Chess is NOT 99% Tactics!

Richard Teichmann once said that ‘chess is 99% tactics’, and this idea seems to have caught on. I can see why because it may seem that way to strong players. And for those who want to improve it implies that there’s an easy to understand way to do it; , practice calculation and vision. But I for one don’t think it’s true.

There are many positions in which there are no tactics, so what do you do then? It also seems that move selection is vital to the calculative process, and this stems from an intuitive sense of danger and knowing the sort of thing you should be doing. Strong players may not be aware of the process by which they select moves, or decide the sort of thing they should be doing. It just happens. But as a teacher, who constantly explains and asks about why a particular move was played, I’ve become very aware that there’s a lot more going on.

This is why an improvement program should be balanced and needs to include the development of softer and more intuitive thinking. This is harder to develop and the concepts need a lot of explanation from someone who knows what they are doing. And then they need to be practiced.

This difficulty in acquiring chess ‘understanding’ explains why so few people develop it. Games collections of great masters will certainly help, but few people bother reading them these days, especially when under increasing pressure to ‘know their openings’. This explains why I adopted the approach that I did at my Tiger Chess site, suggesting simple openings with nice pawn structures and plans whilst at the same time focusing on strategy and endgames.

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.