How to Improve at Tactics | Chess Middlegames

Get better at spotting and correctly solving tactics is key to chess mastery!

Tactics are dynamic opportunities which occur during the game, and they can lead to a better or even winning position!

Chess consists of strategy and tactics. Here is a video on creating strategic plans in the middlegame:

Tactics or combinations almost always require calculation to complete successfully. I didn’t go into too much detail in this video, but here is a video specifically on how to improve your chess calculation:

The best way to improve your tactical skills is to practice. There is no way around this part. Solve as many tactical problems as possible. This will make you sharper, better at calculation and better at spotting tactical opportunities during a real game.

Since there is a huge difference between looking at a chess book which says: “White to play and win.”, and sitting over the board where you have no idea there is a possibility for a tactic, I have written down several elements which might signify a presence of a combination:

– an unsafe or exposed king
– a harmonious constellation of your pieces around the opponent’s king
– your opponent’s undeveloped pieces or pieces on the opposite side of the board, away from the king
– a weak back rank and a king with no escape square
– open diagonals towards the opponent’s king
– pinned pieces
– a strong minor piece in your opponent’s position – most often a knight which can provide tremendous attacking support
– passed pawns on the 6th or 7th rank
– pieces fulfilling multiple roles – overworked pieces
– when you have a double check available
– when you have a move which makes two threats

To play a tactic successfully you have to spot it, but you also have to evaluate the end position of a tactic – what is it that you are getting in return for your sacrifice or attack? You have to evaluate the final position correctly. This can be achieved by practicing. Always do it without moving the pieces, like in a real game.

Common problems people have are forgetting that the piece they are counting on in their head was sacrificed already, or wasting too much time, or forgetting about one of the answers your opponent has. All of these problems could lead to losing positions, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for it if you see a tactical move! Practice will reduce the number of your mistakes. Play confidently and ferociously! If you think a sacrifice exists, play it! It’s good to be certain, of course, but more often than not it will be worth the risk. Good luck sacrificing those queens!

If you would like to support the channel and my quest to chess improvement, you can donate here:

Any support is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

#chess

148 Comments

  1. Finally! I saw all the chess middle game ideas series. 😀 Now I can become a pokemon grandmaster just by learning the openings

  2. Actually, at 11:24, Ne2 doesn't lose our knight as the queen can simply take that knight, and the bishop can't take back as it is pinned to the king. But besides that, a very helpful video!

  3. thanks man i like your videos i wish that u make an introdution and veriations of the petrov's defense

  4. Your passion for the game is really inspiring and each of your youtube videos is a gift, thank you!

  5. Great ! this explanations is what i needed. I like all of your video content. easy to remember and understand. We dont get such explanations on other channels.

  6. Gospodin mister hahaha keep good work. Samo nastavi

  7. First book I studied when I chose to be a professional Chess player was Susan Polgar's Tactics for Champions, this video would have been my 2nd choice 🙂 Nice job and ty again

  8. This is a relatively new YT channel but the content is exceptional. You have a wonderful method of teaching. Very smart. Thanks for the amount time and effort you put into your videos. Just by reading the comments you can tell how much people love it.

  9. I 've recently joined and enjoying your vvideos which are best . Thanking you.

  10. Amazing presentation! So helpful and clear. Thank you.

  11. Your way of explaination is awesome. I learned lot of concepts from your videos. I recommended your channel to my son and chess friends. They too appreciate your teaching skills.

  12. Your Page is amazing I'll work trough all the videos asap 🙂

  13. Your channel and content is very great! I have improved my level of chess by seeing your videos. Thank you very much :3 😉

  14. Beautiful video. Very informative. I believe your chess lessons are excellent.

  15. I'm pretty good with strategy and positional play, but tactics is, to me, what chess is about, and I need work on that. Thanks!

  16. 6) Removing the defender: When white Queen moves to D8 I would play black rook to take white knight in D6. If white Queen proceeds to take black rook in G8, I move black Queen to D7. Alternatively, if white Queen takes the black rook in D6, I move black Queen to E8. Is there another threat that I don't see in this line of defense for black? (I am truly an amateur)

  17. 26:55 after Nd6 Qxd6+ black king has the e4 square to escape, obviously is losing but not getting checkmated yet

  18. thanks coach..for teaching tactics…more power…

  19. Excellent demonstration, Thanks for keeping with the quality!

  20. people will stand in Queue to have you as their Chess Coach

  21. You are a genius!! The best youtuber of the world, thnx, gretings from Argentina

  22. I really needed this video. Thank you very much for creating it.

  23. In the first example, why can't the queen take the pawn at f5? His knight remains covered even if it doesn't defuse the attack.

  24. In the 12:31 position, is it check-mate after Rxf1, Kxf1 and Qh1+? The knight is defending the e2 square but it is still pinned.

  25. Hey Stjepan, great video as always. I found it extremely helpful. But as it happens with one take videos, there are some mix ups of the terminology or imprecise explanations. I'm sure you are aware of them, but I want to clear them up for beginners.

    1) at 3:40 it may sound like there are only forks with Knights, but as Stjepan then explains correctly, forks can happen with every piece, especially less valuable ones. Therefore, another typical fork is the pawn fork which can be especially devastating in the opening of beginner games. When you place your pieces on the same rank (especially the forth and the fifth) one file apart, you are often inviting a pawn fork, which can loose you the game immediately – so please look out for that.

    2) To differentiate the pin and the skewer more clearly: The idea behind both these motives is the same. You have a piece that moves and attacks in a line (Q,R,B) hitting two pieces of your opponent, while all these three pieces are in one line. The difference lays in the placement of the more valuable piece of your opponent. With a skewer you are hitting the more valuable piece directly (=it is the one you would capture, if it was you turn) and force it to move away. With a pin you hit the more valuable piece indirectly – the only thing stopping you from capturing it is the piece in between, which renders the latter immobile.
    However you have to be careful, as there are two types of pins: Absolute and relative. In an absolute pin, the more valuable piece is the king, so moving the less valuable piece would be illegal because it would result in a "self-check". In a relative pin, the more valuable piece is anything besides the king. Therefore, it may often be unwise to move the less valuable piece, but it is still possible. A great example of that is Legal's mate, where you sacrifice your Queen by moving your Knight out of the pin to checkmate the opponent. So do not relay on the fact that a piece is relatively pinned, when you calculate.

    3) Deflection, Removing the Defender, Blockade: Those terms got a bit mixed up so here are some short definitions first:
    – The aim of a Deflection is to make your opponent move an important defender away from the defense, often by use of a sacrifice.
    – Removing the defender in contrast means that you capture the defender, again usually by giving up material.
    – A blockade means that you move one of your pieces between the defender and the piece (or square) he is defending, by this nullifying his influence. This also often comes with a sacrifice.

    In the video, Stjepan often used "remove the defender" in a broader sense of "moving it out of position", so here is a quick overview of which tactical motive he actually meant, with some further explanations:
    – Following 10:42 it is a deflection, as Stjepan said.
    – Following 12:36 the tactical motive is even more ingenious than the simple "removing the defender" make it seem like. You are actually trying to deflect the rook by threatening to remove the defender of a mate in 1 (Nf7#), a capture that would also threaten another mate in 1 (Qg7#). After Rc8, QxR8 is actually a case of removing the defender which in turn renews the threat of both a deflection and removing the defender. If you are a total beginner and this sounds way to complicated to you, train like Stjepan explained, come back in 6 months and you will probably be able to enjoy the sheer beauty of this position!
    – Following 22:40: Rc8 is a typical pattern of a deflection/decoy to ensure pawn promotion, but after Rxc8 Qe7 is NOT removing the defender (in the narrow sense of the tactical motive), but a blockade. You're blocking the black queens access to the important squares on the back rank, thereby, threatening some mating ideas. And there is another side to the move: If the black queen captures on e7 then motive turns into a deflection, because now dxc8Q is mate in 1. The black queen can block, and after the white queen captures it's mate.

    This example also shows another important point: Tactics are not only focused on pieces, they can also include squares. For instance: If in the example for the discovered attack there would be no black knight on d5, the white knight would have been pinned: If it moved, black would either play Qg2# or Qh1#. Hence, the white knight would be pinned to those to squares.
    Also you should be aware that – as Stjepan greatly has shown with these amazing examples – tactics work together. Yes, there are "one move tactics" where you only have to find a fork and basically win the game, but there are also situations, where you have to force your opponent to allow you one tactic by using another one. For instance you may need to give up a rook for a knight, but thereby you'll remove the last defender of a square where your knight can in turn come in and fork the King and the Queen.

    With that all said, I really have to thank you again, Stjepan. This was an amazing and very instructive video and I can't tell what I enjoyed more: The absolutely wonderful examples you picked or your apparent joy over those examples. One can really sea and sense how much you love chess! Keep up the great work and all the best on your road to the GM Title!

  26. Yeah your channel is very good….. It made me improve so much

  27. Such an excellent, well explained tutorial… thx much !!!

  28. Great channel and video. But I'm confused at 18:30. Rxf7 is not a check. The king doesn't have to move. Oh, got it. You're starting with Qf8+. That wasn't clear initially.

  29. Here I improving my english skills and my chess too

  30. Very interesting video. One thing that puzzles me as beginner – when I do tactical puzzle from the book over the board, I don't often know what would be best opponent response. In online puzzles computer always chooses the best move. How to figure out best opponent response when I am using the book?

  31. great video. the volume of sound is very low!

  32. For 7) quiet move, an even better tactic would be Rf6 and if his knight dares to take then you can take back with your knight and easily find checkmate.

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