Complementing Your Tactical Vision

Complementing Your Tactical Vision

GM Illingworth

What should you do when there are no immediate tactics? 


In my nearly two decades coaching chess, this question (in many versions) would have to be one of the few I've been most frequently asked.

We all know someone who solves lots of tactics puzzles each day, as everyone says you should...and still, their rating is no higher than it was years ago.

Why haven't they achieved the promised improvement from their training?

I've found the most common answer is that these players are not supplementing their tactics solving with other chess training. Since they are only solving 'Force a win (or draw)' puzzles, they start to subconsciously feel that every position must have a tactical solution. 

That often leads to an over-reliance on 'forcing moves', and in more strategic/quiet positions, these can hurt one's own position. A good example is making a premature exchange of pieces that only helps the opponent activate one of their pieces. 

How does all this fit into today's game?

Once again, I have selected a game between two strong amateur players, to show that often you don't have to be brilliant to win against a good player - often it's enough to do the 'little things' well, like getting your pieces to good squares quickly, creating and targeting weaknesses, and not leaving your pieces vulnerable to tactical blows. 

When you've finished studying the game, ask yourself - do you think you could have played like Black in this game?

Once you have played out this position or otherwise decided on what your plan would be, check my explanation of the winning method below:
There are a lot of lessons one could draw from this game, but I'll mention three:

1) Opposite-coloured bishop positions are not that drawish with other pieces on the board! Indeed, having an extra pawn and control over the position is often enough to win in such cases - if not objectively, then at least in a practical game.

2) When considering the opponent's idea, don't just look for tactical threats - consider what they'd like to do positionally as well. Maybe we have a good way to avoid it while improving our position. 

3) As a continuation of point 2 - don't assume the opponent's idea is always good or has to be prevented! It's often the case that we can ignore their 'threat'/idea, and find a strong solution if we go a bit deeper in our calculation and assessment of the arising position. 

What else did you learn from this game? What new thinking technique are you going to try in your next chess games? Share it in the comments below! 

GM Max Illingworth is the current Australian Champion, now committed to helping chess players around the world achieve their chess dreams. What's yours?

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