Be A World Top 1000 Player Without Much Strategy!


In Checkmate Tactics  by Garry Kasparov, the author pretty much states that chess is 99% tacitcs, which is a well known phrase that originated from German chess master Richard Teichmann.  Whether you believe that chess is 99% tactics or not, I found Kasparov’s notion that a player can have a world ranking in the top 1000 without any great understanding of strategy to be astounding. You gotta be kidding me!

"When social players play, something approaching 100% of all games are decided tactically.  At a decent club level standard, I would suggest that at least 90-95% of games are decided primarily for tactical reasons. You need to get up to strong county or even international standard before players can really outplay each other in a strategic sense."

What do you think about this statement below regarding the top 1000 and strategy?

"Some players become very strong indeed and can achieve ratings that place them in the top 1,000 in the world without any great understanding of the strategic niceties of the game. How is this possible? They are very good indeed at tactics. On the other hand, players who have an excellent strategic understanding but poor tactical skills will never achieve anywhere near this standard. Grand strategic vision counts for very little if you keep losing your pieces."

What is tactics?

“The nitty-gritty hand-to-hand fighting. It’s the stuff that players are trying to work out when they say to themselves, ‘If I go there and he goes there…and then I take his pawn…now, what can he do next…etc.”

What is strategy?

“It is the understanding of what you (and your opponent) are trying to achieve in the medium and longer term. It involves such elements as planning, an understanding of pawn stucture and an appreciation of weak and strong squares.”

 - Checkmate Tactics by Garry Kasparov, excerpts from the Introduction.

Thank you for this
chubbychocobo wrote:

talented performers often do not make great teachers.  ppl with talent (assuming for argument that talent exists, altho' many hv argued otherwise here) often cannot explain their talent or gut-feel or intuition or whatever u call it.  often it takes an external observer to try to make a model out of that person and then teach others by applying that model (missing many details in the process but still doing a great job overall).

ok i just got lost wat i was trying to say ...

 People who argue otherwise are idiots.

chubbychocobo wrote:

yes but talented idiots ...

 Talented at being idiots.  Laughing

Expert opinion here.
TheGrobe wrote:
Expert opinion here.

 You're one of the talents I mentioned. Follow Prawn.


Look at how good computers fare without positional consideration. I don't know if they'd make top 1000, but they would most likely beat most players here. There are probably engines available to play online that play without positional consideration and deep tactics.

The argument hinges on the modifier "great". Lack of this standard is not complete ignorance. Rather, Kasparov has ordinary levels of genius in mind when he describes those who fail to make the cut strategically while excelling tactically.

Of course, bear in mind who's saying this.  Doubtful if Karpov or Petrosian would ever try to make that point...


To be a player in the Top 1000 in the world, one needs a FIDE rating of about 2495, i.e. about base grandmaster strength.

Can someone achieve this level with very powerful tactical play and not such deep strategy? If the player has excellent opening preparation, I would say that this is possible.


Perhaps it's not a fair comparison, but Houdini has reached a level of 3300 without any deep strategical understanding, only really tactics.

The reason I say this is because 'strategy' isn't something which exists in an objective sense in chess - theoretically the game could be solved brute-force by a computer with infinite processing power. Rather, 'strategy' is a subjective concept invoked by humans, to help our human-like minds find better moves. In other words, it's a means to an end. So if you can achieve the same end (playing good moves) by some other means, then all well and good.


Interesting topic, thanks Musikamole

I think deep positional understanding is necessary when we speak about SOME GMs games. Because even when two GMs are battling on the board, many games are won/lost thanks to/because of a tactical idea. Besides, many, too many games, are won when a player makes NORMAL, but CORRECT moves, and transforms his positional advantage (development/space control) into a tactical one. Because you won't win a game by simply placing your pieces in good squares, you need to REACT and to ATTACK. I am not really an expert, but this is what I think about the whole subject.

It is wrong to assume that today's top chess engines have no positional knowledge. When I was in college, I was interested in rolling out my own chess engine. I read the source codes of crafty and stockfish. They assign special values for various pawn configurations, piece mobility, king's safety, open file ownership, outposts, rook on 7th or 8th rank, etc. So today's chess engines have positional knowledge built into them. What they are still missing are the subtle positional nuances that probably only GMs would notice. These nuances usually require human judgment that programmers have difficulty in translating them into fixed algorithms. However, the engines make it up with their calculation ability.
Just to add to my earlier post, even with today's computing power, computers cannot calculate all the possibilities on the chessboard. They cannot see a mate all the way from the opening or middlegame phase. Even in the endgame, if it is still complicated enough, they can't usually see the outcome of the game within a reasonable time. So they need some sort of termination criteria to stop their search and evaluate the final position (even if they have not seen the ending). This is where chess theory plays a part. Programmers plug in what they can from the chess theory into chess engines. So chess engines need chess theories to function effectively. Whoever thinks that chess engines are just brute calculating machines with no positional knowledge is clearly misinformed.

I didn't say no positional knowledge. I said no real strategical understanding. There's a difference. The latter is a human characteristic.


I don't know of strong tactical amateur players who don't have the basics of strategy at the same time. I mean, you won't find many people just calculating on every move without some guiding strategical principles at least helping them with the candidate moves selection process.

Now, do you make the difference more easily on tactical skills than on strategical skills, certainly the former. But strategical skills help you get positions where your tactical skills can express themselves.

And make no mistake, nobody plays like a computer (even a weak one) at amateur level.

To people thinking tactics is everything in chess, I recommend looking at games played between professional and amateurs in open tournaments (say +2400 vs. -2200). Sure, you'll see some tactical shots, but most of the time, you'll see someone building a very strong position and crunching from here on.


A player with a 2000 rating can make a move they see is tactical, but to my 1600 rating brain it looks strategic.  If I make a move I think is tactical, a 1200 may view it as strategic.  The difference sometimes is just how deeply a player can calculate.

My experience has been my greatest gains come after focusing on solving puzzles and studying tactics.


This is all well and good, but please, what is the meaning of strategic position?  I'm dying to know this.

I wait to your answer.


Disagree. I don't think the main difference between 1600 and 2000 (or 2000 and 2400) is calculation depth. I know 1600s who calculate at least as well as me. The main difference is understanding of the game.


There's an upper limit to human calculation capabilities, so pure tactics will only take you so far.  The Houdini comparison makes an interesting point, but not one that's practical when it comes to human play.  The fact is, that to reach a particular level you have to set brute force calculation aside at certain key junctures within a game and operate on a much more thematic basis.  This is where strategy lies.