Thoughts on the Classification of Chess Tactics

I have had a couple people send me e-mails, and talk about the idea about organizing tactics.

I never really got too into trying to organize them myself.  It seems like whenever humans try to organize things, there are always “corner cases” that don’t really fit it:

  • is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
  • Is Chess a game or a sport?
  • etc. 

Then people get into arguments about which category something belongs in, when the categories are just man made, mental map constructs in the first place. So I try to stay out of that kind of stuff :-)

Most Tactics Involve some sort of Double Attack

The main thing I have learned is that almost every tactic involves some sort of double threat.

For example – white is threatening to do two things to black at one time.  For example:

  • check the king
  • attack the undefended rook on a8

and black can only respond to one of them at a time, so therefore white will get some sort of advantage.  Probably the main exceptions to this generality are mating nets, and trapped pieces.

Sometimes the tactics have more than one threat/motif as well.  So for example, white has a move with the queen that:

  • threatens a 4 move smothered mate combo on the next move
  • threatens to trap a knight on the rim on the next move.

Black cannot respond to both threats, but the move itself didn’t really do either one, just threatened to do both. So it is a

  • smothered mate tactic?
  • Or a trapped piece tactic?
  • Or a double attack tactic?
  • All of the above?
  • etc.

So I pretty much just try to focus on “White to play and win” type tactics, where there is a clear best move(s), and the gain is at least a pawn of compensation :-)

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One thought on “Thoughts on the Classification of Chess Tactics

  1. I am a chess instructor in Michigan. I have put all of my lessons into a new book, entitled, “TOTAL CHESS: Learn, Teach and Play the Easy 1-2-3 Way.” I categorize all chess tactics into eight related groups of three. You can view my classification system in the table of contents of my book through To get more details on these tactics and all of the 1-2-3 strategies, you will have to read the book.

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