Complete Chess Tactics Guide For Under-1800 Rated Players
Chess Middlegame Tactics & Calculation

Complete Chess Tactics Guide for Beginners & Intermediates

Complete Chess Tactics Guide for Beginners & Intermediates

Hi and welcome to the most comprehensive chess tactics guide. Just tactics may feel complicated with over 50 different tactical motifs and thousands of different chess puzzles that you’re expected to solve in order to learn all these common patterns of chess.

Now in this article, I’m going to present you with a simple system that you can use in order to spot tactics in your own games and also not to overlook tactics from the side of your opponent. And again, I’m going to present you with a complete system so that we’re going from A to Z and break it down step by step initially just so that you can understand it fully. And after that, I’m going to show you how you can use it in seconds in your real-life games.

But first of all, what are chess tactics? It implies short-term operations aiming to get some immediate advantage, such as checkmate in your opponent’s king or winning material. In contrast to this, chess strategy aims to improve your position gradually, accumulate those small advantages that will hopefully ultimately give you a winning position.

Let me also address one common problem with chess tactical puzzles. While solving a tactical puzzle, you know that there is a winning combo, that there is probably a sacrifice, and you start looking for those moves that give up material that you wouldn’t consider otherwise. And so, even if you manage to solve those tactical puzzles, it doesn’t guarantee at all that you will be able to find combinations in your real-life games. And for that reason, the system that I’m about to present to you is a universal system. It allows you to find combinations, tactics, as well as simple normal moves, and it works all around.

All right, let’s take a look at it.

This position is taken from a game between Euwe, a world champ, against Abdul, a less-known opponent.

White’s turn to play

Look at your opponent’s half of the board

First of all, there is one precondition that helps you to find tactics in your games, and that precondition is that you’ve got to seek attacking moves. You’ve got to always be on the lookout for attacking moves because attack wins the game. That’s going to be your mindset when you’re playing a game of chess. The traditional way of thinking of chess players is a bit different. People start looking at their pieces and start thinking about where those pieces can be moved and what they can do. So, you kind of look at your position and start thinking about what you are going to do.

Now, the way that I’m suggesting you think is actually the opposite. Instead of thinking about your position, you pay attention to the opponent’s side of the board, to the other half of the board, and you ask yourself, “How do I go into the opponent’s side of the board and take or attack something there?” So again, it’s just a shift of your mindset where you shift from finding good moves to attacking mode.

When you’re in this mindset, you start looking for moves that only create threats on the opponent’s half of the board, and that helps you a lot because attacking moves are the most powerful, but it also limits the options that you have. For example, in this case, if you’re thinking about moves on the opponent’s half of the board, there aren’t that many options really. So what can you do here? You can play Ne6, Re6 or a5. There are just a handful of options really, and so it’s really simple to notice that, and that’s how you find attacking moves, regardless of whether there is some sacrifice involved or not.

Step One: Identify weakness in opponent’s position

The first main idea that can help you determine whether or not to consider making sacrifices is to look for weaknesses in your opponent’s position. When you identify weaknesses, you can potentially take advantage of them and initiate an attack. In chess, there are three types of weaknesses to look for:

  1. A weak king, which is an exposed or restricted king.
  2. Hanging pieces, which are pieces without sufficient defense and are not well-coordinated with each other.
  3. Weak pawns and squares. A weak pawn or square is a square on your opponent’s half of the board that is not defended, and ideally cannot be defended by a pawn.

For example, in this position, the pawn on f6 is weak, and if Black moves their rook away, you can capture it. The e6 square is also weak, as it is undefended and you can easily land your knight there. However, the e5 square is not weak because it can be defended by a pawn.

When looking for weaknesses in your opponent’s position, focus on the fifth and sixth rank and try to spot weaknesses there. In this position, Black has all three types of weaknesses combined, with an exposed king, hanging pieces, and weak squares, especially in close proximity to the king. This is a trigger for you to consider whether there is a winning combination or attack available, which is the first step in determining whether or not to make a sacrifice.

Step Two: Candidate Moves

You start thinking about weaknesses, and as soon as you notice that there are weaknesses in your opponent’s position, It brings you to step number two, which is candidate moves.

Here’s a helpful tip about your candidate moves: There are three types of forcing moves in chess, which are checks, captures, and threats. I have just named them in the order of significance. Check is the most forcing move.

If you deliver a check, your opponent’s pawn has nothing to do but to respond, and therefore, their options are extremely limited.

The next type of forced move is a capture. Your opponent will usually have to recapture, and so it’s easy for you to calculate this because there is only one line you need to consider.

The final idea is threats, attack, and moves. They are less forcing because your opponent may have options, but still, they are forcing the opponent to react usually. So what are the moves that you have to consider? Here again, we’re looking for attacking moves on your opponent’s half of the board that will take or attack something.

Here are the Candidate moves

A. Ne6 This is a candidate move definitely worth considering. It’s an attacking move that attacks the rook here twice. If black plays Bxe6, then we will recapture, and it looks very good for white actually because now your rook comes into play and attacks the queen. The rook is shaky, so it’s all good, but after 96, if we’re looking at this position once again, there is  Re8, and it’s actually annoying because it attacks our pieces along this file, and probably black is going to win some material here on the next move, something like this,  Rxe6, and black wins material. So Ne6 was a good move to consider, but it doesn’t work in the current case.

B. h5

Which is a somewhat attacking move on your opponent’s half of the board, but it does not create an immediate threat, even though it’s worth considering. But again, I would leave this move for the last. If more force moves downward, then you may consider this move. But again, the disadvantage of this move is that it’s the least forced move. Now your opponent has time to do something, and again, black will probably play Re8 and take advantage of this. So in this case, it’s actually bad.

C. Re6

Even though it sacrifices a rook, since we noticed that black has a number of weaknesses in their position, which triggers you to think about a potentially winning attack, it’s worth considering this move. Now Re6 hits queen, hits the pawn on f6. Black has to do something. He has to play Bxe6 and Now after Nxe6. You recapture, and it hits this rook and also threatens Qg7 and White is winning.

Exercise 1

Use the above principles to find the right move for Black.

Black to play

Exercise 2

Use the above principles to find the right move for White.

White to play


I have presented a simple and effective system to spot tactics in your own games of chess and not to overlook tactics from your opponent’s side. By seeking attacking moves, paying attention to the opponent’s side of the board, and looking for weaknesses in their position, you can quickly identify possible combinations, sacrifices, and opportunities to gain an advantage. This approach is a shift in mindset from just finding good moves to an attacking mode, and it works universally, allowing you to find both combinations and normal moves. With practice, you can use this system in seconds in your real-life games and improve your chess tactics skills. Remember, attack wins the game!

You can find the PGN of these puzzles below:

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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