Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors

Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors


Winning Chess Tactics for JuniorsEditor: Lou Hays
126 Pages. Hays Publishing, 1994
(Reprinted 2011)
Get it for under $10 on Amazon!

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While continuing to go through some of my boxes of chess books, I came across another I’d like to discuss today.

A Tactics Book?

In 2022, many chess lovers use their smartphones to play and study, but I’ve never been comfortable with this, and I’m surely not alone.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve embraced technology in chess. I almost never use a chessboard, and do nearly everything chess-related on my computer including playing, solving puzzles … and blogging! But chess-by-phone is a bridge too far for me.


Cheap, Portable Tactics Practice!

If you’re like me and want to practice tactics in book form while on-the-go, portability is a big concern.

I’m holding an older edition of Reinfeld’s 1000 Winning Chess Combinations and Sacrifices overlayed with Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors. WCTJ is only very slightly larger around the edges (less than ¼-inch all the way around!), but much thinner. Both books feature the ideal six-diagrams-per-page.

It’s a great read on the bus or train, or while waiting in an office.

What’s very appealing about this one, and why I’m reviewing it here: it can be purchased very cheaply … as low as $6 on Amazon, including shipping!



1. Discovery
2. Queen Sacrifice
3. Pin
4. Knight Fork
5. Double Attack
6. Attraction
7. Clearance
8. Overloading
9. Diversion
10. Back Rank
11. Mixed Themes


Juniors Only?

The title is a misnomer. We know scholastic tournaments are all the rage, and this was already the case in when WCTJ was first published in 1994. Think how many sales this title generated at “kiddie tournaments”…

The premise is partially that WCTJ was based on the much larger and more difficult Combination Challenge! from 1991 by the same publisher. I remember this book being well-regarded in its time, but with it’s large size and (still!) high price, I don’t see a reason to recommend it over Chess School 1a and friends.

Adult improvers should not feel embarrassed about studying a book with “Juniors” in the title.  Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors is a good tactics set for anyone rated below 1600.

How to Win Quickly at Chess

How To Win Quickly At Chess

How to Win Quickly at ChessAuthor: IM John Donaldson
143 Pages. Summit Publishing, 1991
Get it for under $10 on Amazon!

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What’s in a game collection?

Now in my 20th year of teaching chess, more than ever I’m convinced most improving players bite off way more than they can chew. I’m no exception.

This applies to every area of chess, especially in selecting a coach or choosing which instructional materials to study.

Game collections are always popular with chess fans; Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld mostly built their repuations as authors with their books of highly instructive, well-annotated games.

Well-annotated, but not too well annotated!

There are plenty of game collections with dense notes by grandmasters, backed up with computer analysis … but do these “correct” books actually help most readers improve their play?

There’s nothing wrong with grandmaster commentary … but their notes are often written for very strong players. In the United States, only 2-3% of tournament players have ratings over 2000. I suspect things are similar in most countries.


Don’t be fooled by the title

How to Win Quickly at Chess is yet another example that the author makes a chess book, not the subject matter!

John Donaldson (born 1958) is an International Master (1983) and FIDE Senior Trainer (2020) who has captained the U.S. (Open) Olympiad team since 1986. He’s written dozens of books on all phases of the game, including a number of historical works. I could have justifiably included him in my Great Chess Authors series, and in hindsight maybe I should have.

Miniature collections can be fun, but often feature “gimmicky” chess and lack instructional value. Not this one!

Donaldson defines a “miniature” as a game that ends in under 21 moves, and gives 76 examples, one to four pages each, in these chapters:

Chapter One: History Repeats Itself [games 1-9]
Chapter Two: King Pawn [games 10-28]
Chapter Three: Queen Pawn [games 11-48]
Chapter Four: English and King’s Indian Attack [games 49-57]
Chapter Five: Perpetuals [games 58-70]
Super Short Games [games 71-76]

Chapter One features games where multiple victims fell pray to the same (or nearly the same) opening pitfalls.

Chapters Two, Three, and Four feature miniatures divided by opening family; within each chapter, the games are sorted by ECO code.

Chapter Five features short games drawn by repetition or perpetual check. There are a couple of well-known examples, but most you are not likely to have seen.

Super Short Games is just what it sounds like; included is the backstory to the infamous Zapata—Anand game from Biel 1988.


How to Win Quickly at Chess is not a must-buy, but it is a fine modern game collection for the improving player. At 2000+, I myself picked up some useful ideas. Leave the dense tomes behind; get easy-to-read volumes like this one by serious authors that contain excellent instructional content.


Reader Question: Which Sicilian?

A few weeks ago I received this question from a reader; sorry for the late post and reply!

Hi Andre,
My name is Marc and I love your website! I am trying to find my Sicilian! I like your article. I don’t want to play Sveshnikov or Dragon or Najdorf as it’s too much theory. Though I do like sharp positions.
I was thinking of playing the Richter-Rauzer and vs most other moves [like] f3, Bc4, and Bg5 play a Dragon (or if Be3, play …Ng4) or play Schevenigen with …e6 move order and deal with Keres attack.
I think Taimanov though also combative is under hard times somewhat due to Be3 and Qf3.  Or do you have another idea?
Marc Sicina

Hi Marc,
Thanks for the kind words and the question!
My first thought is that if you want to play a sharp Sicilian, don’t run from theory.
I don’t think the Classical (against which the main line is the Richter-Rauzer, as Marc points out: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 and now 6.Bg5) is right for a sharp player. It’s more of a positional system.
I’m not an expert on the Scheveningen, but allowing the Keres Attack seems very risky and gives your opponent the sharp position, not you!
The Sveshnikov is theory-heavy, but not super-sharp, but of course a great choice.
I’m going to give you the answer you probably already know but won’t like: I think if you want a sharp (and sound) Sicilian, you have to choose the Najdorf or Taimanov, if you want to avoid Dragon theory. Remember that you whatever theory you don’t know, generally your opponents will know even less!