How to play like a tactical chess genius (and stop dropping pieces!)

| 10 | Strategy

It is so simple and yet so hard. If you tattoo the following concepts onto your brain you will play strong chess.


When the forces clash always first consider the following concepts:

  • Checkmates
  • Checks
  • Mate Threats

Only once this is done consider the following.

  • Captures
  • Double Attacks
  • Single Attacks

The previous six concepts are the essential “attacking moves” of chess, but not the only ones. We should also consider the following if it is relevant to the position.

  • Pawn Promotion
  • Stalemate
  • Perpetual Check/Attack
  • Zugzwang

What should you do if all of these ideas are competing for your attention?

When you are looking for moves, look for the most forcing moves first: Order the moves by priority of force; Looking for the "one" move that has the most impact. This should be the starting point of your calculations. Then as you go down the variations by priority of force you will more quickly find the solution. Try this technique when solving tactics and you will quickly see my point.

Now I am not saying, the forcing move is always right, but I am saying you should check the forcing moves first!


If the forces are not clashing, do not fixate on the attacking moves. Usually the correct approach is to build up your position. Look for ways to coordinate your forces to create a favorable attacking position. In general you do not have to calculate all the attacking moves if the forces are not really clashing, but be careful and keep an eye on the kings at all times. Your main objective is to grab space and improve the activity and coordination of your forces. This is the essence of positional chess.


When attacking, beware of the counter attack. Whilst launching an attack carefully consider if your opponent can ignore it in favor of his own, higher priority, attacking move.  In general calculate to a conclusion when the forces clash, making sure that you have a clear evaluation and mental image of the resulting position.  Remember, the longer the calculation, the more vigilant you must be about surprise moves and oversights. I often use the saying, “think long, think wrong” to check myself when I am drifting off into fantasy variations in a game.


The longer the calculation, the more vigilant you must be about surprise moves.


Remember attack is the best defense. This is true for both you and your opponent. Always seek to enforce your will on your opponent in the chess game.


As an aspiring young player it would have served me well to receive this wisdom. I pass it on daily to my students and now give It to all the members of the chess community.


I have been teaching chess fulltime since 1996 and many of my students have gain over 1,000 rating points in one year. Let's be real, if you want a magic formula it doesnt exist. Chess rewards hard work, practice and maybe a touch of talent. If you are looking for a professional chess coach at an affordable rate check out

If you would like to see a game where I managed to practice what I preach check out:

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