How to get the most out of the Tactics Trainer!

IM Trendle

It's been a while since my last blog update so here's a much longer (and more interesting!?) one than usual.

I've not been playing as much chess recently as I would've liked (a few rapidplays and a blitz event which I managed to win notwithstanding), partly because I've been busy coaching and partly due to a first holiday abroad (without playing chess) for years!

Anyway instead of boring you all with one of my recent games I thought I'd do something a bit different and talk about how to work at tactics. In particular the Tactics Trainer is a really useful tool which allows players to keep sharp and work on improving that part of their game. 

Still, it got me thinking - will someone's tactics improve just from doing 10-15min tactics every day? I'm not sure, it can't be a bad idea and it will probably stop you getting worse/losing sharpness but will your tactical ability actually improve?

I have been trying something recently with my students where I set them puzzles (sometimes ones more difficult than they could normally manage) but I give them a set of rules to follow when working on the puzzle. So far (in obviously a limited sample) it seems to improve their calculation - at least at the time.  Anyway, time for the rules:

1. Find all of the Forcing Moves (Checks, captures and strong threats (of mate, to the Queen/Rook etc).

2. Examine them all, one by one, looking at the Most Forcing ones first (Checks are the most forcing as by definition they have to be stopped). Double-checks are more forcing still!

3. Make sure you examine all of your opponent's sensible (and in particular forcing) replies.

4. Don't finish analysing a line until there are no more forcing movesAt this point stop and Evaluate. If it's mate or you're clearly winning then you can stop there - if not then move on to your next forcing line.

Obviously this is easier said than done and if you have to calculate many moves ahead it's easy to lose sight of the position but I still think it's important to have these guidelines to work with! Anyway, let's see how it works in practice. Take today's Daily Puzzle (6/28/2012).






















Ok, that one was unusual as it was just a forced mate and it was solvable by just looking at the most forcing line. Let's have a look at another example, this time from a game:

























 Ok, that was rather more difficult but I'm going to end with a very tough one. First let's see a position one move before the puzzle starts:


Ok, so now we're ready for the final puzzle! Good luck!























Ok, please let me know if you find these rules useful - try them out on tactics trainer (although I am aware that there is a time penalty but I always think getting the answer is the main aim). I will be writing another post soon about how this can be applied to actual calculation during a game (rather than when doing tactics). That's all for now - see you soon!