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Review of Chess Combinations Encyclopedia
keywords: combinations, tactics, encyclopedia, exercise, tutorial, reference
Robert Pawlak
Sunday, August 28, 2005

It's no secret that Convekta offers a number of tactical training CDs. And when I received this one, I wondered what differentiated it from the others. After playing with the program for some time, I've come to the conclusion that there are three main differences:

Here's the obligatory screenshot to give you an idea of the interface:


Convekta describes this CD as a "fundamental" program on Chess Tactics. But in looking through the material on this CD, I was asking myself if I would use the same wording. Indeed, this description has a semantic meaning that I found was not in the dictionary definition. I know that when I think of the word "fundamental", I tend to think of something that is suitable only for the pure beginner. Such is not the case with this CD :-) Interestingly enough, when one looks at the dictionary meaning of this word, it seems to apply perfectly:

So the objective of the CD is to provide a thorough and comprehensive explanation of all the important tactical devices and themes. In fact there are over 100 different classifications of these, spanning from the standard "removing the defender" to the more specific, e.g. "blockade in conjunction with promotion". In many respects, I think that Convekta has created a program that is similar in terms of aims to their program "Comprehensive Chess Endings", only this time, they've done it for tactics instead of endgames. And speaking of endgames, it is also important to note that liberal use has been made of endgame studies within this collection. They are used both within the tutorial material, as well as for test positions.

The user interface for this program is quite similar to other Convekta offerings. Rather than rehash what I've said before about it, I will refer you to my reviews of Mate Studies and Total Chess Training II. Suffice to say, all the important elements that people are normally looking for (ELO estimation, results tracking, printing, etc) are all there. Interestingly enough, I did notice a few minor modifications in one area of the program - there is now a set of handicap settings included for engine play (intermediate, amateur, and master level).

One area where Convekta is to be commended is in dealing with topics that are rarely explained in tactical treatises. Earlier in my chess studies, I remember seeing references to things like "positional draws" and "fortresses", and wondering what those terms meant. This CD provides quite a bit of explanation on these, and other topics as well. And while the above might be difficult concepts to grasp, the program does provide a decent number of examples to learn from.

There is a significant amount of written explanatory text on this CD, and English, German, French, Spanish and Italian translations are included. The written explanations are present in the study material only, and symbols are used exclusively in the test positions. An example of what you can expect is shown below:

[example text explanations]

All told, I think this is a valuable addition to any chess software library, it's truly comprehensive in scope, and a bargain for the price. The exercises are computer checked for accuracy, and are organized in a painstaking fashion. All this is wrapped in Convekta's simple, yet effective user interface for accessing the problems. 

Copy protection consists of occasional requests for the CD (refueling). Hardware requirements are very modest. See the chess store at  ChessOK to purchase this program, or for more information.

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