As has been said, Chess in 99% tactics/calculation.

So, if a player is aiming to increase his tactical abilities should he play tactical openings like the King's Gambit, or can he play something like the English if desired, knowing that tactics will show up in the middle game?

Another way to put this is as follows: should a developing player master the tactical openings before the positional ones, given that tactics are much more important in the short term?


My chess instructor told me:

  1. Tactics
  2. Tactics
  3. Tactics

I think you can win a lot of games at the sub-2000 level with raw tactical skill. Thereafter, positional considerations start becoming important.

Regarding the opening, I don't think it much matters. Play the type of opening that makes you happy.

  • 6
    You forgot 4. Tactics :) – xaisoft May 16 '12 at 1:03

In almost any opening, there will be plenty to calculate. Unfortunately, most games don't give the potential for daring sacrifices and blazing kingside attacks, but every single opening requires intense calculation if you want to play the best moves.

So more important than playing and learning tactical openings, I would recommend playing and studying classical openings, at least when you're starting out.

Classical openings are 1. e4 e5 and 1. d4 d5. Play these openings for both colors. 1. e4 e5 is called the Open Game because the positions generally become open and require play according to general chess principles. For example, develop, control the center, castle, etc. So playing the English probably isn't the best bet if you are just starting out, but for a totally different reason. The English violates some principles, namely occupying the center, and instead gives white other advantages (usually a good queenside bishop among other things).

The single fastest way to improve tactics is to pick up a good puzzle book and just work through it. If you play super sharp openings like the King's Gambit, that will more help you learn specific opening variations than tactics in general. If you love the King's Gambit, one way to learn tactics might be to look at a dozen grandmaster games featuring the King's Gambit. There will be enough tactics either on the board or hidden in the variations to help you improve your calculation as well as showing you some themes from the opening.

  • 1
    Playing classical openings before hyper-modern openings makes sense. Unfortunately playing e4 e5 as black and not studying openings (which is often the advice) can be kind of dangerous... if for example don't know how to handle some of the gambits. – ThoralfSkolem May 19 '12 at 20:16
  • @Skolem, you can always 1) accept the gambit and then defend naturally, which will get you to a playable position if you defend accurately enough or 2) decline the gambit. Almost all of the e4 e5 gambits can be declined by playing ...d5 (Evan's Gambit, King's Gambit, d5 is required in the 4.Ng5 lines of the Two Knights, etc.) – Andrew May 19 '12 at 20:23

In order to learn tactics, you want to get into tactical situations. These can occur in the opening, middle, or end game.

But if you play tactical openings, you get a head start on these situations (and guarantee that you'll get some).

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