If there’s one area of chess that players should study in order to rapidly improve their results, it is tactics. Almost every single game of chess at the sub-master level is decided by tactical errors, and even games amongst the best players in the world often come down to who makes a critical tactical error at the wrong time.
With that in mind, there are plenty of books out there that promise to help you with your tactical vision. It’s also worth noting that there are great software programs out... there for tactical training as well; in fact, using either online training tools or software is probably the best way to power through hundreds or thousands of tactics problems in a short period of time. But the following five books all offer something special that make them worth getting for your personal chess library.
One of the most iconic chess books ever written, Chess contains 5,334 different problems, combinations, and games that are designed to boost the tactical acumen of any beginner. That’s not to say that this book is only for beginners, though: while the mate in one problems are certainly only for new players, the mates in two and mates in three that make up the bulk of this book are challenging enough to give most players a bit of a workout. It worked for the Polgar sisters, so it’s probably good... enough for you, too.
If you’re looking for a source of worksheets for an elementary school chess class, there are few better than the Chess Tactics Workbook. This unassuming yellow workbook doesn’t look like much, and any experienced player could work through the majority of the book’s problems in just a few minutes. But each page (which normally contain six problems with large diagrams that kids can draw on) has a new theme, making them a great way to introduce players to pins, forks, classic checkmates and other... motifs. Make photocopies and hand them out to your classes, and this book will be worth its weight in gold.
I’ve praised this book before, so it should be no surprise to see it on this list. Looking for Trouble does something few other books have put any emphasis on at all: it teaches players to look for the tactics their opponents have and find the ways to avoid falling into the traps or counter the threats that the opponent is making. In real chess games, you’ll be doing this much more often than finding a forced tactical sequence that instantly wins material, so it only makes sense that players... should spend some time playing on the other side of tactical problems as well.
The Winning Chess series is a classic collection of books on chess, all of which were written by the great Yasser Seirawan. His tactics book has the same strengths as the rest of the series: it clearly outlines the basics of each tactical motif, allowing players to learn how to use these tools in their games. There aren’t enough problems here to make you a tactical genius, but for new players, having a full explanation of how each tactical trick works and why they are important will make a huge... difference in their game.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
If Winning Chess Tactics leaves you feeling like you understand what tactics are, but you want more problems that expand on each motif, then I’d highly recommend this book. Featuring problems on every important tactical concept, this is a book that can prove useful for anyone from an absolute beginner to club players, who will be challenged by the mates in three or four found towards the end of this problem set. There’s even a “curiosities” section in the back for those looking for unique... problems to share with a student or class.
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