Ok, I hope you all have your thinking caps on. Convekta has just come out with a collection of training examples that is guaranteed to induce serious mental strain. This new program is called simply "Mate Studies". It contains approximately 5000 (!) examples from about 195 different authors. And so far, it is the first program of its kind on the market.
This CD is best suited for stronger players. Those below 1200 ELO will probably find most of the exercises difficult or nearly impossible. Many of the exercises on the CD are difficult because the solution often involves blocking a key line of attack, or allowing the king to temporarily "escape" from a mating net.
Exercises on this CD can be accessed in a number of different ways. Individual exercises are accessible by author, number of pieces, and number of moves to mate (mates involving two to eight moves are present). If you use test mode, you can chose a rating range from which to select the exercises. Indeed, the latter is my preferred way of using the CD. As you complete exercises, an estimate of your ELO is computed and graphed. Note that the graph to the right is from the Botvinnik CD, since I have not yet done enough exercises on the Mates CD to have an ELO history of any length.
I should also mention that this CD supports a feature that is present in some other Convekta tutorials as well. Some of you may recognize the following small group of checkboxes that are present on the main window. These settings effectively multiply the number of different exercises by over a factor of four, if you decide to enable all the modes for mirror flipping of the board and side to move. While you might argue that the overall number of exercises is still only 5000, they can look totally different when the orientation of the board changes!
As an example of the kind of exercises you will find on the CD, consider the following example by Hartmut. White to move and mate in three:
The solution is shown in the picture below (note that the final board position reflects the position at the end of the main line). The key ideas in the position are: the criss-cross mate formed using the bishop and queen, the limitation of the mobility of the black king with Qb3 (once the knight is captured), and the bishop and queen mating pattern where both pieces lie along the same rank or diagonal. So you see how this problem reinforces both basic mating patterns, and the use of some quiet moves to limit the mobility of the opponent. Of course, these ideas are not spelled out in words, but anyone with a fair grasp of tactical concepts will understand them.
You can also see from this example that I did not get a perfect score, and this particular problem was worth 40 points. Exercises range from a difficulty level of 10 all the way up to 90. Exercises at the high end of the spectrum are guaranteed to present serious difficulties even to titled players. You should note also that exercises are timed. If you do not attempt to guess the answer to an exercise within a certain time limit (which varies depending on the difficulty of the exercise), you will be gently reminded of this fact. No points are subtracted for failure to solve the exercise within the time limit.
One might reasonably ask why a CD like this is useful, and what sets it apart from the other software on the market.
In addition to what I have already discussed, this program supports multiple users, with individual records of which exercises have been completed, along with an individual ELO score. Human vs computer games can be played from within the program as well (but these have no influence on the ELO rating the program gives you). There are also a full complement of settings and options to control playback speed of the board, piece sets, and notation. In short, this tutorial program has the same feature set as other Convekta teaching programs.
The program will prompt you to insert the CD every month or so for refueling. Normally, the CD does not have to be in the drive to use the program.
Well, I might sound like a broken record at this point, but Convekta once again has come out with a high-value CD. The only caveat is that it is not for suitable for beginners. However, it is a good choice for those that wish to improve their tactics, creativity, and powers of visualization.