Tactics are perhaps the most essential part of chess. When beginners ask how they can get better at chess, almost every coach and player in the world will tell them, “tactics, tactics, tactics!” – and for good reason.
If you really want to improve your play, you need to work on your tactical abilities constantly. Truth is, most games between players rated below 2200 Elo are decided by tactics. Mastering them helps you at any stage of the game – from the opening to the endgame.
You can play a wonderful positional game, completely outplay your opponent, but ruin all your efforts with one tactical blunder. Every aspiring player must develop a good sense for tactical opportunities.
In this video, an exclusive free preview of his new Master Method training course, IM Robert Ris teaches you that one key aspect of improving your tactical abilities is to understand the thinking process involved in discovering tactical opportunities in the first place.
After all, you can’t play a winning tactic if you weren’t aware of the fact there might be a tactical opportunity in the position in the first place. Chess players often miss tactical opportunities because they think a certain position is positional in nature and is unlikely to hold hidden tactical resources. Always be alert and consider tactical ideas!
Become a Tactical Monster
There are certain ‘clues’ or warning signs which make it more likely that there is a tactical opportunity in the position. One of these warning signs is the presence of unprotected pieces. GM John Nunn coined the phrase “loose pieces drop off” (often referred to as LPDO) to remind players that an unprotected/loose piece is a serious weakness. There are many situations where we can combine threats to take advantage of loose pieces.
Let’s look at the position on the left and apply this concept. What could White play here? Well, the first thing that stands out is that White could win a pawn if he wanted. There are four pieces attacking the d4 pawn – two knights, the bishop on b2 and the queen.
But it is important that we don’t only look at one possibility. Try to determine all the aspects of a position. Let’s look at the protected and unprotected pieces.
The bishop on c5 is protected by the knight on e4, but the knight itself is not protected! We should look for ways to challenge this knight. If the knight moved away, the c5 bishop would be hanging.
How can we achieve this? It’s time for some calculation. We can start with the move 1. Qc2. It’s a logical-looking move, attacking the knight. Black could respond with 1…Bf5, developing a piece and defending the knight, as well as indirectly attacking the White queen. White has the move 2. Nxc5 and now the bishop is unprotected, meaning Black can nt play …Nxc5 in return.
Other options? Black could play the much better move 1…f4, effectively defending the knight. This response rules out Qc2. But that doesn’t mean the idea is bad. Don’t give up on an idea so soon. Is there another way to achieve the goal of attacking the knight?
We see the b2 bishop is already perfectly poised to do just that. It indirectly attacks the knight on e4. All it takes is to remove the knight on f3 that blocks its path. Hence, 1. Ne1. Not Nd2 of course, as that would allow Black to trade the pieces.
If Black responds with 1…Bf5, then 2. Bxe4 Bxe4 3. Nxc5 picks up a piece. In the game, Black played 1…Nd6, retreating the knight. 2. Nxc5 Nxc4 gets Black 2 pawns for the piece, but after 3. Qc2, Black’s pieces are not well coordinated, and White is in control. The moral of the story? Always look at protected and unprotected pieces!
Practical Chess Improvement for the Aspiring Club Player
In the full 15 hour Master Method, IM Ris focuses on the 4 key areas you need to work on to become a strong player: becoming a tactical monster, improving your positional play, mastering material imbalances and learning the essential endgame techniques.
If you’re a club player who aspires to greater things, to take your chess to that next level, study these areas with IM Ris and you will be able to play powerful chess in any type of position. Click here to get instant access to The Robert Ris Method, with 35% off.