Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Someone compared the chess blogosphere to a cult. It's true we praise Caissa, the Goddess of Chess. And sometimes she demands expiation, the sacrifice of countless hours studying tactics and positions from master games.

Oh, and I chant: "DaDaPiSkReMa, DaDaPiSkReMa, DaDaPiSkReMa".

DaDouble Attacks
DaDiscovered Attacks
ReRemoving the Guard
MaMating Patterns

There are two basic ways to solve a tactic:

A. Recognizing the idea
B. Calculating

Recognizing the Idea - We often do this automatically. I know when pieces are lined up for a skewer or fork, or there's a potential double bishop sacrifice. But sometimes we look at a position and have no clue.

That's when going through a checklist of tactical motifs may help us find the idea, and the mnemonic DaDaPiSkReMa helps to remember that checklist.

Calculating - The trick is to consider checks, threats, and captures in that order. If there are few forcing moves, sometimes we can skip finding the idea and simply calculate the solution. But in complex positions we usually have to find the idea and then calculate.

Erik e-mailed me and asked me to take up editing tactics for I was about to decline, when I realized the role matches my current objectives. I receive dozens of computer-selected key positions from master games every day and have to fully understand them before editing them for clarity and to give the losing side a strong defense.


Temposchlucker said...

It's true that every one needs his own mnemonic. If my theory is right, then a few letters will even fall off overtime. Once a scan is settled as a new habit.

tanc(happyhippo) said...

interesting note about mantras....

i never subscribed to the notion of mantras although if i were asked to, my thought process usu. goes like this:

immediate threats
immediate defenses
subtle threats
hanging pieces
key squares

making tactics+combinations+positional moves (calculation) just sorts of flow from there onwards....

Blue Devil Knight said...

Hilarious post. I like the mnemonic. :)

I contracted 'pins and skewers' into a single letter 'S' (Straight-line tactics).

I am never sure how to go about categorizing removal of the guard, decoys, and deflections. They are often treated as the same even though they are also often treated as different, and given different names.

Perhaps 'removal of the guard' is the genus and deflections/decoys are species?

Perhaps I'll have to steal your idea there and go from FSTDD to FSTDR (fisteder). I like it.

Straight-line (pins/skewers)

This stuff helps me a lot in games.

Chessaholic said...

I operate more along HappyHippo's lines - for me, recognition of tactics happens on a more instinctive level (which might explain why I miss many tactics ;-)). Do you guys really think in such a structured way during a game, actually going through a mental checklist?

likesforests - off topic, but just wanted to tell you that I had a weak moment again and ordered that Anti-Moscow DVD ;-)

Blue Devil Knight said...

chessaholic: I usually do it explicitly when solving tactics puzzles, only sometimes in games as it became somewhat automatic to just scan for these things instead of thinking about scanning for them. And frankly, some motifs are more automatic than others. I almost always look for pieces lined up without thinking about it (seed of pins/skewers), for forks the knight past the third rank sets off bells, etc. I.e., I've noticed once it is automated I scan for the signature of the tactic without thinking much explicitly about the tactic itself (i.e., the 'seeds' of tactics). It's pretty cool actually.

Chessaholic said...

BDK: I've noticed once it is automated I scan for the signature of the tactic without thinking much explicitly about the tactic itself

That's exactly what I mean when I say "instinctive" :)

likesforests said...

tempo -

I suspect the same, that over time the mnemonic will change as some motifs become automatic and as we learn new, more complex motifs.

tanc, chessaholic -

"I never subscribed to the notion of mantras"

"Do you guys really think in such a structured way during a game"

Not at all. I usually just follow my instincts w/ a bit of analysis. But, I'm willing to experiment with this for a bit since tempo's having some success and he knows tactics. ;)

"Anti-Moscow DVD" - It's only a matter of time before I order it. Let me know how it is!

blue devil knight - Glad you liked. I stole the category names from In their lingo, removal of the guard includes actual removal, decoys, and deflections. Lumping pins and skewers together has some merit--actually, they cover them in the same chapter, but I couldn't think of a good combo word. "Straight Line"... hmm... good idea!