The Fun of Chess Tactics

by Matthias Wüllenweber
6/10/2019 – Why is it so much fun to solve tactical puzzles? The first reason has nothing to do with chess: Solving an interesting problem brings a sense of achievement. This releases a quantity of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a complex neurotransmitter and constitutes part of the brain’s neurochemical motivation and reward mechanism, often cited in pop culture as the “hormone of happiness”. It is the same substance your head gets overdosed with when you fall in love.

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The second reason is what we perceive as beauty in chess. Chess puzzles are interesting when the solution involves a sacrifice, a surprising maneuver, a deviation from the ordinary.
The third reason is more pragmatic but certainly the most important: For all amateurs, the fastest way to gain playing strength is to improve their calculation skills. The majority of games is decided by tactical inaccuracies. Solving tactical problems is the easiest way to train calculation and to become stronger.

This seemed sufficient motivation for further work on our tactical training site You can now enjoy tactics in three very different disciplines: Classical Solving, Fighting and Sprinting.

Classical Solving

In classical solving, you get positions suitable for your playing strength. If you are logged in, the system calculates your tactical rating and selects positions accordingly. You discover the solutions without time pressure at your own pace. The emphasis lies on properly calculating variations. Some of the puzzles will be above your current tactics Elo. You can still crack them because each position has several hints associated with it. Hints can be meaningful expressions like “Find the mate”, “Discovered Attack” or “Sacrifice something”. The more hints you use, the less Elo points you will gain. But still the net result will be positive if the position is difficult.

The first hint for this position is “Deflection”

For the relaunch of we improved four things:

  • All 90000 positions have been rechecked for unambiguous solutions. Also, for many existing puzzles, the given solutions were a bit short. They have been extended. Users can like or dislike a position after solving. We screened all dislikes and either clarified the solutions or simply deleted the position.
  • All positions have been supplied with much more meaningful hints as mentioned above. Most positions now have hints that describe the tactical theme (e.g. “Fork”). A good hint makes your task easier without giving away too much.
  • New positions are now added nearly daily from current master games. Therefore you will always encounter fresh material. Follow the link at the top left of the tactics web site to check the latest position added.
  • The rating system has been modified: Failing an easy position is not hurting your Elo as much as before.

For some time now, has been offering a powerful engine for post mortem analysis. If you doubt the official solution, you can simply analyze it afterwards.
Just click on “Solve Tactics” to start solving. The first positions will always be an easy warm-up. Click “Next position” to continue after you solved and analyzed a position. Stop whenever you have enough, it does not matter how many positions you look at in one session.

YouTube Video

Tactics Fight

While Classical Solving is all about careful and precise calculation, Tactics Fight is the quick and dirty approach to tactics training. You fight against another player. Whoever solves an easy position first gets a point and the next position follows for both. If you enter a wrong move, your opponent gets a point. The player to reach 13 points first wins. Entering the first move is sufficient, you do not have to prove the whole variation. When a new position pops up you have to concentrate very hard. Sometimes it can be worthwhile to guess a move rather than do a full calculation. There is a slight gambling element involved. The speed and adrenaline of Tactics Fight are comparable to one-minute-chess (“Bullet”).
If you want to practice the Tactics Fight without actually playing an opponent, you can kibitz a fight of other players. Kibitzers can enter moves and get feedback for it. The players do not see this and the next position is not shown before one of them enters a move.

To get in to the fight arena, click “Play a Fight”. You can then either click “Seek Fight” to start. Or you click “Kibitz Fight” to watch others. Challenge a friend with “Challenge Player”. Or wait for other players to challenge you. There is an incentive to fight weaker players: If you win 13-0, you get a big Elo bonus.

The high concentration required for Tactics Fight makes for efficient training. It is like the High Intensity Training (HIIT) in sports: Ten minutes of high effort can be as productive as one hour of mild exercise.

Tactics Sprint

If “Fight” is the Bullet Chess of tactical puzzles, the new “Tactics Sprint” is Blitz. Speed is important but precision counts. In Tactics Sprint, you play against the clock. Try to solve as many positions as possible in limited time.
You start with a time budget of four minutes. You have to prove solutions, i.e. to play against a plausible defense. Every correct move scores a point. At the beginning you have three “lives”. Every wrong move loses a life. If either the clock runs down or all lives are lost, the sprint ends and your result is the numbers of correct moves you managed up to then.
The positions start with trivial mates and forks and then get harder and harder. Your progress is however rewarded with three helping factors that keep you in the game:

  • As soon as you have reached 20 correct moves, you get five seconds added on the clock for each move you enter. This works like a time increment in Blitz Chess.
  • For every 30 points, you get an extra “life”.
  • For every 10 points reached, you get an extra free hint. Hints are very useful for tackling the harder positions at the end. Using a hint can save a lot of time and help gaining a lot of additional points from the difficult positions.

Click “Sprint” to start a Tactics Sprint: Careful, the clock starts immediately! Don’t guess solutions, a few seconds on the clock are not worth the risk of losing a life. If you are stuck, use multiple hints quickly.

Typical Sprint: Still two lives and five hints two use

Youtube video


Matthias Wüllenweber, CEO of ChessBase