Wednesday, February 22, 2006

When should you look for tactics?

Dan Heisman's article The Seeds of Tactical Destruction is good stuff. All of the following is directly from the article, though I have modified the grammar a bit to make things more clear. If anyone can think of any other Seeds, let us patzers know!

When solving tactical problems, each one has a solution, so the question, "Are there tactics here worth trying to find?" is moot. When you analyze a position during a game, do there exist features of the position that, when present, suggest you should spend time looking for a tactical combination and, when absent, suggest that such a search is likely a waste of time? So the problem becomes, what factors tell you, "Hey, spend some time; it might be worth it?" I call these factors The Seeds of Tactical Destruction.

Note that they are seeds, not the destruction itself. Just because a factor exists does not necessarily mean that you can take advantage of it. But if the factor(s) do not exist, then there is almost never anything on which you can base a combination, so the existence of a tactic is very unlikely.

Among the more common seeds of tactical destruction are:
  • Loose (unguarded) pieces -- "Loose Pieces Drop Off" = LPDO
  • Pieces that can easily be attacked by enemy pieces of less value.
  • One or more pieces that can be attacked via a discovered attack.
  • Weak back rank.
  • Pinned or skewerable pieces along the same rank, file, or diagonal.
  • Pieces (or squares) vulnerable to knight forks.
  • Overworked pieces (pieces guarding more than one piece or square).
  • Inadequately guarded pieces.
  • Falling way behind in development (overwhelming opponent forces).
  • Pawns nearing promotion.
  • King uncastled or lost pawn protection with queens on the board.
  • Open enemy lines for rooks, queens, and bishops to the king.
  • Pieces that have little mobility and might easily be trapped.
  • A large domination of one side's forces in one area of the board.
  • Threats that can be met in only one (or very few) ways.

5 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

Max Euwe wrote that players like Tal & David Bronstein stand out because they look for tactics at _every_ move. Euwe's opinion was that "boring" players like Smyslov or Karpov could find such tactics, but they decided to preserve their energy. Euwe believes this (economy of energy) is why Tal and Bronstein peaked in a flash and never reached the top 5 again, while Karpov was champion for a decade and Smyslov narrowly lost a candidates match even 30 years after he was world champion. Smyslov's opponent? Kaspy.

2/22/2006 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger psalcido said...

I absolutely agree. In games where I look for tactics in every move, I can generally win against much stronger opponents (~1800 or so), when, in all honesty, I'm probably around 1200 in reality. The problem is that when I do look hard for tactics at every move, I run out of energy quickly, and often find myself completely unable to compete in following games. However, when I don't do it, I really suck.

Tough thing to balance.

2/23/2006 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger funkyfantom said...

Dan Heisman says - always look for captures, checks and threats for both you and your opponent first.

After this, you can start looking at more strategic moves.

2/23/2006 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger King of the Spill said...

Great list, quite comprehensive.

2/24/2006 01:36:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

When my scar is itching:)

2/24/2006 03:20:00 AM  

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