An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chess Position Trainer – test your opening knowledge!

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:

image Training mode

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.



  1. Great software... i was desperately looking for such kind of stuff and i can't explain how happy i am now!! And most importantly it is freeware... God bless the developer.

  2. Stefan is providing a great tool indeed and from following his blog I can tell he is dedicated to making it better. I kind of hope he'd open source CPT (but can also see his reasons not to).

  3. Hi,
    Surprise you give flavourable review especially when there is a big difference between your version (3.x) and today version (4.x). I was amazed at the amount of work done in new version and lucky to come across 4.x for I just downloaded 3.x and had some trouble installing and running (win 7 and required support package) to google and to discover the new release on May 1 to use.

    Free version is a trial version. Trial version does not have v1s10n tra1ning enable to evaluate. Trial version should be enable while free version should not be enable and I believe this is the norm for software.

    It would be nice if I play as white or black for either. For example, in Roy lopez or Alekhine (allow to play as white); in English (allow to play as black). Again, I would like to play as white or black for any opening or defense to improve my memory, learning, and usage of training tool.

    In close Sicilian, I did over 76 version/variation. It would be nice if I could know how many were there. I just wanted to complete and to know how many to end. Trying against my master friend, his close was different in the beginning and all those PCT C Sicilian was useless. It relied on a critical move.

    The software rely on you to have your repertoire. Given time, proper repertoire should be provided (NIC, According to XX, etc) rather than each user creating from that source recommendation.

    The software is a great tool, lots of work done and I believe more would be done by Steffan. I try to give objective constructive ideas. I would have like to see if v1si0n training on software can accomplish. Photo reading I question for no time to evaluate the position and evaluation is important. Thank you.

  4. Anita, this blog entry is over two years old, and yeah, I have also downloaded the 4.x version and spent some time using it. My big disappointment that after trial expires, there is no way to import a pgn file, as I at the moment have not intent of developing repertoire in CPT, and would mostly use it for practicing an existing repertoire that I already spent 10 years developing.

    I like your idea of switching colours for a given repertoire, although I doubt I would use it personally.

    I can't wait for mobile version (for Android) to come out though.

  5. LOl, Roman, this blog is 2 years old but it gives forum insight to your blog. My disappointment is it being advertised as free when it is a trial version without vis10n. I would like to try your repertoire that you created.

    I study general chess. Thus, study opening theory, tactics, and end game. My game can be different for I have different variation since I do not memorize opening. Mind you, I look at the main truck or branches of a line.

    Since I started to study again to improve my speed, I look at what product is available. I do not have the time to enter or create my repertoire and thus rely on off-the-shelf library. I use what was provided by the software and the software design should allow you to select which color you want to use.

    Mind you, I believe the software design rely on the repertoire input. Thus to play as white or black, you have to create for that color. I like using as black or white to insure memorizing, confidence and blitz play (I am playing 5 min game).

    The product is more than an opening training. It depends on the input repertoire (end game response to a scenario, tactical scenario). I do not have the time to create the input and there are product with created input / scenario that I am busy utilizing. Thus, I use those product instead. Again, PCT has potential and the input needs to be provided by the product. Thank you.

  6. Anita, the old CPT 3.x website had repertoires compiled by other users, but unfortunately it seems to have been removed with the launch of the new site. Maybe that will be up and running again soon.

    I am not sure how experienced of a chess player you are, but I would recommend focusing on understanding chess openings as much as speed at replaying them. I find understanding ideas more difficult than memorizing lines anyway.


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