30 July 2012

Failing at Tactics

Pattern recognition in attack proves insufficient when one's own king is vulnerable. Two weeks ago, I observed my own failure to check the security of my king as the cause of failing a tactics problem. I failed Chess Tempo problem 63593 this morning for the same reason.

White to move

The first move was easy, but I played the wrong second move because I missed 2...Rxb2+ and 3...Qd2+ with checkmate to follow. My own checkmate threat was parried by a more immediate threat against my own king.

On the previous problem (CT 43197), I observed the vulnerability of my own king, but missed a simple defense of the critical d1 square and made an empty threat that I knew offered no advantage by swinging my rook to e1.

White to move

Both problems seem simple in retrospect. Why did I fail? How do I find the patterns in my errors and create exercises to address them?


  1. Hi James,

    Excellent post.

    I tend to have the same type of issue. I think the pattern might be in a chess process that is more concentrated on fulfilling your plan than restricting your opponents.

    This process works well in games 15 min or less but might be detrimental in longer.

    I don't know about specific exercises to help but I've found that going over in detail some of Petrosian's games from the 40's where he was very much concentrated on making sure his opponent didn't get much is useful. One intersting game that I had specifically noted was Kasparian-Petrosian 1946 with 20...Qd5 21. Qd1 g6 etc.

    I don't know for sure but I'm guessing Karpov was very much interested and influenced by these Petrosian games.

  2. For the 1st exercise, I think it's a typical case of back to the basics, ie. "what can my opponent do ?"

    During regular OTB games, we're usually very aware of our opponents threats, but when solving puzzles, we tend to forget counterplay as we have the initiative.

    The 2nd puzzle is trickier : it's more about prophylactic thinking - prevention, but once again, the first question is "what can my opponent do ?"