Chess is All Tactics

In my short chess career, chess has seemed like many things.

When I very first started, it felt like it was all about openings, if only I knew a good way to start the game, I could have an advantage that would culminate in a victory.

When I couldn’t win a game even if I was a piece up (still sometimes can’t!), chess felt like it was all about end games.

Then chess was all about not blundering pieces, if I could just avoid doing that, surely I could win.

Now chess is all about tactics. I think this one is here to stay for a while, perhaps to be replaced by positional play if I ever get that good. Everyone always says tactics make the difference between players for most of the ‘teens’ 1300-1900. It took me two and a half months to get from 1300-1400, but less than one month to get up to 1500. I think my tactics were improving the whole time, but eventually I stopped blundering pieces (now it’s much, much rarer!). It doesn’t seem like a 1300 player has tactics much worse than a 1400 player, but the 1300 player will occasionally just lose a piece for no reason.

Each phase had a sort of distinct learning curve for me, although tactics always played a big role:

And my actual rating:


April 30, 1025::850

May 31, 1056::1130

June 30, 1206::1114

July 31, 1268::1269

August 31, 1361::1293

September 30, 1328::1365

October 31, 1455:: 1445

At present, 1636::1565

I’ve done 2214 tactics on, passed a little over half, and spent 25 hours and 4 minutes on them (though sometimes I start a tactic on my phone then close it and forget and the clock keeps running, not sure if that is factored in).

It ties in nicely with the famous saying from Lasker:

Emanuel Lasker, World Champion from 1894 to 1921, asserts the following amount of time is required to educate a novice “to the level of one who, if conceded any odds, would surely come out the winner.”

  • Rules of Play and Exercises: 5 hours
  • Elementary Endings: 5 hours
  • Some Openings: 10 hours
  • Combination: 20 hours
  • Position Play: 40 hours
  • Play and Analysis: 120 hours

I definitely qualify for #1, #2, #3, #4 — I’m not sure exactly what #5 is, and am probably at least double the 120 hours of play and analysis.

It seems like 20 hours was some kind of very useful number, I noticed myself finding tactics much more easily and more accurately during games and during tactics training in the last few hundred tactics I’ve done.

The tactics training has translated directly to my game, I’m spotting potential tactics, prepping one tactic on one side of the board and another near another weakness, and when something opens up, I win a piece and usually the game.

There have been a few other big shifts I’ve noticed, with a special shoutout to the John Bartholomew youtube channel, but I’ll save those for another post.

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