Building Up Your Tactical Arsenal

Rather than going over another game today, I figured that it might be better to give a study recommendation. I’m sure that everyone has heard of Lazlo Polgar’s famous book, 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games, and furthermore, I’m willing to bet a fair number of people own it! The reason why I want to talk about this book today is to break down how you should use it.

If you are a student of mine, you know I emphasize that you should study from this book every day. Polgar’s puzzle book offers puzzles, but if done consistently, teaches patterns as well. Write down your answers on a sheet of paper, and then check your answers when you are done. Below is my breakdown of how many of each type of puzzle to do. Keep in mind, you do not have to limit yourself to 16 puzzles, feel free to do more, but I recommend keeping these proportions on a day to day basis.

Rating: unr – 300 (20 minute time limit)

Mate in 1s: 13

Mate in 2s: 3

Mate in 3s: 0

If you fit in this rating range, its really important to understand all of the basic checkmates. By doing 13 mate in 1s everyday, you will force yourself to look for forcing moves, which is critical for improvement. Three mate in 2s everyday will allow you to apply your knowledge of forcing moves to slightly more complicated puzzles.

Rating: 300 – 550 (25–30 minute time limit)

Mate in 1s: 6

Mate in 2s: 10

Mate in 3s: 0

Getting into this rating range means that you recognize basic mating patterns and are ready for a bigger challenge. Mate in 2s may seem easy at first, but the further you get into the section, the more difficult the problems become.

Rating: 550 – 750 (40 minute time limit)

Mate in 1s: 0

Mate in 2s: 13

Mate in 3s: 3

Tactical patterns are now the most important aspect of your improvement. Continue doing mate in 2s but dabble in the mate in 3s section a bit! Try to become more efficient, you need to average 2.5 minutes a problem!

Rating: 750 – 900 (50 minute time limit)

Mate in 1s: 0

Mate in 2s: 8

Mate in 3s: 8

Odds are you’re starting to win games thanks to your tactical expertise, but that doesn’t mean you are done! Mate in 3s should prove far more challenging, but will help you understand famous mating patterns. I would say aim for under 2 minutes for the mate in 2s, a little over 4 minutes for the mate in 3s. If you have both leftover time and 100% accuracy, that is a sign for great things to come!

Rating: 900 – 1100 (65 minute time limit)

Mate in 1s: 0

Mate in 2s: 4

Mate in 3s: 12

Studying chess is time well spent, but you have to make the most out of it. Skip to the last few mate in 2s (Puzzle #3169 is a good starting point) if you haven’t gotten that far yet, as some of those problems are trickier than the mate in 3s (Hint– Not all the first moves have to be forcing)! As you do more mate in threes, you’ll learn more patterns, meaning more wins. I would shoot for less than 3 minutes for mate in 2s, roughly 4 minutes for mate in 3s.

Rating: 1100 – 1300 (48 minute time limit)

Mate in 1s: 0

Mate in 2s: 0

Mate in 3s: 16

Learning these patterns is integral to becoming 1400. At this point you need to only focus on mate in 3s, but here’s the catch: 3 minutes a puzzle for a total of 48 minutes! Hopefully you’ve seen many of the patterns already, as they will be repeated over and over again throughout the book. Efficiency eclipses tactical vision now, as you have to imagine you are in a tournament game and facing time trouble.

Rating: 1400+

If you’ve been using this book correctly, you have a solid base of tactical knowledge. However, as you may have already found out, you need to expand your studying beyond tactics: openings, endgames, positional play. If you want to keep tactics in your studies (like you should!) I’d recommend Artur Yusupov’s nine book series Build Up Your Chess! This is a good next step as it challenges you with tactics, endgames, and some intriguing positional concepts.

Have your own way of breaking down your studies? Feel free to comment below!

One thought on “Building Up Your Tactical Arsenal

  1. Pingback: Happy National Chess Day! | chess^summit

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