Patterns In Chess: One Of The Keys To Chess

16/04/2023 - Actualizado: 21/06/2023

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If I had to describe chess in one word, I would definitely say "patterns"; in chess almost all tactical decisions are based on our past experiences (like all our decisions in everyday life), our brain searches its database for what we have already experienced in order to evaluate what is the best decision.

(Visit our article on the importance of mindset to get the best results.)


Often in chess, in some positions, moves reach our brain as if by magic, where we try to find the explanation for a certain move, and after a long evaluation we decide for another one that makes more sense to us, and at the end of the game we review it and it turns out that the right move was the one that we discarded (this is where the typical phrases "why didn't I play that? "I knew it", "I saw it" arise and countless other phrases that are heartbreaking to remember 😥), this is the unconscious side of our brain that tells us what the right move is based on the similar positions we have played before, what we commonly call instinct.

Here is a very simple but practical example:

Pattern tactic
Black's last move was 37 .... Rd7

The question now is: What to play with White?

The solution would be 38 Ne5+ and on the next move we would capture the rook.

For the more experienced players, the solution came to them in less than a second, at the first glance at the position, this is thanks to the training they have undergone, the double they have done themselves in different positions and, unfortunately, the doubles they have received (often the painest way to learn, but the most effective).

It may take the beginners, the less experienced players a little longer to see the solution, this is just because of the lack of experience.

As we have seen so far, patterns are very important for improving our decisions in chess, they help us see the solutions almost at first sight, they sharpen our instinct.

The Importance of Tactics

Before we go into detail, let's see how important tactics are in chess. In chess there are two factors that are always present when we play a game, these are tactics and strategy, they are always present in the three phases of a game, these are the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. It is said that tactics is what we do when there is something to do and strategy is what we do when there is nothing to do, let's see this through an example.

When it is said that "there is nothing to do", it means that everything is peaceful, there are no direct threats to worry about.

Take the starting position, for example: 

Starting Position

Here, as it is obvious, no threats have been created yet, everything is peaceful, there is nothing to do but think of a general plan(strategy) to carry out the game, either with the strategic d4 or with the energetic e4.

In these quieter positions, it is possible to choose between many options, it is not necessary to always play the best one, this is one of the main differences from the tactical positions, where if we don't play the best move, we can end up losing the game.

Now let's look at a position where something is happening (tactical).

Pattern strategy
Here Black plays

Solution 20 .....Rxc1 21 Qxc1 Qxa5

Here, as we can see, there are threats, it is a moment when every move can change the course of the game, either with an advantage for one of the two sides or with immediate victory.

One of the main characteristics of these moments, where we have to think about every check, capture or threat, is that there is contact between the pieces, such as the black rook on c8 with the white rook on c1 and the black queen on d8 with the white knight on a5; there are also positions where there is no direct contact, such as in the position, but the threats are several.

Something we must not forget is that it is possible to be completely lost in either a strategic or tactical position, the difference being that in the tactical position we would notice it almost immediately, and in the strategic position our loss of the game would reveal itself little by little, almost as if a python were squeezing us.

Understanding these differences is important because it gives us clues as to the most effective way to train tactics and strategy. While tactics is about solving small problems (a lot of quantity), strategy is about thinking about the next steps to take to get a good position.

Training Our Tactical Instinct with Patterns

Maybe it sounds unreal that you can train something that you think you either have or don't have, but the reality is that as we said before, instinct works based on experience, that's what we need to focus on to help our instinct get sharper, how do we do that? Through patterns.

Patterns are the answer to our problem. In this type of training it is not the quality of the exercises what is important, but the quantity (remember that what is important is the experience, which is equal to the quantity), if what we wanted to train was the calculation, in this case it is the quality of the exercises what is important.

DON'T LOSE THE OPPORTUNITY to bring out the tactical beast in you.

pattern chess

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