This is how I am playing nowadays. I can beat ~1500 player 50% of the time (the rest is due to tactical errors):

  1. Play the opening (upto 12 moves)
  2. Don't blunder
  3. At the point where my pawns and pieces are in a better shape than the opponent's, I first exchange the queens
  4. Centralise my king
  5. Slowly exchange all the minor pieces, then the rooks
  6. Win in the endgame

Now is this really the way to play chess? I mean, I do want to improve my tactical skills but my decision is that once I am able to beat a 1500 player 100% of the time, I will start playing tactical chess, with which I mean attacks and stuff.

Is there something wrong with my approach?

  • 17
    You do realize that the self-imposed restriction of only starting to play "tactically" when you can beat 1500 rated players 100% of the time is completely ridiculous, right? I cannot stress enough how little sense it actually makes. How on earth could it be an effective way of improving as a chess player to actively avoid playing in a certain manner because you feel that you're "not good enough for it yet"? If you actually go ahead with this method the risk is that you never learn tactical play because of a lack of practice.
    – Scounged
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 18:21
  • 6
    The plan even sounds flawed from a purely strategical perspective: You generally do not want to exchange your pieces that are in a better shape than your opponent's.
    – Annatar
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 7:23

4 Answers 4


Now is this really the way to play chess?

Well, it is certainly a way to play chess. It's the way Aryan Tari chose to play Magnus Carlsen in the Altibox Norway tournament a couple of days ago. Swap as many pieces off as you can, get to a more or less equal endgame, maybe have to survive a bit of pressure then shake hands for a draw. It didn't work out that way. He got positionally crushed from a position which, to this patzer, looked fairly even.

It certainly didn't look roughly even to the chess24.com commentary team of Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik. "60% lost / 40% drawn" said Kramnik, "Go back to school, Aryan" said Judit during the commentary after move 18.

After 21. Nd2:

The strategical battle is over at that point. It's very nice when you can just follow a plan and you don't need to calculate

was Carlsen's comment afterwards.

I have to admit I have lost a fair number of games against stronger opponents like this just as I have won games against weaker players like this. The biggest difference between good players and bad players is not tactical ability (although it is often also a factor). It is the ability to accurately evaluate positions. Weaker players happily aim for bad positions because they don't know any better and stronger players can't believe their luck. Ask Magnus.

Bottom line: you are going to lose if you try and follow this plan against stronger players and if you try it against a weaker player who is weak tactically but strong positionally then you are also going to lose.

Here is the game.

[title "Carlsen - Tari, Altibox Norway Chess 2020"]
[fen ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a4 Bd7 9. c3 Na5 10. Ba2 c5 11. Bg5 O-O 12. Nbd2 Rb8 13. axb5 axb5 14. Re1 b4 15. Nc4 Nxc4 16. Bxc4 bxc3 17. bxc3 Qc7 18. Qc2 Bb5 19. Bxb5 Rxb5 20. Bxf6 Bxf6 21. Nd2 Qc6 22. Qa4 Rfb8 23. Nc4 Be7 24. g3 Qc8 25. Qd1 g6 26. Kg2 Bf8 27. Qf3 Rb3 28. Rec1 Qe6 29. Ra7 R8b7 30. Rxb7 Rxb7 31. Ra1 h5 32. Ra8 Kg7 33. Ne3 Rc7 34. Nd5 Rc8 35. Ra7 Rb8 36. h3 Rd8 37. g4 hxg4 38. hxg4 Rd7 39. Ra8 f6 40. g5 f5 41. Qh3 Rf7 42. Re8 Qxe8 43. Qh6+ Kg8 44. Qxg6+ Kh8 45. Nf6 1-0
  • 3
    Completely agree with Brian comments. Just want to add that on key to playing this way is to be better than your opponent at judging the ending that will arise before you get there. Know common endgame tabiya. Besides the standard endgame texts, the books that helped me are: Mastering Complex Endgames - Daniel Naroditsky, Liquidation on the chess board - Joel Benjamin Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 18:03
  • 1
    I would say this is a tactical loss not a strategic one!
    – ldog
    Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 4:21

Is there something wrong with my approach?


This is how I am playing nowadays and can beat ~1500 player 50% of time( rest is due to tactical errors)

I mean i do wanna improve my tactical skill but my decision is that once i am able to beat a 1500 player 100% of the time,I will start playing tactical chess.

If I am reading this correctly, against 1500 players you lose about half the time, and when you lose, it's almost always due to a tactical error. But you don't want to improve your tactics until you beat the 1500 players more. That's sort of a catch-22. How are you going to beat them if you refuse to improve the one area of your game that's causing you to lose to them? Although I can understand your reluctance to play more tactical chess if you don't think you're good at it, practicing is the best way to get better.

Also, 100% isn't a realistic goal in the first place. Do you expect to play perfect chess every game? If you could get to 99% against 1500 you'd probably be titled. So how about instead, you set a goal of beating 1700 rated players 50% of the time? Seeing how a slightly higher rated player can beat you - without you making a tactical error - might help you get a perspective on your strategy.

As for the details of your strategy, they seem to involve getting superior pieces, and them trading them off. I won't say it's wrong to go into an endgame if you know you can win it. But if there's any doubt, you might be better off keeping the better pieces on the board.

  • Thanks @D M,well what do you recommend to improve tactically,playing gambits?
    – bretlee
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 6:37
  • @bretlee It's not so much about the choice of opening but your mindset. Cultivate eagerness to look out for tactics, then you will find them in every opening.
    – Annatar
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 7:15
  • @Annatar,Well i have 1650 tactics rating on chess tempo so i know some stuff about tactics,i just don't see them in my games,and thats very annoying.So,I thought maybe playing gambits will help improve my awareness cause its all about activity and attacks.
    – bretlee
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 9:11
  • 3
    @bretlee Gambits are not necessary for tactical games or to get good activity. Many openings have tactical opportunities, especially if the players don't know much theory beyond the 5th move or so. Additionally, almost any good opening that tries to fight for the center immediately will (usually directly) lead to good activity, whether the plan is to lose a pawn, or not. If the opening is good, your natural development will only be hindered if the opponent makes a tactical error. In that sense, such an opening would be good training to see tactics on the board. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 9:21
  • 2
    In other words, I suggest you try to play Classical chess, but not necessarily Romantic chess. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 9:23

If you are a player who is skilled in the endgame, it is not always a bad idea to head for an endgame. Magnus Carlsen, a fabulous endgame player who can grind for hours at a seemingly dead drawn position, will do this sometimes- head into an endgame, then push and poke and prod until his opponent collapses. This is certainly a valid approach, especially if you know that your opponent is weaker in endgames, or positional play more generally.

However, it takes two people to go into an endgame! This is especially true if your opponent has studied your play and seen that you do not enjoy highly complex, tactical, middlegames where attacking is necessary for both sides. If I knew that I would be playing you and had seen your games, I would be preparing a Sicilian Dragon right now! While it is important to be good in endgames and strong in positional play, good attacking capabilities and tactical prowess are necessary to have a flexible game that can be used for all kinds of situations (games where you must win, games where you must draw, games where your opponent must win and is going to press, etc), and can handle whatever course your opponent tries to take.


The tautological "correct" play is to only make moves which make your position better. Your formula makes some assumptions about what is "better," specifically that having fewer pieces on the board is better.

This is not always the case. Sometimes you might be trading an active and useful queen for a passive and entrapt queen, which stymes your attack. Such a trade is not useful. If you are on the attack, trading generally dilutes the attack. You want to get more for your trade -- you want to get a positional advantage as well.

However, the real challenge you will face in this situation is a circular logic that will form over time.

  1. At the point where my pawns and pieces are in a better shape than opponent's, I first exchange the queens.

What makes "pawns an pieces" be "in better shape than opponents?" That's an open question, and the subject of countless Chess books. You answer that question with 4 and 5:

  1. Centralise my king
  2. slowly exchange all the minor pieces, then the rooks.

By definition, being "in better shape" starts to become "in a shape such that centralizing the king and then exchanging pieces results in a win." And this is where you can get in trouble. You are less inclined to explore tactical situations where this 2 step formula does not result in a win. And, as others have pointed out, it will be hard to grow to learn these positions if you avoid them.

The failure for this formula will occur at the point where you face strong enough opponents such that they not only fight on the board, they fight in your mind. They aren't just looking for strong positions on the board, they are looking for positions that your mind is weak at.

How do you find these positions mid game? Your opponent would do this by looking at the sorts of moves you choose, and the sorts of moves you elect not to play. If they start to recognize that you, as a player, prefer positions where "centralizing your king and slowly exchanging pieces" wins, they won't give you those positions. Indeed, they'll start giving you bait: positions where centralizing your king and slowly exchanging pieces results in a loss but looks promising. Then, when you least expect it, they drive you into a "tactical" line that you weren't prepared for.

What you describe is a plan. Famously, as Former President Eisenhower put it, "plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Its fine to start games with your formula in mind, but make sure you are not enslaved to that plan. That goes for the metagame too. You may never reach the point where you can beat a 1500 player 100% of the time before you learn tactics. Be ready to deviate from that plan when you realize that it is starting to handicap you.

  • Thanks @Cort Ammon,i am rated about 1650 on chess tempo trainer,so i know some stuff about tactics,i just can't see them in my games
    – bretlee
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 9:18
  • I imagined that there would come a point where all the tactics in a position will come flying towards me,but that never happened
    – bretlee
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 9:20

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