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Do you have any book and/or video recommendations for my son to improve his chess tactics? He's a Class A player (~1950 USCF) that wants to become an expert this year and a master by the time he graduates high school (freshman).
Has he ever gone through "My System" by Nimzowitsch? Great book on positional play for any player from intermediate to master or beyond.
Also, at his level he he pretty much knows tactics and how to attack, he just wants to be able to more efficiently put himself in position to attack, i.e., improve his positional play. He should look for books on positional play, because strong positions allow for stronger and more frequent attacks.
Also, he should be studying full length games of masters and trying to imitate (try to guess the masters next move as he goes along and figuring out why the move was made instead of his). There are many book collections of master games.
Also, make sure he has a good computer program to analyze his games with, and that he actually does it after matches.
Additionally, he should always be keeping up with current opening theory, and improving his own opening play.
Also, the master must develop superior board vision. If he cannot play a full game blindfolded, then his vision is not good enough for the elite levels of play.
If he does all of these things conscienciously, and puts in many hudreds of hours of hard work and sacrifice, then he can become a master easily.
I sense an ill-defined aspect to the question.
I would expect a 1950 to be asking a more precise question. Is there any chance he can write something down and have you put it here?
For example, does he want to expand his vocabulary of tactical motifs? Or does he want many examples of attacks in action? Does he want to expand his calculational ability in tactical situations?
Livshitz has a series of three books of hard timed puzzles--hard being a relative term depending on one's strength. Test your Chess IQ.
The last in the series would certainly test him, and perhaps the 2nd volume would stretch him usefully as well.
He has that book, but he's currently going through Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, Advances since Nimzowitsch instead. Watson does a good job of going over the changes in theory since Nimzowitsch's classic. He analyzes his games and is slowly studying full-length games from previous world champions.
I'm just trying to figure out what he needs to do to get to the next level.
One problem he has had in the past is knowing when to attack. I'm not sure if this involves a lack of calculating variations, knowing when he has an advantage, recognizing a certain pattern, or just a lack of confidence. How do you develop this skill. He has already gone through the classic 'Art of Attack' book.
When to attack? You attack when your pieces are developed and have maximum force in their current positions--they must attack.
Additionally, "attacking" may be directed at weak pawns or pieces to gain material advantage, but it can also considered an "attack" when you use your pieces to gain control of a strategic square or a file or simply more space.
Perhaps your son needs to learn how to better select his longterm strategic goals (control of a square, better position for a knight, death of a defender, ect.) and then actually commit himself to achieving them instead of trying a bunch of different things at once?
Am I anywhere in the ballpark?
Your son may be at that point that receiving lessons from a master with a solid reputation for teaching would be the most efficient way to diagnose and address his issues.
He is 1950, after all.
You attack when you have a good position; if he doesn't know specifically what makes this strategically sound position, then perhaps it's positional play he needs to look into, although one should never actually stop studying tactics. Not every position calls for an attack, so if he tries and struggles to attack in his games, it may be just because he's choosing the wrong time to do it.
Of course, simply tactical puzzles and examples of attack naturally improve your feel for when and how you can conduct an attack, so perhaps he wants to study a combination of tactics and strategy.
Wow, reminds me of the historian, John M. Thompson. I had to read a couple of his books. You could count on reading the word "moreover" at least a thousand times in each of them.
Also...oh, never mind.
What you should try to find is a book that focuses on how to build up a position with dynamic potential right from the first move. Alexander Kotov's chapter in The Art of the Middlegame on the different methods for attacking the uncastled king or when players castle the same side or opposite sides is perhaps the most useful book to deal with the grand strategy of attack. Mihail Marin's Secrets of Attacking Chess serves as a useful corrective by drawing attention to the key role of better development, as well as the surprising nature of many moves needed to convert an advantage. Mikhail Tal's Attack with Mikhail Tal discusses 'launching' your pieces into the vicinity of the enemy king to develop a superior 'assault ratio.' Colin Crouch's Attacking Technique is another book that tries to develop some rules.
Recognizing when a combinational motif might be playable comes with experience, so he might want to play through the games of famous attacking players. Larry Christiansen's Rocking the Ramparts and Storming the Barricades are both filled with brilliant attacking games that might appeal to your son. Igor Stohl's books on Kasparov's games is another good choice, as would be Alexei Shirov's Fire on Board series.
I expect that Nimzowitsch would be hard for a young player to read, but My System does cover a lot of ideas that every player should know: prophylaxis, the role of exchanges in using up tempi, open files as highways for your rooks to the seventh or eighth ranks, freeing moves (pawn breaks) to open lines for your pieces, etc. Neil McDonald does a fairly good job of explaining some of Nimzowitsch's main ideas in Chess Secrets: The Giants of Strategy.
Thanks for all of the replies!
He is taking lessons from a master. I'm just trying to supplement his learning. I'm a mediocre player that taught him the game, but he quickly outgrew me in playing strength.
Hmm...has he ever studied any "Steinitz advantage accumulation theory" in determining when to attack?
There is a lot of written material on the former world champion's work, and even a good introduction video that I found here:
Thanks for the link. Very interesting. The hard part is figuring out the most appropriate material for his level of play.