Saturday, December 01, 2007

CT-Art versus PCT

Tacticus Maximus has a post explaining why he prefers Personal Chess Trainer to CT-Art. I have been planning a post arguing the opposite, but it can now basically be seen in his comments. Note in that comment I mention the 5x5 board in CT-Art. For those who don't know, when you get the answer wrong twice, a 5x5 board pops up with a tactical problem containing the same theme as the original problem. Once you solve the problem in miniature, you are sent back to the original. Ultra cool.


Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

Details aside, the philosophical difference I see is that PCT is a course of study and CT-ART is a tool that can be applied in different ways in various approaches to learning.

In that sense CT-Art is more flexible as to how it is used. As such it does require more effort from the user to manage their course of study.

OTOH, PCT is better and easier to use if one wants to apply it in the manner that PCT is designed to be used. If you want to do something else with it, it is less flexible.

CT-Art is much more like a book than PCT. To me, PCT transcends what one can do with a book and represents the next generation of software for developing skill at chess.

I prefer the concept, as I interpret it, of PCT over CT-Art. The implementation of PCT is a thing of beauty. The implementation of CT-Art is such that....I think I prefer a book over the software.

12/02/2007 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CT-Art is still the gold standard for software IMO. It is not like a book other than in the sense that you can control what problem you work on (well, even that isn't accurate as in test mode you don't). And you can do that in PCT too, and just like in CT-Art it would be a pain to do.

Also, I don't have books that--
1. Have key lines and squares highlite when I get a problem wrong.(*)
2. Have a 5x5 board with the same theme pop up.(*)
3. Fire up crafty.
4. Have the correct piece to move start blinking after N errors.
5. Automatically maintain percent correct statistics for multiple readers of the book.(*)
6. Lets me move pieces, scroll through the solution sequence over and over as many times as I want at my own pace.

(*) Neither does PCT.

The real difference between the two programs is in their teaching strategy.

CT-ARt is based on the well-established fact that extensive feedback on individual trials, in the form of pushes in the right direction and reward when done correctly, is helpful for learning. PCT feedback is a bell, a square will light up. High tech stuff. :o

Joking aside, feedback is not PCT's strong point. It is clearly book-like in that regard. Rather, PCT is predicated on the well-established fact that repetition is helpful for learning something. That is the main difference, feedback versus repetition.

The nice thing about CT-Art is you can do your own repititions and have the best of both worlds.

I also think CT-Art is more likely to lead to an understanding of the positions rather than just memorizing solutions. CT-ARt really tries to get you to see the essence of the position. PCT really tries to show you the position a bunch of times until you get it right. In both cases the results are the same as far as moves played, but which will generalize better? An interesting question and I don't know the answer.

I'm glad I didn't use PCT for my initial Circles, and think it isn't a coincidence that nobody has yet finished the Circles with PCT. I think four out of four Knights Errant have just fizzled out with it.

I am not sure why this is. For one, not enough feedback from the program about progress over time (percent correct), not enough feedback on individual problems (blinking shiny stuff like in CT-Art that helps you remember problems). I'm not sure.

My prediction is Tacticus you will be first.

Note I am not saying PCT is bad. I like PCT. I am using it right now for the tactics and strategy modules. It's just different.

I am really glad I used CTB for the Circles rather than CT-Art as that means I still get to savor the beauty that is CT-Art.

12/02/2007 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

... and think it isn't a coincidence that nobody has yet finished the Circles with PCT.

PCT has about four times the exercises in its tactics module than CT-Art has. I think that may have something to do with it. I have "learnt" (per PCT) over 1400 positions -- more than there are in CT-ART.

I could just declare that I am victorious and move on...but of course, I won't. I will complete all of the tactics exercise in PCT.

I am quite sure that I will because PCT makes it fun and easy to do so. I can not say the same for CT-Art (but maybe you can).

12/02/2007 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

"My prediction is Tacticus you will be first."

Hmph. I take that as a challenge! Glenn has a 1 1/2 module lead and sees the solutions twice as fast as me, but we will see. ;)

12/02/2007 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I have not used PCT so my position probably holds no standing in this court, but I have used CT-Art and I am imfatuated with it.

I got it from a friend a year and a half ago and I used it before every round at the National Open (which I won) and before every round at the Western States Open (which I won). I pretty much go in, hit test, limit the problems to 2100+ and go through 5-10 for half an hour to an hour before tournament games.

I like this method because it is easy to set up and, BANG (like Emeril), I am in the critical position of several games...(most of the problems come from actual play) then when I am in a critical position in my actual game I am in the right state of mind.

As far as learning goes, I think that just tests, with all themes on, at a strength which you think you will be able to manage, is the best method of learning. But I do not study tactics by themselves anymore so maybe I don't know.

12/02/2007 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Glenn: You might be right about the number of problems being a limiting factor. OTOH, they are much easier and you go through them fast. It is impossible to be fast and thorough in most CT-Art levels.

Also, now that I've finished the circles with CTB, I like that I can go through them in the order of my choosing rather than forced to do repititions using the scheme concocted by PCT. And I can do them organized by theme, randomly, etc..

Again, though, I don't want to make it seem I don't like PCT. I do. But to put down CT-Art as book like. Bah!

12/02/2007 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

But to put down CT-Art as book like.

What do you think an automated version of a chess tactics exercise book would look like? All of the features of CT-ART are obvious for such a project except the 5x5 board.

Where they missed badly, in my not so humble opinion, is the inability to selectively control the intrusive "hints" and "prompts". The CT-ART intrusiveness degrades how efficiently I can learn using the software. For some learning styles these may benefit. For me they detract.

PCT hits the sweet spot (for me) of helping without being intrusive.

12/02/2007 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

What do you think an automated version of a chess tactics exercise book would look like?

On individual problems it would look a lot like PCT, which doesn't provide much feedback. Just the problem with minimal help. If you don't like the visual feedback then you won't like CT-Art of course.

On the organization of problems it would look a lot like CT-Art and less like PCT.

PCT isn't more 'cutting edge' than CT-art. It has a bunch of simple problems that it repeats. That's cool. CT-Art has a bunch of problems with extensive feedback, more than any other software. That is also cool.

Again, back to my initial point: they have different strategies and you should go with what you like better (taking into consideration the problem difficulty etc).

12/02/2007 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

TCT is the best and my father is bigger than yours and they should send all chess programmers to a course.

12/02/2007 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

LOL Tempo.

TCT is great. Maybe I should fire that sucker up again....when I finish PCT in two years.

12/02/2007 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger wormwood said...

babaschess is the only piece of chess software I haven't hated intensely so far. lucky for them, the content seems to be worth the crappy wrapping.

most of the things bdk likes about CT-ART, I hate. I hate the annoying 5x5 board, the color-coded stuff, blinking pieces and pretty much everything. might be a pavlovian reaction, but I still hate them. nevertheless, it does its job.

I hate PCT equally. mostly because it sometimes forces some moves without a good reason. and although I subscribe to the learning philosophy, I'd like the possibility get a short explanation for the critical ideas if needed... but like CT-ART, it does its job.

the main strength of PCT in my opinion are the endgame modules. you can get thousands of tactical or even strategical problems, but where else can you find a set of endgame problems like that?

12/03/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Loomis said...

In problems with multiple motifs, the 5x5 board seems to invariably demonstrate the motif that I already get and not the one I am missing.

The blinking pieces blink for too long. The piece blinks a couple times, I see where to move it and I've got to wait for it to blink 4 more times before I can do anything. It begins to feel like the software is laughing at me.

So I sympathize with wormwood for hating it. On the other hand, the bottom line is whether I'm better at tactics and calculation now compared to a year ago. Well, jury is still out.

12/03/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

LOL wormwood I like your attitude.

Loomis: yes, and the pieces move really bloody slowly (unless you turn on windows media player, then they move really fast for some reason: I'm not joking).

12/03/2007 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

Hmm I’m a little late to the party here but just thought I’d throw in my two cents.

I bought CT-Art earlier this year before I bought PCT. I actually ordered it from Amazon, and I did not have any issues installing it from the CD it came on (installing the downloaded version seems to be one of the big headaches so I’m glad I didn’t have to go through that). PCT download and installation was smooth sailing too, so both programs score equally well on that in my book.

I do have to say that when I first used CT-Art, the user interface was a big turn-off. Is it really that hard to make a better-looking, smoother interface? PCT was a pleasant surprise in this regard.

I did a bunch of CT-Art problems of varying difficulty and found them to be harder than the PCT exercises I have encountered up to this point (even though that is not saying much since I’m still in module on PCT). For now, I agree with some previous comments that suggested going through PCT first, then doing CT-Art, so that’s my battle plan at this point.

As has been pointed out several times, the functionality that I think is sorely missing from PCT is the history/statistics overview. With that, PCT would be pretty much perfect in my eyes. Also, CT-Art’s 5x5 board is a neat and unique way of helping you find the solution without just presenting it.

Bottom line is, I just seem to have more fun using PCT, and in the end that’s what I care most about – studying chess in a way that I enjoy. I think CT-Art can be hugely beneficial though (especially for studying more complex combinations), and it will certainly be part of my training regimen in the future.

12/03/2007 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

i much much prefer PCT. i believe that sheer mass of repetition has greater practical value than various pedagogical devices. i believe the goal is not to understand the mechanics of tactics in an intellectual way, but to know tactics "by heart", or on sight alone.

i also found CT-Art to be inelegant and clunky. The interface seems designed for Windows '95. OK, maybe Windows '98.

12/04/2007 04:33:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

PCT is not about "understanding" or pedagogy. It is about sheer mass of repetitions. For this it is unmatched. PCT is the weightroom of tactics. So complaints about lack of pedagogical devices in PCT are really off the mark IMO.

The Kenilworthian posted an article comparing chess improvement to weight-training or attaining a beach body. If PCT is a weightroom, allow me to say that CT-Art is akin to a Tae-Bo video that holds your hand and walks you thru every exercise step-by-step.

12/04/2007 04:37:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

FYI, PCT copies the FEN of each puzzle to the clipboard. it is convenient to leave SCID open next to PCT when Ctrl-Shift-V imports the puzzle position for analysis or whatever. but honestly, the fewer of these crutches, the better..

12/04/2007 04:47:00 AM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

I am trying to understand how something that I and others see as intrusive interference, BDK and others see as useful feedback or help. I am curious if perception of say the markers or 5x5 board as helpful or intrusive correlates to other factors.

It may be as simple as I value repetition very highly and anything that interferes with my ability to go through as many positions as fast as I can is interference. Whereas BDK wants to study the problem once and fully understand it?

BDK wants to solve the problem on first sight but I don't especially care if I solve it at first sight or not (except I want to solve it and quickly because solving it quickly is faster than being shown the solution).

We both want to fully understand the problem. And we both want to study each position more than once (circles!)? And we both want to memorize the position and its solution. I am content to let the "full understanding" develop over repeated exposures. Also, for me, a single exposure is usually enough to memorize it at least well enough that I usually remember it and the solution the second time I see it. Repeating it will help me retain it long-term, I think.

There may also be the factor of the difficulty of the problem for the solver and how the approach may vary if the solver sees the problem as easier or harder.

I dunno, but I find it interesting that people on such similar quests are at opposite spectrums on the value of such devices as learning aids.

BDK and others, does any of this sound right?

12/04/2007 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger gorckat said...

I am content to let the "full understanding" develop over repeated exposures.

This seems close to something I feel- my vision of how the pieces interact is growing. I 'see lasers' cutting across the board for how the pieces move. With CT-Art, all its arrows and stuff got in the way of that.

With PCT, I have to learn to see all the nuances/tactics involved which, at the moment, is working well for me.

12/04/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger wormwood said...

glenn, I think you might've hit the nail on the head with that. I do get annoyed because the 5x5 pops up to waste my time, when I'd prefer to continue on the position right away. similarly, the other bells & whistles distract me, thus slowing me down, which I find annoying. I would far prefer to get rid of all that and maintain a full focus without interruptions.

12/04/2007 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Repetition versus feedback built into the program. You can do your own repetition if you want in CTA, but can't add feedback into PCT.

Feedback aids in understanding. Why is understanding important? I literally remembered the solutions faster when I aimed for understanding the problems the first time through. Pure repetition was less efficient.

This drive to understand wasn't inspired by a desire for intellectual fulfillment, but for improved efficiency. I wanted to learn the problems faster, and I did. As I explained at the time:
"What do I hope to gain from this? Simple: I am hoping I learn the solutions faster. I am not using the Circles to get better at calculation, but to learn a bunch of tactics cold. By hand. Recognize the solutions like a friend's face. BAM!"

And it's not just me that the understanding helps. The self-explanation step was inspired by the study that showed explaining moves to oneself improves memory of the solution. The various tools in CTB (and especially CT-Art) help with such understanding required for explanation.

I started doing it as I was taking too long on the Circles, and it helped me learn much faster (I discussed all this ad nauseum while fighting through the Circles).

Glenn, my guess is a single exposure won't be enough to memorize a problem in higher levels of CT-Art (if you are working through a bunch at a time anyway). I wasn't compelled to start worrying about understanding until the problems in CTB were hard for me to understand. Obviously for mate in 1 or 2 there isn't much explanation required (though see the study mentioned above: for those novices mate with rook versus King obviously had a lot going on conceptually, so it all depends on your level). But in two to five move (longer in CT-Art) combinations there is often a lot going on. And the narratives/self-explanations helped me remember them, my only goal in using them.

Now that PCT has repeat, view solution buttons, and Crafty, the FOVEA is possible. When they add performance stats it will be almost as good as CT-Art.

As I've been saying all along, the philosophies of the two programs are different. Repetition versus feedback. If you like repetition, you can repeat problems CT-Art, but you can't add feedback functions in PCT unless you work for them. So there is an assymmetry there.

Also in PCT the problems are simpler (you can instantly understand them so no need for extensive feedback so repetition is probably fine, though maybe with the later modules some FOVEA action would help, not that it matters you don't get performance stats so you can just scroll through mindlessly :)), so those are important considerations too.

Yes, he GUIs in CT-Art are oldschool, but who cares?

Luckily you don't have to choose between them. Use them both. See what you think. They are both great programs with different strengths and weaknesses that would likely complement each other well. For the Circles, I still prefer the Convekta software for all the reasons I've given.

12/04/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Just if I wasn't clear, saying one of the programs is bad is just silly. They both are great tools. If you like one, that is cool, but so far no good arguments that one of them is actually bad.

12/04/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Hello, does anybody have a legit link to PCT? All of the ones I've found seem to be now defunct. Is it only my computer or are other people experiencing the same thing? Thanks all.

12/05/2007 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

It's probably just temporarily down.

12/05/2007 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edukator said...

This is an incredibly timely topic...I am just beginning to see myself finding time for chess again and would love to take on one of these programs (more or less NEED to take on one of these programs). The PCT site hasn't worked well in days which to me is the real determining factor. CT-Art is ready to go. 'Tis the season to throw money at it I suppose!

I would also be interested in a few of the other recommendations for my students. After our fundraiser next year and the addition of a grant I wrote we will have enough to purchase similar programs for preteens....I hope.

12/11/2007 05:31:00 AM  

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