Improve Your Tactical Play 2

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Blow up your opponent's position tactically!

How important is tactical ability in chess?

Index

Improving results! - being able to finish off the opponent!
Tactical awareness in implementing positional plans
Being able to survive in tactical situations!
A results-focused path for improvement for the developing chess player

Improving results! - being able to finish off the opponent!

Positional play can bring excellent positions. It can be used to put the opponent under enormous pressure, reduce their counterplay, and generally put the opponent on the racks!

However to finish off the game usually requires a tactical blow which will convert the advantage in a technical way. The name given to a series of tactical moves which may involve a sacrifice is a combination.

For example if one has a passed pawn, there may be a tactical combination to forcefully queen it. If the opponents king safety is suspect, there may be a combination to checkmate. Tactical ability and the ability to spot combinations thus helps to convert positional advantages into more concrete gains.

Tactical awareness in implementing positional plans

Even strongly positional players should be aware of the tactical resources hidden in the position. Even if combinations are not played, it is very important to have tactical awareness when trying to carry out positional plans. Positional plans can fail tactically even though their concept is very good.

There are positional players at Barnet chess club (not mentioning names :-) ) that really know how to put their opponent under a lot of positional pressure! . If they improved their tactical awareness and still sticking to their fundamental plans, they would be even more effective players. They would not

Fall for silly tactical traps set by their opponent.
Beat around the bush excessively with positional play- when there is a clean kill tactically they can play that instead.

It is not enough to judge positions based on how good they look, and superficial judgements. Tactical variations provide reassuring evidence for one side being better or worse.

"Test your positional play" by Bellin and Ponzetti was an excellent book that incorporated an analysis of the tactical variations to give the reader bonus points when selecting the most appropriate positional plan. The practical problems associated with implementing a plan are emphasised in the form of tactical variations. This may radically effect the choice of plan altogether in some cases.

Being able to survive in tactical situations!

Positions can be broadly categorised as  "open", ie full of open lines and piece play as opposed to "closed", eg blocked and full of manoevering. In open positions, tactics can dominate completely, and the value of formulating positional plans is less because it is very important simply to calculate all the necessary variations to stay alive!

The positional player protagonist could argue that they play positional openings and stay well clear of tactical complications. However what if the opponent influenced the game tactically by playing gambits, etc ? The positional player needs to be tactically aware even if they do build their own infrastructure in terms of openings for example, for supporting their playing style.

A results-focused path for improvement for the developing chess player

A chess player should learn tactics before positional play, because winning will usually be as a result of tactics not positional play. In snooker the analogy would be being able to pot balls well. The more advanced snookering ability should be learnt after this, because without the former, one is never going to win, and there is really no point in the latter.

The more abstract elements of chess should be given to the developing player later after they have become more familiar with the basic arsenal of tactics. Winning games tactically is a good basis for greater sophistication in terms of developing positional play, and being able to outplay the opponent positionally, and accumulate small advantages.

Getting results is a always a good incentive for finding out more about chess!

Dramatic example

Most beginners would enjoy mating their opponent and gaining a victory with the following:-

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The game could have gone:-

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.Qh5 Nf6 4.Qxf7#

There are many implications of playing this game as a newcomer to chess which include:-

Chess games can produce results quickly!
Pieces can coordinate- in this example the bishop and queen have successfully coordinated.
The opponents king is a vulnerable piece!

Even though this game has broken principles it has taught about pieces and weaknesses. Scale this example up, and look at positional players in your club, which are losing tactically, and not seeing winning combinations. Combinative ability

Improves results

Gives one satisfaction in the beauty of chess

Teaches about direct piece play

Ensures that positional play learnt later will not be for its own sake! - see back to the point about being able to finish off the opponent

 

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