Sunday, January 24, 2021

Improving Your Tactical Skills – Advice from a Teaching Master

WFM Elizabeth Spiegel is not only a chess master in her own right, but she is a NY public school chess instructor. She graciously decided to share her key teaching thoughts with Chess Life….and us, from the November 2020 magazine.

If you are not a member of the USCF and getting their magazine monthly, you are missing out. The value completely outweighs the cost. And with tournaments on suspension, your national chess federation needs your support.

Now on to the article.

FM Spiegel asked herself “what is the most efficient way to teach how to improve calculating abilities?” My answer was always “be born as Morphy or Fischer”, but that is probably why your humble scribe is not the chess instructor FM Spiegel is.

“To put it differently, what does a strong player think about when they try and solve a tactics problem?

Strong players look first to every forcing move on every turn. Checks, captures, and moves attacking pieces or the King. That is a lot of work, but its what is done. Here are some questions to ask yourself when analyzing a position:

1.     What enemy pieces and pawns are not protected or not protected well? These are potential targets.

2.     What enemy pieces are on the same line as my pieces? This will help you discover pins, skewers and forks.

3.      What is your dream move or where is your dream square for your dream piece? A question such as, “If I could drop my (insert piece here) anywhere on the board, where would it be?” This dream placement is the ‘plan’ to make happen if it can be done safely."

Your scribe has started using #3 in his games and practice and you would be surprised how many times your dram could be made a reality! And sometimes your opponent unknowingly follows your dream too. You now see it, he does not.

I hope this helps your chess prowess.

Now for an interesting finish in the famous Gibraltar Chess Festival in 2006. English GM Nigel Short versus India’s WGM Dronavalli Harika. Another lady that knows how to play chess.

As the opening turns into the middlegame, White begins to inexplicably drift. Harika spots her opportunity to turn her positional advantage into a tangible one.

26. …….          A3!

27. bxa3         Qa5

This move puts pressure on the weak a3 and c3 pawns and prepares Bb5 then Ba4.

28. Bh3?!        …….

Better was 28. Bd2 as Black’s advantage goes from (-.9) to (-1.4).

28. …….          Bb5

29. Rxd5??     ……..

A sensational idea, that doesn’t quite work. This move deteriorates the position further. (-3.3)

29. …….           Ba4

30. Qd2          Qxd5

31. Qxd5        Bc2


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