Studying chess openings is all well and good, but there are many other aspects of chess which deserve your attention. This brings us very neatly to Exploring Chess Tactics, the brand new Chessable course by the enigmatic National Master mn79.
Tactics, Tactics, Tactics…
This course follows up National Master mn79’s first course on tactics. The introduction explains the mission of this sequel:
‘In the first The Psychology of Chess Tactics course, we mainly discussed moves that are ‘hidden’ for one reason or another, be it due to guarded squares, reflexive thinking or what have you. In this course, I intend to do a few things. Firstly, I’m including a chapter with some further examples of concepts from the previous course; both ones that have come up in my own play and also ones that I’ve been sent by readers (much appreciated, by the way). However, I also plan on expanding the discussion of tactics. I want to try to identify some features that may set the scene for tactics, as well as adding a section on chess calculation, which is of course a very important part of improving your tactical ability.’
We all love a good tactical workout. It makes us feel good if we can solve a run of puzzles. We feel empowered and ready for the next game. The early chapters of Exploring Chess Tactics train our minds to look for tactical signals; little clues which entice us to take up the magnifying glass and to devote more serious scrutiny to a particular aspect of each position. Time to take a closer look at one of the chapters.
Grandmaster John Nunn’s is responsible for bringing ‘LPDO’ into the chess player’s lexicon in his fine book, Secret’s of Practical Chess (first published by Gambit, 1998). It stands for loose pieces drop off or, as mn79 puts it, ‘the nature of undefended pieces to fall off the board in tactical sequences.’
LPDO happens all of the time in club and tournament play and is one of the most common of all tactical signals. Here is a case in point.
Back to play
White has just played 12.Na4?! Positionally, this is a well-motivated move. The knight is heading to c5, to ensure the c6-pawn will not be able advance to c5, allowing Black to stake a serious claim for central dominance. It is often the case that long-term thinking can lead to a simple tactical oversight, because the brain is focusing on deeper matters and can easily miss something lying on the very surface of the position. The knight is a loose piece – and it is going to drop off.
How can Black attack the knight? It is not immediately clear, because the brain is still distracted by the positional considerations of the position. Therefore, Black’s next move comes as a big shock.
The first impression is that Black simply doesn’t want to be caught up in bind after the white knight lands on c5, so decides to sacrifice a knight for two influential pawns. However, it is a much simpler idea, which becomes very clear after the next move.
The knight on a4 is revealed to be loose!
As mn79 rightly observes: ‘Black is a pawn up, ahead in development and will likely win the e5 pawn as well.’
Even though LPDO cases are much more frequent at club level, it doesn’t mean that they never occur at the higher levels. Of course they do; we are all human, after all. Here is an example featuring two of the world’s best players.
Kramnik-Wang Hao, Dortmund 2013
White to play
Wang Hao has just played 25…Rb2-a2?? On one level, it is an understandable move. White’s passed-pawn needs attention and the black rook moves into position to keep it under observation. However, on the surface – yet again – we have a simple case of LPDO.
Can you tune into the tactical signal to find his Kramnik won the loose rook in just two more moves? If not, you will have to buy the course to find out.
The course is full of excellent material, presented in very clear fashion. Incidentally, even an experienced gumshoe with a powerful magnifying glass would struggle to uncover details regarding the identity of mn79. We are told the author is ‘a National Master from Canada and an Undergraduate Psychology student in University.’ Not much to go on at all, so in this case the investigation is clearly destined to be ongoing.
You can find the Exploring Chess Tactics course by clicking on the image below.
If you haven’t already done so, then now would be a good time to catch up with National Master mn79’s earlier course, The Psychology of Chess Tactics.