I have some good quality chess books and of course use the chess board to follow all chess game examples and variations provided. However I noticed that it is quite a tiring activity as it takes time and I do sometimes lose the sequence of moves as I lose focus when switching between board and the book.

Not long ago I found that there are ebooks (CBH, CBV and PGN file format) which allow to "read" books on a chess application (chessbase, fritz etc) and examines provided using software.

The question I want to ask actually about learning: do you learn more by physically interacting with the pieces (reading book and moving pieces) or you find yourself learning more and quicker by interacting with the software while going through variations?

4 Answers 4


I think playing a PGN helps me more. Often I will be curious why a side line doesn't work, and often that is as revealing as the main analysis.

Of course, there's opportunity for abuse with anything as powerful as a chess engine reading through moves, but that's the case for any powerful technology. So maybe the question is not so much which is more powerful but how to blend things effectively, which is different for everyone.

This may seem like a cop-out, though. You never get a second chance to get a good first look at a position or game to assess your weaknesses/strengths honestly, so it seems like a first pass without an engine, then a second pass with an engine to clean up what you missed, would be best.

So I would set a specific amount of time for if you get stuck on something and can't figure it out (e.g. why did White, or the book, not consider a certain move,) and if you can't figure it out, use a chess engine on it. I use similar procedure for learning how to code. I note my tries that didn't work, and then stackoverflow often has several ways to look at things, so I can see


You always pay attention when moving heavy wooden pieces. Work with PC can be faster but make sure you don't do it too superficially. Sometimes I just wheel the mouse, listen to the music and after checking twenty games of my opponent I don't know what is his first move. I like the old style learning, it isn't that powerful technically but still it can produce better results. The faster you play the lines, the less understanding you will get. That's why real pieces and books are not dead for training. I would go for watching videos on pc but I think I wouldn't read ebook on it.

  • i guess it all depends on which learning style is most effective to player. I learn by practise so probably moving pieces for me works better however i think to become successful one should try to acquire information both by doing and visually.
    – Alex
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 19:49

Personally, I prefer using a computer, especially when going through highly theoretical openings, because often a small difference between two positions result in a different consensus for the preferred treatment. As such, you'd not only want to be able to quickly transition between these positions in order to compare them, but you'll also want an engine that could often tell you why one move works in one position but fails in a similar one.

Here's an example:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.O-O-O d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7 14.Qxa8 Bf5 15.Qxf8+ Kxf8

is generally regarded as good for black, whereas

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.O-O-O d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7 14.Qxa8 Bf5 15.Qxf8+ Kxf8

is preferred for white.

You could of course look at this over the board (in this case, the only difference is a white pawn on f3 and a bishop on c1 versus the pawn remaining on f2 and the bishop on e2) and try to figure out why the evaluations differ, but being told (likely by the engine) that 16.Bd3 runs into 16...Qe5 in only one of these lines isn't going to hurt your absorption of opening knowledge, and saves you the time taken to look for a tactic that is almost part the theory itself.

On the other hand, if you're doing puzzles/tactics, you need to use a board to simulate thinking in a real game (whereas while studying openings, it's more of understanding and memorizing theory that has been developed by others, than trying to find an idea by yourself).

Middlegame-oriented books are somewhat in the middle ground: variations in these books either have a ton of branches (computers let you traverse these quickly), or skip over weak lines whose refutation is not immediately clear to weaker players (the engine gives you an immediate answer). Having said so, it might be better for your development to just take your time with these positions over the board, and try to answer any questions yourself, before asking the engine.

In summary, use computers in cases where you need to move quickly between variations and get insight from the engine, and on the other hand, do things over the board in cases where you need to think for yourself.


The Chess Software especially with .pgn .cbh files have become very handy and is easy user friendly compared to the old style of reading books . Chess has an in depth knowledge and it takes years to master them . Unless you are residing in a City where there are good Chess Clubs with coaches and you are alone and you have time enough it would be easier to have Softwares which makes your life easier . Let me give you my own example . I learned Chess all by myself and my rating is approx. 1850-2100 range in different Chess websites I do not have any Chess coach at all . I find it is very easy learning through the available Softwares . I do not have time to visit a coach where they charge also higher.

Now what I miss is OTB (Over the Board Play ) which I do only a few times in a year in Practical Tournaments. Having an online advanced Chess rating in your PC in your comfortable AC room does not mean that you would be the same in OTB play where a crowd of 500-1000 players also caters to the environment , so these are absolutely two different things . OTB is essential before you step in to any Tournaments .

You will see many experts will also second the fact that Practical Tournament Play OTB is different and good in learning especially with Masters as compared to just be isolated with Chess Software.

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