Is this a new song? Not quite. A reminder of the importance of studying tactics? That sounds more like it.
We’ve all heard it before. Any chess player knows the age-old saying, “chess is 99% tactics.” One can argue on either side of that statement, or the extent to which it is true. Yet, the point is that, in any case, the number can seem dauntingly high. However, it doesn’t have to be scary – there are many ways to improve one’s tactical vision. Let’s go through a few of them before continuing.
Practicing is one of the easiest methods of improving tactical vision. This can be achieved through online and printed sources. For example, one website where one can practice tactics is chesstempo.com – it is probably my favorite tactics practice program out there. Chess.com also has its well-known tactics trainer, and while it is decent, I never got into it as Chesstempo had been my first platform. Still, it is a perfectly viable method of tactics training. Overall, those two websites are probably the two most popular on the internet. Books are also a long-used method of tactics practice. One of the most well-known tactics books on the market is Laszlo Polgar’s 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games. Using practice tools such as these is one great way to improving one’s tactical acuteness.
Another method to improve tactical vision is to improve pattern recognition, something that I have written about in the past. If you gave someone several tactical problems in a row, each testing the same motif, you would expect that person to, in general, solve each problem quicker than the previous one. This is because of pattern recognition and the understanding that certain placements of pieces have increased probabilities of uncovering certain tactical motifs. Studying basic patterns and motifs opens the door to a world of tactical possibilities.
So now that we know how to improve tactics, let’s take a look at a few particularly enterprising examples that I found from the recently-concluded Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival that show how important it is to have an eye out for tactics at all times. For each position, I’ll show you the position for which you need to find the best move. To best simulate game conditions, try to calculate all necessary variations while only looking at the given position. I will also link the game viewer that has the entire game if you would like to play through it, but try to view the game only after you attempt the puzzle. As a note, these puzzles are presented in chronological order, not in any order of difficulty. Good luck!
#1: Tate – Nakamura
#4: Le – Dubov
Hopefully, you solved most of those puzzles. If you did not solve any one of them, perhaps it gives you one type of pattern to practice further. Even if you were able to solve all of them, it is still important to get periodic practice in, as it is always beneficial to stay in touch. As an added point, practicing tactics can be a quick and straightforward way to keep on top of chess when there may not be as much time to sit down and dedicate time to it. Who knows? Maybe in one of your next games, you can unleash a lethal tactic that your opponent never saw coming! As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.