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Training Chess Tactics

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(Note: This will be the first post with practical exercises to resolve.)

( On the other hand , I am thinking about  carrying  out changes  in the aspect of the blog. Perhaps in the next few days you will see a change I hope for the better.-Thank you.-Questchess.)


During my first few years I was too concerned trying to learn strategy. I saw tactics as something chaotic (if compared with strategy and in my then wrong opinion). When I began to play in youth Chess events and began to lose games which I thought I had “strategically” won, I realized something had to be done…

Chess tactics has two components:

a) Calculation of Variations.

b) Combinations.

In those days, I began to work on   a)   using Kotov’s book   “Think Like a Grandmaster”.  I read and re-read it following its pieces of advice and working according to what Kotov said. Other books followed suit. This is why I am going to include some bibliography and then I will write about  b): Combinations.


Kotov:  “Think Like a Grandmaster” and “Play like a Grandmaster”

Pachman:  “Modern Chess Tactics”

Averbakh:  “Chess Tactics for Advanced Players”

Znosko-Borovsky:  “The Art of Chess Combinations”

Beim:  “How to Calculate Chess Tactics”

Aagaard:  “Excelling at Chess Calculations”

Soltis:  “The Inner Game of Chess”

Hays : “Combination Challenge”

Koblentz: “El Dominio del Arte de la Combinación”

Romanovsky: “Combinaciones en el Medio Juego”

Richter:  “Chess Combinations as a Fine Art”

There are many more (among them Dvoretsky’s  “Chess Tactics” , but if you are a beginner it is better to start by the preceeding ones.)

As Abrahams said, “tactics is the hard core of Chess”. I would say that with the present state of Chess, the existence of Chess programs, etc, tactics is the most important field of Chess to be studied so as to improve. Of course strategy does exist and everybody must acquire a deep knowledge of strategy, but today’s Chess has become tactical in an unprecedented way. In the same way that I said that strategy permeates the whole game, tactics permeates strategy, the openings, the middlegame and the endgame. So one must learn how to calculate variations and how to play combinations, learning the basic mate patterns first and then shifting to more complicated motiffs. You will find everything in the above-mentioned books.

b) Combinations

I used the following method:

1.- I solved hundreds of chess problems from actual games.

2.- I devoted many hours for many years -and still keep doing it- to solve 3-mover endgame problems. These are the best to me. They are problems in which  White mates in 3 and only in 3 moves, contain very few pieces and are full of tactical content.

In this post I will  include  some positions for you to solve. (I give the positions -not the diagrams- because to train it is necessary to use a chessboard and the pieces, avoiding quick glances at a diagram and then rush to see the solution.)

At top level, combinations only appear when one of the sides makes a serious mistake (because he overlooks something or because he is forced to commit a mistake due to the pressure exerted by the opponent. If not, they remain at the backstage of the game and are used as “threats”. Why?.-

Because one of the key points to understand top-level Chess is to appreciate how GMs are able to keep their positions:

a) Coordinated

b) Consolidated

c) Active 

Any “hole” in the above-mentioned three points may allow a tactical (combinational) blow.

Chess is so difficult and contain so many abstract elements (it is not only strategy  , tactics , openings , endgames ,  technique but also more elusive terms like intuition, vision,  judgement,  insight,  imagination, memory, divergent (lateral) thinking, preventive thinking to a degree, psychology…) that the whole is far bigger than the sum of its elements.


In the following three positions you have to find a mate in and only in 3 moves. (Remember that what mtters here is not the amount of material but to fulfil the condition of mating in 3 moves. Solving this type of problem is excellent to improve.


The first one is my favourite ever:

1.- Mate in 3  (#3) . Anon.

W.:  Ka1 – Rb2 – Bf2 – Ng2 – Qg8

B.:  Kh1 – Pa2 – Pf3 – Ph3 – Ph2

2.- Mate in 3 (#3) . H.F.L. Meyer (Schachmatny, 1894)

W.: Kb1 – Qa2 – Ba1 – Bb3 – Pd6

B.: Kf5 – Pd7

3.- Mate in 3 (#3) . J. Möller (Skakbladet, 1920)

W.:  Kh1 – Qg1 – Nc8 – Pa7

B.: Ka8 – Bh4 – Pc5 – Pd7 – Pe6

Set up the pieces on the board, take them in a pocket set if you are going to travel, have a look at them while at lunch… , but try to solve them!     (You will find the solutions in one of the next posts.)


P.S. In the next post I will continue with the chessplayers who have most influenced me…


Written by QChess

April 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm

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