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I have been teaching my wife tactics, we are doing the book by Fred Reinfeld "1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations". We are still in the first chapter which discusses pins and I can tell that she is improving rapidly because she is finding the pinned piece with less effort.

My problems with this book are: 1. You can tell a lot of the positions are composed. 2. There is no difficulty progression, simple and hard puzzles are mixed together.

On the other hand I came upon the book "Tactics Time" by Tim Brennan and Anthea Carson. This book has the advantage that all the puzzles come from games people have played on the internet so no composed ones and are much simpler for a beginner. The problem with this one is that there is no separation by motifs so she might not find the knight fork or the back rank weakness and there will not be constant repetition of a single motif to ensure she assimilates it.

So my question would be, which book approach do you think would be more beneficial for a beginner to follow and why?

Thank you

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I would use the second approach, almost entirely just because the problems are much easier, but also because those sorts of simple two-move tactics are more likely to come up in games between beginners and just spotting them at all will give her a big advantage at that level.

I would actually suggest a few other sources of tactics which might be even better:

  1. Chess Tactics for Students by John Bain has quite simple puzzles and is grouped by theme.

  2. The Manual of Chess Combinations, vols. 1a and 1b, also starts with very simple puzzles and is grouped as well, although it's by goal (e.g., "win a rook"), not by theme (e.g., "fork").

  3. The online site Chess Tempo will feed you tactical problems from real games that are matched to your ability, so there's no worry about getting a book that is too easy or too hard.

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I would recommend using the second book. When you know what tactical motif you are looking for, it makes the problem artificially simple. Once you understand the basic motifs, it is better to solve problems for which you do not have a partial answer already.

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I recommend finishing Reinfeld's book first. As Cecil De Vere states, knowing what you are looking for makes the problems too easy, however this is how we are taught math. The repetition of one tactic at a time should teach pattern recognition. Once she is familiar with the tactical motifs, the problems should be mixed up to teach independent thinking.

After the tactics are learned, ChessTempo is an free site to practice tactics based upon you skill level. Lichess offers tactical puzzles, but I don't know if they are level matched. Lichess offers free play so you can test yourself against others around your skill.

I would suggest getting Chess Hero (comes with Reinfeld's PGN) and downloading Alburt's 300 Important Positions. This free program will randomize the positions as playing chess would.

Another suggestion is to read Alekhine's Best Games. He often explains, in simple English, how he sees the position and the tactics he plays. (Some of the games are really complex and he does alter some games to make games more interesting.)

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