When it comes to chess literature, opening manuals are by the most common and popular. Whenever I visit the chess section at a bookstore, I see a token endgame book, a few general manuals, the current flavour of the month and then rows and rows of opening books. Arguably there are more books on openings than what is good for us, but it’s certainly a lot of fun.
Maybe you have fallen down this rabbit hole yourself. Maybe your chess games keep reaching the same sterile positions. You start yawning, as you’ve played this position a thousand times and need something new. A quick search later and you find books that promise unique positions, easy-to-learn systems and quick wins if you memorize just a few lines.
Unfortunately, if you are anything like me, you don’t study most of the book. You leaf through it, look at the main conclusion, get a general idea and then hope things works out. Honestly, it’s hard going through 200 pages of analysis, even if most of it is prose. That is a lot to absorb and remember. It’s hard. This is why I sucked at openings for virtually my entire life, but that changed thanks to one great tool, Chess Position Trainer.
When studying openings, do you ever forget certain moves or positions? Do you struggle with transpositions? Have you ever tried to create a write up, usually a pgn movelist, only to have it look like the messiest, least organized thing in existence? Chess Position Trainer, or CPT, helps solve all these issues and does so much more.
It’s genius is that it stores lines, not games. Think of a database. Each entry is one game. Yes, it can have variations and such, but it does not do this optimally. That is, having a few variations at a few different times works great. This is common for middle- and endgame positions. For openings, though, you can have three or four possibilities on every move, and here the variation function quickly becomes a headache, almost unreadable.
CPT stores individual moves, or more accurately, individual positions. Suppose you play 1.e4. You input it, and then all of black’s possible defences are present. All of them. You don’t need to switch to different files or games, everything is right there. This allows it to handle transpositions. For instance, 1.e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 e5 reaches the same position if Black were to switch his moves around. In a normal database or .pgn file, you would just make a note saying ‘transposes to normal lines.’ You would then need to physically move to those files to keep going. With CPT, you are already there.
I can’t stress how easy CPT makes studying openings. Heck, even just reviewing openings is a thousand times easier. You click through, you get a sense of the moves. The mainline is always first, and you always check sidelines at a click of a button. Transpositions are marked and flow seamlessly. It is beautiful, intuitive, amazing … but there’s a catch.
CPT contains no opening information itself. You need to provide that.
CPT is a tool, like a hammer. A hammer can help make you a treehouse, but you need to provide the raw materials. Similarly, CPT can help you master your openings, but you need to provide the raw lines. You enter the lines in, it does the rest. If you have notes in .pgn format already, you can just import that and be ready to go instantly. If you have physical books, you need to enter things in manually. Alternatively, you can see if your book qualifies as a DB Book.
Note, when importing .pgn, do NOT import whole games. You do not want to use CPT as a database, because databases do that. Use CPT to learn openings. Once the opening is over, cut the rest of the line. There’s no need to study or memorize that, and that is our goal, effectively studying opening lines.
I should add here that the act of putting a whole book into CPT, complete with relevant commentary, is an incredible way to learn an opening. For one, it guarantees that you’ve been through all the material, and you can right away star or highlight any positions you are unsure of. Writing the commentary helps you remember it better. Personally, most of CPT lines were imported through pgn files, but the ones I manually entered are the ones I remember best.
Anyway, here comes the best part, for me at least. CPT allows you to train your opening. Go to Training mode and you will be given either individual positions and asked to find the right move, or you will need to play the entire line from beginning to end. Mistakes are highlighted. If you get certain positions right all the time, you program makes you review them less. If you struggle with certain lines, the program makes you do it more. It helps you learn.
I find this incredible. For about six months I have used this training feature daily, as recommended. It takes between 5 and 15min, depending on the day’s volume. My opening knowledge has flourished. I also know exactly where my weaknesses are, because I keep repeating the same mistakes in certain positions. I know exactly where to focus my attention.
I love using CPT. Now for the only complaint: it cost some money.
Technically you can use a free version of it, which features less features. It doesn’t have detailed stats and it has much more limited training features. It still stores your opening moves in the best possible way, though. If you are only interested in that, and if you have an opening repertoire you should be, then the free version will suffice. The paid version, which is a yearly fee, has all the bells and whistles.
When you first download it, you get a few weeks to test the full version. There’s no obligation. It works wonders. You’ll wonder how you ever studied openings without it. Seriously, check it out. I recommend it without reservation. I don’t normally purchase full versions of things I can get for free, but CPT was worth it for me.