Lessons

Tactics from the Old Masters

Tactics from the Old Masters

Are you ready for some touch tactics?

Are you an advanced player looking to improve their tactical skills? Have you ever wanted a more structured way of learning advanced tactics? Then this course is for you! This module contains tactical problems conducted by masters from the past that will challenge a player rated around 1700 or higher if attempted without using any of the hints. Improve your tactical vision today!

Here is what you will learn:

  • Close the mating net on your opponents' kings.
  • Win material.
  • Learn from the great games of past masters, including world champions!
Bellon-Garcia

Bellon-Garcia

Black's pieces are well coordinated, but Black must be careful that the pieces don't become targets for White's queen.
3 Challenges
Tal-N.N., Tbilisi Simultaneous 1965

Tal-N.N., Tbilisi Simultaneous 1965

Mikhail Tal was born in Riga, Latvia in 1936. He learned to play chess at the age of eight.
3 Challenges
The Weak Back Rank

The Weak Back Rank

White has hidden tactical possibilities in this position that could postpone any necessary positional concerns!
3 Challenges
Alenius-Droet

Alenius-Droet

This position is a good example of the artificial back rank mate. It occurs when fellow pieces near the king block its escape route.
3 Challenges
Klyatskin - Yudovich: A Powerful Bishop

Klyatskin - Yudovich: A Powerful Bishop

Material is even with Black having a dark-squared bishop for the White knight. When a bishop has no counterpart that acts on the squares of the same color, it can exert tremendous pressure.
3 Challenges
Minor Pieces Against Rooks in a Closed Position

Minor Pieces Against Rooks in a Closed Position

In this ending, Black's pieces occupy good squares and he has a knight and a bishop for the rook.
3 Challenges
Deadly Pin on the h-file

Deadly Pin on the h-file

All the action in this position is on the kingside and there is no play on the queenside. If White had to castle, he would certainly castle queenside to find shelter behind the pawns.
3 Challenges
Tactical Pawn Promotion

Tactical Pawn Promotion

White has achieved an overwhelming advantage against a world class player, Grandmaster Geller. White is especially proud of the passed pawn at d6.
3 Challenges
Makagonov-Chekhover

Makagonov-Chekhover

In this position, White is up a pawn, and looks to have some positional advantages. His pieces are nicely centralized and are currently attacking the Black g6-pawn.
3 Challenges
A Najdorf Knight's Dream

A Najdorf Knight's Dream

What started as a regular Najdorf defense quickly become a sharp game when Black, not having castled yet, chose to intimidate the knight on g3 with the h5-pawn push.
3 Challenges
A French Nightmare

A French Nightmare

Material is even, yet White enjoys a clear advantage. The two rooks dominate the open c-file while White's knight is well placed at b5.
3 Challenges
A Stalemate Riddle

A Stalemate Riddle

In this ending White's chances to survive are slim in spite of the opposite colored-bishops as Black has too many extra pawns.
3 Challenges
Danger in the Opening

Danger in the Opening

White has chosen a hypermodern opening along Reti's ideas. This is exemplified by fianchettoing both bishops along the long diagonals.
3 Challenges
The Benko Gambit Pawn

The Benko Gambit Pawn

This position can arise out of the Benko Gambit Opening (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6) where Black sacrifices a pawn for open files on the queenside against White's extra pawn.
3 Challenges
End of the Line

End of the Line

This problem stems from the romantic age of chess. It was very common in the 19th century to sacrifice many pieces in order to exploit a lead in development.
3 Challenges
Hort - G.Garcia: Converting an Advantage in the Endgame

Hort - G.Garcia: Converting an Advantage in the Endgame

White has a structural advantage in that all his pieces are on more active squares than Black's.
3 Challenges
The Knight Fork in the Opening

The Knight Fork in the Opening

Black didn't see your threat. How can you pounce?
3 Challenges
Connected Passed pawns

Connected Passed pawns

In this ending, White has a rook and four pawns against Black's five pawns. Yet Black has two connected passed pawns on the sixth rank which are quite difficult to stop.
3 Challenges
Weaving a Mating Net

Weaving a Mating Net

In this position White's active pieces more than compensate for Black's extra pawn. White has a strong attack against Black's king along the h- file, but White must play accurately.
3 Challenges
Passed Pawns of Different Strengths

Passed Pawns of Different Strengths

White is trying to get to Black's king and/or promote his e-pawn, both of his passed central pawns are currently hanging. White must continue actively or his piece activity is going to evaporate.
3 Challenges
Queen Trade Quest Quenched

Queen Trade Quest Quenched

White has grabbed the initiative early in the game and has opened the h-file before castling.
3 Challenges
A Fragile Center

A Fragile Center

Material is even in this early middlegame position, yet the placement of White's and Black pieces differ in their effectiveness.
3 Challenges
The Pinned Knight on the d-file

The Pinned Knight on the d-file

This position arose in a last round game at the National Open between myself (playing White) and Arizona master Spencer Lower (playing Black).
3 Challenges
Passed Pawns against a Piece

Passed Pawns against a Piece

In this ending, Black only has a pawn for a rook. At first glance, one may think that it cannot be sufficient compensation, especially since the two passed c-pawns are doubled.
3 Challenges
Impatient Mating Attack

Impatient Mating Attack

Black, who had just taken a rook on f1 with the bishop and was confident that that defense was sufficient. How should Black best react to the queen check at h5?
3 Challenges
Strike While the Iron is Hot

Strike While the Iron is Hot

White must use imagination to avoid simplifications that may result in a good position for Black.
3 Challenges
Pawn Push Propels Penetration

Pawn Push Propels Penetration

Zapata, an experienced grandmaster playing Black, has successfully placed his pieces on nearly ideal squares after White too hastily exchanged bishops at g7 and queens at g5.
3 Challenges
Capablanca-Fonaroff, New York 1904

Capablanca-Fonaroff, New York 1904

In this position, Capablanca demonstrates several important tactical themes. Some strong masters have suggested that with a knight on f5 one always wins an attack.
5 Challenges
Capablanca-Jaffe, New York 1910

Capablanca-Jaffe, New York 1910

White has a lot of pressure on the kingside. This position illustrates the combinational theme of removing a defender.
3 Challenges
Capablanca-Raubitscheck, New York 1909

Capablanca-Raubitscheck, New York 1909

As well as being a chess genius, Capablanca was very well-rounded. Fluent in several languages, he even found time to play on the baseball team while studying at Columbia University.
3 Challenges
Alatortzev-Capablanca, Moscow 1935

Alatortzev-Capablanca, Moscow 1935

This is another nice combination by Capablanca. The great Cuban once said that you must lose 100 times before you become a strong player. So take your losses as lessons.
9 Challenges
Raubitscheck-Capablanca, New York 1906

Raubitscheck-Capablanca, New York 1906

Black has sacrificed a piece to get this position. Another sacrifice is coming up.
4 Challenges
Capablanca-Yates, Barcelona 1929

Capablanca-Yates, Barcelona 1929

Capablanca's advice is always worth remembering. He once wrote: "When you have the advantage and your opponent has a passive piece set-up, one should not hurry matters."
3 Challenges
Corzo-Capablanca, Havana 1900

Corzo-Capablanca, Havana 1900

Capablanca learned how to play chess at the age of 4 after watching his father play with a friend.
5 Challenges
Spielmann-Capablanca, Bad Kissingen 1928

Spielmann-Capablanca, Bad Kissingen 1928

Both sides attack each other's queen. Black is able to take advantage of this.
5 Challenges
Capablanca-Steiner, Los Angeles 1933

Capablanca-Steiner, Los Angeles 1933

This game features a king hunt. Capablanca once wrote: "Direct and violent attacks against the king must be carried out en masse, with full force, to ensure their success."
9 Challenges
Nimzovitch-Capablanca, New York 1927

Nimzovitch-Capablanca, New York 1927

Capablanca said: "The main thing is the coordination of the pieces, and this is where most players are weak. Many try to attack with one piece here and another there without any concerted action."
8 Challenges
Capablanca-Souza Campos, Sao Paulo Simul 1927

Capablanca-Souza Campos, Sao Paulo Simul 1927

White checkmates Black in 9 moves, but you can find each move if you think logically.
9 Challenges
Capablanca-Lasker, Berlin 1914

Capablanca-Lasker, Berlin 1914

This is a study based on a skittles game played between the two chess greats, Lasker and Capablanca, on the eve of World War 1.
6 Challenges
Capablanca-Lasker, Havana 1921

Capablanca-Lasker, Havana 1921

This game is from the 1921 world championship match between Lasker and Capablanca. It is essential that every chess player who wishes to improve study the games of Capablanca.
2 Challenges
Lasker-Euwe, Nottingham 1936

Lasker-Euwe, Nottingham 1936

Euwe, who was World Champion at the time, has just blundered in a slightly superior position. How does Lasker take advantage of the oversight?
2 Challenges
Lasker-Delmar, Cambridge Springs 1907

Lasker-Delmar, Cambridge Springs 1907

"By some ardent enthusiasts chess has been elevated into a science or an art. It is neither; but its principal characteristic seems to be - what human nature mostly delights in - a fight." - Lasker
2 Challenges
Chigorin-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1895/96

Chigorin-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1895/96

Chigorin was the top Russian player before the communist revolution.
2 Challenges
Lasker-Henneberger and Rivier, Bern 1919

Lasker-Henneberger and Rivier, Bern 1919

Emanuel Lasker was born in 1868 and lived most of his life in Berlin. The rise of Hitler forced him to leave his homeland. Lasker moved to Moscow in 1935 and two years later to New York. He died there in 1941.
4 Challenges
Lasker-Mieses, Paris 1900

Lasker-Mieses, Paris 1900

The great chess master Rudolf Spielmann wrote of Lasker: "Lasker is always unafraid, always ready for the struggle. To me, this is a sign of true greatness."
2 Challenges
Marshall-Lasker, New York 1907

Marshall-Lasker, New York 1907

Black has sacrificed a rook for a mating attack on the White king. Frank Marshall was the United States Champion for several decades.
3 Challenges
Lasker-Tarrasch, Nuremberg 1896

Lasker-Tarrasch, Nuremberg 1896

"Einstein, who once met Lasker through a good friend of mine, told me he considered him the finest mind with whom he had come in contact in his later years." - Edward Lasker
3 Challenges
Lasker-Reti, New York 1924

Lasker-Reti, New York 1924

Lasker looked to be past his prime when he lost the World Championship to Capablanca in 1921, but he rebounded and took first place at New York 1924 - one of the strongest tournaments of all times.
3 Challenges
Lasker-Steinitz, St.Petersburg 1895

Lasker-Steinitz, St.Petersburg 1895

Black seems to have a solid position, but White's pieces are more centralized and only need some extra scope.
6 Challenges
Wolf-Lasker, Maerisch-Ostrau 1923

Wolf-Lasker, Maerisch-Ostrau 1923

Black's pieces exert a great deal of pressure on White's weakened kingside. All of White's pieces are very passive. Especially the bishop on g2 could be mistaken for a pawn!
5 Challenges
Study by Lasker

Study by Lasker

White wins by a clever stroke in which the power of the passed pawn on b7 is demonstrated.
3 Challenges
Steinitz-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1895

Steinitz-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1895

The pin and double attack will be the key combinational themes of this problem. White's pieces are placed rather awkwardly.
5 Challenges
Chigorin-Lasker, London 1899

Chigorin-Lasker, London 1899

Black has sacrificed the exchange for a ferocious attack on the White king.
5 Challenges
Pillsbury-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1896

Pillsbury-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1896

This is the conclusion of one of the most famous combinations of all time.
7 Challenges
Steinitz-Lasker, Nuremberg 1896

Steinitz-Lasker, Nuremberg 1896

Lasker is down a pawn, but all of his pieces are aimed at the White king.
8 Challenges
Lasker-Steinitz, Moscow 1896/97

Lasker-Steinitz, Moscow 1896/97

All of White's pieces are aggressively placed. A combination looms on the horizon.
7 Challenges
Lasker-Bauer, USA 1908

Lasker-Bauer, USA 1908

Black's major pieces are out of play off on the side of the board. White takes advantage of this with a direct assault on the Black king.
8 Challenges
Porges-Lasker, Nuremberg 1896

Porges-Lasker, Nuremberg 1896

Black has pressure on the kingside, but White wants to exchange Black's strong knight. What is the best way to keep the initiative?
8 Challenges
Janowski-Lasker, Paris 1909

Janowski-Lasker, Paris 1909

Black has strong pressure on the kingside and needs to find a way to continue his attack. In this position, Janowski's split kingside pawns should spur your creativity.
4 Challenges
Lasker-Bauer, Amsterdam 1889

Lasker-Bauer, Amsterdam 1889

Lasker wrote: "In the beginning of the game, ignore the search for combinations, abstain from violent moves, aim for small advantages, accumulate them."
8 Challenges
Bernstein-Capablanca, Moscow 1914

Bernstein-Capablanca, Moscow 1914

Capablanca combines the combinational themes of double attack and deflection of defender.
3 Challenges
Capablanca-Rossolimo, Paris 1938

Capablanca-Rossolimo, Paris 1938

This problem illustrates the theme of discovered attack. All of the pieces are hanging, but it's White to move.
3 Challenges
Bogoljubov-Capablanca, Bad Kissingen 1928

Bogoljubov-Capablanca, Bad Kissingen 1928

Capablanca illustrates the theme of clearing space.
2 Challenges
Capablanca-Vassaux, Buenos Aires Olympiad 1939

Capablanca-Vassaux, Buenos Aires Olympiad 1939

White's pieces are aiming at Black's king, while Black's queen is out of play. Capablanca shows how to use a tempo in order to gain time for the attack.
3 Challenges
Capablanca-Mieses, Berlin 1931

Capablanca-Mieses, Berlin 1931

Capablanca combines the combinational themes of double attack and pin. When attacking the king, don't forget about the possibility of reaching a winning ending.
2 Challenges
Capablanca-Ribera, Barcelona 1935

Capablanca-Ribera, Barcelona 1935

White has sacrificed a whole rook and now needs to put on the finishing touches of the combination.
3 Challenges
Lasker-Steinitz, Moscow 1896

Lasker-Steinitz, Moscow 1896

White's pieces are on the back rank and in disharmony. This will often spell trouble.
1 Challenge
Steinitz-Hirschfeld, London 1871

Steinitz-Hirschfeld, London 1871

Black is up two pieces for a rook, but his pieces are somewhat loose. The theme of this combination will be removal of the defender.
1 Challenge
Steinitz-Schlesser, London 1863

Steinitz-Schlesser, London 1863

The theme of this combination is to deflect a Black piece away from a key square. This piece is the key to Black's defense.
3 Challenges
Hanham-Steinitz, New York 1894

Hanham-Steinitz, New York 1894

White seems to be in good shape as Black's queen is attacked. If the queen moves, then 2.Rxf8+ wins.
2 Challenges
Reiner-Steinitz, Viden 1860

Reiner-Steinitz, Viden 1860

White is seriously underdeveloped and is barely holding on. The winning theme is deflection.
3 Challenges
Steinitz-N.N., London 1868

Steinitz-N.N., London 1868

Black's king is in a very exposed position, while his development lags a lot. Steinitz finds a magnificent way to take advantage of this.
3 Challenges
Murphy-Steinitz, London 1866

Murphy-Steinitz, London 1866

White currently has four pawns for a piece. But this is not a good trade for White as his pawns are not of much importance in this middlegame position.
5 Challenges
Steinitz-N.N

Steinitz-N.N

Steinitz played this game at rook odds. Nowadays it is very uncommon for anyone to start a game with less material. Black has done little with his extra rook on a8.
4 Challenges
Steinitz-Ware

Steinitz-Ware

This position demonstrates the disadvantage of bringing the queen out too early, as it can be harassed by the minor pieces.
2 Challenges
Steinitz-N.N., 1861

Steinitz-N.N., 1861

This is a short, but very tricky combination. White has a decisive advantage as Black's rooks are dormant while White's can be used against Black's king.
4 Challenges
Zukertort-Steinitz, St.Louis 1886

Zukertort-Steinitz, St.Louis 1886

Black's queen and bishops combine for a deadly attack on White's exposed king.
3 Challenges
Steinitz-Blackburne, London 1876

Steinitz-Blackburne, London 1876

White's queen and bishop are very strongly placed on the kingside, but another piece needs to be activated to make the attack effective.
3 Challenges
N.N.-Steinitz, USA 1890

N.N.-Steinitz, USA 1890

This game features a king hunt. Black is down a rook and a knight for a couple of pawns, but White's kingside is not very safe.
6 Challenges
Steinitz-Chigorin, Hastings 1895

Steinitz-Chigorin, Hastings 1895

Black is up a pawn, but his king is very exposed. Note that all of Black's heavy pieces are far off on the queenside. Can White take advantage of this?
6 Challenges
Dubois-Steinitz, London 1862

Dubois-Steinitz, London 1862

Black is down a piece, but he has a very strong attack with the doubled rooks on the h-file. However, he must work out a concrete winning variation, else White may escape.
6 Challenges
Steinitz-Mongredien, London 1863

Steinitz-Mongredien, London 1863

The pawn structure in the center favors White, whereas the open h-file and White's active pieces also give White an attack on the kingside.
8 Challenges
Spassky-Averkin, USSR Championship 1973

Spassky-Averkin, USSR Championship 1973

Spassky demonstrates two themes in the following combination, including double attack.
2 Challenges
Opocensky-Alekhine, Paris 1925

Opocensky-Alekhine, Paris 1925

Alekhine was playing in a tournament in Mannheim, Germany when the First World War broke out.
3 Challenges
Petrosian-Ivkov, USSR-Yugoslav match 1979

Petrosian-Ivkov, USSR-Yugoslav match 1979

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 live.
3 Challenges
Potunno-Alekhine, Montevideo 1938

Potunno-Alekhine, Montevideo 1938

Alekhine died in 1946 in a hotel room in Lisbon. Many denounced him as a Nazi sympathizer. He died in poverty after years of using his genius to become rich.
2 Challenges
Euwe-Thomas, Hastings 1934

Euwe-Thomas, Hastings 1934

"...in chess, as in any conflict, success lies in attack."
2 Challenges
Timman-Karpov, London 1984

Timman-Karpov, London 1984

Karpov was born in 1951 in a small town in the Ural Mountains where he, like Capablanca, learned chess at the age of four.
6 Challenges