Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Weteschnik’s Understanding Chess Tactics

I first read Martin Weteshnik’s Understanding chess Tactics about a year ago, and found it both helpful and engaging.  I have since been through most of the examples several times.  Weteschnik does not claim that his examples are original, and I found many of them in other books.  The general level of his examples is about the same as those in Fred Reinfeld’s 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations.

Weteschnik says that the club players he was coaching had great weaknesses in their tactical play, and that this was not fixed asking them to solve a huge number of problems. Nonetheless, with his coaching, they improved by an average of 100-200 rating points, and were promoted to higher leagues twice in three years.  Clearly, this is not a scientific trial. An exacting critic would say that his students might have improved by as much or more if Weteschnik had used different training methods; or might not be impressed by an improvement of 100-200 points over three years.  Nonetheless, its a good inspirational story!

The main emphasis of the book is on understanding chess tactics, rather than just solving problems.  Weteschnik says “do not exercise what you do not understand.”  Nonetheless, he fully accepts that you need to practice once you do understand, see:

The main theme of Weteschnik’s book is what he calls “status analysis,” by which he means studying the position to find clues for possible tactics.  The book addresses this topic better than any other that I have seen.

Understanding tactics is an important part of the learning process, but that it is not enough in itself.  You need to practice until your thought processes become automatic. Nonetheless, as sportsmen say: “practice does not make perfect - perfect practice makes perfect.”  Practicing finding tactics badly is not a promising approach.

Reading explanations can be helpful, but working things out for yourself is better, and the examples in this book are only a subset of those that a strong player needs to know. Sooner or later, you are going to have conduct your own investigations.  You need to be able to spot most simple tactics (including the uncommon ones) and most common tactical possibilities (including the complicated ones) on sight.

The diagrams in this book are large and clear but a little non-standard.  Nonetheless, I did not find them difficult to use.  The book was not intended to be used as a problem book. Nonetheless, I like to study a position before I read the commentary, to see what I can work out for myself.  The publisher has not been helpful in this regard.  None of the diagrams say who is to move.  You often have to read a long way through the text to find out, and in so doing, are told the solution.  In addition, a sizable proportion of the diagrammed positions are not suitable as problems - either because a bad move has to be made before the problem position arises - or because the sacrifice is speculative and does not win against the best defence.  This fault could easily have been remedied.  Prior to reading this book in detail, I marked each diagram to indicate who was to move, and whether the position was suitable for use as a problem.

Overall, this is an excellent book, and deserves its high reputation.  Will it greatly improve your chess?  Perhaps not by itself, but I it could make an important contribution.


  1. Note that Quality Chess has just published a second edition of this book, including many new problems. Slightly confusingly, they have retitled it Chess Tactics from Scratch.

  2. FYI, the revised edition (sounds like you have the first edition) added White/Black to move indicators on the diagrams and revamped the examples, based on feedback like the above. I'm currently working my way through it.

  3. Your writings about Weteschnik and this book made me nosy. He was/is seemingly a very sucessful Trainer. That he was starting his chess very late and that he still gained a Title made me even more curious,... buut,... he was gaining 300 elopoints in one year, in east europe in the 90's. He did stop playing Fide-rated games after. His German Rating ( almost the same as Fide Elo ) is now 19++.

    One of his games is here:

    At move 34 GM Forintos did "blunder the Queen" and Weteschnik did not see it.

    More fun at

    Well, an other hope of mine.. gone, the chances to become master as an not so young player are low, very low.

  4. I wonder if you would like to learn "How to reassess your chess"
    Its undoubtly one of the best chess books ever written. The problems are checked by strong engines. The price/problem relation is very good..

  5. HTRYC is certainly a very popular book, but I have not seen a copy. Critics say that is a rehash of the classics, with some examples from Silman’s games that do not stand up to close scrutiny. I expect that the computer checked version is better. Heisman says that his students love it and think that it is teaching them a lot, but what they learn is not useful to them. Its no use understanding some finer points of chess strategy if you drop pieces. OK, I do not drop pieces, so perhaps it is a good book for me, but there are so many good books out there. I am currently doing Chessimo endgames, and plan to have a look at Chessimo strategy.

  6. HTRYC is one of the best books about : what to play if there is no winning tactic (= Positional+Strategical Chess). And in my games, most moves are without winning tactics. There are not that many good books about "what to play if there is no winning tactic" and only HTRYC offers a lot of puzzles about this.

    I am a big big fan of Chessimo too.