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?

  • Who says that chess is 99% tactics / calculation? Cheers.
    – user2001
    Feb 19, 2014 at 10:33
  • Also, relevant question chess.stackexchange.com/questions/1372/… and please read my answer to that question. Cheers.
    – user2001
    Feb 19, 2014 at 10:36

5 Answers 5


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.

  • 8
    You forgot 4. Tactics :)
    – xaisoft
    May 16, 2012 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.
    – Rex Butler
    May 19, 2012 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, 2012 at 20:23
  • Players who run to a book and memorise a line for every problem they might face in the opening never learn how to do it for themselves. If someone plays the King's Gambit against you, don't grab a book, grab the pawn and learn how to defend. Learn when to counter. Learn when you need to give back the pawn and when you can keep it.
    – adedqwd
    Oct 3, 2019 at 17:53

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).


Even despite previous claims it is true that chess before 2200-2400 is about 90% tactics. However the understanding is never below tactics as understanding is in tactics so understanding completley outranks tactics. This includes positional play, knowledge of positions and there structures as well as middle game and endgame play as you absolutley need positional knowledge for that. However when talking about most positions and insights before master levels tactics is absolutley neccessary as it speeds up the process and allows much more wins to be avaliabe. There are a lot of games that are lossed because of missed tactics and it is true that calculation can take you a long way. However I don't think it is the best way in my opinion it is just the fact of the game. Most Grandmasters prefer and rely on positional play as strong move after strong move is not made by just knowing tactics alone. Grandmasters are very strong because the lack of weaknesses and the continous way they make strong moves, but if you think that is by tactics alone you are mistaken. Depending on the position depends on the game, however positions will always be reliant on the understanding than the calculation as since humans are not computers we can't rely on calculation to heavily, especially in old age.(Just think about what happened to Tal, there is a reason why he changed to a positional master toward the end of his life. Calculation isn't something a human should be doing forever at least in chess.) So it is very important to understand and master the basis of the game, and then only improve heavily on tactics, understanding is key, no matter what level you are on. There is a reason why the positional masters were always long reinging world champions however the tacticians and the calculated masters were world champions for 1 or 2. The truth is the type of play of tacticians is to wow people and to make people say, wow that guy is brilliant he spotted that amazing 5,6,7 move combination. Or wow this guy is amazing he literally does all these sacrificing disregarding rules and theory and it is surpasses all the sayings of previous respected grandmasters. And although it is cool to see that, no great attacker would stay that way forever, until you meet players like Botivinik or Smyslov, or Petrosian, or Karpov, or some positional and defensive tank that would win the game in seemingly a quiet yet deadly fashion and would either get that win or draw that they wanted and would be absolutley fine with it. Moreover again later in their life they cannot calculate and they would have to switch over to understanding, and positional play as calculating takes energy and a clear mind, something so simply an older person would lack due to old age. Due to this it proves my point that chess is 90% tactics between 2200-2400, however when we are talking about levels of masters, IM's, GM's, Super GM's and more, the understanding surpasses a lot of tactics, as Grandmasters seemingly make little to no blunders on a good day. And even on a bad day a master couldn't just simply win a game due to a tactic, a GM is prepared, a GM most of all is tough, and they would always be looking to equalize a game if they were losing, and a lot of the time would capatalize on their opponents mistake to win or get a draw out of a position they had a disadvantage in. However it does depend on the position, but mainly the only thing that matters is understanding the fact that your knowledge and understanding will lead you higher if you want to become a master(NM,FM,IM,GM or Super GM). If you are an amatuer(like me) then the you want to have a solid foundation in positions and the knowledge of them and positional play such as: These Positional Ideas can include: Outposts for Knights, and Weak Squares. A Strong Diagnol for the Bishop( Such as a Fianchetto, or active squares such as C4 or C5). Advantages Such as Passed pawns and the principle that Guides them that says passed pawns must be pushed. The Initiative and knowing when to sieze it and start and attack, gain an advantage or use the initiative to improve your position. To allow your rooks to dominate an open or semi-open file. To not overpush your pawns and to know when to push a pawn and what squares it would be the most useful guarding. Know when to open or close a position(You open a position if you have a better position, and you can also close the position if you have a long-term advantage.) To always have a plan to improve your position, attack, gain an advantage, or to use a tactic. To attack Isolated pawns, and also know how to defend the isolated pawn. To make strong pawn chains. Knowing when to make an exchange sacrifice. Know what is a good bishop or a bad bishop in a given postion, and know how to use your bishops effectively. Double up on a file. Knowing when to simplify to a winning Endgame. Rooks placed on the seventh rank. Attacking weak pawns and avoid making weak pawns. Know how to Evalute positions and see who is better or worse and develop a plan based on the positon Evaluated. Attack double pawns and avoid making doubled pawns. These Ideas are the basis of positional understanding and make up the game of chess. As the Game of chess is about control and the only way to have control of the game is to improve your position and make little to no mistakes, if this happens the game is sure to be a win or a draw. Tactics will come through a good position through coordination and remember all bad postions will fall eventually, there is no need to rush your opponents demise if he makes foolish moves, and if your opponent improves their positon as much as you do then your game could be equal.

Postitional Understanding takes much patience and in order to be good at evalutating positons you must take in account, piece value, develpoment, king saftey, possible advantages and disadvantages, overall piece activity, or potential piece activity, attacking chances and better or worse Endgame chances. If you evaluate a postion precisley it can help you develop a plan that can help you based on the position. Another part of positonal understanding is understanding the position well enough that you don't make any Blunder's, Mistakes, or innacurracies to the point in which you lose as positonal players make sure that they take their time and grind out every advantage they can get, and in most positons this is the way to go. Sometimes it is not worth it to rush a tactic or be hasty because it is not uncommon for such moves to end in a blunder or a mistake that can ruin you position and give all the winning chances to the opponent. If you make sure you can improve the postition and attack without your opponent having any counterplay or any advantages, than you will have all the time in the world to win that game and your opponent can do very little to stop it. Some examples of this could be: When you have a space advantage and all your pieces look to attack the enemy king. When the opponent is in a situation when he is in a positional zugswang and can't make any good move. When your opponent is behind in development and you sieze the initiative to start an attack against the enmy king with more pieces on the board therefore making more threats due to the lack of protection due to poor develpment of pieces and pawns. When you have a passed pawn and use that advantage to win material, misplace a piece or the king, or to allow lesser moves to be made by the opponent due to the reaction of the passed pawn and overall improve your position due to the lack of a better position by your opponent. ETC...

This proves why knowledge of positions and positional understanding is needed, and have in mind these are just the building blocks, at higher levels I think your understanding has to be multiplied by whatever level you are on each time you are +200 points higher. However if you are also an Amatuer a good idea would be to get very good at tactics, along with getting good at tactics improve your calculation as well as improve your tactical vision and although this is random even memorize the coordinates(algebra notation) on the board. This is as straightforward as it gets, and this is the guide to getting on a decent level.(now I am not saying it is going to make you improve +1000 elo, but perhaps +100, +200 or maybe even+300 if you are taking all of this into account and are grinding seriously.)

That's all I have to say, hopefully this was helpful for someone.



You should learn tactics before playing tactical openings as they are far more subtle and somewhat mixed with positional play.

You should study tactics separately and methodically not just solving random tactical problems.

You need to do at least ten similar tactics problems after seeing an example of how it works. This will implant the pattern into your memory for use in a real game.

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