Game Spotlight: Extreme Tactics

Tactics exist in even the most unassuming positions.  The issue is that there’s no sign that lights up saying a tactic is possible, so we tend not to look for anything, especially in quieter positions and openings.  It takes an effort to look at a position as it is, and ignore our preconceived notions.

As it happens, some of the better players at this aren’t originally chess players.  At one point in the early 2000’s, a few top flight shogi players (notably Yoshiharu Habu and Toshiyuki Moriuchi, both among the best to ever play the game) became interested in chess and started playing international tournaments.  Shogi is the Japanese version of chess — it comes from the same root game, but developed independently into a game that is a lot more aggressive.  To play shogi at a high level, tactical skill is essential.

So in this game, we see a player with hyper-developed tactical skill and fewer preconceived ideas than most other chess players go up against a GM rated 200 points higher.  The result is extraordinary.

While the game is complicated, there are still some valuable lessons here for club players.

First, look at more than just the material situation.  Nikolic had some chances to bail out into a draw by perpetual check, and didn’t take either because having a Queen for two Knights was a large material advantage.  But if you’re under too much pressure, a draw is likely better than needing to thread the needle through a long string of “only moves”.

Second, look at positions with an eye for tactics.  A Queen’s Gambit Declined with a locked centre was an unlikely game for tactical fireworks, and yet they were there.  Especially in positions where it’s correct to slowly move pieces into position, be careful that each move doesn’t allow a tactic before making it.

Finally, learning and recognizing tactics is essential.  Everything that happened was built up from smaller tactical ideas.  So a lot of practice both lets you play tactical brilliancies, and lets you stop tactics from being played against you.

Our next tournament is coming up on  If you’re already a member of our club over there, you should have an invitation.  If not, join Nairobi Chess Club on the platform and sign up.  It’s free!

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