Studying Chess Tactics
Illustration by Chess.com.

Studying Chess Tactics

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Written for a grandchild and sharing on this blog:

Are chess tactics important, and how often should you study them?

Studying tactics is a great way to improve chess skills. Along with playing games to give actual experience, the study of tactics increases the ability to recognize patterns that can lead to improvements in the board position and bring games to a successful conclusion – checkmate!

First, recognize that solving a tactical exercise is only part of how to develop chess skills. However, it is an important part because every game consists of many tactical situations. Anticipating, recognizing, and creating them make you a better player.

GM Petar Genkov Genov
Tactics are entertaining and important, according to GM Petar Genkov Genov. Photo by Chess.com.

A recent article on Chess.com defines 38 chess tactics and gives examples for each one. Although GM Petar Genkov Genov considers “tactics the most entertaining and important part of chess,” reviewing a list of definitions is not exciting. Memorizing a definition is not the goal; understanding it is. As you study tactics, realize that you are not memorizing so much a position and a response as you are understanding a core concept of what is happening on the board and determining a response to make so that you don’t miss an opportunity to win. In his YouTube video “Tackling Chess Tactics” (below), IM Daniel Rensch teaches that “the recognition of what’s weak in your opponent’s position, of course, is a muscle that you want to have all of the time.”

The way to learn tactics is actively, and the puzzles on Chess.com let you learn in this manner. As GM Andy Soltis explains in Studying Chess Made Easy, “The more active the learning, the more fun it can be and the more motivated you will be.” Combined with playing regularly, studying tactics actively can make you a better player.

GM Andy Soltis

GM Andy Soltis recommends learning actively. Photo by U.S. Chess Trust.

When you study tactics, should you focus on speed or accuracy? For beginning as well as all players, accuracy is critical. Being fast but having a wrong answer doesn’t meet any goal. Always solve a puzzle as correctly as possible. Speed improves with regular study.

FM Alisa Melekhina
FM Alisa Melekhina studies tactics daily for at least 10 minutes. Photo by Spectrum Studios.

FM Alisa Melekhina in the May 2019 issue of Chess Life admits that she vowed to “do at least 10 minutes of tactics a day” after she had played below her expectations in a tournament. If a player who has achieved the high level of FIDE Master practices tactics daily, similar practice should be helpful for all players who want to improve regardless of their ratings. She even asks, “[W]ho can resist Chess.com’s Puzzle Rush?”

IM Jeremy Silman
IM Jeremy Silman advises, "Study tactics." Photo by The Great Courses.

Although Puzzle Rush is entertaining, the Learning mode of Puzzles on Chess.com is an even better learning tool because it lets you pick specific tactics where you want to improve. As IM Jeremy Silman recommends, “Study tactics. And pick up tons of patterns. That’s the drumbeat of success.”

Studying chess tactics is important. How often should you study them? Every day.


Thanks for reading! What do you recommend? How frequently – and how long -- do you practice chess tactics?