Openings and Tactics


Openings and Tactics
1. Be on the lookout for tactics in all phases of the game, including the opening. I recently missed
that a pawn was hanging against an opponent of mine in a rated game in Pueblo, because I was
mistaking the position for a more typical position that occurs in that opening. After the game he
told me “I think you could have won a pawn on move 3”. I was shocked when I looked at the
position to see a hanging pawn that I completely overlooked.
2. The squares f2 and f7 are especially weak in the opening, because they are only protected by
the king. When playing an opening that moves the f pawn, such as the King’s Gambit, Bird,
Dutch, etc, always be on the lookout for tactics involving a queen check on the H file. Openings
such as the “Fried Liver Attack” also try to take advantage of the weakness of the f7 pawn.
3. When playing much weaker opponents (300 rating points below you at least) try to make the
game as tactical as possible. Avoid openings where the opponent can lock up the board, or
make rote, mindless moves that are safe.
4. Don’t be afraid to play gambits. Gambits are a great way to open up lines of attack, and create
lots of great tactical possibilities. Gambits can be especially fun to play with the black pieces.
5. Don’t be afraid to mix up your openings. Playing the same openings over and over again can
really hinder your growth as a chess player. Tactical openings such as the King’s Gambit , “The
Fishing Pole”, or even The Killer Grob can really help build your tactical muscles.
6. If you are looking for a tactical opening to play as black against 1. d4, I recommend the Budapest
defense. Most 1. d4 players are not happy to see this response, and it allows black tocontrol
the flow of the game.
7. Don’t under estimate “bad” openings. Many openings such as The Grob and The Orangutan
contain many tactical tricks and traps in them. Consider playing these openings yourself to
explore new patterns and methods of development.
8. GM Larry Evans once said “The only way to refute a gambit is to accept it”. This may be true at
the Grandmaster level, but at the class player level it can be very dangerous to accept a gambit
if you have never seen it before, especially in games that have a fast time control.

9. Certain openings tend to have certain opening traps and common tactics associated with them.
For example the Budapest defense (which I play) has a few smothered mates that black can
unleash if white isn’t careful. It is good to learn these traps and common tactics in the openings
that you play.
10. Certain areas of the country also tend to develop cult followings for certain openings. For
example in Colorado everyone knows the “Fishing Pole” opening, which has been popularized by
local Life Master Brian Wall. This opening contains a ton of traps and tactics in it. My friend
Francisco Baltier (a 1500 rated player) even beat Grandmaster Walter Browne with this opening
in a simul. It is good to know which openings are popular in your area, and what the common
tactics are in those openings, as you are likely to see them on a regular basis.
11. If you are looking to find tactics in a certain opening one way to do it is to sort games in a chess
database by the ECO number, which is the unique number for different categories of openings.
You can also do a positional search to find a certain pattern, such as the starting position of “The
Fishing Pole”, and then play through all the games which are matched.


90% of the above at least are the completely wrong way to improve.

If you want to be an eternal patzer they are fine, though.