5 Grandmaster Tips To Improve Your Tactics

Do you find yourself getting a good position only to spoil it by missing a simple tactic?  How about getting a promising attack but failing to find a forced mate or win of material? Here are five simple tips will help to sharpen your tactical eye.

Tip #1:  Look for forced moves first!

What is a forced move?  It could be a check, a capture, or an attack of the enemy piece.  Basically, a move that forces your opponent's response.  

Tip #2:  Look for sacrifices!

Sacrifice is a great example of a forced move.  For many GMs, the sacrifice is so essential we don't even think about it.  Remember Bobby Fischer's quote about attacking the Sicilian Dragon on the h-file: "sac, sac, mate!"  

Tip #3:  Look for common tactical motifs!

Almost all tactics are made up of basic patterns or motifs.  For GMs, these motifs become second-nature after solving thousands of puzzles when we were kids.  Some of the most common tactical motifs are:

  • Pin
  • Fork
  • Back Rank
  • Skewer
  • Double Attack
  • Discovered Check
  • Removing the Guard
  • Interference
  • In-Between-Move (also known as zwischenzug or intermezzo)

    Tip #4:  Look at the whole board!

    Let's face it, we all make the same mistake.  The kingside attack has been the focus of our attention for a while... but then we miss a left hook, and bam!  Our position is in ruins.
    This is a common problem for amateurs and even GMs.  We tend to focus our attention to the part of the board where the action is, and can easily miss something on the other side.  That's why it's important to always look at the whole board.


    Tip #5:  Practice solving tactics!

    This one may be obvious, but still overlooked by a lot of chess players.  The more tactics you solve, the more patterns you are exposed to, and as a result you will see tactics better and faster!