27 January 2016

DVD completed: Improve Your Tactics with Tania Sachdev

"Tactics flow from a positionally superior game"
  -- Robert Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games

The above quote, which IM Tania Sachdev paraphrases a couple of times during her commentary on this DVD, sums up well the approach to tactics that it takes.  Most of the content is centered around the idea of incorporating tactics and positional play, in a number of real-world game examples. Along with major combinations and ideas that are demonstrated for you (or that you are asked to find) are a number of useful recurring minor concepts that you will see (even if they are not always explicitly highlighted).

This kind of "extra" learning through observation is a feature of any level of game analysis you may practice.  However, the interactivity of the computer DVD format is explicitly intended to help you think actively when you are going through all of the games.  One of the more useful reminders for me, as seen in several of the games, was the importance of the concept of tactically defending pieces (i.e. if the technically unprotected material is taken, then a tactic will result); this is a common feature in master games, but an idea that is often neglected (or poorly executed) at lower levels.

The DVD's content includes:
  • 7 classic top-level games with tactical concepts presented.  The best for me was Karpov-Kasparov (1985 World Championship, 16th game), although seeing Short-Timman (Tilburg, 1991) never gets old, with the idea of the king march.
  • 17 tactics quiz games.  Key themes include cutting off flight squares in king hunts, sacrificing material to restrict opponent's development/piece activity (as in the above Karpov-Kasparov game), sacrifice for a positional advantage (where you need to be able to evaluate the resulting position as favorable), and using "quiet moves" in order to shut off an opponent's counterplay before executing a tactic (often necessary for its success).  There's even a nice recent example of a smothered mate tactic in a high-level game.
Comments based on my experience:
  • I considered it a bonus that IM Sachdev uses her own games (including one loss) for a majority of the tactics quiz examples.  As is common in analyzing your own games, it's thereby easier to pick out key moments and explain your thinking process.
  • The tactics quizzes are presented in a "what's the best move" format and positional ideas are also included in the commentary. While these are not hardcore tactics drills, this approach helps illustrate more of the "real world" considerations for evaluating a position.  The quizzes often go through multiple moves in sequences from the same game, thereby providing more depth than one-off tactics problems.  I was able to get most of them, although a couple of the longer and more complex combinations escaped me.  While it's always a little frustrating and disappointing not to get a solution, it's always good for training to be exposed to the ideas that you weren't able to see, which helps fill in the holes in your game.  It was especially useful for me to further concentrate on mating nets, for example, which for a long time has been a weakness in my board sight.
  • The emphasis is on exposing you to a variety of tactical ideas, presented in no particular order, rather than having a more structured analysis of tactical themes and patterns.  For that type of approach, it's best to look at resources such as Martin Weteschnik's Understanding Chess Tactics or Ward Farnsworth's Predator at the Chessboard.
  • Sometimes explicit analysis of other options and variations are included besides the game continuation, although this is hit-or-miss.  One benefit of the database DVD format is that you can always look at the games directly and analyze variations outside the recorded DVD presentation.
  • The presentation has some technical issues, including a more stream-of-consciousness game presentation style and a few mistakes made "live" when replaying games.  Although they are always subsequently corrected, occasionally after a bit of a delay, it makes you wonder why ChessBase won't allow (or insist on) more preparation, and/or a second take of the recording session when a significant error is made, especially for segments that are just a couple minutes long.  This has been a general practice for ChessBase DVD recordings, though, so I'm not picking on IM Sachdev here.


  1. Replies
    1. If I can apply the tactical themes covered (tactically defending pieces, sacrificing material to stifle the opponent's play, mating nets, etc.) more often and better in my future games, then I'll have improved. So time will tell.