I recently finished reading this book, and I think it is a great resource for any improving chess player. The big idea of the book is that you need to develop a sense for when tactics are present in the game, and there is a specific method to do that. The book lists out certain signals that alert you to the presence of a combination.
An excerpt from the book explaining the signal:
A signal is a weakness in the opponent’s position. When we look for a signal, we look for a reason why we should be winning. Since Steinitz, we know that the combination does not appear randomly, but as a consequence of the positional superiority of one side. This superiority lies in positive factors, let’s say more active pieces. But we can take the opposite approach: looking at the opponent’s position, we can establish that he has passive pieces; or they may be trapped, locked in or lacking coordination.
Further, the book also lists out the signals you should look for in your game.
- King’s Position
- Unprotected Pieces
- Knight Fork Distance
- Trapped pieces
- Overloaded defender
- Defence too far away
When you see a signal above appearing on the board – you should start looking for tactics, and combinations, and reading the book and practicing the puzzles in there help you do just that.
I was able to read, and implement these ideas immediately, and also without much conscious effort. When you practice the tactics based around a certain signal and theme then your brain starts looking for these patterns subconsciously and you will be able to find them in real time in your games.
This is an example from a recent game I played:
Black has just played Qd7 and castling would be quite normal for white here. However, I can sense that black played Qd7 to possibly castle queen side, and as soon as he does that his king and queen will be aligned on the light squares. I have a light square bishop which I can use, but it will unprotected at h3 which is the square from where I can attack him, and he also has e6 in reserve. Fortunately for me Nf4, solves both of those problems, and you can see this is exactly how the game goes.
This book was very useful for me, and I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone looking to improve their chess tactical ability.