I consider myself to be an intermediate player. I understand the tactical motifs well and can solve quite a few tactical puzzles with relative ease. I have also dedicated time at working on end games and can handle the basic ones with major and minor pieces as well as the ones involving pawns decently.

Lately I have been paying a lot of attention at the tactical problems that I get wrong and I have noticed that for the most part, the reason of my mistakes is that I don't know how to correctly evaluate the resulting position correctly to pick the right move.

For example: I don't really have a diagram but the question is more general than specific so, please bear with me. In a recent one I found the correct first move and on the second one I chose to exchange a knight for a rook thinking I would end up with an advantage in quality. That turned out to be a mistake. The right answer was to take a bishop which made the queen to take my knight which was defended. I kept thinking "why on earth would the queen take the knight if it is going to be taken? It makes no sense".

I know that the right answer boils down to the specific position, even when analyzing it with the engine I could see that in this case, by taking the rook the advantage was completely lost and if the other side did not take with the queen, the advantage I had would rise exponentially.

My questions would be, how can I learn this stuff? What kind of sources do I have to look for? What subject should I Google? What kind of books, or better yet, titles can I read so that I can start understanding this?

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    You need to sit on your butt and analyze. At first without an engine, and then checking your analysis with an engine and then figuring out why your analysis was wrong without the engine, and then checking your analysis of your analysis with the engine, and so on. An evaluation of a position is just the results of more analysis. Nov 24, 2020 at 2:22
  • It sounds like you calculate tactics by evaluating only 1 move at a time, rather than getting yourself into a winning or materially advanced position (which is how most tactics puzzles end). Are you currently only looking 1 move ahead in these puzzles? For early puzzles, that 1 move ahead could be enough to 'win', but more advanced puzzles need more depth of analysis. Nov 24, 2020 at 13:54
  • @AlexanderWoo - This does not help me. I am asking exactly what are the concepts I need to learn and understand in order to be able to do this analysis. If I follow your advice I will only know that I am wrong but, I will never be able to know WHY I am wrong and that won't lead to any improvement. Nov 24, 2020 at 13:54
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    @SergioRomero I think you should re-read Alexander's comment - he is basically saying that your analysis might currently just be 'surface level', and overall you must increase the quality of your analysis. True, he isn't stating how to do that, but the how would require a much longer discussion. The way your question is posed, it seems you are looking for a 'quick fix' to what is basically 'how do I get better at chess?'. Nov 24, 2020 at 14:11
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    @SergioRomero Not sure which tactics page you're using, but chesstempo.com is quite good at showing step-by-step analysis as you move through a puzzle, and indicates exactly what the 'correct move' is, often with comments and questions indicating why a particular side move might not work. I suspect you may be 'looking 3 moves ahead' by calculating what you want to happen, but perhaps not what the opposite side would actually prefer to do for themselves. ie: you can easily 'look 4 moves ahead' and plan a scholars mate, but if black plays e.6, then the plan just doesn't work. Nov 24, 2020 at 14:19

3 Answers 3


I think the most important thing to do right now is to clarify exactly what the problem you're having is. From the somewhat vague example you gave I have a suspicion, but I can't be sure. I think that your problem with the tactics is that the way you evaluate the resulting positions from the tactical sequences you calculate is too simplistic, in this case by being over-reliant on the material count while not taking other positional factors into account.

From the way your example is phrased, it seems to me like you can understand that the resulting position from the correct solution is better than the one resulting from your solution when you compare the end positions next to one another. So it might be a case of you knowing that you're solving a tactical problem, and therefore you assume that you're looking for a way to win material, causing you to "tunnel-vision" when solving these tactics exercises. In this case, the solution to your problem is rather simple in nature: just be aware that finding the best continuation to a problem is not always the same as finding a way to win material, it's all about ending up in the best possible position.

Another potential problem that could be the issue for you is that you stop your calculation too soon; sometimes it's necessary to calculate further than you originally expect to see why a continuation is good or bad, and if this is the case for you (which it could be, judging by your example) then you need to ask yourself why you stopped calculating at the point that you did. Why didn't you notice that you needed to calculate a few moves further? And if you were to calculate further, would you have been able to see what was wrong with your line? In this case, it is vital to be aware of this if you're ever going to fix the issue in the first place, and to appreciate the importance of calculating to the very end of the line, where the position has clarified to the point where it's easy to evaluate directly.

In the end, I seriously doubt that all your problems with these more "advanced" tactics are based in a lack of "advanced knowledge" of positional chess. I think it has more to do with your approach/attitude to calculation might be somewhat misguided and/or overly simplistic. But in the end, this is hard to judge from one vague example, and I might be way off in my assessment of your particular case. In any case I felt that what I've stated here needed to be stated so that you are at least aware of some of the potential pitfalls with tactics that are easy to overlook if you're not aware of them.

  • Thank you for your detail answer but, your conclusions are wrong. My problem is that I DO NOT KNOW why ending position A is better or has advantages over ending position B nor I know what to look for or look at in order to arrive at that conclusion. That is exactly the purpose of this question. What are the concepts I need to learn and what are the best sources to find them. Nov 24, 2020 at 13:51
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    @SergioRomero Please consider your frame of tone when responding to these answers - you are stating with a high degree of confidence that Scrounged is 'wrong', but perhaps this is based on a novice understanding of your own situation. If the answer is, in general, 'get better at chess', that will be a long (and hopefully enjoyable) road. To consider another angle - you have posed no specific analysis tables for us to see 'what you missed', but you are asking 'what, specifically, did I miss?'. That is quite hard to answer specifically, and of course the generalities might seem incomplete. Nov 24, 2020 at 14:15
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    @Grade'Eh'Bacon - I do not intend to be disrespectful at all. I am only trying to explain what I am looking for with this question and why the given answer is not providing what I need. Nov 24, 2020 at 14:19
  • @SergioRomero It's only to be expected that the answer I gave will not be useful to everybody; after all I gave it based on the possibility that it could be applicable here (and I'm sure that it's useful for some people who feel they're in a similar situation to you). What are the positional factors you tend to take into account when you evaluate a position? What is your general "style" of play? If you can answer these questions it might be easier to judge what you need to do.
    – Scounged
    Nov 24, 2020 at 16:46

In your example the opponent was forced to exchange his queen for a knight.

That usually means that

  1. They will win material on top of that to minimize material loss (2 pieces and 2 pawns for a queen is materially better than just being a piece down). Converting material advantages is mostly a matter of endgame technique and then trading down into endgames. There is a new book by Gelfand "Technical Decision Making in Chess" which is dedicated to converting static advantages. Of course there are also decent free resources on the topic of converting material advantages.

  2. The knight was a key attacking piece and the attack was not holdable. Seeing an attack and correctly judging it is not only a matter of tactics, but also understanding how to conduct an attack. On that topic I really liked "Attacking Manual" by Jacob Aagaard.


To be honest you are not as advanced as you think you are.

If you are talking about tactics then almost always there is a clear material advantage or mate resulting from doing the tactics. How is it you are advanced and cannot see such an advantage?

In some cases the advantage may be positional. Clearly your experience and positional understanding is lacking. I know of no really good materials to teach you positional understanding although there may now be some on the internet. It may just take a lot of playing to gather experience to appreciate the positional advantages as well as material ones. When you finally understand that position is far more important than material you will be ready to grok those problems that you are getting wrong now.

OTOH those tactical problems on line do not always have the best solution just what somebody claimed was best.

For us to help you better then please provide specific positions and ask about those. Also tell us what your FIDE rating is that makes you think you are at the advanced level you keep claiming you are.

Having played almost 70 years your comments sound like a kid of about 12 with helicopter parents telling them how great they are. You might be a 40 year old with a phd but you do not come across as an adult at all. Especially when you keep asserting that there is some advanced knowledge out there if only we would tell where it was hidden then you could be a world class player.

  • Where does the OP claim to be an advanced player? "intermediate player" could very well be: 1200 to 2199 be, and it is totally possible that OP is in weaker intermediate group.
    – Akavall
    Nov 24, 2020 at 23:44

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