A.C.I.S. Tactics

I was inspired by Blunderprone’s recent post to mention something about tactical progress. In fact, this is how we used to do do it, our web-ring of chess; Blunderprone would post something and others would respond on their own blogs (rather than on Nigel Davies’ blog. hehe).

My ratings graph on ChessTempo is very interesting. I’ve at one time shot from 1300’s to near 2000 in an almost vertical line of ascent. Naturally, this reflected a time right after I had been studying tactics like crazy, a brief period of time.

Later, my tactical level regressed all the way down to 1600 in a very broad bell-curve like fashion, and then back up again as this feedback forced me to improve.

Stage 3 looks more like a plateau on the graph, with a very mini bell-curve within the plateau, more like a puddle in depth.

My rating on ChessTempo is currently 1781 and still improving, but it is a solid rating with a value that is dependable.

A problem the 7 circles, and Blunderprone mentions forgetting, but that’s just it, it’s meant for short-term results! MDLM was obviously interested in the “big money” tournaments from the start. He chose doing lots of tactics problems, which weren’t overly difficult in toughness. Clearly, this was designed for “peak performance” above “just being d*mned good” at solving all positions on the board which can be solved tactically.

As far as practice goes, I would discount using “emotions” when solving tactics over searching for the “move of most consequence” in a position. In a game, however, emotions come up big-time because chess is real, in the trenches, “are you feeling me?” kind of situations. Sometimes we are distracted by non-chess forces and must compensate OTB in a way which reflects the struggle going on in our lives, at that moment, as well.

The interesting thing about a 1780 rating on ChessTempo is that it sounds very “Bourgeoisie” in terms of strength, but it actually puts one in the top 15% in terms of chess-results ranking on the site. Still, a solid 1780 is better than a spiky-rating which bounces around a lot in predictability, IMHO, and incidentally that applies to any rating on that site. You don’t want your strength bouncing all over the place in real chess games or from round to round!


5 thoughts on “A.C.I.S. Tactics

  1. I disappeared… I had (still have) an emergency situation with my mom, she is in the hospital for almost a week. I am now in London, Ontario, 200 km from me, with her and hopefully bringing her back home today and then back to Toronto.
    I missed Monday’s game, played on Thursday with an expert, almost master and was very close to the draw, lost.
    I did some tactics in the past and didn’t see an improvement, but you probably have to do it for long time and try to see correlation between the practice and OTB.

  2. That’s sad about your mom, but wonderful of you to be there with her. I hope she recovers soon and makes it back home.

    It’s election day here, and most people know that it more or less doesn’t matter who wins.

    I see what you are saying about tactics, I probably should referred to it more as combinations. Most players see the tactics, but when I study tactics a lot I find the crowning combination at the end of a game which wins – that’s the big difference.

    If I go a long time without studying tactics, and I have, then the tactic I’ve always missed, no matter how simple, has been ‘removing the defender’, but that is also the most fundamental tactic used for building up combinations.

    Removing the defender is also the tactic which comes up the most, in games and on ChessTempo – a pin is not blam-blam mate, just a subcomponent of a bigger tactic. A pin, and interference are tactics you just start to see as a good player because you don’t forget them as much and tend to look for them frequently because they are “watch out” moves; even double-attacks are like that.

    Wait, when I don’t study tactics for a long time I don’t just miss removing the defender, I miss the fork itself, or that the opponent could just take something with check, or just miss a check, the blunder gets really basic.

  3. “I missed Monday’s game, played on Thursday with an expert, almost master and was very close to the draw, lost.”

    Hey, one game a week is still regular OTB practice – good for you! 😉

    I told my buddy Alex about you the other day, that you could make Expert by drawing Masters, and Master by drawing Grandmasters. hehe. Strong defensive technique.

    The only thing to watch out for against stronger players like this is that (and Paul A. does this to me a lot) they can challenge you to a drawish game, where you are the one to blink first and try to go for too much to avoid the draw. Really, they should be the ones to play for the win, but they will give you a position where it “looks safe” to go for more, all the while they know how to refute aggressive play after one loose move is played on the board.

    BTW, the tactics on ChessTempo are repeating now, I’ve seen almost of all of them before.

  4. I’m finding I have to go back to basics and re-learn it all over like a new comer.

    Doing the CT-ART cram x 7 is like a stoner inhaling fist fulls of jelly beans while watching mindless sit-coms, ( for me anyway… and I am a long way from those “stoner days”)

    What was missing in that cram session was taking the time to develop the inner narrative of recognizing the core combination. Creating my own interpretation of anastasia’s mate or the arabian mate for instance is more mindful than taking some other person’s interpretation. Doing the ” Find the tactic as quick as possible” method was not very beneficial for me in the long run.

    What I am doing now is review the basics and really trying to understand the basics so I can build on them to develop more complex sceanrios. I am reviewing some really good mentoring series on Chess.com on this as well as reviewing Dan Heisman’s ” seeds of tactical ideas” and using these ideas as I do exercises…SLOWLY.

  5. Funny that you mention pot, and now that it’s legal here in Colorado, I got an inadvertent whiff of second-hand pot smoke the other week and my chess headache (after three straight days of playing chess) went away in about two seconds – and it was a “two tylenol” headache.

    You say you forgot, I can top that. I’ve been going through all of the ChessTempo tactics which I’ve done before (once you do enough of them, it’s all repeats!), and I am doing worse the second time around!

    I’ve discovered that the most important thing with tactics is one’s physical fitness level. The other thing is that there was a greater margin of dumb-luck going on the first time around than I had imagined. The second time around I am seeing more, seeing threats I had missed the first time, but not choosing the best line or missing something deep or shallow into a line, whereas the first time around I may not have even seen the other line.

    I believe that pattern-recognition, in some hazy way, does work, but that memorization of tactics simply does not work (unless it’s a one-move threat). And some stuff really does have to be driven home with a sledgehammer, particularly for me attacking with ones’ queen.

    My rule of thumb is that making it to 1950 is about tactics, making it to Master is about endgames and making it to GM is about openings. This explains why kids can jump up to near Expert quickly, because they have the energy-level and can grow their brains on tactics (then all they need to do is apply that same analytical ability toward endgames, so that they can play it strong tactically even if not technically correct), and then kids have an empty brain to memorize openings with (as opposed to adults) so that making GM is easier for them too!

    Here is my advice for a tactical thought-process (as opposed to not having one). Look to see how you can further restrict any of your opponent’s pieces (particularly the king) to the point where they either become trapped, dead-wood (dead-wood will usually not only not defend your opponent’s pieces, but defend yours instead!), or free for the taking/mating.

    Of course, mixing this in with defense is where the sophistication, imagination, and analysis comes in, which is what makes tactics so taxing on the brain. Tactics is more of a performance than innate ability, which IMHO is where most people get it wrong. Obviously, studying tactics will improve one’s performance. Some may have an innate tactical style, but it only counts if the moves are strong and wins games.

    The comments to this one ChessTempo tactic says it all:

    Took me a while to finally look far enough ahead. I immediately considered ……….., which seemed to allow black to defend. Later I revisited and considered …. still didn’t think it’d work. I came back to it out of desperation and pushed even further ahead and realized it worked.
    Keep in mind that the side to play in this case was not losing, was White and a draw would have been the worst result out of this position, if played properly. But the person KNOWS there is a tactic, and so will look at it fohevuh just to find the cookie at the end of the trail. Great training if one wants to hone their calculation of deep lines skill, but quite unrealistic during a G/90 unless the line comes to you like a flash.

    I also like this comment regarding a different problem:
    personally i find this problem is not very fair. in the context of a real game where you sit from beginning to end, you know your gains or losses, you see thru all the exchanges. here, u are thrown right in the middle of an exchange.
    Precisely, which is why studying “tactics” is so draining, energy-wise. You are “arbitrating” the position in each problem, between the game of two other players, in the thick of it. The ultimate ego-trip for the kibitzer, but how many times as a kibitzer have you gotten a position wrong, and yet still wouldn’t make those mistakes if it was your game – probably quite often.

    BTW, this is also the reason the GM is better than the Expert, not because of tactics (an Expert, as I alluded to earlier, is already an Expert at tactics by definition), but because the GM calculates key lines more deeply than does an Expert.

    So, in summary, the correct thing would not be to say that “I am studying tactics” but rather “I am improving my calculation of forced lines”, which is short for saying “studying combinations.”

    BTW, I see Fischers’ big win as not only having extensive openings preparation, but also as having the most extensive, accurate post-mortem analysis. I know, it is just a game, which is why we hate to have to work at it as hard as Fischer did.

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