Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Questions and answers for COW Macintosh and Windows
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chuckbo
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:08 am

Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by chuckbo »

I’ve always had the feeling that I’m not using COW to its best capability, and I’m looking for some guidance on best practices.
When I first got Bookup back in the 80s, I was planning to use it to store my library of games — this was before PGN — but it wasn't built for that. I switched to a plan where I've been entering my preferred lines and some other lines I wanted to learn to play against. I enter my preferred moves. I began by entering the top opponent line that I wanted to learn. But as I played, as Mike points out, I encounter non-optimal moves that I feel I should prepare against. And my library exploded to become too large to use for training.

I'm curious how others have best integrated COW into their chess preparation. After the feature to import games from LiChess was added, I knew that I wasn’t using the app as being recommended. I was only evaluating leaf modes, but I recognized that that can misrepresent scores at earlier levels and I should be evaluating all positions. But if I start importing all of my games, it's not clear to me how to use this for training. Here are some of my questions.
  • I know that in training, I can specify that I want to be trained through a certain move. Is there a way to only limit the training depth on less important lines and to train me deeper on key lines?
  • Considering evaluations, I don’t see the purpose of evaluating every position of a 65-move game. But I don’t see a way to specify how deeply to stop the evaluation. Do I have to generate the EPD file for all positions in my database and then edit it and remove the positions that appear after the point I want to study?
  • I don’t know what it means to add pedigree positions or transposition moves and what to expect if I run those commands.

Overall, I’ve watched the videos, some of which show much older versions of the app. It seems to me that it’d be really valuable to have a very experienced user write a pamphlet to act as a go-by — what are the steps that the players who get the most out of the app use. What do they do after a tournament or after they play online games? How do they best keep it up-to-date? What are the steps they use it to assess their book and to build a comprehensive book? How do they train with it and prepare for the next tournament? etc.

Chuck
MikeAtBookup
Posts: 198
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 2:02 pm

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by MikeAtBookup »

I'd love to see that pamphlet. :D

No two chess players approach the workflow in quite the same way. There are similarities though.

In my 40+ years of supporting this app, I've come across a few stereotypical groups:

The first is the theorist. They often come to me with questions like, "How can I import every published game to get one complete opening overview?" This approach has many drawbacks from disk space, time, and even the unspoken question of when in the world would you review such a thing?

The next might be the specialist. They want to work on just the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit for White and that's it. They spend their chess careers trying to ensnare their opponents in their pet lines.

The next might be generalists. They might want to "learn all the openings" so that they appear knowledgeable at their chess club.

Then there are repertoire players. These might be my favorites. Fischer comes to mind. They prepare multiple lines and their preparation shifts with the latest theory.

Then there are players like Magnus Carlsen who seem proficient in multiple openings and defenses. They have plans but they can change them on a dime.

Then there are rank beginners who are sure that, if they buy an app, they can learn the "best openings." Coaches are always trying to steer them into tactical open games so that they can learn the underpinnings of chess (tactics) and only then pick a repertoire.

So it depends on one's approach when it comes to answering the question of, "How do I get the most out of Chess Openings Wizard?"
-------------------
Mike Leahy
:geek: Head Geek at bookup.com
MikeAtBookup
Posts: 198
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 2:02 pm

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by MikeAtBookup »

chuckbo wrote: Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:31 am
  • I know that in training, I can specify that I want to be trained through a certain move. Is there a way to only limit the training depth on less important lines and to train me deeper on key lines?
  • Considering evaluations, I don’t see the purpose of evaluating every position of a 65-move game. But I don’t see a way to specify how deeply to stop the evaluation. Do I have to generate the EPD file for all positions in my database and then edit it and remove the positions that appear after the point I want to study?
  • I don’t know what it means to add pedigree positions or transposition moves and what to expect if I run those commands.
Chuck
The app can't make a distinction between less important lines and key lines. For less important lines I'd just press the Complete Training button and have that line be done. With the latest version you can always "undo" training for any line if you want to train for that line later.

There may not be a purpose behind evaluating every position of a 65 move game. To blunder check, just limit the depth, the time, or the number of nodes when analyzing the EPD file. You can use the EPD controls to export only leaf nodes. You can also manually add single positions using the EPD menu. That's handy if you just want an engine's opinion on a handful of positions from your game.

The Pedigree database is made up solely of moves played in games were super GMs faced super GMs. In the opening, you certainly want to consider all moves from these very serious contests. There's no harm in selecting that option to see what it does. The worst thing is that you might end up wanting to delete some of the moves that it adds but again that should never be the case for the side you are preparing against.

The option to add moves that transpose is rarely used. The most common use is if you accidentally delete a candidate move. That command will add (back) all moves that transpose to existing positions in the ebook.
-------------------
Mike Leahy
:geek: Head Geek at bookup.com
chuckbo
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:08 am

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by chuckbo »

Okay, I'm in the Repertoire camp. Let's say I've identified five main lines for White to play against me in the Caro-Kann, and I put them in. I enter the best move for White, and in a few cases, maybe there are multiple fairly even choices that White has, and I enter those. Some of the lines, I've carried down to 6 moves deep. Other moves, I've captured ten or eleven moves. And I also see some moves for White that aren't so good but might be ones that an inexperienced White player might try, and I add it to the book.

At this point, what is the workflow that successful players use?
• If I add online games, it's going to import the entire game. Is that a good plan? I sure don't want to train the entire game.
• I'm not sure I understand the Complete Training option well enough. Won't it be reset after I've completed the training on the book and I reset it to start over?

Chuck
MikeAtBookup
Posts: 198
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 2:02 pm

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by MikeAtBookup »

chuckbo wrote: Thu Apr 11, 2024 3:56 pm At this point, what is the workflow that successful players use?
• If I add online games, it's going to import the entire game. Is that a good plan? I sure don't want to train the entire game.
The workflow varies with different successful players but it almost always involves the training wizard. The latest version will mark lines as needing training as you add new moves - but not as the importing of games adds new moves.

Occasionally you'll want to reset the entire ebook and quickly blitz through training everything. If you have a large enough ebook that resetting all training sounds like too much, make a copy of that ebook and then reset/train with the copy.
chuckbo wrote: Thu Apr 11, 2024 3:56 pm • I'm not sure I understand the Complete Training option well enough. Won't it be reset after I've completed the training on the book and I reset it to start over?
Pressing the Complete Training button gives you full credit for the line you are in. If you find yourself satisfied with the training you've done to reach the current position and you don't want to train any deeper, press the button and the training wizard will move on to the next variation.
-------------------
Mike Leahy
:geek: Head Geek at bookup.com
chuckbo
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:08 am

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by chuckbo »

Do you import all of the games you play?
- in tournaments?
- online?
After you import a set of games, what do you do with them?

Maybe these are questions for some of your fancy-schmancy fast-moving GMs.

Yes, I'm asking these questions for my own use. But if I get a good handle on a process, and I can explain it well with examples … I've coached a lot of players. I like the idea of adding a lesson to one of my levels about how to prepare better with technology: how to analyze games with the engine, how to build your repertoire and train with COW.

Chuck
chuckbo
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Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:08 am

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by chuckbo »

I really am still looking for stories and advice on how people are using COW effectively.
I especially would like to hear how you study from it if you are loading entire games into it.

Chuck
FreeRepublic
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:31 am

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by FreeRepublic »

I start with material, games and analysis, published as a PGN file. I import it into COW. For example, I imported The Tarrasch Defense: Move by Move by Sam Collins. This book also comes in Kindle and Acrobat Digital Exchange (ADE) formats. I can set up the ADE format on the left side of the screen and the equivalent COW eBook on the right. This is very much like the time-honored practice of having a chess book and chess board.

I can play my own ideas in the COW eBook and my analyisis is saved. I can add other published material. Sam Collins provides one approach to answering the Reti. Tony Kosten provided another approach in a chapter of Dangerous Weapons - Flank Opening. I prefer Tony's reversed Benoni approach. I can import Kosten's analysis into my eBook. Cyrus Lakadala has a new book on the Dubov variation of the Tarrasch. I could buy that and merge it in also. There are other sources as well. All this information can reside in one COW eBook - the kitchen sink.

All my information is in one place. After merging it all together, is their any way to distinguish contributors? Yes. I give a yellow dot to all published books and articles that contain analysis and comments. For raw, uncommented games, I use a green dot. For analysis, my own and from Stockfish, I use a red dot.

I give attribution to comments from Collins, Kosten, and Lakawala. To do so, I use a search and replace command prior to importing a PGN file. Something like replacing "{" with "{Collins: ". This enables me to see who said what.

The process above gives me a very robust book on the opening. I study this book. Once I think I have identified key lines, I develop a training COW eBook.

I play through a key line and save it as a PGN file. I play another key line and add it to the pgn file, and so on. I then import all the key lines into a new COW eBook. I train from there. I can add my own hints, text or audio, to the training eBook. The purpose of a hint is to focus thinking. It is a "do" or "don't" specific to the position. For example, "White can not defend the d pawn. What is the best way to give it away?" Or, "Black must attend to White's threat." Or, "Time is more important than material here." The idea is to identify the salient feature of the position, and leave it to the trainee to find the right move.

I find that developing a training COW eBook is as useful as using it.

When I use the training eBook, I sometimes find ways to improve the eBook for future training sessions. Sometimes my "Why wasn't this move considered?" question leads to new insights and a revision to COW training eBook.
chuckbo
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Apr 11, 2024 9:08 am

Re: Best Practices for Chess training with COW

Post by chuckbo »

That is an idea I never considered but seems helpful … to have a separate kitchen sink book from your key line training book.
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