Monday, November 30, 2015

Shredder Chess

     Shredder 12 runs on all Windows PCs with at least Windows 2000 including Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 and costs about $60. 
     It has the usual stuff you expect: an nice GUI that's easy to use, 6 sets of pieces and boards both in 2D and 3D though personally, I have never liked the 3D setups. 
     It has a coaching feature that alerts you to mistakes and suggests better moves, an analysis feature, access to Shredder's online endgame database which I very often refer to in correspondence play, etc, etc, etc. 
     If you are looking for the strongest engines then Komodo and Stockfish are your best choices, but if you are looking to practice against engines that plays more like a human, Shredder is a good choice. Shredder will play tactically if the situation requires it, but its overall style of play is pretty positional. The playing level can be adjusted to any strength and the best part is that at lower difficulty levels it doesn't play stupid moves; it makes typical human mistakes...the moves may not be good, but not irrational. 
     Another handy feature is that Shredder will rate your play in normal or rated games and it can adapt its playing strength automatically to your strength. There's also a handy feature that gives a graphic display of your progress 
     You can download a slightly restricted test version of Shredder Classic FREE and try it out for 30 days without obligation from their site HERE. I might also add that if you run into any problems, their customer service is very good. You may also want to consider the multi-processor version, but it'll cost you more...about $106.  As far as I know, you can only order Shredder from the site as it does not appear to be available on Amazon.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Analyze You Chess by Colin Crouch

      I rarely buy chess books anymore because 1) I no longer care to study and 2) like most players I learned that I was throwing money down a rat hole buying chess books with good intentions, but never reading them. This recent purchase was an exception. 
     According to the blurb Crouch believes the key to sustained improvement lies in the critical analysis and assessment of your own games. Each and every game you play provides a significant learning opportunity, and this opportunity should never be squandered. In this book which is actually a sequel to Why We Lose at Chess Crouch examines what can be done to maximize results and increase one's rating. Magic words for chess players, increase your rating. 
     The focus is on improving decision making, how to plan after the opening, how to maintain objectivity, improving endgame skills, the psychological aspects of the game, and more. Crouch looks at his own games (not because they are perfect, but you always understand your own games best) and his style is entertaining and a lot of fun to read and I think that's why I liked this book so much. 
     His focus is on games he blew...wins that were drawn, draws that were lost. Don't look for a lot of tactical play because Crouch is essentially a positional player with a limited opening repertoire and a love of the Scandinavian Defense. Still, the games are thoroughly annotated and I especially liked his prose explanations which is a change from much of the computer analysis you often see. Instead of bare bones computer analysis Crouch explains what he was thinking during the game which gives us a lot of insight into how master really think. I like that; it's almost like you are having a conversation with an IM.  Although there is a certain IM that I am familiar with whom I have seen analyzing in rapid fire fashion and playing moves so fast you could hardly  follow his hand.  Then after telling everybody, "See, black is lost." and before you could see anything, he would already be resetting the pieces back to their original position.  He had some students, but none of them ever improved much...I wonder why.
     There are some editing issues, but that seems to be something we have to live with these days. Good for anybody below master. Check out Amazon's Look Inside feature and it'll probably convince you that it's an excellent book!