Understanding differences between Chess Strategy and Chess Tactics

Filed under Chess lessons, Chess Strategy, Chess tactics
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We have given you some ideas on this topic in our article on the roles played by chess strategy and chess tactics in a chess game. We will now try to put those in a more specific manner.

  • Chess strategy is like a war (a long-term affair) whereas chess tactics are skirmishes (short combinations) and battles (longer combinations) within that war.
  • Chess tactics can occur only on the chessboard during a game. Chess strategy finds its place not only in the conduct of the game but also in the preparations for it.
  • Chess tactics involve the movements of the pieces only, with psychological factors entering in a small way (in the form of a shock value through unexpected moves/sacrifices). For chess strategy, taking the opponent’s nature and style of play into account is an accepted practice.
  • Chess tactics are essentially combinations, meaning an interlink of more than one move in a sequence with the opponent’s moves also fitted in it. Chess strategy is more in the nature of the general development of your game.
  • Chess strategy takes a longer perspective and is not changed unless there is a significant change in the situations envisaged. Chess tactics keep changing at different stages taking the reality into account.
  • There are some tenets of chess strategy as you have read in basic chess strategies, winning chess strategies and formulating your game, but these are fairly limited in number. Chess tactics also incorporate some known techniques, but the permutation/combination of these techniques can make chess tactics very widely different and practically innumerable (as can be seen in combinations from actual play involving the same theme, e.g., double rook sacrifice)
  • Chess strategies and their consequences are fairly predictable, but chess tactics, with the continuously variable game situation including the opponent’s reactions, become practically unpredictable. In fact, therein lies the interest in any game of chess.
  • A chess strategy, however good it may be, still needs chess tactics for its implementation. Chess tactics, though working better in the framework of good chess strategies, can be used even in absence of some set strategies and can succeed also in the hands of brilliant chess tacticians.
  • In the above context, it is better to be an expert in chess tactics with indifferent sense of chess strategy than the other way around! But of course a right mix of good chess strategy and chess tactics gives the best results.

Now a final thought on the importance of chess strategy where both players are equally strong in chess tactics. Everybody with some idea about computers will realize that a computer can be a brilliant(!) exponent of chess tactics by virtue of its calculation speed and enormous infallible memory – the two factors that go into any deep combination. Garry Kasparov was World Champion and a player with the highest Elo rating ever. In spite of seeming tactical advantage of Deep Blue, a super-computer specifically designed for chess by IBM, Kasparov won the first match of 6 games in 1996 with a score of 4-2 (Win: 3, Loss: 1, Draw: 2). A rematch was arranged in 1997 with an improved version of Deep Blue. Since IBM must have made adequate preparations by making Deep Blue play with strong chess players, Kasparov wanted a record of the previous games played by Deep Blue to formulate his strategy. This type of study of opponent’s games is standard practice for match preparations by top players. But it appears that IBM did not comply with the request though they must have put all the games of Kasparov in the computer’s database! The result of the rematch went in favor of Deep Blue with a score of 3.5-2.5 (Win: 2, Loss:1, Draw: 3). It is my conviction that the lack of preparation on chess strategy made Kasparov lose the match.

In support of my surmise, I would like to quote from the article by Mr. Viswanathan Anand, current World Champion, that hints at the chess strategy as one of the causes for Kasparov’s loss of the match.

” … humans can’t change their style drastically like computers. On top of that, all his games were accessible to the Deep Blue team, while he was in the dark about Deep Blue. He had two options: to play like Kasparov or to play like ‘Mr. Anti Deep Blue.’ The former runs the risk of playing to the strengths of the machines, the latter that the human ends up as disoriented as the machine. … … Kasparov chose the latter.”



  1. Pit says:

    Now its totally clear to me about the difference between strategy and tactics. Thanks for posting this informative article.

  2. ChessMaster says:


    Glad that you found it useful.

  3. ChessTeacher says:

    If you are looking for a tactical path and want to watch some beautiful games, then check out Tal games they are great, I also recommend Kasparov he used to play attacking chess as well with lots of tactical moves..

    Kramnik is there as well, over the years he has become more of a positional player though.


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