Sunday, November 19, 2006
Where does tactics come from?
It happens that sometimes the opponent is stupid enough to walk into a pin, a fork, or a skewer. However, sometimes he is not so stupid. During this case, we are faced with the question asked by those whose followed forrest gump at the end of his running journey: "now what do we do?"

So from here my question starts. Given an opponent, well versed in tactical maneuvers - so proficient that he will not make such mistakes, nor even fall for simple traps, is there a way in which we can still victimize the opponent with the very same pin, fork and skewer? How can we victimize the un-victimizable so to speak.

You ask me if this is even possible, but grandmasters are supposed to possess very deep levels of tactical awareness. Some more than others, sure. But possess them they do - But despite this, they still fall for tactics as any number of Shirov games can attest to.

In order to discover this secret, We will begin by trying to understand the answer to a very basic question: Where do tactics come from? We will start by examining one of chess's oft-used dictum:

Tactics flow from a superior position

This is one of the most chessplayer's favorite maxim. That tactics flow from a superior position. The unvoiced implication of this is that instead of playing for tactics, you seek to accumulate small positional advantages. An outpost there, control of the files, the diagonals. Little by little you accumulate these things, and lo! - a time will come when your positional superiority is so great that "a combination must exists, however deeply hidden". A very tempting thought and very logical too. But it just so happens that I observed a curious thing in my games, and the games of others. Namely, sometimes a game would proceed where the pieces are just gradually exchanged resulting in a favorable endgame. Perhaps, the opponent was saddled with doubled pawns, or you manage to gain the queen-side pawn majority. An advantage to be sure, but it should be asked, what happened to the tactics? If tactics is the natural result of positional superiority, then how to explain those times when a positional superiority begot not tactics but more positional superiority?

Also, what if you dont gain the aforementioned "superiority"? What if the opponent was able to preserve the balance? let me ask again, but a little differently - if tactics flow from a superior position - will it follow that tactics does not flow from balanced position? I find this highly doubtfull.

(As a sidenote: I have been able to gain very large positional advantages only rarely. Most of the time, my lead is so slight it can hardly called an advantage at all. Perhaps fritz will spew such numbers as 1.03+. But being ahead a theoretical number of pawns has almost no meaning to me as I can recall from bitter experience.)

So - from the arguments above, I think things are not so clear as one is lead to believe. But - clearly there must be something more going on here - At this point, my pet theory is that perhaps not all superior positions are conducive to tactics? Perhaps tactics flow from "some" positions. I think this is closer to the truth. But what are those positions? How can be bring them about?

As it is already nearing 1am in the morning, I am forced to temporarily stop my ramblings here. I want to ponder on this a little bit more (But please, share your thoughts.)

Tactics flow from certain types of positions?
(nezha's corollary)
posted by Nezha at 6:00 AM | Permalink |


  • At 7:46 PM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight

    Perhaps more open positions?

  • At 4:11 AM, Blogger takchess

    how about this wins come from winning positions. I need to think about this and will post a less frivolous answer when i have time.

    Nice to see you back. still playing the guitar?

  • At 6:28 AM, Blogger Temposchlucker

    I'm inclined to think that people are as clever tactically as I am. If so, they will be able to avoid every trap I lay for them. Unless the position doesn't allow so.

    What in a position makes that a tactic can't be answered? That has to do with the statistics of the position. Especially SPACE. If you attack a piece, it will be just moving away. UNLESS your opponent's piece hasn't enough space to do so.
    Another tactical try is to attack two pieces at the same time. Again, with enough space that can be solved often.

    Pawns are the tools to conquer space and to keep hostile pieces out.

  • At 6:36 AM, Blogger Fierabras

    I agree with Blue Devil Knight. Open positions are more likely to lead to tactical opportunities. With white I open 1.e4 and like to castle opposite to black. As black I play Sicilian, which is also rich in tactical opportunities. As I am not that good in the so-called quiet positions, I created a (basic) opening repertoire where chance of tactics is high.

  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger takchess

    This is a very interesting question. There are people a simalar question how do I create positions that remove my opponents ability to create tactical advantage. Any lasting decisive tactical or positional advantage must may be said to come from some mistake made in a move or a number of moves. I say this since chess is a theoretical draw. Perhaps that mistake is trying to win the game too agressively when only a draw is available. Then again who wants to play lifeless chess. Perhaps , Tactical errors by our opponents are created in positions which allow our opponents to make the most mistakes but is a well worn path for us.
    I am interested in yours and others thoughts.

    As for tactical wins, I imagine there are 10 boring wins for every tactical win that Shirov has.

    even Shirov falls for tactics.

  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger Jim

    Hi Nez.

    Sometime ago I posted J'adoube's Law of Tactics:

    Good positional play yields good tactical opportunities.