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Importance of Tactics

  • GM TigerGenov
  • | Aug 16, 2013
  • | 10644 views
  • | 14 comments

Since tactics are the most entertaining and important part of chess, it comes as no surprise that there have been many books written about them. This site—which amounts to another book, and not a short one—thus requires a few words of justification. It differs from all the prior work in several important respects.

Most books about chess tactics follow one of two patterns. Some describe important tactical ideas—forks, pins, etc.—and explain their logic a bit, then provide perhaps a dozen examples of how each tactics works. The other sort of book presents pages of diagrammed problems for the reader to solve; the answers usually are given in the back with minimal commentary. Both types of books are valuable, especially when used together, but I long have felt there was a place for a different approach. This project attempts to fill the gap. Its distinctive features can be summarized as follows:

Many examples, carefully organizedchess.com Shows how to overcome the various obstacles that can arise in trying to make it work. There are about 100-300 materials that can be downloaded here,  and they are broken down according to the different ways the tactics can look when it is lurking two or three moves away on an apparently placid chessboard. It may be that the square your knight needs is guarded but that the guard can be taken; it may be that the piece you want to fork is not very valuable but can be exchanged for a more valuable piece; it may be that you do not yet have a knight fork but that after you check the enemy king a forking possibility will come into view. All of these possibilities, and many others, are illustrated with about a half dozen explanations apiece and sometimes more. The process is repeated for all the major tactical motifs: there are more than 100 queen forks, more than 300 pins, nearly 200 discovered attacks—all subdivided into different ways each of these ideas can look when it is a couple of moves away from perfection.

 Every idea is shown in several contexts so that it will sink in and the persistent features of the pattern become familiar to you. And the many examples of each complication also will make it easier to recognize patterns during your games: you will start to sense that the position on the board almost resembles a recognizable pattern and almost lends itself to a known tactical  theme. Then you can experiment with forcing moves (e.g., checks and captures that require predictable replies from your opponent) to make it work. The idea guides the experimentation. But to have the idea in the first place—to see, for example, that conditions on the board suggest a possible knight fork, even if the exact means of getting there has yet to be worked out—you need a repertoire of known tactical patterns that can be stimulated by the positions you see. The patterns studied here, in all their little variations, are meant to go into the reader's store of visual knowledge and become the basis of useful intuitions and ideas.

Trains of thought explained. Here is a slightly larger statement of the point. The quality of your chess is determined by the quality of your train of thought when deciding what move to make. The train of thought may be partly verbal, partly visual, or partly intuitive, but in any case it will involve a sequence in which you consider candidate moves and their pros and cons. The climb from novice to something better largely is a move from meandering, unsystematic trains of thought to more methodical and fruitful ones. For the beginner it therefore is helpful to see more than just a list of the correct moves that solve a chess problem; it helps to hear what questions one might have asked to spot the pattern and discover the correct moves for oneself. Thus every example here is accompanied by commentary explaining not just the right moves but a train of thought that leads from the position to its solution.

The trains of thought offered in the commentaries emphasize the use of clues: signs to search for during your games that indicate a tactics might be available. The explanations show how the same sets of questions, some of them simple, can generate impressive tactical ideas when they are asked and answered methodically. Some trains of thought thus are repeated many times. The repetition would be inexcusable if the purpose of the project were just to transmit information, for then once would be enough. But the purpose is otherwise; it is to help change your mental habits at the board, and for this purpose an extra measure of clarity and some repetition both are helpful.

This project especially is meant for those who like explanations in words. Not everyone does; some students of chess prefer just diagrams with lists of the moves required to solve them. But I suspect that those who do think best in words will find it helpful—more interesting, easier to understand, and more likely to improve their play—to have the solutions to problems explained out in English. These are matters of taste, and you, gentle reader, may not think the world really needs more words about chess. But if you do share this sense of mine, and have not found that most books about chess explain it in a way that speaks to you or affects your play, perhaps this site will change your relationship to the game.

Computers are very good tactically, because they can analyze variations very well and very quickly!. They will look at many more candidate moves than human beings, and consider even the craziest looking moves.

A budding Fischer, Kasparov or Tal must get very good tactically, and be able to find combinations easily.

Kotov in [1] suggested a policy of establishing candidate moves, and being systematic in analyzing them. He made an interesting assumption with respect to the way computers calculate tactics. He suggested that we could take some of the methods that computer's employ and use them within the context of our own thinking processes. For example systematically analyzing positions, thus producing variations quickly.

Being able to see moves ahead and assess the positions is a vital ingredient to combinational vision. Seeing ahead is a skill that can be evolved through practice. Kotov suggested looking at very complicated tactical l situations, and trying to analyze them and compare the analysis to the actual game notes. He noted several very important tips related to looking ahead and finding the resources buried in the position. These included:-

Examine just as many variations as necessary - no more, no less

Find the really important lines

Be systematic, e.g. trying to looking at each variation once and once only and not jumping around too much

These tips need some intelligent qualification.

The way computers "think" is completely different to the way humans think.

Humans have the ability to abstract and form plans. It is easier to implement computer chess programs with alpha-beta pruning, rather than teach them about planning concepts.

Finding really important variations is helped by experience. Experience will act as a filter to find the most relevant moves quickly that meet the needs of the position. An experienced sicillian Dragon defense player for example, will look at variations involving the thematic Rxc3 quite often for example. An experienced Kings Indian player will be familiar with the tactical themes of the Kings Indian.

Computers have no emotions and fear. Their programs do not become "tired" and make elementary blunders.

Being systematic and not going over variations twice is an idea borrowed from how computers analyze positions. It seems slightly risky when for example you are going to sacrifice your queen or heavy material. It is re-assuring to try and check the soundness of these types of combinations! Computers have no fear and do not have to suffer the emotional implications of unsoundly sacrificing a queen!

This type of human re-assurance has to be balanced with Kotov's fundamental point about discipline in terms of not jumping from one variation to another and back again. This could have very bad consequences such as running out of time.

Having made these qualifications:- in tactical situations, it would be nice to produce a computer like analysis. The structural framework and discipline that computers employ to analyze variations is therefore a very interesting idea in principle.

The following set of tips may help train tactical vision:-

Computers are very good tactically, because they can analyze variations very well and very quickly!. They will look at many more candidate moves than human beings, and consider even the craziest looking moves.

A budding Fischer, Kasparov or Tal must get very good tactically, and be able to find combinations easily.

Kotov in [1] suggested a policy of establishing candidate moves, and being systematic in analyzing them. He made an interesting assumption with respect to the way computers calculate tactics. He suggested that we could take some of the methods that computer's employ and use them within the context of our own thinking processes. For example systematically  analyzing positions, thus producing variations quickly.

Being able to see moves ahead and assess the positions is a vital ingredient to combinational vision. Seeing ahead is a skill that can be evolved through practice. Kotov suggested looking at very complicated tactics situations, and trying to analyze them and compare the analysis to the actual game notes. He noted several very important tips related to looking ahead and finding the resources buried in the position. These included:-

Examine just as many variations as necessary - no more, no less

Find the really important lines

Be systematic, e.g. trying to looking at each variation once and once only and not jumping around too much

These tips need some intelligent qualification.

The way computers "think" is completely different to the way humans think.

Humans have the ability to abstract and form plans. It is easier to implement computer chess programs with alpha-beta pruning, rather than teach them about planning concepts.

Finding really important variations is helped by experience. Experience will act as a filter to find the most relevant moves quickly that meet the needs of the position. An experienced sicillian Dragon defence player for example, will look at variations involving the thematic Rxc3 quite often for example. An experienced Kings Indian player will be familiar with the tactis themes of the Kings Indian.

Computers have no emotions and fear. Their programs do not become "tired" and make elementary blunders.

Being systematic and not going over variations twice is an idea borrowed from how computers analyse positions. It seems slightly risky when for example you are going to sacrifice your queen or heavy material. It is re-assuring to try and check the soundness of these types of combinations! Computers have no fear and do not have to suffer the emotional implications of unsoundly sacrificing a queen!

This type of human re-assurance has to be balanced with Kotov's fundamental point about discipline in terms of not jumping from one variation to another and back again. This could have very bad consequences such as running out of time.

Having made these qualifications:- in tactics situations, it would be nice to produce a computer like analysis. The structural framework and discipline that computers employ to analyze variations is therefore a very interesting idea in principle.

Elements of Tactics :

If you are new to chess, the sequences that good players use to win games may seem impossibly complicated. But most of them actually are based on just a few general concepts combined ingeniously and persistently. This frame and the ones that follow explain the concepts broadly. The rest of the site teaches their use in detail.

The most important idea in chess is the double threat. Generally speaking a double threat is any move you make that presents your opponent with two problems at the same time. Since each player can make just one move per turn, your opponent only has time to address one of the threats you have made. On your next turn you execute the other one. Maybe your first move checks his king and attacks another of his pieces at the same time; or maybe you threaten one of his pieces and are building a threat of checkmate elsewhere. The result is the same: your opponent has to spend his next move dealing with your threat against his king, and then you get to take the other piece you were threatening.

The universe of chess tactics can be divided into four or five great families of ideas, each of them a variation on the logic of the double threat. This site is organized around them:

  •  The first family, and the best-known type of double threat, is the fork—a move where one of your pieces attacks two enemy pieces at the same time. You no doubt have seen examples of knight forks if you have played chess for a while; the knight naturally lends itself to moves in which it attacks two pieces at once. But the same idea can be executed with your queen or with other pieces, as we shall see.
  •  A second type of double threat, and another family of tactics ideas, is the discovered attack. This occurs when you move one of your pieces out of the way of another so that both of them make separate attacks against your opponent. Again, he only has time to parry one of the threats. You play out the other one on your next move.
  •  A third family of tactics ideas involves the pin or skewer. These occur when two of your opponent’s pieces are on the same line and you place an attacker so that it runs through both of them. In effect you again are making a double threat—one threat against the piece in front and another against the piece behind it.
  •  And then there are countless other situations that may be lumped under the heading of removing the guard, in which you capture or harry an enemy piece that guards something else you want to take. Your opponent can’t defend against both threats on the one turn allowed to him, so you are able to play one of them or the other.
  • In effect most games of chess are contests to see who can find a way to use one of those tactics techniques first. One successful fork (or discovery, or skewer, etc.) often decides a game by giving one player an insurmountable advantage over the other. This is why Richard Teich mann said that chess is 99% tactics; and it is why mastery of tactics is the key to having fun at the chessboard, not to mention winning.

[Note: A fifth family of tactics operations involves mating patterns: characteristic ways that kings get trapped. These are treated in the last section of this site. They do not necessarily involve the logic of the double threat in the way that those tactics devices just described do. We also are leaving aside a few other, more minor families of tactics for now.]

 

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Comments


  • 11 months ago

    Seven111

    Good article although the repetition mentioned earlier is still there. 

  • 11 months ago

    Ivc

    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • 13 months ago

    showkat

    Good one......

  • 13 months ago

    chessfansupporter

    Great tips from GM

  • 13 months ago

    GM TigerGenov

    Please say your comments here and I am being proud of having 3800+ views

  • 14 months ago

    oscar_heat

    good article....keep it coming!!!

  • 14 months ago

    Seven111

    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • 14 months ago

    kcsmith169

    Looking forward to future articles. Thanks for your contribution!

  • 14 months ago

    NM linlaoda

    Hi Petar!!! Great Article!!!

    Could you recommend a good tactics book for the expert player?



    thank you!

  • 14 months ago

    Misi_Magician

    Kérjük, legyél lényegre törő, segítőkész és kedves!

  • 14 months ago

    GM TigerGenov

    My Debut article for chess.com,Thanks for the oppurtunity..

  • 14 months ago

    dunce

    What the heck is a 'tactis'? And what are 'tctis'?

  • 14 months ago

    VladimirPutin2

    first comment yes finally and by the way great article

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