Flashy Moves, Windmills and My Main Problem with Chess Tactics

I got some interesting e-mails lately from some of my newsletter readers. Instead of copy and pasting the whole e-mails and my responses, here are some of the snippets that you might find interesting…

  • Regarding the classification of chess tactics, I pointed one reader at the wikipedia page which lists all of the pages in the category of chess tactics.

It is a pretty interesting list.

Some of the things are debatable if they are true “chess tactics” or not, but they are all valuable chess ideas that you should be familiar with.

Like I said before, I don’t spend much time or energy trying to classify tactics.

I can haz chekmate?

I think that you can always categorize the tactics at higher or lower levels.

Kind of like a cat is in the animal kingdom, mammal class, feline species, etc.

So overload, fork, skewer might be the species, but “double attack” is the class.

Joel Johnson in his book Formation Attacks broke them down based on pawn structures.

There are lots of ways to do it I imagine.

Most tactics boil down to “play the best move”

  • Regarding chess tactics problems, and the main problem I have with a lot of tactics books, and tactics collections:

They have tons of “flashy” moves, where one side sacrifices his queen, or lots of double discovered attacks, smothered mates, etc.

The main problem with these is that, although they are cool, they don’t happen very often in real games.

Windmills are fun, but chess isn't an NBA slam dunk competition

The “Windmill” for example, is a very fun chess tactic, and I hope everyone gets to play one at some point in their chess career, but they are very rare, so it is not really valuable to have a bunch of chess tactics problems with this motif.

The same is true of Queen sacrifices, smothered mates, etc.

I try to have a lot of “real” positions, even if they tend to be kind of boring, and repetitive.

The Flashy tactics reminds me of the first time I went to an NBA game. I had never sat and watched an NBA game before, only highlights on TV.

So I was expecting all kinds of cool windmill dunks, spread eagles, behind the back passes, and stuff you see on Sports Center. In reality maybe one or two of those things happen in a game, and the other 60 minutes is just normal fundamentals. Kind of like chess, lol :-)

I do tactics on chess.com sometimes, and it is cool, because people can leave comments.

One of the running jokes is “When in doubt, sac your queen”. This can create a lot of lazy thinking when solving problems, because they have too many cool queen sac problems, that in real games maybe happens 1 in 10000 moves or even less.

My recommendation would be to find a set of tactics that mostly focuses on positions from real games, to get the most “bang for your buck”, when it comes to study.

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