I have been playing chess for a long time, and I have been around 1850-1900 ELO for quite some time. I have always wondered which are the best ways to improve the tactics.

  • Does playing more and more games improve chess tactics?
  • Playing limited games but slow games?
  • Practicing board positions with sites such as chesstempo?
  • Analyzing others' and self games

Please feel free suggest any point that I have not covered.

  • 1
    The title and the body of your question are not the same. In your title you are asking for "Best ways", which I interpret as top of the list ways to improve tactics. But in the body of your post you are asking for "the best way", which is different. Can you clarify your question?
    – Akavall
    Commented Sep 22, 2012 at 23:11
  • I expanded my answer below. Hopefully you will find it useful. It does not give any simple answers. Because there are no simple answers :) Cheers!
    – user2001
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 16:27
  • There still some open questions here, for example a) How to make the most of the combinations you weren't able to solve (the ones you have to look to the solution, and then say aha!)? b) Even if you were able to solve, how do you train yourself to be able to create the conditions to make a similar combination in a real game? For example Spielmann on Alekhine said: "I can comprehend Alekhine's combinations well enough; but where he gets his attacking chances from and how he infuses such life into the very opening - that is beyond me." (en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alexander_Alekhine). Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 2:57
  • chess.emrald.net gives you unlimited tactics practice.
    – Raydot
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 16:48

9 Answers 9


All of the suggested can improve your tactics skills. Anything that makes you think hard about chess positions (particularly sharp and complex ones) will. I would add "perfecting the way you calculate variations", i.e. making sure that your calculation is as effective as possible. This was well described in some book, I think it was "Think like a grandmaster" by Kotov. Two points though:

  1. Chess is not only tactics, the strategy, "feeling" for positions, is equally important. And one should always come with the other. In fact they make each other better.

  2. Judging from your Elo, you are a hobby player. Getting better may need hard work which does not always agree with the word "hobby", so pick the method that you enjoy and keep in mind that everyone has limits.

  • 1
    In one of Mark Dvoretsky's books, he responds to Kotov. He makes the good point that Kotov's technique of selecting candidate moves then analyzing each one doesn't work too well in practice: when you find an idea during analysis of one branch, sometimes that idea affects other branches or even indicates a new candidate move. (Even one of Kotov's examples in that chapter misses the best move because he never picked it as candidate!)
    – M.M
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 2:31
  • The book is still a valuable read (for best results also read Dvoretsky's books!)
    – M.M
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 2:39

Best trainer I've ever seen for tactics: CT-ART. Full stop. It's relatively cheap ($20US, give or take) and walks you through thousands of tactical positions, showing you all sorts of techniques, and relentlessly drilling you in them. I'm a Mac user, and I keep parallels around mainly for this program.

To start out with it, I'd put it in test mode for 15 positions or so. If you get lost trying to figure it out, step over to practice, or even theory for a while, but you'll get the max benefit from it with test, because then it just shows you the position, tells you who is to move, and the rest is up to you; no hints until you make mistakes.


At your level, you should be thinking in terms of combinations, or chains of moves. Beginners learn the basics, pins, forks and skewers, but you are a bit past that. Instead, you might be thinking in terms of preparatory moves that set up these tactics. That takes a bit more doing, but is a mark of advanced play.


Tactics, calculation, dynamic play. Topics often talked about but seldomly understood at their very depth. I cannot claim to cover the whole subject in this post. Yet hopefully I will scratch the surface of this vast subject. To become stronger in dynamic play, you need to understand the ingredients of dynamic play. There are at least two parts, calculation and vision. Calculation is the ability to enter different variations in your head and find the best moves for yourself and the opponent until you reach a position that you think you can evaluate. Vision is the ability to find ideas which in turn show you what moves or series of moves that are important to check.

Dynamic play is improved by training the calculation and vision skills. It is recommended to follow a calculation technique (as described in some books, e.g. Kotov) when calculating variations. By learning and applying the technique on a regular basis, your calculation will improve accordingly. Training your vision is more complex. You may have heard of patterns and that our brains memorize patterns when playing through grandmaster games and then we are able to apply these patterns in our own games. This most probably holds true. You should also collect ideas by reading annotated games and paying attention to the ideas that were described in these games. The ideas will also become patterns that you can apply in your own games.

Training correctly and truthfully is very hard. Training will give results. The best way to improve your dynamic play (I don't really like the term tactics because it somehow makes it sound more simple) is to train hard. To follow the training system that your books actually recommend. To get a personal trainer and/or mentor. To take every game seriously. To work hard at the board in each game. To analyze your games afterwards. To be self critical after every loss, draw and win. Dynamic play is a big part of every game. You have the static part and the dynamic part. So the dynamic play is at least half of every game. That being said, even 15 minutes a day will give great results, as long as you train properly. Happy hunting!

  • I don't mean to argue, just try to understand and hopefully learn. There's skewers, pins, forks, discovered checks and maybe attraction. What else is there in terms of tactics? The rest just seems to me ad-hoc combinations, so ad-hoc in fact that they are unnamed cause they can't happen twice. Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 19:23
  • 1
    @MarcusJuniusBrutus sounds like an excellent question! What different types of tactics exist? The quick answer is that there are a few basic tactics and the complicated tactics are a combination of the basic ones.
    – user2001
    Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 19:26

In addition to the above answers I would recommend using Computer Chess Programs for improving tactics. While playing with humans you sometimes get a false high when an incomplete attack results in success (usually in the form of material gained). A decent computer program will rarely fall for immature tactics, thus providing a strong incentive to be thorough with your attack preparations.

  • -1 Psyochologically, the `false' high of winning games is the reward that motivates players to enjoy the activity. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 7:29

Bondarevsky, in the good old classic "Combinations in the middle game" recommends building a catalog of combinations classifying them for topic, resultant attack, motives, etc. He also recommends studying games of heavy tactical content.


Try Here and just do the daily tactics. you are only allowed 3 a day for a free account but if you upgrade your account you have unlimited. You could also invest in a tactics book.


Calculation is often improved by practicing more and more, and analyzing your thought process. This helps understand the decision making process you use to come up with a solution. Together with chunks, or knowledge about patterns, a player would become better at his calculation. In order to train this skill, one might either use chess books like Anthology of Chess combinations, or free chess tactics trainers like Chessity, which is quite fun to solve.


I had your rating. I read "Think Like A Grandmaster" by Kotov and practiced the techniques for 6 months. I played in a few tournaments and I skipped the expert class gaining 250 rating points and became a master but that was a long a time ago in the 70s. I don't know if it would work today.

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