Study Plan For Beginners: Tactics!

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  • | Aug 1, 2011

Target Skill Range: Beginner (Rated 1000-1399)

Tactics, tactics and more tactics! Learn what it takes to win using tactics!


  1. Learn to recognize common tactical patterns.
  2. Identify tactics in your games.
  3. Do 20-30 minutes of tactics trainer every day (or 10-15 puzzles).
  4. Review the fundamentals of tactics.
  5. Complete these tactical lessons.
  6. Take the quiz!

Like exercise for an athlete, tactics training must be a regular part of a chess player's training. Below you will find steps to improve your tactical vision and calculation skills!

1. Learn to recognize common tactical patterns.

You must be able to see tactics to use them—or defend against them! Therefore, it is critical to get familiar with common tactical motifs.

Because most tactics are of the fork/double attack, pin, skewer and discovery varieties, it would be wise to master those concepts first.

2. Identify tactics in your games.

Now that you know what tactics look like, it's time to play chess with a new eye for tactics. Your assignment:

  • Continue playing practice games throughout this study plan. Either:


  • During your games, look for opportunities to use the tactical motifs you learned in Task #1. (Review the article from Task 1 as necessary.)
  • Rather than making equal trades with your opponent, try to use tactics to gain the upper hand.
  • Watch out for your opponent's tactical threats!
  • Every time a tactical pattern you know occurs in a game, name it out loud (well, whisper it to yourself it at least).
  • Aim for at least 50 games, following the advice above on every move; soon enough, seeing tactics will seem very natural.

3. Do 20-30 minutes of tactics trainer every day (or 10-15 puzzles).

In general, we encourage you to work through these plans according to your own schedule. However, tactics are a chess player's way of "staying in shape", and so they should ideally be an everyday thing.

You may even want to do more than 20-30 minutes, but please don't rush the puzzles! It is vital that you take the time to fully understand each puzzle you got wrong. Get started:

4. Review the fundamentals of tactics.

Review the fundamental patterns you've learned by seeing them in action!

Read this article by IM Jeremy Silman:

After the Rules, What Should Beginner's Study Next?

Watch these videos:

5. Complete these tactical lessons.

Some of these lessons may seem elementary, but we still recommend that you complete them all (up to lesson #107 in Silman's course). Reviewing "basic" tactical motifs is never a bad idea, and without completing each course from start to finish, some valuable lessons could be lost. Aim for an overall score of at least 80% in each course.

by IM Jeremy Silman (through lesson 107)

by FM Thomas Wolski


Test your new skills.

This final section contains questions a player should know the answer to after completing this study plan.

Question 1: In his article, "After the Rules, What Should a Beginner Player Study Next?", what does IM Silman say is important for a beginner chess player to "note" in his first "complex" example?

Question 2: What tactic is played as an "in-between move" and is often considered a desperado idea?

Question 3: After completing Silman's list of basic tactical themes and mating patterns in his "After the Rules, What Should a Beginner Player Study Next?" article, what does he recommend a beginner chess player do next?

Question 4: What checkmate theme is the climax position of the infamous "Venus Fly Trap" mating net?

Question 5: What tactical idea attacks an enemy piece, or defends one of your own pieces, directly through an enemy pieces gaze?


Answers: 1. "all the possible captures and threats"; 2. Zwischenzug; 3. buy a game collections book of a former great player or World Champion (like Alexander Alekhine); 4. Smothered Mate; 5.  X-Ray Tactic.


  • 9 months ago


    move #8 is can be check mated also with kd2

  • 13 months ago


    In "Essential Checkmates" I came to the point where you grill queens by the dozen. Like every other excercise requires queen sacrifice. Gotta get used to that... Tongue Out

  • 13 months ago


    Love these plans, they are extremely helpful! Thanks for sharing these with us; Jesus Christ Bless! :)

  • 15 months ago


    On Sunday July 19, 2015 I finished watching all the recommended videos and learned a great deal. Thank you!

  • 17 months ago


    plugging a book? that's just like silman

  • 18 months ago




  • 22 months ago


    Let me cancel a hard game, why?

  • 22 months ago


    How SilentAssassin? Be4 is checkmate.

  • 2 years ago


    Be4 isn't checkmate

  • 2 years ago


    First position could be solved easier by the 6th move: 6-Be4++

    (very faster)

  • 2 years ago


    cofirazakCS and elonater, you are right, White can mate in 6 but I think my is nice than your mate.

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    In the first puzle there's a easiest way to win, Cf6+, Txf6, Dh7+, and the next is check mat

  • 3 years ago


    In arigendler's problem 6.Be4 is mate.

  • 3 years ago


    3rd position 1st move Ne5?? because black plays Ne5

  • 3 years ago


    XXSilent_AssassinXX: it is called legal's checkmate, and taking queen is not the best move there

  • 3 years ago


    arigendler, Nf6+ is mate in 3.

    And Silent_Assassin, Legal's mate won't work when the black knight is on c6, because they'll take the white knight with only a pawn lost. 

  • 3 years ago


    arigendler, Why not 6.Be4# ?

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    Wow didn't see that for a while awesome checkmate

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