Build Your Technique

Build Your Technique

Ready for a chess workout?

FM Thomas Wolski created this course, which is aimed at players with USCF or Elo ratings between 1200 and 1600, although some of the later challenges will not be easy for 1800 to 2000 rated players. The 110 challenges include some openings, middlegames, endgames, and a lot of tactics. This course is designed to enhance the overall understanding of chess for an intermediate player and to prepare that player for more advanced courses. Take this tactics challenge today!

Here is what you will learn:

  • Calculate tactics and learn how they fit into openings and structures.
  • Learn the plans that accompany different openings!
  • Learn strategies to help you feel at home in many positions!
A Pin Drop

A Pin Drop

A Pin Drop This position features a cute variation on the theme: Pin and win. While a pin is often mightier than the sword, it isn't always mightier than another pin!
5 Challenges
The Choke is on You

The Choke is on You

This position occurred in a tournament game way back in 1892! It makes use of what has become a well-known tactical theme.
3 Challenges
The Philidor Draw

The Philidor Draw

One would think that with only a few pieces on the board, endgames would be easy to play. Yet, chess players tend to make more mistakes in the endgame than during any other phase.
7 Challenges
The Philidor Draw Gone Bad

The Philidor Draw Gone Bad

Black has just committed the error of checking on e1. Black should have aimed for a square on the sixth rank, e.g., a6, b6, or g6.
2 Challenges
Schlechter-Rubinstein, San Sebastian 1912

Schlechter-Rubinstein, San Sebastian 1912

Akiba Rubinstein may well have been the strongest player never to win a World Championship title.
5 Challenges
The King's Indian Attack

The King's Indian Attack

The King's Indian Attack is popular amongst players who don't want to spend a lot of time studying opening theory and who like to play closed positions.
8 Challenges
The Breyer Variation with 13.a4

The Breyer Variation with 13.a4

The board position is reached after White's 13th move (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.a4.)
6 Challenges
Wiesel-Weigel, correspondence 1923

Wiesel-Weigel, correspondence 1923

Here we see a whole game played by mail (yes, they do play chess by mail! Some games take as long as two years to complete!) in which Black brings the queen out too early and gets punished.
11 Challenges
Rook on the Seventh Rank

Rook on the Seventh Rank

White to move and take control of the game.
2 Challenges
Defending against a Rook on the seventh

Defending against a Rook on the seventh

White did not jump onto the seventh when he should have, and this allows Black to set up a defense.
4 Challenges
Main Line Breyer 15.a4

Main Line Breyer 15.a4

The board position is a main line of the Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez Defense.
6 Challenges
Outside Passed Pawn in Knight vs. Bishop

Outside Passed Pawn in Knight vs. Bishop

Minor piece endings are often deceptive.
6 Challenges
Desired Simplification

Desired Simplification

Material in this ending position is approximately even. Black has a rook for a bishop while White has two extra pawns on the queenside.
3 Challenges
Fischer-Bilek, Havana 1965

Fischer-Bilek, Havana 1965

In queen versus two rooks endgames, the side with the queen is advised to create disharmony in the opposing camp.
6 Challenges
Awkward Moment

Awkward Moment

This knight vs. bishop battle looks roughly balanced. White has three of his four pawns on the opposite color of Black's bishop and the knight is protecting the fourth pawn.
4 Challenges
Another Awkward Moment

Another Awkward Moment

This is another knight vs. bishop battle. Here White's king is closer to the kingside and White's pawns on the queenside are on the color of the bishop.
3 Challenges
Reti-Tartakower, Vienna 1910

Reti-Tartakower, Vienna 1910

This is an offhand game between two chess giants. Since it was not a serious tournament game, Black's mistakes can be understood.
11 Challenges
A Strong Bishop Pin

A Strong Bishop Pin

This position can arise in the Scheveningen Variation of the Sicilian Defense.
3 Challenges
Two minor pieces plus a rook vs. a queen

Two minor pieces plus a rook vs. a queen

White to move and get a permanent material plus.
3 Challenges
King and two Knights vs. King

King and two Knights vs. King

This is one of those "unfair" positions where two whole extra pieces are insufficient to win! Two knights are not enough to force a mate against an unwilling opponent.
10 Challenges
Kamsky-Karpov, FIDE World Championship (6): Weak Light Squares

Kamsky-Karpov, FIDE World Championship (6): Weak Light Squares

In June 1996, young Gata Kamsky was the first American to fight for a Chess World Championship since Bobby Fisher was champion from 1972-1975.
7 Challenges
Clearing a diagonal

Clearing a diagonal

White has a lot of power staring at the Black king on the b2- h8 diagonal. Unfortunately, White's rook on d4 is blocking the diagonal. What can White do about this state of affairs?
2 Challenges
Back Rank Headaches

Back Rank Headaches

Black's position looks quite promising. He has gained two minor pieces for a rook.
3 Challenges
Surprising Resource

Surprising Resource

This middlegame position looks quite double-edged.
3 Challenges
Good Knight vs. Bad Bishop

Good Knight vs. Bad Bishop

Though each side has only three pawns left, a draw is not a likely outcome in this endgame. Black has a bad bishop because all of his three remaining pawns are on the color of the bishop.
7 Challenges
An Opening Trap in the Evans Gambit

An Opening Trap in the Evans Gambit

The Evans Gambit used to be a very popular opening in the 19th century. Many short and spectacular victories were achieved by the White side.
4 Challenges
A Trapped Lady

A Trapped Lady

This endgame study is a famous example of the limited power of the queen in the corner, dominated by a few White pieces of lesser value.
3 Challenges
Rook against Bishop and Knight

Rook against Bishop and Knight

This endgame position could have occurred in a game at the 1996 Hawaii International. The position is very favorable for Black in spite of the material deficit.
3 Challenges
Martinovsky - Wolski

Martinovsky - Wolski

Tactical possibilities have arisen in this late middlegame position. Black is up a pawn, but what is more important is the open White king. It is quite dangerous when the king is in the middle of tactical turmoil.
3 Challenges
Wolski - Bouton

Wolski - Bouton

White has a dominating position due to control of the open d-file.
3 Challenges
Effective Development

Effective Development

This is an interesting middlegame position from the game Ro. Smith - Wastney. Both the White and the Black bishops are pointing to the opponent's kingside.
4 Challenges
Full Court Pressure

Full Court Pressure

White has an advantage in development as more of his pieces are ready for action.
8 Challenges
The Overdeveloped Queen

The Overdeveloped Queen

Black is severely underdeveloped. He has only two pieces developed, one of which is the queen which can become quite vulnerable if it ventures out too early.
3 Challenges
An Endgame Race

An Endgame Race

White has built up a nice advantage in this ending.
4 Challenges
Cool Head Prevails

Cool Head Prevails

White has started to attack Black's uncastled king. Can this attack with two pieces break through?
2 Challenges
A Move Short

A Move Short

Rook endings are notorious for their tactical tricks.
4 Challenges
Blumenfeld, Pavlov - Capablanca, Moscow 1914

Blumenfeld, Pavlov - Capablanca, Moscow 1914

In 1914 the young Jose Raul Capablanca was invited to the Moscow super-tournament, which included the likes of Emmanuel Lasker and Alexander Alekhine.
4 Challenges
Enders-Wolski, Berlin Summer 1996

Enders-Wolski, Berlin Summer 1996

Endgames with bishops of the same color are much trickier and less drawish than those with bishops of the opposite color.
7 Challenges
Saving Corner

Saving Corner

Here White has a unique saving resource.
12 Challenges
Steinitz-von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895

Steinitz-von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895

This is one of the most famous combinations of all time. Von Bardeleben tried to ruin it by rudely walking out in the middle without resigning.
14 Challenges
Steinitz-von Bardeleben (variation)

Steinitz-von Bardeleben (variation)

This is a variation from the game Steinitz-von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895.
6 Challenges
Endgame Tactics

Endgame Tactics

Many players think that endgames are mostly about the exact maneuvering of pieces and that they don't feature exciting tactics. But that is not so.
3 Challenges
Keres-Fischer, Zagreb 1959

Keres-Fischer, Zagreb 1959

Fischer demonstrates a double attack from one of his own games.
4 Challenges
Creative Liquidation

Creative Liquidation

This position could have occurred in the game Fedorowicz-Wolski, San Francisco 1997, but in time trouble I chose an inferior variation and wound up losing.
5 Challenges
Kotov-Botvinnik, USSR 1935

Kotov-Botvinnik, USSR 1935

Botvinnik was born in 1911 in Moscow. He learned to play chess at the age of 12. By profession he was an electrical engineer. He was World Champion 3 times: 1948-57, 1958-60, and 1961-63.
2 Challenges
Ehlvest-Kasparov, Moscow 1977

Ehlvest-Kasparov, Moscow 1977

Born in 1963, Gary Kasparov's original name was Weinstein. He adopted his mother's family name of Kasparov when his father died.
2 Challenges
Euwe-Schelfhout, 1924

Euwe-Schelfhout, 1924

Machgielis (Max) Euwe was born May 20, 1901 and learned to play chess at the age of 6. He spent much of his life teaching math.
2 Challenges
Fischer-Euwe, Leipzig Olympiad 1960

Fischer-Euwe, Leipzig Olympiad 1960

As a youth Fischer was often absent from school and unresponsive to discipline. "All I want to do, ever, is to play chess."
2 Challenges
Bareev-Kasparov, Paris 1991

Bareev-Kasparov, Paris 1991

"I, like many others, see in chess a remarkably accurate model of human life with its daily struggles and ups and downs." - Kasparov.
4 Challenges
Annihilation of Defense

Annihilation of Defense

Annihilation of defense occurs when a defender is removed. The next example shows a simple illustration.
4 Challenges
Kasparov-Bareev, Tilburg 1991

Kasparov-Bareev, Tilburg 1991

In 1985 Kasparov defeated Karpov to become the youngest world champion of all time.
4 Challenges
Alekhine-Evenson, Kiev 1918

Alekhine-Evenson, Kiev 1918

Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine was born October 19, 1892 in Moscow. His mother taught him how to play chess when he was ten years old.
2 Challenges
Alekhine-Vasic, Banja Luka (Simul) 1931

Alekhine-Vasic, Banja Luka (Simul) 1931

Alekhine left Communist Russia in 1921 to take part in a tournament in Austria. He did not return and instead settled down in Paris. He earned a Doctor of Law degree from the Sorbonne.
2 Challenges
Fischer-Pilnik, Santiago 1959

Fischer-Pilnik, Santiago 1959

"Chess is a matter of delicate judgment, knowing when to pounce and how to duck."
2 Challenges
Distraction

Distraction

Distraction can also be called deflection. One hard-working piece makes the defense possible. If this piece can be prevented from doing its duties, then the defense will collapse.
2 Challenges
Janosevic-Petrosian, Lone Pine 1978

Janosevic-Petrosian, Lone Pine 1978

Tigran Petrosian was born in 1929 in Tbilisi of Armenian parents. He became World Champion in 1963.
2 Challenges
Schweber-Spassky, World Junior Championship 1955

Schweber-Spassky, World Junior Championship 1955

"Chess, with all its philosophical depth, its aesthetic appeal, is first of all a game in the best sense of the word, a game in which are revealed your intellect, character, will." -Spassky
2 Challenges
Botvinnik-Reshevsky, Avro 1938

Botvinnik-Reshevsky, Avro 1938

"In a position which requires nerves of steel and intense concentration - Botvinnik is in his element."-Euwe
2 Challenges
Botvinnik-Keres, Moscow 1966

Botvinnik-Keres, Moscow 1966

Botvinnik devised a very thorough training method: practice with strong players, study master games, the publication of one's own analysis to be criticized by others.
4 Challenges
Tal-Petrosian, 1975

Tal-Petrosian, 1975

Tal defeated Botvinnik in 1960 to become at the time the youngest world champion ever. He lost a return match one year later.
3 Challenges
Spassky-Fischer, Reykjavik 1972

Spassky-Fischer, Reykjavik 1972

After defeating Spassky for the world championship in 1972, Fischer went into a long retirement. He appeared again in Yugoslavia 20 years later to play a rematch.
2 Challenges
Keres-Petrosian, Yugoslavia 1959

Keres-Petrosian, Yugoslavia 1959

Petrosian enjoyed slowly improving the position of his pieces and loved closed positions and the fight for control of key squares.
2 Challenges
Tal-Dvoryetsky, Leningrad 1974

Tal-Dvoryetsky, Leningrad 1974

"Tal enjoys excitement and hair-raising complications, and in that kind of game he can find his way around better than anyone else"-Keres
7 Challenges
Decoying

Decoying

The theme of this example is decoying. You wish an opponent's piece were on a particular square, so you try to figure out a way to force it there.
3 Challenges
Spassky-Kortchnoi, Kiev 1968

Spassky-Kortchnoi, Kiev 1968

Boris Spassky was born in Leningrad in 1937. He learned chess in the Ural Mountains where he lived during the Second World War.
2 Challenges
Petrosian-Spassky, World Championship Match 1966

Petrosian-Spassky, World Championship Match 1966

Petrosian was born of Armenian parents in 1929 in Tbilisi, USSR. He was orphaned during the war and had to sweep streets in order to survive.
3 Challenges
Tal-Benko, Amsterdam 1964

Tal-Benko, Amsterdam 1964

When asked what was the secret of his training methods in the victorious match against Botvinnik, Tal replied: "My trainer told me a new joke before each game."
2 Challenges
Alekhine-Vesta, 1923

Alekhine-Vesta, 1923

The man loved chess, it was the breath of life to him."-Reuben Fine on Alekhine.
4 Challenges
Petrosian-Simagin, Moscow 1956

Petrosian-Simagin, Moscow 1956

Petrosian preferred non-committal play, gradually improving the position of his pieces, and keeping his options open so that he would be ready to pounce when the time was ripe.
4 Challenges
A Crosspin

A Crosspin

This position is dominated by the respective king positions.
3 Challenges
Caraveca-Alekhine, Sevilla 1922

Caraveca-Alekhine, Sevilla 1922

Black is down a pawn, but has strong pressure on the light squares. You can now demonstrate why a bishop is often a superior minor piece in a wide open position.
3 Challenges
Alekhine-Flohr, Bled 1931

Alekhine-Flohr, Bled 1931

Alekhine became the 4th official world chess champion in 1927 when he defeated Capablanca, winning 6, losing 3, and drawing 25 games.
3 Challenges
Smyslov-Rabar, Helsinki 1952

Smyslov-Rabar, Helsinki 1952

Smyslov was born in 1921 in Moscow. He learned to play chess at the age of six. Smyslov defeated Botvinnik in 1957 to become world champion, but he lost a return match.
3 Challenges
Karpov-Polugaevsky, Monaco 1992

Karpov-Polugaevsky, Monaco 1992

Asked in an interview what method of study would he recommend for chess players at an early stage, Karpov replied, "Not to forget the old games."
3 Challenges
Kasparov-Timman, Tilburg 1991

Kasparov-Timman, Tilburg 1991

"I try to play, always, beautiful games... always I want to create masterpieces."-Kasparov
3 Challenges
Capablanca-Mattison, 1929

Capablanca-Mattison, 1929

Botvinnik wrote about Capablanca: "I think Capablanca had the greatest natural chess talent. You cannot play chess unless you have studied his games."
7 Challenges
Opening of a File, Rank, or Diagonal

Opening of a File, Rank, or Diagonal

The queen and rooks need to actively control files and ranks in order to be effective. Similarly the queen and bishops need to control diagonals.
2 Challenges
Kortchnoi-Karpov, World Championship 1978

Kortchnoi-Karpov, World Championship 1978

Karpov became the official challenger to Fischer in 1974. But Fischer refused to defend his title and Karpov became the official world champion in 1975.
3 Challenges
Fischer-Benko, Curacao 1962

Fischer-Benko, Curacao 1962

Absorbed in the game and living alone, Fischer was not at ease in society.
2 Challenges
Clearing Space

Clearing Space

You have the opportunity to make a winning move, but one of your pieces is in the way.
2 Challenges
Smyslov-Ribli, London 1983

Smyslov-Ribli, London 1983

"In chess I seek harmony. One piece should help another, which is what Lasker and Capablanca put into practice. If you understand this principle of harmony in chess, then you have great natural talent."
2 Challenges
Smyslov-Szabo, Hastings 1954/55

Smyslov-Szabo, Hastings 1954/55

"Excessive subjectiveness...disturbs the logical development of a game of chess."
3 Challenges
Alekhine-Shishko, Moscow 1919

Alekhine-Shishko, Moscow 1919

Alekhine was a great combinational player and studied ceaselessly to make himself a complete player.
4 Challenges
Botvinnik-Yudovich, USSR 1933

Botvinnik-Yudovich, USSR 1933

After the USSR was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941, Botvinnik, exempted from military service due to poor eyesight, was permitted to leave Leningrad and traveled to the Urals.
2 Challenges
Tal-Parma, Bled 1961

Tal-Parma, Bled 1961

Tal was a great improviser, and he had a genius for bold, attacking middlegame play that has never been equaled.
2 Challenges
Ivkov-Spassky, Santa Monica 1966

Ivkov-Spassky, Santa Monica 1966

"Chess, with all its philosophical depth, its aesthetic appeal, is first of all a game in the best sense of the word, a game in which are revealed your intellect, character, will."
2 Challenges
X-Ray Attack

X-Ray Attack

The X-ray brings to mind superman's ability to see through objects. A piece is able to mount an attack even if there is another piece in the way.
2 Challenges
Alekhine-Nestor, Trinidad 1939

Alekhine-Nestor, Trinidad 1939

The man loved chess, it was the breath of life to him."-Reuben Fine on Alekhine.
3 Challenges
Blockade

Blockade

Blockade occurs when the pieces get in the way of each other, weakening the defenses.
2 Challenges
Alekhine-Rubinstein, San Remo 1930

Alekhine-Rubinstein, San Remo 1930

Alekhine's opponent, Akiba Rubinstein of Poland, was one of the strongest players ever not to hold the world chess championship.
2 Challenges
Fischer-Benko, USA 1963/64

Fischer-Benko, USA 1963/64

There are two themes to this combination: opening of a diagonal and blockade.
5 Challenges
Uhlmann-Gligoric, Hastings 1970/71

Uhlmann-Gligoric, Hastings 1970/71

One of the advantages of having two bishops versus your opponent's two knights is the fact that the possessor of the bishops may easily swap one or both of his bishops.
4 Challenges
Variation of Uhlmann-Gligoric

Variation of Uhlmann-Gligoric

Here we see how White wins the endgame had Gligoric played 2...bxc5 instead of 2...Nxc5.
10 Challenges
Two minor pieces vs. a rook and pawn

Two minor pieces vs. a rook and pawn

White to move plays 1.Nxf7. Is this a good idea?
2 Challenges
Three minor pieces vs. a queen and pawn

Three minor pieces vs. a queen and pawn

White to move and gain a superior fighting force.
3 Challenges
Supported Pawn

Supported Pawn

Queen endings often require the utmost accuracy. It is not uncommon for games to last over a hundred moves when one side has an extra pawn and tries to convert it to a new queen.
4 Challenges
Iljin-Genewski - Alekhine

Iljin-Genewski - Alekhine

Alexander Alekhine was the third offical world champion from 1927 until his death in 1946. A very creative player, he was very strong in endgames as well. Here we see how he saves an inferior position.
6 Challenges
Good Bishop vs. Bad Knight

Good Bishop vs. Bad Knight

Both sides have five pawns, but Black's bishop is much better than White's knight.
5 Challenges
Trapped on the edge

Trapped on the edge

Here we want to explore what could happen if Black had sacrificed his bishop on a2 by playing 4...Bxa2 5.Nxa2.
6 Challenges
Potent Majority

Potent Majority

Here the focus will be on White's queenside pawn majority. White has a nice bishop pair and could win a pawn right now.
5 Challenges
Alekhine-Yates, London 1922

Alekhine-Yates, London 1922

Alekhine has accumulated many advantages and has various promising ways to continue.
7 Challenges
The Fianchetto Benoni

The Fianchetto Benoni

Here we will look at the Fianchetto System against the Benoni Defense.
8 Challenges
Crumbling Fortress

Crumbling Fortress

Endgames with few pawns on the same side of the board are often drawish, but not always drawn.
8 Challenges
The Closed English

The Closed English

Here Black chose a popular closed system against the English. The most common move order is 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 f5 6.d3 Nf6 7.0-0 0-0 8.Rb1.
7 Challenges
Sparse Beauty, by U.S. Olympiad Captain IM John Donaldson

Sparse Beauty, by U.S. Olympiad Captain IM John Donaldson

Normally, the endgame of rook and knight versus rook is drawn. In fact, a draw occurs in over 95% of the cases, but there are exceptions.
15 Challenges
The 6.Bc4 Najdorf

The 6.Bc4 Najdorf

The Najdorf Defense can lead to some of the sharpest positions and often gives Black good chances for dynamic counterplay.
8 Challenges
The Winawer French with 5.Bd2

The Winawer French with 5.Bd2

The Winawer French is a popular opening that starts with the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4.
9 Challenges
Trompovsky Attack Gone Bad

Trompovsky Attack Gone Bad

In recent years the study of chess openings has become a huge task.
9 Challenges
A New Approach against the KID

A New Approach against the KID

Here we will take a look at a new system for White introduced in 1996 by young Russian Grandmaster Vadim Zvjaginsev. to take on the King's Indian Defense.
7 Challenges
The Catalan

The Catalan

The Catalan Opening is of positional nature and is quite popular since many White players feel that it gives White better chances for a small advantage than the alternatives.
6 Challenges
Marshall's Gambit

Marshall's Gambit

Marshall's Gambit is an ambitious attempt by White to gain control over the center or a lead in development at the cost of a pawn.
8 Challenges

Build Your Technique

Misc
116 Lessons
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548 Challenges
Released December 9, 2007
12,876 Students