Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Chess Combat Simulator

IM Jeroen Bosch is one of the most creative writers and editors in chess these days. His Secrets of Opening Surprises series, for example, has been very well received and is a favorite of mine. So I am interested to see his latest effort with The Chess Combat Simulator (also available through USCF Sales). The title alone made me recognize the value of this method of chess self-instruction as a great training mode that emphasizes practice over knowledge.
The basic idea is not original and was first presented in I.A. Horowitz's classic Solitaire Chess, where readers play over master games with half the moves covered and must guess the next move of the eventual victor. Their choices are then scored, with only the most accurate move receiving points. Bruce Pandolfini has continued the tradition in Chess Life magazine and a recent book (also titled Solitaire Chess) that collects those articles, though the games he chooses are older classics directed toward novice or scholastic players. Daniel King had a book called Test Your Chess along the same lines with 20 relatively recent GM games. And Graeme Buckley refined the idea with his Multiple Choice Chess and Multiple Choice Chess II where the candidate moves are provided at each turn (and eventually ranked and graded, which is probably a good idea for developing players since it trains them to focus on what's important).
Bosch has chosen 50 games with stronger players in mind and promises a "unique scoring system" so you can rate your performance and register progress. His most important innovation is awarding points to several different moves at each turn, especially where there is a wide range of choice. John Donaldson has a positive review at Jeremy Silman's site.
Of course, you can always create your own form of chess solitaire, simply covering the moves of any GM game you play over (ideally games that feature your favorite opening lines) and assigning points as the whim strikes you. Mark Weeks has a good article on "Getting the Most Out of Solitaire Chess," which covers the basics, such as playing with a clock and score sheet to help simulate game conditions. All you need supply is the time and effort.

1 comment:

Dan said...

The best "solitaire chess" book I've seen is Chess Self-Improvement by Zenon Franco. The annotations are much more verbose than Bosch's, and you are sometimes asked interesting questions about non-game positions (e.g., "What would you have done if Black played Kxh7 here?"). One significant difference is that a lot of the questions in Franco's book are multiple choice.