Tactics Books Worth Considering

Tactics Books Worth Considering

Jan 28, 2016, 7:52 PM |

I've had an interest in tactics books for some time now.  They have some distinct advantages over other types of books:

  • no board required
  • readable anywhere (on the train, over lunch, etc.)
  • short time commitment-meaning if you got five minutes you can pick up the book, learn something and set it down
  • Most games are decided by tactics - so they are important to study

I purchased several and exhausted my public library.  Here are some thoughts on the books I was able to at least sample, if not read entirely.  I've ordered them from beginner to more advanced.

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer

·         The first book I ever read regarding chess; quick read

·         Contains mostly puzzles on back rank mates


Winning Chess Tactics by Yassir Seirawan

·         Good book if you're just starting out

·         Clearly explains each tactical motif and provides some basic puzzles to get you started

·         Yassir's prose is always a joy to read


Tactics: Back to Basics by Dan Heisman

·         A good second Tactics book

·         Each tactical motif is explained followed by problems featuring that chapter's motif

·         A nice section on counting, which was unique

·         Includes ideas on spotting tactics in "Seeds of Tactical Destruction" chapter

·         Contains one chapter with puzzles that have random themes, more realistic/challenging

·         Font size was quite small, making this more difficult for me to read

·         Lots of prose -- this book is "talky".  Sometimes it was just too much for me and I would skip to the problems.


 Josh Waitzkin's Attacking Chess by Josh Waitzkin

·         139 positions to analyze organized by theme, less of a puzzle book and more of a "how to" book.  

·         The large diagrams were awesome!  I also enjoyed how he would use several diagrams to walk the reader through longer combinations.

·         Part autobiography, Josh provides interesting stories and lessons learned as he advanced his chess (as seen in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer)

Chess Tactics for Champions by Susan Polgar

·         A very popular chess tactics book and for good reason

·         This is the book that I come back to time and time again

·         Chapters organized by theme followed by 25-50 puzzles

·         Puzzles range from easy to quite challenging

·         Author provides examples from her own games

·         Very little prose, but a short explaination is given

·         On the downside - Some problems feel "composed" and there are many queen sacrifices, which just don't happen to frequently in amatuer games


Tactics Time and Tactics Time 2 by Tim Brennan

·         Another favorite book! (in this case an e-book)

·         About 1000 random puzzles

·         All from real amatuer games

·         No hints or themed chapters

·         Great for training once you understand the various themes

·         Note - in some problems the solution is merely winning a pawn, which is fine, but atypical for tactics books

·         Many easy puzzles, which may be good for buiding pattern recognition


1000 Checkmate Combinations by Victor Henkin

·         Focus is on checkmate

·         Chapters themed by piece (unique idea)

·         Interesting prose, good translation from Russian(?)

·         Examples from real GM games

·         Have only read the first chapter, but I really enjoyed it so far...


Learn Chess Tactics by John Nunn

·         Organized by tactical motif

·         Prose was very good and entertaining in Nunn's native English

·         Moreover, Nunn introduced several new ideas to me, which I was able to put into play right away!  Explanations of each tactic were terrific.

·         Examples from real GM games


Chess Tactics from Scratch by Martin Weteschnik

·         Author breaks down tactics into components

·         Translation from German 

·         Looks to be a more advanced book, but could be very educational


Chess Training Pocket Book by Lev Alburt

·         300 fairly difficult random puzzles, not just tactics - some endgame and positional ideas too.  But very instructive positions all the same!

·         No hints, but Alburt does provide some interesting notes in the solution for each puzzle

·         Great organization!  4 puzzles on left page, solutions on the facing (right) page.  So use a piece of paper to cover the solutions.

·         If you attempt this book, I suggest trying coach Heisman's recommended order, which puts easier puzzles first, "I would start with positions 5, 15, 18, 26, 27, 39, 63, 68, 75, 80, 82, 105, 109, 118, 125, 128, 129, 133, 163, 203, 206, 238, 242, 247, 265, 280."  


Well, that's it for now.