The Road to Chess Improvement: Tactics

Jun 2, 2009, 11:58 AM |

Views are varied as to the best way to improve at chess.  Some say that learning about planning, key squares, minority attacks, and other positional aspects is the best way to improve at chess.  While this may generate more knowledge about the game of chess, studying tactical themes is the way to go in order to get better at chess.

Why is studying tactical themes the way to go?  For one, almost all non-master games are ultimately decided by tactics.   When I lose a game, it usually isn't because I didn't have a fundamental grasp on the minority attack or another advanced positional theme.  It usually is because I overlooked a tactic that puts my position in ruins.  Once someone has a grasp of tactics, they can then begin to learn about positional play and then endgame because their foundation has already been set.

How should I work on my tactics?  There are many recommendations as to methods of studying tactics.  In the book "Rapid Chess Improvement", the author talks about methods such as Board Vision and the Seven Circles method.  However, he wrongly assumes that we have way too much free time on our hands.  We cannot practice 6 hours a day or go through 7000 puzzles in a short period of time.  Most of us have other commitments.  We would not even know whether or not these methods would work.  However, we have a fantastic resource right here on  That resource is called Tactics Trainer.  How should we use Tactics Trainer?  We must first set the problems to be unrated so we do not have to worry about how much time we use.  In the unrated stage, you can set the specific rating parameters that you want the problems to be.  Then try to find the solution.  If you don't get the problem right, try it again and do not look at the solution.  This will be an aid to your tactical understanding by making you work for the answer.  This will be a great aid to your tactical understanding and will help you improve your chess.

In conclusion, tactics is the soul of chess.  If you can execute the tactical patterns that you learn on tactics trainer in real games, you can be certain that you will improve greatly.