Making Tactics Work
1. A chess tactic
is an unstoppable threat. Often you can Avoid, Block, Capture or Defend your way out of a
threat, but if you can't, you're probably on the receiving
end of a tactic.
2. Tactical themes include:
- jumps, mates, forks, nets, pins & ties
A fuller list of tactical themes might be:
Jumps: discovered attack (unmasking), discovered check,
double check (which is always also a discovered check)
- Mates: back rank mate, Greek Gift sacrifice, double Bishop sacrifice, smothered mate, stalemate, perpetual check
- Forks: knight fork, pawn fork, queen fork, really any double attack
Nets: no retreat, trap
Pins: pin, skewer, X-ray attack, X-ray defence
Ties: removing the guard, undermining, overloading, decoy,
- Pawn breakthrough, passed pawn, promotion, obstruction
[You Just Might Find a Nifty Powerful Tactic]
There are examples of all these at the start of the Canon
3. A combination is: a sequence of forcing moves, possibly involving a sacrifice, leading to a material advantage.
The punchline to a combination is an unstoppable threat (or double threat).
4. The things that make a combination work are forcing moves (checks
> captures > threats). Purdy calls them smites: "Examine moves that smite!"
5. The clues that a tactic is available are:
- Loose pieces
- Unsafe King
EXAMPLE showing all three: 1.Kxh2 e4+ is no good for White, but put together the other loose B on a4, the unsafe King on g8 and the attack on g7, find the meeting point of the fourth rank and the g-file and play 1.Qg4! winning.
6. The way you make a tactical combination work is:
- combining ideas
- trying moves in a different order
- in-between moves
- once in a while, you might need a quiet move [EXAMPLE]
We've seen a few already this summer:
- Charlie's Knight forks
The Tarrasch Trap - one long sequence of tactical threats, which exhausts Black's defences [EXAMPLE]
7. The ways you get better at using tactics include:
- reading about
tactical ideas and rehearsing them in your mind - there
are books at all levels of difficulty
- testing yourself
with puzzles - in particular, ones which are hard for you
but not impossible
- habitually looking
for tactics at each move in a game [EXAMPLE] - not just for you, but
also for your opponent - every tactic found is also a tactic missed by the victim!
- leaving yourself time to look in a game
- be aware of hard moves
- [EXAMPLES: games 13-23]
- be aware of the move after the combination: don't stop while there are still smites! [EXAMPLE] [APOCRYPHAL EXAMPLE]
- Put your pieces in strong advanced central positions
- Build up pressure against your opponent's weak points
- Occupy open lines with your Rooks and Bishops
- Break open lines for your Rooks and Bishops
- Open up lines of attack against your opponent's King
8. Preparing for combinations
...and the combinations will come!
"The master places a Knight on e5; mate follows by
itself" - TARTAKOWER
In particular, learn about the combinations that
turn up in your openings. Do you usually park your
Bishop on c4, on the diagonal leading to f7, or on d3, which
points at h7? Peter Lane studied the typical French
Defence sacrifices against f2, played into the relevant
lines, and they started turning
up in his games.