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hildanknight 145 ( +1 | -1 )
The Jeremy Silman of chess tactics? Hello, everyone. I just joined ChessColony. I think this is a great site and would appreciate if you can help me with a problem.

If you read my profile, you will know that I play chess based on IM Jeremy Silman's Imbalance Theory (based on his book The Amatuer's Mind which I read and enjoyed). Although it has helped me become strategically proficient, and my rating increased 300 points after learning and applying the Imbalance Theory, it has left gaping holes in my tactical ability.

Despite having reached a rating of 1655 once (I think my actual CC rating is closer to 1500), I still hang and blunder away pieces very frequently, and I can't seem to handle any sort of tactics. Often, I spot a way to "win" a piece but it is quickly refuted and I ended up losing horribly.

IM Jeremy Silman's book The Anatuer's Mind did a lot to help my strategy. However, has he ever written any books to help beginners with tactics? If no, then can anyone recommend a chess writer/book which teaches tactics the way IM Jeremy Silman teaches strategy? In easy-to-understand language, easy-to-grasp-and-apply rules and checklists, with instructive examples and humour? Most of the books out there teach tactics way out of my depth in a very boring way - sometimes even memorizing positions I will never get on the board! I need some simple rules and checklists. Can anyone recommend a good book?
danders 34 ( +1 | -1 )
The Chess Doctor by Bruce Pandolfini

It won't make you a grandmaster, but it improved my tactical play somewhat by listing 100 common tactical mistakes, and what to look out for. They are grouped by themes such as: The Opening, Captures and Exchanges, Mistakes with Specific Units, etc.

A very good book; easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to apply.
ccmcacollister 51 ( +1 | -1 )
It would probably payoff to learn tree analysis as Kotov presents in Think Like A Grandmaster. To increase organization of the analytical thought process and so decrease oversights. It has some tactical motifs too. I dont know if it is boring or not; just that without it a price will always be paid for the lack of it.
On the other hand, I've read it and just dropped a piece today! But believe it was only the first in corr play that was an oversite, not planned. And a one mover yet
:(
(And THAT is a Very Short Tree indeed!)
hildanknight 47 ( +1 | -1 )
Thank you very much. So far we have The Chess Doctor by Bruce Pandolfini and Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov.

I do not demand that the book be funny and interesting. I want it to contain easy-to-follow rules/checklists/concepts and examples that are of practical value.

Most books out there give me GM-level analysis that makes my head spin and suggests that I study 1000 positions that will never appear in an actual game.
erdite 44 ( +1 | -1 )
Winning chess by irving Chernov and Fred Reinfeld Winning chess is all about tactics, written in tearms you can understand. After reeding it my
rating went from around 1200 up to 1477 quickley, winning about 80% of my games(see my
graph). It doesnt teach openings or stratergy, but it teaches you what to look for to win a
piece or checkmate by every means possible and it drums it into your head so that you
instinctivly know. It is the only chessbook ive ever found usefull.
gajolen 171 ( +1 | -1 )
Do puzzles A good way to start is doing chess puzzles, lots of them.

Do as many as you can as often as you can, and after a while, you will become better to judge if there is a tactic present on the board. You will see patterns that can lead to mate, or captures. and you will see hanging pieces like instantly.

Here are a couple of my favorit links, for when doing tactical exersises.

-> chess.emrald.net
-> www.entertainmentjourney.com
-> www.wtharvey.com

Here is another link wich descibes the diferent tactics.

You can start here. -> www.chesstactics.org

Also Remember Silmans vice word. I Quote from his exelent book, how to reasess your chess.

The first thing the student must realise is that there are certain rules of combination that make a combination posibel. If these factors do not exist then a combination can not exist eather. Here is a list of these rules. Remember that at least one of these factors must be present for a combination to work.

1 Open, or weak, or Stalemated king.
2 Undefended pieces (not counting pawns)
3 Inadequately defended pieces.

In other words when you play, and you notice any of these factors, it is worth spending some time, to look out for a tactic. And if none of these things are present, it is most likely not worth spending so much time on that move, better save the time for more critical moment.



mightytiny 189 ( +1 | -1 )
Tactics used to be my weakness too - I always had at the very least least a decent grasp of strategy, and could acquire positional advantages, but when it came down to converting those advantages to wins by finding the winning tactics, that's where I fell short.

What I noticed also was that, due to my tactical weakness, I tended to prefer quiet openings that wouldn't be likely to explode into tactical fireworks. What I did was change my openings - I decided to seek out those very kinds of highly tactical games where I was unconfortable in. I also started playing lots of short time limit games (usually 10-20 minutes on the clock), which I used to hate, simply because my tactical weakness made me suck at it.

I lost a LOT of games at first, but it soon started to pay off - occasionally, my "cunning plans" worked, instead of sending me down in flames.

At the same time I studied some games of attacking players, to get a feel for the elements of attack and tactics they employed. I also bought a chessbase tactics training cd (standalone, you don't need to have chessbase to run it), and found that very useful.

After a while, forcing myself to play aggressively, I started to like it, and also started to develop some sort of tactics intuition - often when there was some sort of a winning tactic to be found in a position, I would would get a feeling that now I should be looking for tactics...

Nowadays I love to attack, and tactics is no longer a weakness for me, and I still feel I'm getting better at it. I do still have lots of room for improvement, that's for sure! :) So my recommendation would be to start playing opening lines that lead to games where tactics predominate, in addition to whatever puzzles you do and whatever books you decide to read - it may be a tough way to learn, but it's very effective, I've found.

hildanknight 55 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks everyone So far we have:
1. The Chess Doctor by Bruce Pandolfini
2. Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov.
3. Winning chess by irving Chernov and Fred Reinfeld
4. Winning Chess Tactics by Jeremy Silman and Yasser Seirwan (someone private messaged me)

I am an 1 e4 player, and tend to get into tactical positions and lose quickly. The Sicilian Grand Prix frequently occurs in my games because I don't have time to learn theory.

I hope the puzzles are not too difficult for average players and that they have reasonable practical value.
trond 38 ( +1 | -1 )
Take a look at .... -> dejascacchi.altervista.org

3400 problems for you to solve. Free of charge. The best way to master tactics is to solve many problems. Start with the easy ones, and go over them several times (at least two) before you move on to the next level.

Good luck.
Trond
atrifix 144 ( +1 | -1 )
It depends on what you specifically need to study: is it tactical vision or calculation (or, perhaps attitude)? Think Like a Grandmaster is a classic work, but it is concerned entirely with the art of calculation and has nothing to do with tactics.

The main thing that you should realize is that it's not what you study, but how you study it. Having the best chess books ever on your list won't improve your play if you don't study them well, whereas careful study of Reinfeld's 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate will go a long way to making you a master.

The best thing I can recommend to improve tactical vision (but not calculation!) is to solve puzzles. You should solve 1000 problems that will never appear in a game--because similar tactics WILL, even if the pieces are in different positions, or you don't notice them. But you should then solve them again, and again, until you can recognize the solution to a puzzle like you would recognize your own name. Solving puzzles will do more for your tactical vision than anything else. If you are struggling with the calculation of variations, however, tactical vision will not really help.

The best puzzle books IMO are Reinfeld's 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate, 1001 Winning Sacrifices and Combinations, the cd CT-ART 3.0, Lein's Sharpen Your Tactics, and Emms's The Ultimate Puzzle Book, listed roughly in ascending order of difficulty.
hildanknight 78 ( +1 | -1 )
I don't have that much time... to study intensively. An hour a week is as much as I can spare. That is why I want to learn tactics in easy-to-grasp rules which have high practical value. That way, when I am playing, I can "study" the rules, etc. that I have learnt.

My main problem is that I frequently leave pieces en prise, and when calculating a combination using "analyze the board", I seem to look at every line except the line my opponent plays!

Please remember that sometimes what is useful to a master would be useless to an amatuer. For example, giving me hundreds of puzzles from master games - will similar oppurtunities arise in amatuer games, giving the vastly different styles and opening reportoires of masters and amatuers?
thunker 44 ( +1 | -1 )
Interesting concept.... I don't have the time to study to become a quantum-physicist either. I want to understand everything in the universe, but I can only spend one hour per week to do it. Can anyone help me please? I don't want to have to learn how to solve differential equations, or even the basic physics of relativity..... I just want to know all the answers, please? <wink>
Learning anything "well" takes time and commitment.... Small effort, small gain.
hildanknight 104 ( +1 | -1 )
Again, wrong analogy... Think about opening study. Do you learn openings well by memorizing thousands of variations that will never crop up in practical play? No. Far better would be to learn the ideas behind an opening.

The same is true of tactics. There are surely some guidelines (like physics formulas) to follow, that I can learn and apply in my games. I want a book that teaches me these guidelines. I am really weak at tactics, so I would like a book that takes me to the lower intermediate or intermediate level (which I am at strategies). It's hopeless trying to jump from beginner to expert.

Just like there are strategical concepts and ideas, surely there are tactical concepts and ideas?

Let's just put it this way - give me something RELEVANT, that I can use in my own games. I'm trying to study smart, not hard, not swotting like crazy.

Few of us are willing to devote our life to chess. Life has so much to offer. I have schoolwork and plenty of other commitments. You probably have a life out there too.
danders 47 ( +1 | -1 )
Well... You have a pretty good list to start with. With your limited schedule, I'd suggest getting your hands on some of the suggested titles and spending your valuable time reading those rather than arguing in forums.

If these aren't to your liking, there's a good chance your local library or bookstore has some gems that perhaps no one has even told you about yet.

An hour a week! Oy!
ccmcacollister 92 ( +1 | -1 )
hmmm .... I tried to divide my study and play time about evenly. Wondering if your play must come out of that hour a week? (If not i'd suggest making 1/2 the play time you have into study time)
I spent a bit over 5000 hours of study to reach Expert. Then just studied endgames to make Master. (But dropping pieces precludes endgame survival ... so that won't do). Obviously, you do need to look at more Candidate Moves (ala Kotov); no strike that; just start looking at all the Correct Candidate Moves ... and blunders will immediately cease.
This is better than study, for you have only 52 hours per year for that. And while one might live to 114 or thereabouts, quality of play tends to begin deterioration after cessation of adolescence; and declines geometrically with increased proximity to sports cars, and cataclysmically upon marriage.
}8-)
mightytiny 222 ( +1 | -1 )
hildanknight - what helped me get rid of dropping pieces (or at least make such a thing exceedingly rare and unlikely!), was, I think, to a large part due to playing lots of games with tight time limits (10-20 minutes).

I know that people disagree whether playing blitz is good for your game or not, but I think that most would agree that at a stage when you still have problems with dropping pieces, AND you need to improve tactically, plenty of fast games would be very useful. That's because the first thing you learn playing fast games is to guard your pieces; experience with fast games gradually improves your skill to quickly look at the position and note all the unprotected and threatened pieces, untill you note such things almost unconsciously.

I do understand what you mean about tactical principles - and they are indeed important to learn. Given your limited time, I would suggest looking into software rather than books - at least I find software based teaching much faster and easier to follow. Chessbase has published several tactics teaching cd's, and I've personally found all chessbase cd's I've bought to be of high quality. I found one cd that, from the description, sounds exactly like the thing you'd need (though I have no direct experience with it, and base my recommendation rather on the quality I've come to expect of chessbase): -> uscfsales.com

I myself own this: -> www.chesscentral.com - and it too would do the job: it has collections of chess puzzles arranged by theme; so that all puzzles that can be solved using a certain tactical concept are grouped together. That way you can introduce yourself to various tactical "weapons", and practice using that weapon in a variety of positions. This will both give you the basic guidelines as to what kinds of tactical ideas there are, and practice in spotting the kinds of patterns of positions that might call for the use of a particular tactic.
hildanknight 109 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks a lot... I have about half an hour a day to play chess, mostly here on ChessColony, as well as an extra 2-3 hours every Wednesday at my school's chess team. I can put in one hour of study every weekend. Perhaps I should spend some of my 2-3 hours at my school's chess team studying games.

I will try to find some good sites to play Blitz chess. My computer has trouble downloading certain types of software, so I would like those where you can play straight from a browser once you have an account. Does ChessColony support Blitz chess?

I will look into the software you recommend. Please remember that many good chess players - including myself - come from problematic family backgrounds. I doubt I have the money to invest in software (after investing in the premium subscription) but I guess I can look for free ones or save up for the cheap ones.

Maybe one day I will post some of my games here with strategic and tactical analysis, and you can help me from there.
atrifix 106 ( +1 | -1 )
Well, again it is not really clear what you want--do you want to improve your chess or find the most enjoyable way to study? With only an hour a week, you may be better off just doing whatever you enjoy (reading, blitz, bughouse, whatever).

But again, it's not what you study, but how you study it that will improve your chess. And note that it is HOW you study, not how much you study. There is no book that will raise your playing strength by itself (trust me--I've read most of them).

The thing that will improve your chess the most, at least with respect to tactics and tactical vision (not putting pieces en prise, for example) is 1) playing experience and 2) solving puzzles. I can practically guarantee that it would be better for your chess in the long-term to solve 10 minutes of puzzles per day than to spend an hour a week reading Think Like a Grandmaster. But perhaps you find this unenjoyable. Then I guess you have to find some sort of balance.
futile 66 ( +1 | -1 )
There is a saying... ...from the military: "Amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics".

Sure you want to win the game using Tactic-X or System-Y or Book-Z, but how are you going to get into that position? What if your opponent takes you down an obscure line of a seldom seen opening?

Read any book you can, spend hours of study on openings and tactics, and solve tons of puzzles. They all help and contribute to your game, but take the time during play to fully evaluate each position and make a plan that is workable for your own level and style of play.

If you lose, learn why and remember it. If you win, learn why and remember that too.
misato 211 ( +1 | -1 )
absolute agreement, futile! I just want to add that "full evaluation of each position" (or at least: sufficient) is impossible if someone plays dozens of simultaneous games within their possible time (x hours/minutes per day).
I think that is what you mean with logistics (= time management?). 100 single games need 100 single moves, but you normally only can afford to calculate them to an average depth of 2-3 in an average time of 1-2 minutes. And I would get headaches after a short time.
If you play less games (in the moment I have two in the critical phase) you can afford a depth of 4-5, make notes, think it over again and have a fresh look at it the next day ...

This improves the game and your strength (both tactical and positional), the moves are more satisfactory, and you have thought about even more positions as the 100-games-player. And it avoids blunders like missing a mate-in-one (which I have seen recently in late round of a GK-tournament - it was not the casual section!).

But it all depends on what people basically want to when playing CC:
Improve their OTB-strength - you don't need tons of CC-games because it's a different game. In OTB you concentrate on a single game with 100%, no TV, no homework, no phone, no nothing, in CC you can take your time whenever you feel to. But you learn from a single and intensive CC-game a lot of estimation for OTB.

Learn about openings - great idea! Look into the books and try to understand the concepts for each White and Black. Then you can decide which is the best-fitting move for your personal style. Try to meet these concepts with the rest of your game and try to understand how to answer your opponent's out-of-book-moves. Or try out-of-book-moves yourself and wait for the answer! Again, impossible with tons of CC-games.

Simply have fun - that's hard to tell: For some players fun is depending on the number of games, for others the quality in a single game is important. Make your own choice in that case. If I want to play tons of games just for fun I attend an OTB-blitz tournament, although the results are absolutely terrible.
leo_london 8 ( +1 | -1 )
misato.. Excellent advice. I was going to post a few points...but you have covered everything.
i_play_slowly 72 ( +1 | -1 )
CT-Art 3.0 Solve at least one chess puzzle per day, as a way of taking a break from your more demanding tasks. Spending a few minutes per day on chess puzzles, rather than one hour per week, would perhaps be a more effective way of teaching (rewiring) the brain to think tactically.

Users seem to agree that CT-Art 3.0 is an excellent software program. It will offer you puzzles that match your rating (or any other rating you choose), and it will offer a succession of ever-stronger clues, if required, to help you solve each puzzle. The convenience of it's sitting right there on your desktop is an added plus, if you need to take a break from other computer-related tasks.
mattdw 2 ( +1 | -1 )
Do you know where can I get CT-Art 3.0 in the UK?
sahsakkchess 15 ( +1 | -1 )
London Chess Centre London Chess Centre
369 Euston Rd NW1,
Phone 0207 388 2404

-> www.chesscenter.com
ccmcacollister 20 ( +1 | -1 )
Atrifix Then again any "A" player can solve puzzles. Depends what he wants, as you said. If you want to be an A player, solve puzzles.
BTW, the book is not just aboubt calculation. So it appears you havent read it.
hildanknight 101 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks everyone To see my problem, look at my game against manhattan which I just completed. This follows the pattern of my "typical game": I come out of the opening with a strategically superior position (assuming I don't drop a piece by then - which happens in 10-20% of my games), then use a plan based on the imbalances to get a strategically won position (did you notice the passed pawn steamroller?) and then my opponent gets some counterplay and I face some tactical threats, then I quickly make a tactical blunder and throw the game away.
If not for my tactical blunders, I would probably have a 1800 rating by now. In at least half of my games, I reach strategically won positions by planning based on imbalances! However, I win less than 20% of them - largely due to tactical cracks.
The game also features a sacrifice of a minor piece for 2 pawns to get a passed pawn and strategic advantage. I have made such sacrifices several times in my games and would like to know the soundness of them as well.
Thanks a lot.
mbeaver 16 ( +1 | -1 )
i would recommend an improved thought process, go to www.chesscafe.com and check out the articles by dan heiseman under the novice nook section. all his previous articles are in the archives.
wschmidt 194 ( +1 | -1 )
hildanknight, Throughout your posts in this thread, you have made comments like:
*
a book "suggests that I study 1000 positions that will never appear in an actual game",
*
or "Most of the books out there teach tactics way out of my depth in a very boring way - sometimes even memorizing positions I will never get on the board!"
*
While I can't speak to what does or does not bore you, I will say that I've never seen a tactical book that suggests that you memorize positions. The purpose of doing a lot of tactical puzzles is to build up your ability to recognize patterns that occur in many different ways on the chess board.
*
For example, in the book mentioned above, "Winning Chess" Chernev and Reinfeld devote their first two chapters of puzzles on pins and forks, giving the reader an explanation of the basics and then many puzzles showing how they come up in typical chess situations. You're not supposed to "memorize" the positions, but work through them so you get a thorough understanding of the pattern. That will allow you to see such patterns in your own games with increasing frequency.
*
The point is, just being told about what a pin is or what a fork is along with a checklist saying "watch for pins and forks" doesn't doesn't accomplish what you need. You need to have seen enough examples to recognize when the "seeds of destruction" are there in your games. And the more examples you look at, the better you will be at seeing the possibilities in your games. I absolutely assure you, this system of pattern recognition works. I don't know of anyone who has methodically gone through a tactics puzzle book and hasn't improved his game.
*
There are lots of good books, programs and websites out there. I'd recommend starting small, maybe 200-300 puzzles, so you get a sense of accomplishment for working through a complete set. Good luck!
atrifix 116 ( +1 | -1 )
ccamcacollister Yes, I agree that JUST solving puzzles is not good and will probably only make you an A player at best. You will need a combination of factors, of which perhaps calculation is the most important, if you want to become a very strong player. But if you want to build on your tactical vision, I believe that it is the best exercise. Just IMO--you may have a different one.

And, of course, I have read Think Like a Grandmaster. Actually, I think that that book had more of an impact on my chess than any other that I have read. I just don't think that it's to be recommended to any chess player at any level for any specific reason. Although it's not entirely about calculation, I think it's safe to say that the large majority of the book does more for calculation than any otherfactor. I also think the book is a bit outdated in some areas (most famously, the "tree" of analysis), but still a great book. It has a special place in my heart.

And, as wschmidt indicated, the point of doing puzzles is not to "memorize positions", but to recognize patterns (ideally, at only a glance).
soikins 27 ( +1 | -1 )
Tactics training As a great tactics training tool I would suggest -> chess.emrald.net - trains you to see tactics at the first glance. You just have couple of seconds to find the correst move.
ionadowman 90 ( +1 | -1 )
Learning tactics (for hildanknight) There's been a lot of advice, much of it good, but possibly its value depends on how much you know already. Kotov's books 'Think like a GM' and 'Play like a GM' are in my view designed for more advanced players. Instead, get hold of a book, like Pandolfini's or Silman's, that begins with the elements, where they look at simple tactical ideas (pins, skewers, forks and double attacks, etc). For this kind of thing, and at this sort of level, you can't go past Danny King's 'How to Win at Chess: 10 Golden Rules to Follow' (Cadogan Chess). It includes examples to test yourself on. The book's front matter seems to indicate it is available in the US. Even if you discover you need something more advanced, it's a good place to start. You will soon get into the way of looking out for ways to administer tactical shots, and to scotch the enemy's plots and schemes...
Cheers,
Ion
i_play_slowly 4 ( +1 | -1 )
soikins Thanks for chessemrald.net--great find!