of 1…b6 !)
- in the rush of a blitz game - you may not focus too much on playing the move that you had prepared (I already spent 30 seconds on the opening, I’d better move something quickly)
- once the game has ended - you also need to have the stamina to go back and compare your moves against what you had planned in the preparation
So there is a need for a special tool to test your opening knowledge! I have always admired the developer who put up a ton of effort into creating a free tool that lets you manage your opening repertoire and then practice it in a training mode – Chess Position Trainer. It always felt like a tool I would want to write myself if I had the skills and time. As it often happens with free software - the author had to fill the gap that no other free or commercial application would cover sufficiently for him.
However I have not used it for a while as it seemed that all my data was already in pgn and chessbase format, and my opening repertoire existed outside of Chess Position Trainer ecosystem. What was even worse – my repertoire had too many gaps (it still does), so I spent the last year going through books, databases and my old games, deciding what I should play against such and such line. Today I imported the opening repertoire I had created with Chessbase Light into Chess position Trainer, and here we go – I can practice my openings again!
In the training mode – the UI looks like this:
A few points I like about its training mode:
- games are thrown at you relatively randomly
- Your progress is tracked (I have not dug into the details)
- The board is large and I like its simple look – often underestimated but very important, but some $100 packages got that part wrong.
- You’re told immediately whether you made a correct move (“correct” means – the move you yourself defined to be in your repertoire)
Sometimes it keeps throwing the same line at you until you actually know enter all the correct moves:
Training Mode is a pretty fundamental part of Chess Position Trainer – you can tell that from looking at training options (that’s a lot of Tabs!):
I would agree with what Stefan (the developer) wrote in this blog post – "this time I have already at hand a chess tool to study my material."
Outside of the Opening Training mode – the UI looks like this. This is one of the most well designed user interfaces for a chess program I’ve seen so far. It sounds silly, but buttons are large and convenient to press. It feels that the author actually uses this program himself, so he tried to make things easy for himself – and therefore, for any other chess player using his product. At the core of the software - the focus is as much on positions as it is on the moves, which makes sense for opening preparation.