Tactics & Strategy I

I.    Tactics vs. Strategy I: Tactical Moves & Strategical Goals – Concepts, Problems & Examples.

As stated earlier, tactics and strategy are two of the building blocks upon which a player constructs and executes (or attempts) to execute his or her game plan…the offensive side of playing. At the same time, the player is seeking to prevent the other player from constructing his or her game plan. This later aspect seeks to prevent development of the opposing player’s game plan, or to force him or her to abandon his or her game plan, while safeguarding the player’s King from checkmate. Tactics & strategy also involve additional considerations in drawing and stalemating. In short, the defensive side of playing. So what is the main difference between tactics and strategy?

Tactics are the moves and pawn advances on the board a player utilizes to effectuate his or her goals, both offensively and defensively. Strategy is the manner in which the player executes the tactical moves and pawn advances…that is to say, primarily the concept of move order & calculation. For example, let’s consider some combination concepts covered in many of the earlier tutorials.A player might see an opportunity spring up on the board to freely capture an opposing piece or pawn, or perhaps offer a trade or exchange. Doing so when the opportunity arises is a sound tactic to apply…and not doing so when the opportunity arises usually is unwise and generally not recommended. A general principle to keep in mind is that not capturing a piece or a pawn freely when the opportunity is presented is like giving up one of your own pieces or pawns, and also it can be equated to the player losing a tempo.

Strategically, however, foregoing the opportunity at least for the moment (or perhaps entirely for the rest of the game, such as foregoing capturing en passant) might indeed be better for more effective execution of the player’s offensive side of his or her game plan. Not capturing may assist in developing a better defensive position, preventing the opposing player from furthering his or her own goals and execution of his or her game plan (e.g. restrict or prevent development by the opposing player), forcing the opposing player to abandon his or her game plan to defend an attack or counterattack, or executing or developing counterplay…such as foregoing a possible capture to develop or seize upon an opportunity to capture a much more valuable piece. In other cases, while a possible capture of a piece or a pawn springs up on the board, instead an opportunity exists to checkmate (draw such as by perpetual check or stalemate…if the player is losing the game and wants to escape with 1/2-1/2). In many cases, one or more these strategical reasons for not capturing a piece or a pawn often come into play during games.

In a similar vein of conceptual thought, earlier tutorials covered the basics of sacrificing. A sacrifice is a powerful tactical move employed for the purpose of reaching some further worthy goal…a pin, a skewer, entombment, developing a mating pattern and mating net, and so on…that is, executing the player’s strategy either offensively or defensively (e.g. counterattack or counterplay). As has been seen and will be reviewed in the Sacrificing tutorial, sacrifices while powerful can indeed go very wrong if done too early, or be relatively useless if not done timely. The boomerang effect of a sacrifice gone wrong has clobbered many a player who only “thought” the sacrifice was a good tactical move to employ at a particular point in a game!

Execution of the game plan must focus not only on the tactics a player wishes to employ… which moves to make, but also on both the timing and the reason(s) for making the moves…that is, the player’s strategy. The harmonious combination of tactics & strategy is a hallmark key to playing effective and exciting chess.

In developing the tactics & strategy to employ during a game, the player must engage in a process of evaluation. Through this process the player determines or attempts to determine (i.e., evaluates) the benefits and risks of making moves and pawn advances, the timing thereof, and the reasons for doing so. There are primarily eight essential aspects to consider when making evaluation (a memory aid sometimes used is TOMPACKS):

T Threats: both for and against
O Open Lines: control of ranks, files, and diagonals
M Material: material advantage, overworked pieces, combination of minor pirces against a major or major pieces
P Pawn structure: holes, pawn center, doubled pawns or tripled pawns, pawn chains, passed pawns, remote pawn
A Activity: who has more active pieces, who has better development, consider Good Bishop vs. Bad Bishop, entombment
C Central Control: pawn center, centralization, White Knight at e5, passed pawns, open central files
K King Safety: King in center, same side castled Kings, opposite side castled Kings, luft, King rush to area of primary battle in endgame
S Space: who controls more space (squares) on the board, who has more forward advanced pawns, more actively positioned Knights, Bishop control of long diagonals.

In studying and reviewing various tactical moves by pieces, pawn advances, and captures by both, a player must consider them juxtaposed with the player’s strategical goals, keeping in mind as well the above essential aspects to evaluation. Another avenue for developing tactics and startegy involves learning “motifs”. More will be covered in a later tutorial on motifs. However, for now let’s consider the Bishop. In the Bishop tutorial, there was an example of what I call the diamondization principle, shown in Diagram B-IV-B on page 2 of the Bishop tutorial (about 3/4 of the way down the page). This type of conceptualization of the chessboard and moving the Bishop is one example of the geometrical motif.

The geometrical motif involves evaluating pieces moving and attacking along the same line (a simple geometrical motif), or in combinations of lines in more complex geometrical patterns. Examples include, for example, pins, pieces liable to be forked, loose pieces, hanging pawns, and so on. Motifs are one process that may be used to think about the reasons behind employment of a tactical move or combinations of tactical moves to accomplish some goal or set of goals, not just recognizing for example that “My knight can attack two pieces at once.” Instead, the player is able to start to see that those pieces have to be on the same color, same as a Bishop capture of an opposing piece must occur on the same color. It is a way of looking at the board as whole and calculating geometrical patterns for attacking and defending.