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Do Tactics make you better at Strategy?

Two terms, which seem to totally contradict each other, yet totally intertwined with each other. Now, when I say makes you better at strategy, I don't mean you being able to execute a nice plan without the fear of dropping a random piece exactly! The knowledge base of tactical patterns themselves have actually seemed to alter the way I plan in a game!

Ever get into a position where you had many pieces near the opponent's king, but wondered "But do I have anything concrete?" And that question pretty much distinguishes sound attack, from unsound! When you don't see those bishop sacrifices coming to open the king, when you don't see those sudden rook lifts leaping into the position within two moves in the blink of an eye, when you miss the tricky knight mate looming, it affects your sense of danger. If one could only judge an attack by how many normal moves it would take to get a threat underway, while missing possible sacrifices, things may look much less dangerous than they actually are; it totally changes how you evaluate that position! That's what tactical puzzles are all about though: you look for just the right move to break through, and seeing those kinds of ideas in games, even if they are just potential, can quite literally make the difference between a good and terrible plan.

But in a broader sense, it has made me think more concretely in general. In any position I no longer list certain features like isolated pawn, bad bishop, etc, as a means of seriously evaluating the position. I may mention them to myself, but I am not using those words to make any conclusion about the position at all. What's more important is if my position is achieving something, or if it can be expected to achieve something at some point. And the best way to achieve anything in a game is by tactics. If you have lots of fast, forcing ways to put pressure on the position and give the opponent problems, then you have control, and a good position; that's all you really need to know.

 

Let's look at an excerpt from a game of mine against an International Master:

 

The sheer fact that ...Nb4 forked c2 and d3 was the one thing that changed the evaluation of that position from equal to lost -- isn't that crazy? I lost a game for missing that minuscule thing!

Actually, if you take the position after 17 Nd2, then gently slide the pawn to a3, then it probably is pretty balanced! I think this proves that you have to be very wary of the specifics of a position, because in this case for example that a-pawn's position, on the always supreme edge of the board, has my fate in his hands.

Moreover, when looking at how many moves it actually took to put pressure on d5, that's what really gave you the idea whether they were weak or not, not the fact that they were classified as "hanging pawns."

Next time you see someone attack you, actually look at the concrete threats he will be able to come up with in the next 5 moves, and how easy it will actually be to prevent them before panicking at his aggressive gesture!

What do you think, do tactics make you better at strategy?

Comments


  • 14 months ago

    Robles_Ulises

    Today i was asking myself this questions, some time ago i read a kotov strategy book i dont remember which one was. i learned the basic principles of strategyc assessment and all that planning stuff since then i have not touched any strategy book. i stoped playing for a while and then a couple of months ago i decided to come back to chess, but now the only thing ive been doing is solving tactic puzzles around 2 or 3 hours everyday  and i have noticed that my strategic assessments have become way more accurate than how they used to be, cuz now i can take into account a lot of tricky outcomes in my planning and also in my oponents planing. So im almost sure that if you have the strategic basics and then you spend a lot of time doing tactic puzzles your strategic game will be be benefited as well. just my two cents.

  • 3 years ago

    longday576

    Jeremy Silman says that all tactics are based on double attacks in one way or another. 1. Is the king open or stalemated? 2. Are there any hanging\insufficiently defended peices? He says if these criteria arent there then you shouldnt waste time looking for tactics. From my experience time plays a huge factor in whether or not I'll even find the hanging pieces. I spend about thirty minutes on my tactics books and try to build up an endurance to the grueling mind numbing calculations. tactics are not my forte. I dont know how other people do it, but I've defiantly learned from other people's mistakes by solving the problems and memorizing them over a course of several weeks.

  • 3 years ago

    Elubas

    "I am not sure whether tactics make you better at strategising per se. I think strategy is something separate to study by looking at the thematic ideas in your openings and understanding how to notice a long term weakness in the opponent to be exploited. However, better tactics will always make your strategy that much more effective. "

    Not only do I think tactics will make it more effective, I think strategies can be literally based off of tactics sometimes. For example, the fact that you may have some check at your disposal that you can always throw in (like ...Bc5+ against a white player who played f4, with a king on g1), might be just enough to give you the initiative, i.e., force him to worry about stuff like that and react to you. Perhaps more direct is if one of his pieces is pinned to something; this also inhibits aggressive action by limiting his potential movements. If you don't have such resources backing you up, your plan might not be nearly as dangerous and forcing.

    It's so strange though. I have been studying tactics so much, and now when I am in a predominantly strategic situation I have been thinking so much more clearly! Perhaps it's because since tactics force you to execute ideas more than make them (as you say), it forces me to make sure that any given strategy I have will lead to something concrete; to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

  • 3 years ago

    BlueKnightShade

    magic-yak wrote: I am looking for a new tactics book. does anyone know of a book that has at least a section of "improve your position without gaining material" tactics? something with positions like move 16 with captions like "black to play and get a outpost

    Elubas replied: Haha, unfortunately I don't know of such a puzzle book! I know what you mean though.

    Bent Larsen's book "Find the Plan" is the closets I that I can think of at the moment. It is a very good book. I think that in order to find the plan you need to look at both tactics and strategy. Below is an example from the book, black to move. The solution you can find on the following URL if you scroll down to the commentary under the game: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1032239

    But take a look here first and see if you can find the plan, black to move:

  • 3 years ago

    Klunk

    This article instantly made me think of a quotation from Sun Tzu that I think might help discern strategy from tactics:

    "Strategy without tactics is the slowest way to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

    Your strategy is your overall plan - it is the thing you begin with your choice of opening, with your positioning of pieces in the opening and which side you castle. Often openings or lines have very thematic strategies for attacks. This is one of the main parts of studying openings - a broader sense of the ideas and plans behind an opening is often much more valuable than mere lists of learned moves. The comments after move 9 represent a strategy for example.

    Your tactics are your manoeuvres on the board; they are the means through which you enact your plan. It's all very well to say that you will attack on the kingside or queenside, but a strategy without the tactics is nothing much at all. You may have thought of an impressive plan, but can you make it work?  

    The difference can be a little muddy at times. They complement each other and support each other, but how many moves does a tactic have to be before it is a more holistic 'strategy'? Is threatening a specific square, or file, a strategy or a tactic?

    I am not sure whether tactics make you better at strategising per se. I think strategy is something separate to study by looking at the thematic ideas in your openings and understanding how to notice a long term weakness in the opponent to be exploited. However, better tactics will always make your strategy that much more effective. 

    What is interesting is that tactics are often held up as the path to chess improvement, but strategy is not often mentioned...

  • 3 years ago

    magic-yak

    I feel as like if i could only get my hands on the right set of problems that would teach me what i need to know (everything from mates to drawing to just improving the position a little) i would beable to jump up hundreds of points. :P o well woulda shoulda coulda

  • 3 years ago

    longday576

    At Magic Yak- this article by Galwe really inspired to take tactics serioulsy by studying it thirty minutes a day at least!

    http://main.uschess.org/content/view/10469/593/

     If anything at all tactics should be studied like he says. The benefits are amazing, I feel confident going into my fav. openings! Also, from Susan Polgars tactics book she says studying tactics allows you to visulize the moves as correct as you can and it helps a lot. "Chess Tactics for Champions" Susan Polgar and theres another guy who helps her write it, but tactics are a huge factor.

  • 3 years ago

    elbowgrease

    but i rudely played on? Wow 

  • 3 years ago

    oinquarki

    Re: Elubas

    Someone should make a book like that!; it would be awesome.

  • 3 years ago

    Elubas

    "I am looking for a new tactics book. does anyone know of a book that has at least a section of "improve your position without gaining material" tactics? something with positions like move 16 with captions like "black to play and get a outpost"

    Haha, unfortunately I don't know of such a puzzle book! I know what you mean though.

    All I do is improve my tactics as much as I can so that hopefully I will just naturally integrate them into any plan I make.

    Philip, that game was extremely impressive! Your strategy was sound, and it was very well backed up by tactics!

  • 3 years ago

    PhilipSaponaro

    Heres a game I just played yesterday that shows that tactics can show you the right strategy, and vise versa:

     

     

  • 3 years ago

    magic-yak

    from my personal experience (aka my spectacular losses) any study of strategy without a very strong tactical base is pointless/worthless/wasteful

    I am looking for a new tactics book. does anyone know of a book that has at least a section of "improve your position without gaining material" tactics? something with positions like move 16 with captions like "black to play and get a outpost

    Elubas said "[it was not like there was a rook on d3] instead the only thing that could be hit was a square, there were no alarm bells;..." i want to start developing those alarm bells 

    ps. I don't want anything too advanced (my USCF rating is only 1200 :P

  • 3 years ago

    diagonal

    There are two general type of ways to maneuver chess games, one is waiting for your opponent to make a blunder to convert into winning or causing your opponent to make a blunder with intent to win. What's your playing style? Because that's how you'll view strategy and tactics.

  • 3 years ago

    BlueKnightShade

    Hi  Elubas, yeah it does make a difference where the pieces are in order to easily see a threat or not seing it.

    TripleXDooM  , strategy is about long term planning like gradually building up a position, while tactics is about the posibilities you need to react upon right away like if your opponent puts a queen where you can threaten it so he is forced to do something about it. You can not make a strategic plan based on that your opponent makes a mistake but you can react upon it if he does.

  • 3 years ago

    TripleXDooM

    sorry, but whats the difference between strategy and tactics? Undecided

  • 3 years ago

    Elubas

    Hello, Mr. BlueKnightShade: "Well, isn't that what often happens when you make a mistake in chess? Even the best position can be changed into a bad position if you make a mistake. Only exception is that type of a position where there is just one legal move available in which case making a mistake is impossible."

    You're absolutely right; the only difference is that in the case of the fork on c2 and d3, it was of a much more subtle nature than, say, if there was a rook on d3. Because of this, I think it's so much easier to miss. If I instead had a rook on d3, I would be very worried about ...Nb4 because from my experience when a rook is on a square like that with lots of minors, without much room to go, I immediately think of ways it could be trapped; I would no doubt see ...Nb4 then.

    But, when instead the only thing that could be hit was a square, there were no alarm bells; guess what, that means I didn't consider the idea right after Nxe4. Had I done so, it's very easy to tell what happens, but since nothing leaped out at me, I totally underestimated it, and it cost me everything. I think the fact that I had probably looked at ...Nb4 for move after move, all starting from Qc2, already made it start to subconsciously make my head tune out ...Nb4 since it never seemed like anything was getting forked.

    When evaluating a position, little things like "my knight on b4 is hanging" might accumulate to mean something about who is positionally better, because if you have lots of tactical flaws that means you have a limited choice of moves: moves that don't make your position collapse, i.e., allow a tactic to work.

  • 3 years ago

    PUMAPRIDE

    well yes of course, i thought that all is based on tactics.. form tactics you learn bigger tactics than strategy and techniques.. but than again one thing i dont get, how come that such a tactical genius as morphy playing so efficent, or so it seems didnt come up with better openings?? 

  • 3 years ago

    BlueKnightShade

    Elubas wrote in the blog:

    The sheer fact that ...Nb4 forked c2 and d3 was the one thing that changed the evaluation of that position from equal to lost -- isn't that crazy? I lost a game for missing that minuscule thing!

    Well, isn't that what often happens when you make a mistake in chess? Even the best position can be changed into a bad position if you make a mistake. Only exception is that type of a position where there is just one legal move available in which case making a mistake is impossible.

    Anyway, you asked:

    What do you think, do tactics make you better at strategy?

    One thing for sure is that you always need to look for tactics when it is your move because the position has changed since your last move. Sometimes you will look for a possible tactic that can "awake" in the position you have like in your game the black knight had the possibility to go to b4 for quite a while. But it wouldn't do much until you played 16. Nxe4, so it wasn't awakened until then. If I had black I would be attentive of a possible Nb4 during the game and as soon as the chance arrived I would play it. Therefore also white needs to be attentive to that possibility.

    Things like that often happens in chess. A square or a piece is weak or unprotected and there is a potential threat gainst that square or a piece which can be executed at the right moment.

    I guess that in your game moving the a-pawn to a3 could be considered a strategic move that could be done in order to create a position that would prevent a possible future dangerous tactical situation with a knight on b4. So you could say that the tactical possibility inspires you to make a strategic move and thus the answer to your question can be yes.

  • 3 years ago

    Gowtham1997

    yes tactics make everyone  better at strategy

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