Are you ready for a Tactics Fight?

by Sagar Shah
1/14/2016 – The main problem every chess amateur faces is to develop a tactical vision that will help you spot the combinations in any given position quickly and accurately. While talented youngsters are easily able to do that, adults spend years in a vain attempt to improve. The ChessBase Tactics Trainer now has a new function that will help you get better: the Tactics Fight. Statutory warning: the app is extremely addictive!

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Are you ready for a Tactics Fight?

The year was 2009 and I was at the Kolkata International Open, which is considered by many to be the strongest international event in India. Rated around 2300, I was looking for my first IM norm. As is customary for me I reached the city one day prior to the start of the tournament to get acclimatized to the new conditions. The place where I was staying was an apartment, which I shared with three other chess players. One of them was the talented 15-year-old youngster Vidit Gujrathi. Vidit as of today is ranked sixth in India with a rating of 2642, but back then he was somewhere 2450 and looking for his first GM norm by slaying some strong grandmasters. I settled in my room, freshened up, and set up a chess board for a pre-tournament tactics solving session. I opened the book “Imagination in Chess”, which I had recently purchased, and arranged the first position of the book on the chess board.

Toshkov–Russek, Saint John 1988

White to move

I looked at the position carefully. I tried to understand the various tactical features before indulging in concrete calculations. In my mind I started speaking to myself, “Ahh, the bishop on d6 is a little loose, so ideas like Ncb5 or Ndb5 should be thought of. And look at the bishop on b3 is aiming at the king on g8. This means that the knight on g6 is actually undefended.” At this point I really got excited and decided to chuck looking for more features, and dived straight into the calculations. “1.e5 this looks like the move. If he takes 1…Bxe5 then I go 2.Qxg6! and I win the piece. But what if he takes with the knight?” I got a little demotivated and thought of looking in the direction of Nb5 tricks.

Just then Vidit, who was busy doing his own work, glanced at the board. Within two seconds he said, “Doesn’t 1.e5 win?” I said to him, “Look I can understand that 1…Bxe5 loses to 2.Qxg6, but what have you planned for 1…Nxe5?” Vidit replied instantaneously, “ 2.f4 traps the knight!”

After 1.e5 Nxe5 2.f4 the knight on e5 has nowhere to go!

I looked at Vidit and said, “How the hell did you solve that in two seconds?” “I don’t know,” came the reply, and the 15-year-old went back to preparing some deep opening idea. I sat there shaken. While I had been looking with full concentration at the position for nearly four to five minutes, this young lad had solved it with a mere glance! How did he do it? How did he get himself totally immersed in the position so quickly? How could he spot the key point of the combination so quickly and not get distracted by any other motifs? And yes, this was not a fluke. I tested him with positions throughout the duration of the tournament. He would almost always get them right. Also I was amazed with the moves he would quickly suggest in the analysis of my games. It all boiled down to the question, “How did he come to possess such a quick eye?”

Vidit receiving the gold medal at World U14 in 2008 in Vietnam, ahead of Nodar Lortkipanidze and Dariusz Swiercz

This article is for readers who understand the feeling, for chess amateurs who can relate with this poor chap who did all the hard work of setting up the position, and thinking of all the features and still not finding the answer, while some chess genius sees it instantaneously.

However, getting quickly immersed in a position and building a quick eye that spots all the tactical possibilities is something that can be developed. The trick is to solve relatively simple puzzles in a very short time. Of course there is no dearth of books available out there, but any student who tries to solve quickly from a book faces a few problems:

  • the board size is often too small to quickly spot all the pieces in the position;
  • the solutions are given somewhere else and to keep flipping pages after every problem is quite irritating;
  • high speed solving requires great concentration, something which is not so easy to achieve;
  • after a point you tend to lose motivation and give up.

Keeping these things in mind ChessBase developed its Tactics Training application. It has been out there for a few months now and I am sure that you have tried your hand at it. However, for those who haven’t here’s a quick diagram:

You are confronted with a problem to solve, say White to play and win, and you have to find the right move. On the right hand side you can find the difficulty of the problem and also your rating. If you give the right answer, like Qg7# in the above example, you gain points. A wrong answer will make you lose rating points. At the start of the session you get a few easy ones, like the Qg7# in the above diagram, but soon the difficulty level increases. Usually you have to enter a whole line of play, to prove that you have understood the solution.

There are some interesting features: you can ask for a hint (which is not a move but often something like “Think of a knight fork!”); you can “criticize” the problem, which means sending feedback to ChessBase; and very nice and unique in the tactical puzzle world: you can switch on an engine to find out why your wrong move doesn’t work!

The tactics trainer is quite addictive, and some beta testers (with Elos of around 2800) have solved over 20,000 positions, sending in hundreds of feedback messages. There are currently over 45,000 positions in the database, and the number is growing all the time.

The above Tactics Trainer overcomes a lot of the issues we had while using a book, but there is one drawback: no time limit. You get unlimited time to solve the positions. While this is good to develop accuracy in your calculations, it also has its minuses. Because there is no clock ticking, players get distracted. They pick up their phones or go to get the door when the bell rings, or have a quick snack while solving! This is not how you are going to develop your quick eye that we were talking about above. In order to get you more concentrated the programmers at ChessBase have come up with something revolutionary – the “Tactics Fight”.

Before we tell you how to start a Tactics Fight, let us first understand what it is all about. To start first click on the Training button on the right of this page:

This will take you to the Tactics Training screen.

Before starting a training session or a Tactics Fight it makes sense to login with your PlayChess or ChessBase account on the top right corner. But, of course, you can also play as a guest. On the main screen you can either click on the Start Fight button in the top ribbon or on the right hand side.

In a nutshell this is what Tactics Fight is about

Once you click “Start Fight” you are automatically paired with a player who also wants to indulge in a fight and the battle begins. You have sixty seconds for every position, but more often than not you have to be faster to make sure that your opponent doesn’t solve it before you.

The scores are given on the right side. As you can see at the start both sides have zero points.
The score is also given on top of the board for you to keep your focus on the board.

If you make a wrong move, the point is given to your opponent, even if he hasn’t found the right move. For example, in the above position I was still thinking and my opponent made the wrong move 1.Qxa7. This is shown with a red mark, while the right move 1.Rxc6 is shown with the green arrow. I got the full point and won the match 7.0:2.0

The side to score seven points wins the game. 6-6 means that the game ends in a draw! Unfortunately there are no penalty shootouts yet. I think this would be a good addition that would add to the excitement.

There is also a ranking list which is based not only on whether you have won matches or not, but also on whether you found the right answers. You will need to login with your ChessBase account or PlayChess ID in order to get to the rankings list. At the time of writing, when very few users had found the new function, Gopal Menon had the highest rating with 1910. Next to his rating you can see the number of fights he had won. It seems like “jergus”, who was in the second position and had won 173 fights, spends a lot of time on the tactics fight!

IM Sagar Shah (myself), IM Prathamesh Mokal, IM Nisha Mohota and WIM elect Amruta Mokal were the group of beta testers for the tactics fight. We spent many enjoyable hours playing against each other trying our hardest to reach seven points in each fight.

The brother-sister duo of IM Prathamesh Mokal and Amruta Mokal battling it out against each other

Amruta was smart enough to realize that her touch screen would give her added speed
in executing moves.

IM Nisha Mohota, who will be in Hamburg in February to record a DVD (or two), wrote to us:

“Statutory Warning: extremely addictive! After 52 wins, I am telling myself ‘Stoppppp.” If my addiction to Tactics Fight continues, then I will go to Hamburg (unprepared!) and make five minute DVDs. Friends, no DVD or book required to improve your chess! Just read a wonderful news page (which I do every day!), solve all the puzzles there, indulge in the Tactics Fight and solve positions online too! Good Luck! Hope to see you succeed! End of DVDs!”

Prathamesh Mokal, who is an International Master and a FIDE Trainer, was of the opinion that

“Apart from being extremely addictive and enjoyable, the Tactics Fight is a useful tool for all the young players out there who want to improve their speed and tactical ability. Just make sure that you start the fun early in the day, otherwise you might end up with a sleepless night!”

Matthias Wüllenweber, the co-founder of ChessBase and also the developer of this new function, said:

“I enjoy the Tactics Fight a lot myself. It makes us stronger blitz players. Currently the fights are getting over too soon. In the near future we will make sure that the players with higher ratings will get somewhat tougher positions. There are also many improvements on the way, so the application will only get better.”

Conclusion: As for me, I found that Tactics Fight was helping me fulfill my long-time dream of coming close to Vidit’s level of expertise – having high tactical speed and attaining a quick eye. In order to win in Tactics fight you not only have to be fast but also accurate. This can only be achieved if you are thoroughly concentrated. Isn’t that what you need to play well in time pressure? Besides the ratings mean that you will be motivated to keep playing and try to climb up the rating chart! Immediately after the Tactics Fight when I tried solving normal tactics in the tactics trainer, I could sense that my speed of solving had increased and I could immerse myself in the position much faster.

So guys, what are you waiting for? Why not start your first fight!

Go to Tactics Trainer and start the Tactics Fight

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register