Continued from 10 steps to raise your game – part 1
5. Learn the tactical processes
Strategy is the overall plan of how you want to play out the game. Tactics are like battles within a war to implement your plan in varying situations. In chess, you will find that certain themes recur repeatedly if you know how to identify those and your tactical knowledge will help to make the most in such situations. For example, bishops and knights are considered to be of equal value, but most players will prefer to have two bishops rather than two knights because of the ‘long’ leg of the bishops. But this advantage of bishop pair gets nullified when many rows and files are blocked by pawns and bishops cannot move about. In such closed positions, knights often play better because of their ‘twisted’ moves! If there is only one bishop, half of the squares are out of its reach whereas a single knight do not suffer from such handicap. Tactics is your dominant tool in the middle games, but may continue into the end game phase. For example, if you have king and one pawn against your opponent’s solitary king, it should be a winning game for you if, and it is a big if, you know the tactics for putting the situation to your advantage. If you stray and your opponent knows the tactics, you will have nothing but a draw because of the stalemate situation that can be created by the opponent. These are of course very basic examples and you will find many others like pin, discovered check, double check, zugzwang etc. which you can create towards your advantage if you know how.
There are many books on tactics that explain the situations and the techniques that can be applied. You can also try to solve the chess problems published in sports magazines or in Sunday newspapers where they ask you to find how White (or Black) can win/draw in the given situation in specified/unspecified number of moves. These are all tactical problems and trying to solve these will enhance your tactical skills. Books are also available containing only such tactical problems for you to solve and learn the techniques. Take a peek at the solution given if you cannot find it on your own.
6. Study end games
If the game is not decided by end of the middle part, it enters into the end game phase where only few pieces are still on the board and the game often becomes a slow, grueling affair. The initial strategies (tip 4) we discussed earlier does not have any role now and you have to adapt an appropriate new strategy and the tactics that will go with it. Because of small number of pieces, it is possible to make a deeper analysis for the moves available. But if you are aware of the fairly common endings, it will be easier to formulate your strategy and tactics. There are plenty of books specifically on chess endings and you should try to memorize and recognize the situations. Seasoned players can often salvage their games during this phase.
7. Study the games of masters
Such games can be found on the Internet or you may get books on such collections. The books may be a compendium of games by different players, compiled and annotated by other masters. If you are more interested in modeling your game in line with your favorite champion, you will get books like “My best xxx games” by the players themselves, with explanations on the significant (good or bad) moves of both players. If you play through the moves and the variations that were possible, you will start getting the idea on what constitutes a good or bad move in a particular situation.
continue to 10 steps to raise your game – part 3