Chess Heroes: Tactics

Chess Heroes: Tactics is now available in physical format on Amazon.

It’s a tactics book designed to take readers or students from round about 500 to 1500 strength, and should be read in parallel with the books on Checkmates, Openings and Endings.

A teaching technique often used in schools when, for example, teaching a new maths technique, is sometimes referred to as ‘I do, we do, you do’. The teacher demonstrates an example on the board, then works through another example, prompting the class to help her. Finally, she invites her pupils to solve some problems on their own, perhaps using a worksheet. Over the course of a term, or a year, the pupils will improve both their knowledge and skills using this method.

You can teach any convergent skill (a skill which involves finding a single correct answer) in the same way, and here I apply it to teaching chess tactics.

Most tactics are about creating two (or more) threats, so, after a brief introduction explaining the concept of tactics, we start with the simplest way of doing this: the fork. Pawn forks are the easiest to spot, so we start with pawn forks. The pieces best at forking are knights and queens, because they move in eight directions, so we then look at forks with these pieces. Once we’ve learnt about the most common types of fork, we proceed to questions in  which, to make it harder, we’re not told which piece is going to carry out the fork.

It’s natural to move on from forks to pins and skewers. Pins are quite hard to explain to novices. We can sometimes win material directly, and we start with some examples of this. There are two other ways we can use pins to win material. We can attack a pinned piece, or we can win material elsewhere because the piece that appears at first to be defending is actually pinned. These two concepts are supported by explanations, examples and worksheets. Finally, this chapter considers skewers: easier to understand then pins but much less common.

We can also create two simultaneous threats by using a discovered attack or a discovered check: this important concept is dealt with in the next chapter. Novices often miss discoveries because they only consider the piece they’re moving, not the effect on other pieces.

We can sometimes also win material by trapping enemy pieces: creating a threat which our opponent can’t meet successfully. These are sometimes harder to work out because you have to look ahead to make sure the enemy piece has no safe squares rather than just looking at the board. So here, we’re starting to consider the idea of looking ahead.

We then have a revision quiz: more puzzles to solve which might use any of the ideas studied so far to win material.

Finally, we introduce ideas involved with removing a defender: deflections and decoys. You might see these as involving non-simultaneous double threats, which again involve looking ahead.

Just as Chess Heroes: Checkmates concluded with the Ultimate Checkmate Challenge, Chess Heroes: Tactics concludes with the Ultimate Tactics Challenge: more puzzles which are by now slightly harder, combining ideas from earlier in the book and requiring solvers to look ahead in order to come up with the correct answer.

In total, there are 516 puzzles in this book, arranged, as you’ve seen, by theme and difficulty. There are six puzzles on each page, every page (with the exception of some of the Trapping Pieces puzzles) consisting of either ‘white to move’ or ‘black to move’ puzzles to avoid potential confusion. The positions were all taken from the Richmond Junior Chess Club database, so they represent the types of tactic most often found at this level.

If you’re rated between 500 and 1500, or if you teach students at this level, do please take a look at this and the other Chess Heroes books. Favourable reviews will also be very much appreciated.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through View all posts by Richard James

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