Chess Tactics Quotes

Sir Peter Medawar once remarked, rather testily:
"the spread of secondary and latterly of tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytic thought".
[A sentiment to be found in his splendid demolition of Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man, first printed in Mind, then collected in The Art of the Soluble]

  No less a tribute may be paid to the editors at Batsford and Cadogan and Chess Digest: there is a population of chessplayers who know about mysterious Rook moves, Super-Quart Grips, the Inverse Phalanx, and the latest wrinkles in the Sicilian, but who cannot reliably spot three-move tactics or win Lucena's Rook Ending. This collection is dedicated to the first of these failings.

  It all started with this one:

"Chess is 99% tactics"
-- Richard TEICHMANN

  I like to quote this, but usually add:

...Although it has often seemed to me that the remaining 99% must be all strategy :-)
And then I found:
"Chess isn't 99% tactics, it's just that tactics takes up 99% of your time" -- Dan HEISMAN, The Improving Annotator
But after this, the deluge!


"It is a mistake to think that combination is solely a matter of talent, and that it cannot be acquired"

"The scheme of a game is played on positional lines, the decision of it is, as a rule, effected by combinations. This is how Lasker's pronouncement that positional play is the preparation for combinations is to be understood."
-- Richard RETI
"I can see the combinations as well as Alekhin, but I cannot get into the same positions."

"All I need is a little position"
"Combinative vision manifests itself at an early age, and children are quick to notice and execute combinations which chance to turn up. Preparing combinations, however, is more difficult for them."
-- ZAK, Improve your chess results.
"I like to play combinations, some of them intuitive and not fully calculated"
Rudolph Spielmann
3). Tactics early in the game will tend to favour White, because he has the initiative. This suggests that what you want to do, where possible, is to play open games/gambits with White, and closed games with Black. As well as being a strategy aimed at winning games (always good) it gives you experience with a wide range of positions. You learn that a "weak square" doesn't always mean f7 :-)
From: (John Sargeant)
(Tim Sawyer) writes:
"A 1500 player will lose a pawn anyway about every 15 moves, so you might as well invest a pawn to sharpen your tactics."

Matt's Rating formula:
R=200(P) - 1500

  Where R = rating
and P = average number of moves between Pawn drops.

  Of course this will generate negative ratings if you give stuff away more than every 8 moves, so it needs some fine-tuning. Anybody up to the task? :)

-- Matt Guthrie
"A thorough understanding of the typical mating combinations makes the most complicated sacrificial combinations leading up to them not only not difficult, but almost a matter of course."
"The pleasure of a chess combination lies in the feeling that a human mind is behind the game, dominating the inanimate pieces with which the game is carried on, and giving them the breath of life."


"If you want to lose a miniature, then here are three helpful tips. First of all, it is a big help if you are Black: losing with White in under 20 moves requires a special talent which few possess. Secondly, choose a provocative opening, for example an opening in which you try to realise strategic ambitions, but at the cost of backward development and delayed castling. Thirdly, if something goes slightly wrong, don't reconcile yourself to defending a bad position - seek a tactical solution instead! Don't worry about the fact that tactics are bound to favour the better developed side; just go ahead anyway. Follow this advice and at least you will get home early."
In case you do not have Reuben Fine's "Chess Marches On" I will give you what Fine said about, Strategy and Tactics.
"Thirty years ago (this was written in 1942), Teichmann said that chess is 99% tactics. And despite the enormous strides of chess theory since then, his percentage can only be reduced a few points

  Many amateurs think that master games are usually decided by some deeply-laid plan covering all possibilities for at least ten moves.. That is what they conceive the grand strategy of tournaments to be. Actually, however, strategical considerations, while quite important, do not cover a range or depth at all comparable to the popular notion. Very often, in fact, sound strategy can dispense with seeing ahead at all, except in a negative or trivial sense. And it is still true that most games, even between the greatest of the great, are decided by tactics or combinations which have little or nothing to do with the fundamental structure of the game.

  To take one striking example, look at the games of the Euwe-Alekhin matches. Euwe is a player who analyzes openings ad infinitum, i.e., one who wants to settle everything strategically. Alekhin is likewise adept at the art of building up an overwhelming position. And yet in almost all cases the outcome depended not on the inherent structure of the play, but on some chance combination which one side saw and the other side did not. Tactics is still more than 90% of chess.

  In the following game (which we will not give) we have a good illustration of the interplay of strategy and tactics in the practice of two outstanding contemporary masters. The opening results in a position which is dynamically in Botwinnik's favor; yet because he is, for purely tactical reasons, unwilling to adopt the maneuver which best answers the needs of the position, he drifts into a situation where Lilienthal has the initiative. Lilienthal tries his hardest to increase his advantage, and succeeds to a certain extent. Then he makes a slight error, which gives his opponent adequate chances. Finally Botwinnik, faced by a difficult choice, picks the wrong alternative. And thereby both again demonstrate the wisdom of Tartakover's adage that a winner in a game of chess is the man who made the next to the last blunder.

from Richard S. Cantwell
In article (Richard Resnick) writes:
>Above and beyond being able to look very very deep, are there are
>guidelines that can be stated regarding the sacrifice of minor pieces?
>It seems to me that with all 32 pieces on the board, it becomes very
>difficult to be accurate when looking ahead, so I assume that the
>masters must have a set of guidelines that they use when determining
>whether to go down in material for the tactical advantage. Any help
>(either commentary or literature citations) would be greatly
>appreciated. Thanks very much.


In "How to Cheat at Chess" IM Hartston gives Hartston's Iconoclastic
Combinational Uncertainty Principle(?), which states (I am
reconstructing from memory, rather than quoting) that:

 for a given sacrificed piece value (S), the expected value (V) to be
gained from a sacrifice can be worked out, since we know,

 firstly, the hoped-for gain (H) and
 the number of moves deep the variations are (N).  

The motivation for the sacrifice is H-S, but this is tempered by the
increasing probability of miscalculation as we go deeper in analysis -
in fact, the probability increases as the square of the move depth. 

So, V =     H  -  S


Applying HICUP then, if you sacrifice a pawn (S=1) hoping to gain a
queen (H=9) in two moves (N=2), then V= 9/4 - 1 = 2.3 - 1 = 1.3; V is
positive, so the sacrifice is worth a go.  However, sacrificing a rook
hoping to gain a knight in three moves gives S=5, H=3, N=3 and so V =
3/9-5 = -3.7.  V is strongly negative, that is, you have probably
miscalculated and should give it a miss.

" Once I played 100 games against Mike Cook at 10 minutes (for him) vs 5 minutes (for me). At that time, Mike was about 2300 strength. About half-way through the series (which I eventually won 88-12) he explained his disappointment:

"I thought that I would see lots of advanced strategic concepts in these games, but actually all I've learnt is LDPO."


"Loose Pieces Drop Off."

During the remaining games, I saw what he meant. Most of the games were decided by relatively simple tactics involving undefended pieces, when the LP would duly DO.

-- John NUNN, in Secrets of Practical Chess
" other thing is the GM's superiority in tactics. For example Christiansen can find tactics in any position. If you're a GM you should be able to overpower the IM tactically. The GM will often blow out the IM in this area. "
-- Nick de FIRMIAN, in How to get Better at Chess Chess Masters On Their Art by GM Larry Evans, IM Jeremy B Silman and Betty Roberts
"I really find all this [opening preparation by club players] quite amazing, not least because the games concerned are almost invariably decided much later on and often by rather unsophisticated means."
-- Nigel DAVIES, KingPin No.28 Spring 1998.
I haven't got the exact form of words, but I enjoyed the Daily Telegraph's comment on the position in which Kasparov agreed a draw against Lautier, missing a simple opportunity which may have cost him outright first place:


Position after 20. Rc7, Lautier-Kasparov, Tilburg Fontys 1997 [20...c5! -+]
"The simplified nature of the position makes it hard for humans to spot the tactic." -- Malcolm PEIN
- there's no hope for us, then!
"Let us repeat once more the methods by which we can increase our combinative skill:

  "(1) by careful examination of the different types and by a clear understanding of their motives and their premises
"(2) By memorising a number of outstanding as well as of common examples and solutions
"(3) Frequent repetition (in thought, if possible) of important combinations, so as to develop the imagination.

-- Euwe, Strategy and Tactics in Chess.
My own view is most closely represented by this quote:
"However obviously the majority of Chess-players may be divided into two big classes of combination- and position-players, in the Chess-master this antagonism is transformed into a harmony. In him combination play is completed by position play."
-- Em. Lasker, Manual of Chess, Book IV