BEWARE: this may change the entire trajectory of your chess career!
When you think about studying chess tactics—also known as chess puzzles—you may imagine a set of moves that transform some initial losing/neutral position to a significantly more winning one.
Though that is true, the reasons you should study them are not only to help you find those winning combinations of moves. In fact, thinking solely in that way will ruin your chess improvement and strategic thought by making you more prone to find “cheap tricks” to win.
In this article, we will share 10 of the most underrated reasons you should be studying your tactics.
Even though I mentioned that tactics generally take you from losing/neutral positions into winning ones, they can just as easily bring you from bad positions to neutral ones. When doing puzzles/tactics just for the thrill, you will almost always find yourself solving positions that don’t as easily come about in real games.
In reality, puzzles can occur all the time. However, because of how most chess players (of all backgrounds) choose to study tactics, their ability to find “little victories” like a space advantage or greater piece activity becomes weakened.
But by studying various kinds of tactics in all kinds of positions (in openings, middlegames, and endgames), you will be able to broaden your view of what a “tactic” really is!
When you learn to study tons of tactics the right way (Check out our new Tactics Course at the end of this article), you will automatically become a better defender.
It may seem unusual that you will get better at defense by studying offense. But, you should realize that the more you recognize patterns via puzzles/tactics, the more you will be able to prevent those tricks from occurring to you.
As an example, it’s always nice to sneakily checkmate your opponent with a queen and bishop. But, the more you see this kind of checkmate occurring, the more you will recognize holes in your own defense when similar situations arise against your position.
Like with all puzzle-types, the more you study them, the easier you will be able to prevent them from causing you to lose.
After studying hundreds if not thousands of tactics, you will begin to see how almost all of them occur because of two key factors:
By recognizing this, you will find which kinds of pieces are better suited to various situations. This can help you to then be more careful with how and where you place your pieces.
Going off of reason 3, you are more aware of your pieces and what squares they should be on given any initial position. Because of this, you will start to view these pieces and their “roles” in your game as dynamic, almost-living entities.
You probably have heard the common idea that “knights are better in closed positions and bishops are better in open positions.” Though this is generally correct, basing the flow of every game you play on these kinds of “universal ideas” will halt you from developing as a player.
Yes, you may want to choose to trade your knight for your opponent’s bishop if the position calls you to do so; however, through tactics training, you will see the true utility of your pieces in bringing about your goals.
This will guide you away from simplified ideas into a thinking pattern that adapts to every unique position that you will get! By understanding this idea, you will then become more confident and learn more from each game you play.
By “developing your own tactics,” we mean that, by doing tactics training, you will be able to create environments that are more conducive to tactical play. You will learn to synthesize your pieces in ways that can allow you to gain more and more “little victories” (space advantages as an example) that will lead to significant victories (piece captures and ultimately checkmate).
When you are in losing situations, you will also be more able to find ways to first get into a more neutral position. After some planning, you can learn to pick yourself up from mistakes/blunders rather than have your position slowly rot over time.
On the other hand, when you are already winning, you will be more prone to keep your advantages because the tactics you developed automatically created an outline for your plan of attack. By this, I mean that you will be less prone to losing your advantages when you already have a plan to continue with.
The value of your pieces is never static.
You may have learned that a queen is worth 9 points and a pawn is worth 1, but high-level chess games do not follow these rules. In fact, it’s why we even have pawn and piece sacrifices occurring. At the end of the day, the goal of chess is to checkmate, not accumulate arbitrary points.
Sure, it was a good idea to learn that a queen is significantly more valuable than a pawn at the start of your chess career. Now it’s time to morph that understanding into one that is true for all the games you’ve played and will play. That understanding comes through, amongst other methods of training, doing quality puzzles/tactics.
If you haven’t already realized from all of the previous reasons combined, becoming a better tactical player can lead you to become a better positional player (when done right).
After all, positional players play for the “little victories” that happen all of the time in real games. In reality, most higher-level games are won positionally, not tactically. However, learning tactics in the correct fashion transforms your thinking into one that is almost multi-dimensional.
You will begin to find greater value in understanding the dynamics of your pieces in various situations. As a whole, you will better appreciate the beauty there is to every single chess game!
Outside of the previously-mentioned concrete reasons, when doing tactics/puzzles, you will encounter numerous roadblocks in your ability to find solutions (whether big or small) in random positions presented to you.
Though sometimes it will be easy to spot the checkmate in 1, 2, 3, or 4, higher-level tactics training calls for you to understand and improve how you think. This process can be very demanding, but with the right attitude, you will see how relevant this can be in changing how you view chess positions in your own games.
Similar to reason 7, through the process of struggling to see every potential tactic, you will learn to be patient and become more organized in how you interpret every unique position.
Moreover, you will get less frustrated with complex positions that demand a lot of analysis. In my own experience, the best games that I won were games that I was noticeably more calm and willing to spend a decent amount of time understanding the position in front of me.
As mentioned, it’s always fun to get a quick win in chess. However, once you realize (either directly or indirectly) that most positions can’t be won by “quick wins” you will quickly lose interest in chess as a whole.
I have personally seen so many talented players, especially young ones, who “plateau” in their chess ability and tournament rating. From speaking with them and those around them, it always comes down to a lack of interest that usually spawns from this very important problem.
Chess can be a very elegant and stimulating game. But, when we limit our minds to what is and isn’t elegant/interesting, we lose control of our ability to improve. Because of that, doing tactics training in the healthiest way possible can define what kind of chess player you will be in the next month, year, or even decade!
We’ve just created a 15-day tactical Bootcamp designed to fill the gap in your tactical knowledge and train you to see winning tactics within seconds.
So don’t delay, relieve yourself of this weakness, and get your game back on track with IM Mat’s 15-day Bootcamp!