I have been furiously solving tactical puzzles for 6 weeks now and about three weeks ago I reactivated my account on chess.com.

Long story short I have seen my "rating" go from 1280 to 1590 during this time and for the first time ever I qualified for the second round, not in one but two tournaments on the site so I am definitely seeing improvement.

After asking for the computer analysis for the games that I have lost, I decided to also analyze the ones that I won so I got the last one, which I was feeling particularly good about it, and it turns out that the only reason I won is because my opponent did far worse blunders than I did. If he had been just a little bit stronger he would have crushed me.

I have followed the recommended variants and I just cannot understand why the position I ended up with is far worse than the one the computer recommends. I have zero understanding of positional play.

I feel that I still need A LOT of tactical practice, I still miss quite a few solutions from rather simple puzzles, but I am wondering if by not knowing strategy all this tactical knowledge might go to waste because of mistakes and blunders during the games.

So the questions would be:
- When is it a "right" time to start easing off on the tactical training to start balancing it with strategy/positional one?
- If I focus on these two, is there some kind of heuristic as to how to balance that training (20% - 80%, 30% - 70%, 50% - 50%)?
- As a bonus, if you could recommend some basic literature for someone who has absolutely zero understanding of positional play it would be appreciated.


  • 1400 is a good spot to begin studying positional play, but that doesn't mean that you stop studying tactics.
    – Jimmy360
    Jul 11, 2016 at 0:38
  • Most 1400 players are not ready for positional type play. But if the OP can grok that approach then he should go for it. For me, it took a long time and I was over 1900 before I started seeing how positional play fit into my game.
    – yobamamama
    Dec 14, 2019 at 16:46

3 Answers 3


Improving positional understanding is a longterm project. You do it by playing, by analysing, by going through well annotated master games and by working through books on the subject. But contrary to tactical exercises these things often don't have an immediate effect. Personally I also misapplied a lot of positional concepts that I had read about. Positional understanding will only help you if it is complete on some level. As soon as that happens there often is a sudden rise in strength.

Given that successfully applying positional concept depends a lot on accurate calculation, the right time to get really serious about training positional understanding is probably when you start getting diminishing returns from your tactical training. It's unlikely that you are at that point yet.

But if you have fun doing the things I mentioned at the beginning, there is no reason not to do them. Just remember that you will probably misapply ideas and not necessarily see immediate benefits. And try to not be too dogmatic about the things some authors tell you. The main thing is the discovery of amazing ideas and possibilities in chess.

  • Nimzowitsch: My System, a classic, it was definitely revelatory to me and also a lot of fun to read because of the evocative prose. (I don't know about the english translations though.)
  • The Yusupov-Series: Very systematic training of all aspects of the game. If you hit a wall in pure tactics training, the orange books might take you to the next level.
  • John Nunn's Move by Move: Just one example of many well commented game collections. This one literally explains every move, making it more suitable for relative beginners.
  • 1
    I agree with BlindKungFuMaster, I'd just add Hans Kmoch "Pawn Power in Chess" book to the list. I think the easiest way to improve strategy knowledge in the beginning is to learn to plan, to evaluate positions and see how you could improve them, what you want your position to be. Dec 9, 2015 at 9:41
  • @BlindKungFuMaster Thanks for your answer. Could you elaborate and explain what do you mean by "getting diminishing results from yoyr tactical training"? Dec 9, 2015 at 13:53
  • 1
    You improved your online rating a lot recently, but sooner or later you are going to plateau or only very slowly improve further. That's what I meant. Dec 9, 2015 at 14:55

In economics, it's called the "law of diminishing returns." You study tactics for a while, and then reach a point where you seem to make little progress.

Then you "switched gears" and studied strategy, and that helped your game a lot because it was what you were weak in. So keep studying strategy until you "hit a wall," at which point tactics may be the scarce factor of production.

Or it may be something else, such as endgames. The quickest way to improve is to work on the thing you are weakest at.


The short answer is that when you reach the point where you aren't making major tactical mistakes but are still losing. In practice that's around 1900-2000 (online ratings about 2200).

My opinion is that beginners should have a basic understanding of positional ideas. For example, you should know what doubled pawns are but you shouldn't start trying to build complex Silman-like plans until you reach the point where you need to know it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.