Improve Your Tactical Play 6

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Blow up your opponent's position tactically!

The calculation of variations


Initial candidate moves
Prioritising candidate moves
Spotting good candidates- what do we want to invest our time in?!
Beautiful combinations
Why computers are better tactically

Initial candidate moves

Brainstorming is a useful technique in the process of analysing the initial candidate moves in the position. It involves not rejecting moves because they appear very bad. Instead coldly and detachedly looking at all the possible moves in the current situation. By this process one can risk finding really creative looking moves that one would not normally consider!

As an example of this, take the Barnet front page 2nd week puzzle position below:-

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A seemingly insignificant "crazy move" to put in your candidate move list would be Qf6!........can you see the implications of this? :-)

Assuming the position is deserving enough of a systematic tactical analysis, and one has brainstormed many of the candidate moves available in the position, one needs to go about finding out which ones are worthy of pursuit.

Prioritising candidate moves

As human beings we need to prioritise the moves we look at because we cannot see millions of moves per second.
Moves which should be given priority in analysis of variations include :-

1) Moves which are forcing in nature , as there is less possibilities to examine for the opponent.
2) Moves which are clearly linked with strategic goals/ our plans in the position, e.g. creating a passed pawn, or removing a king's defender. These are "logical" tactics which help further the positional goals of the situation and help to implement one's overall game plan.

Given that the extent of a "brute force" approach is clearly limited by time constraints and other practical constraints, there is therefore a clear need for prioritising candidate moves.

Postal chess may facilitiate a much more detailed investigation of the candidate moves in a position. However in normal over the board play, a policy of filtering and prioritising after the initial round up of many candidate moves, and more fundamentally to play practical positional moves which are linked to your overall strategic game plan [yes- you should have one of those!] is usually the most practical, effective way of thinking within the constraints of tournament time limits.

Spotting good candidates- what do we want to invest our time in?!

The identification of tactical elements and combinational motifs should have emphasised the raison d'Ítre of potentially good combinative moves.

Candidate moves which seem to be logically related to for example exploiting pins or weaknesses around the opponent's king should be considered more carefully than other complete random moves which may have been initially thought of in the brainstorming process.

We have to use our experiences to guide prioritising moves. At the same time we should leave creative room for the parodoxial decision of trying to appreciate the significance of the seemingly insignificant.

Without leaving this creative room, we will always be restricted in the choice of our candidate moves by our experiences and the apparent "rules". If you want to be a good combinative player, you must be prepared to break all the "rules" of the game! Think about giving up a queen for a pawn! You may find it does something interesting like force a mate in 5! You may also get a brilliancy prize in your club's magazine!

One has to get an instinctive feel for the most favourable "insignificant" moves. They may for example be more strongly linked with strategic implications such as opening a file. In which case, their insignificance may only be superficial. They are simply in the realm of subtle resources which can turn the whole game to one's favour.

Beautiful combinations

In calculating variations, beautiful hidden tactical resources may be revealed. A special place is reserved for sacrificial combinations which may be revealed in analysis. However one should not go all out to find  a combination in every position.   Only if the position is ripe for it. Otherwise simply analyse the main variations which support your main game plan and make sure you stay alive tactically!

It is pointless waste of time looking for a combination if there does not exist one in the position. There needs to be jusification for looking for a combination. If we try and find a combination in every position, we will probably find really unexpected combinations in 5% of games, but be losing on time in 90% of games. Computers on the other hand being so fast, can be tactically turned on and analysing deeply every move.

Why computers are better tactically

In filtering/ prioritising out moves, in 1 case out of 10, or 1 case out of 100, the seemingly completely random move, may have been the most appropriate move in the position to play.

It is here humans will be losing ultimately to computers.
We have to use our judgement and experience to filter.

We therefore have to accept we are going to be weaker tactically than computers. We have to take what's useful from the way computers analyse! (and dont get into tactical positions against them :-) )

The tactical clues which help one find combinations also act as our blind-spot because in one respect they guide us towards finding a combination more quickly. However in guiding us, they prejudice us from systematically analysing the all the candidate moves in the position. Computers not being with this prejudice and guidance will simply use a brute force approach and look at moves which might not be at all considered by us mere humans.