Tuesday, November 21, 2006
A Discussion About Tactics
Let me continue my desertion about chess tactics. I'll start by giving this comment that the good J'adoube left us.

J'adoube's Law of Tactics:
Good positional play yields good tactical opportunities.

I will not contest this law. I however think this is incomplete (sorry J'adoube). I have written about it before, and it bears repeating again - Sometimes, at least in my case, the final result of good positional play is a slightly better endgame. Sometimes, its just some other positional gain like a better pawn structure. Sometimes you play good positional chess and tactics does not appear.

I admit that good positional play is required, but I cannot accept that it is the only requirement. Allow me to quote from GM Yermolinski

"The good old self-comforting thought, 'I did everything right positionally, so the tactics favor me' doesn't always ring true. Believe me, I know. I used to say this every time...but not any more...we should learn to accept the fact that the combinational style has the same right to exist as the positional approach."

I think is more in-line with my own experience. Look, I've studied books about positional play, ("Simple Chess" is the only book I took with me here in japan. Orphaning all the others) and I try to use what I learned - but when I play, I try really really hard to generate tactical melees. I try, but it does not happen. The positions does not come. Or it does not come too often for my taste.

You say to me, we don't always get what we want and that we have to play the position given us. I say yes - but isn't it also true that looking at games by Tal, Shirov, Nezhmetdinov, et. al, you will find that in most of their games, these very same tactical battles appear constantly. Not every game, but often enough to make it noticeable. Or would you have me believe that their reputations as tactical players are over-rated? That they are after all, disciples of Petrosian?

No, i say they gained that reputation because the games they played bear witness to what they are.

In a way, i find it strangely easier to try and play like a positional grandmaster. A very pale reflection to be sure, but I at least can try to emulate them. You strive to play like Capablanca, so you try to gain space. You try to play like Nimzowitch so you try to overprotect. But try playing like Nezhmetdinov, and what do you do? - As I've said, the tactical positions does not come. I can try to play aggressive sure, but to confuse aggressiveness with sound tactical play is folly. The only thing gained by unfounded aggressiveness is sorrow and defeat.

But i think I may need to explain why I'm going down this road. Why the obsession with tactical play.

It would be my next topic.
posted by Nezha at 8:39 PM | Permalink |


  • At 4:43 AM, Blogger bahus

    Good post & glad to see you enjoying chess again!

    I happened to find Michael Stean's Simple Chess few weeks ago and it looks a lot like the best book on basic strategy that I've seen.

    - bahus

  • At 7:48 AM, Blogger takchess

    I enjoy these discussions. I find this idea appealing: The chess struggle is not just a battle between two players but a battle of ideas. That at some point tactical, positional, strategic ideas all test themselves over the chessboard to prove who is right at least for a moment in a game. This is far more appealing than two people playing book moves 20 deep since that what the computer has told them to do. I am interested in what ideas you have come up with

  • At 10:15 AM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight

    Good stuff. It makes sense. I wonder what the average attacking GM would say (e.g., Christiansen).