Tag Archives: Chess training

Tactics Training

Chess tactics 150602

This is a follow on from my previous post. I am entering another longer format chess competition this coming weekend along with my son – he will also be in another longer competition next month for juniors. I’ve noticed a loss of sharpness in both of our games and I put it down to a lack of tactics training. Through bribery, deception and threats I have persuaded my son to join me in tactics training and we are doing this in a non Luddite way.

The deal is this: Everyday we each have to score 20 points on chess tempo’s ‘tactics trainer’. A correct tactic gets 1 point, an incorrect tactic loses 2 points – you can never have less than 0 points. When we first started this, a couple of days ago, my son went into a misery spin “I had 9 points, then I lost 2, and another 2, and…” etc until he had “wasted his time” and was still at 0 points after 40 minutes. He was not happy. We then both sat down and tried again, we looked at the puzzles and worked systematically through possible moves, focusing on ‘all checks and captures’ and ‘forced moves’ (often via sacrifices). My son shifted gear and got 24 correct tactics and 2 incorrect tactics. The important point about this is the ‘shifting gear’, this was a change of mindset from a defeatist ‘woe is me’ attitude to a pragmatic, problem solving attitude. Seeing this change in my son made me reflect that I only improve when I focus carefully. Forcing ourselves to really engage in tactical chess problems is, I believe, a very effective way of learning.

On a more Luddite note I am occasionally using Richard Palliser’s ‘The Complete Chess Workout II’ book in the same way. And I recommend it.

Tactics Are Grammar, Strategy Is Prose

Chess tactics 150602 2

I’m still trying to work out how I can show the comments at the end of my posts, rather than seeing a note like ‘Two Replies’ at the top of a post. A great comment I received this morning from ‘The Great Patzer’ went:

“It is interesting to compare the journey you and I are on. I was excited to find your blog and your approach intrigues me… on the other hand, things that work for you are less for me- and vice versa.

Sometimes I suspect, that we all have a slightly different “training style”- that is an approach to learning chess that works best for us. Consider “tactic puzzles”- you clearly aren’t into them- they haven’t made a huge impact in your game; yet for me, ‘tactic’ puzzles are the single best part of my training, and even when I consider more positional “white to play and win a piece” problems, I still approach them much like a tactical puzzle.

On the other hand; postal chess seemed dismally frustrating to me… and after just a few moves I gave all my opponents no-sweat wins. The setup, the elaborate weaving of unclear variations. it seemed very ornate, and not to the point.

I would strongly agree with you that deeply considering chess moves is key to further progress in chess for me. I look forward to reading your blog. Please continue to describe your improvement process; both its ups and downs. I think there is virtue in comparing notes within our small blogging community.”

Thank you for the comment! I probably haven’t blogged about the importance of tactics and I should. I’ll be going to my local chess club this evening and when the IM who runs it sometimes goes through a game I am amazed by how obvious complicated tactics are to him. He might be watching a game between two kids he is teaching and exclaim immediately after a move “Ahh, why did you do that? It loses a piece”. I look, the kids look, but no one can see it. He then goes into a three or four move complicated sequence and seems bewildered that we couldn’t see the tactic. Clearly tactics are deeply ingrained in him.

Often tactics are undervalued in chess discourse, the focus is on openings, strategy, positional play, the study of historical games etc… and I think that this is because tactics are straightforward and don’t lend themselves to prose. In tactics you only have a few concepts; pins, forks, skewers, discovered attacks, double attacks – all of these are simple to explain and don’t make for great books. Instead you get tactics books and websites with tactics and work through them. I am convinced that tactics are a fundamental building block for chess and I will post more about this in my next post.


Training 2

Training 2

I have decided to enter another competition in a months time and I have decided to do some training for it. My plan is:

Openings – I am going to learn one new white opening and develop the Scandinavian defense I was using in Ballarat. I also need to find a response I’m happy with against 1.d4, something that opens up the game a bit. The white opening I’m planning to learn is the Scotch Gambit.

Middlegames – I will finish my ‘How to Reassess your Chess’ book by IM Jeremy Silman and tackle four puzzles a day from my ‘The Complete Chess Workout’ book by Richard Palliser. I also have my correspondence games, which are all currently middlegames, to do.

Endgames – I’ll review what I’ve learned so far in my ‘Complete Endgames Course’ again by Silman and read more about rook endings – which I seem to be facing more regularly lately.

This should do.


My son is in a tournament next week and I thought it would be good if he did some intensive training in the days running up to it. I am joining him in this since it will hopefully improve my chess too.

The training is comprised of tactics training, turn based games, middlegame puzzles, chess mentor and videos. We have limited the openings to one (versatile) opening as white that should be solid enough to bring the game to a secure middlegame and two black defences to respond to either 1.e4 or 1.d4 and which should again be solid enough to avoid tricks and cope with other first moves. I wanted to limit openings to avoid learning to many lines which at our level is futile.

Tactics: tactics are fundamental to chess. It’s no good building up positions if you are unable to strike when there is an opportunity. We are therefore doing an hour of chesstempo.com tactics in the morning. A correct tactic gets one point an incorrect tactic loses two point (until we are at zero points) – for each point my son gets he earns a minute of extra video game time. The loss of two minutes video game time for a missed tactic ensures a good level of focus.

Turn based games: I entered a 24hr per move competition on chess.com where you play black and white against five other players. This means that we each have ten games to play. We do our move for each game after our morning tactics and then again later in the day after diner. Our openings and defences are limited to our three choices as described above. We are concentrating on the transition phase from opening to middlegame and focusing on positional opportunities. To help guide this process I have been reading Jeremy Silman’s excellent ‘How To Reassess Your Chess v.4’. The book examines how by ‘reading’ a chess board it is possible to find imbalances in the position and by understanding these imbalances it is possible to choose moves that exploit or hinder opportunities. By doing this the board ‘tells’ you what needs to be done and which plans you should follow. This turn based chess work takes about half an hour.

Middlegame puzzles: My son’s teacher at the Tuesday club believes that the next step my son needs to take is to take more time to look at different possibilities as the game gets complicated. My son can calculate and see tactics fairly well but sometimes fixes on one solution without taking the time to look for alternatives. The book my son’s teacher uses to tackle this is called ‘The Complete Chess Workout’ by Richard Palliser. In it there are problems that require a concrete assessment of a number of potential lines in order to choose the best move. I have bought the sequel to this book, ‘The Complete Chess Workout II’, to set up the same exercises that he does. I look at the answer section of the book and find solutions that show a number of moves and include a few parenthesised move options – these problems tend to be rich in opportunity. I then choose five of these problems and study them so I clearly understand them before giving them to my son. This exercise takes an hour.

Chess Mentor: on chess.com there is a chess mentor section there that gives a position and explains the background to the position and asks you to choose the correct next move. When a move choice you choose is wrong it will explain why. We do about 20 minutes of this.

Videos: I am choosing one video a day that shows an amazing games ideally based on the openings we have chosen. Games that relied on positional skill and tactics but which avoid sacrifices (kids love sacrifices and I don’t want to encourage this). Twenty minutes for this.

The rest of the time we boogy board.