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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tactics Don’t Just Happen…There’s a Reason for Them

     I keep running into forums posters who claim they work tactic problems over and over and some even have high scores on servers and spot them pretty quickly in books but when it comes to their own games it seems they are never able to pull them off. They seem not to know tactical situations don't arise from nowhere, not even in games by Morphy, Alekhine or Tahl. Tactics are created. Rudolf Spielmann once claimed he could see a combination as well as Alekhine, but he just couldn't get the positions Alekhine did!
     Also, some players seem to think you either play like those guys or you play like Botvinnik, Petrosian, Karpov or Ulf Andersson; for those that don’t remember him, old Ulf used to bore everybody to death with solid positional play, long, long endings (especially Rook endings) and a lot of draws against fellow grandmasters.
     One of the most interesting world championships matches I remember was Botvinnik vs. Tahl, the strategist against the tactician. It wasn’t really that way at all though…they hammered away at each other with every trick they could think of; Botvinnik played tactically and Tahl employed strategy and they both exhibited superb endgame ability.  “Style” is a matter of preference.
     You can make a gross oversight any time, like hanging a piece or overlooking a mate; those may come in a completely won position and I prefer to call taking advantage of those kinds of mistakes as "being alert to blunders," not strictly speaking, tactical play. Generally speaking though, positional play leads up to the tactics. I think just playing simple, solid moves and being careful not to make any gross blunders while waiting for your opponent to make one will probably get you to 1800 without much of a problem.
      My opponent in this game is apparently one of those fellows who tries to make tactics happen by just willy-nilly sacrificing stuff…in this case a N on f7…thinking he is playing tactically. Personally, I call it blundering with the hope that it works. Someone, Dan Heisman I think, called it "hope chess." You play a move and hope it works.
     So now, after I have harshly criticized his play, what about mine? There is a lesson here, too, about never relaxing until your opponent resigns. I gave him unwarranted chances with my 24th move when I relaxed too soon. Fortunately, my opponent wasn’t aware he still had a chance to cloud the issue by counterattacking. Instead he chose to react to threats that were real, but some distance away, when he scurried to the Q-side with his K instead for heading the other direction.

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