Solving Tactics Guide
The aim of this guide is to offer some helpful tips and instructions when it comes to working on your tactical ability.
IN SHORT, GETTING BETTER AT TACTICS IS ALL ABOUT:
1. Learning new tactical themes (pattern recognition)
2. Practice (tactics/calculation training)
There are many websites/apps to find good tactical problems. Our suggestions include:
- ChessKing Apps (Apple/Android):
Elementary Chess Tactics I (0-1200)
Elementary Chess Tactics II (0-1200)
There are also lots of good puzzle books/Chessable courses. Some of our favorites include:
- Ivashchenko: Manual of Chess Combinations Vol. 1 (800-1200) - Chessable: Common Chess Patterns (1000-1400) - Seirawan: Winning Chess Tactics (1200-1400) - Ivashchenko: Manual of Chess Combinations - Vol. 1b (1200-1600) - Chessable: Checkmate Patterns Manual (1200-1800) - Weteschnik: Chess Tactics From Scratch (1500-1800) - Ivashchenko: Manual of Chess Combinations Vol. 2 (1600-1800) - Smith/Tikkanen: The Woodpecker Method (1800-2200) - Mazja: Manual of Chess Combinations Vol. 3 (2000-2200) - Volokitin/Grabinsky: Perfect Your Chess (2200+) - Jansa/Hort: The Best Move (2200+) - Aagaard: Grandmaster Preparation Series (2200+) *bolded books are official recommendations in the program
Tips for solving tactics:
Don’t guess! You should be reasonably confident of your solution before inputting a move/checking the solution. If it feels like you’re missing something, you probably are! Stop and look for more alternatives for both sides.
Spend ample time on each problem. For easier problems, use between 30 seconds – 3 minutes before checking the solution. For more challenging problems, spend 3-5 minutes before reviewing the answer. As you get more advanced, you should be able to spend more and more time (up to 20-30 minutes) working on an individual problem.
Always review the solution. Even if you got the problem right, there may be relevant details/variations that you missed, which would be worth playing through.
Try to learn from every problem. The goal is not to solve everything 100% correctly, but rather to takeaway as much as you can from the process. If you miss a problem, try to understand what caused you to get it wrong: is it a theme you’ve never seen before, or did you miscalculate a key variation?
All of the previous tips apply for regular puzzle books, online tactics trainers, and Puzzle Rush Survival Mode.
For timed Puzzle Rush (3-min/5-min), here are some additional tips to maximize long-term improvement:
- Don’t rush! Focus on accuracy rather than speed. - Don’t input a move unless you are sure it’s correct. This means no “half-guesses” - Try to go the full 5 minutes without making 3 mistakes. - If you see two possible solutions, make sure to check both carefully. Online trainers are designed to have one correct solution. - After each run, make sure to review the problems you got wrong. Don’t just quickly start the next run like some kind of puzzle addict. - Don’t aim to set your high score each time. Rather aim for consistent runs with as few mistakes as possible.
Tactics - chess puzzles with a clear theme and one main solution. The objective is usually to find either a gain of material or a direct checkmate.
Combination - Advanced chess puzzle that combines multiple tactical themes.
Calculation - The technique/skill of identifying good moves in a position for both sides -- the difference between tactics and calculation is that most tactics puzzles are going to have a clear solution, while calculation is more about being able to analyze a position objectively but without the guarantee of there being a clear best move.
Visualization - The skill of being able to hold and remember chess positions in your head
Should I solve puzzles based on custom theme, or random?
- It can be very helpful to solve puzzles based on theme to help boost pattern recognition. It is also useful to incorporate “random” puzzles so that you don’t know what you’re looking for ahead of time.