Building your tactical awareness in chess will definitely net you some extra points, and also increase your enjoyment of the game: there's nothing better than finishing off a well played encounter with some tactical fireworks.
There are many books out there that can help you recognise and exploit basic tactical concepts such as double attacks, pins, skewers and forks, and some that will help you explore more complex themes such as enticement, deflection and interference. I'll give you a book list at the end.
Practice, practice, practice is the key. Once you are comfortable with the basic concepts, try to spend a few minutes each day on tactical problems. You'll start to build up a 'pattern library' in your brain and also stay 'chess sharp'. Remember as well that tactics aren't there just to win material, they can also be used to force mate, so don't neglect to study mating patterns.
Some recommendations (I've put most of them on the Chess Tales store at Amazon):
Fred Reinfeld produced a whole series of books on tactical themes including "Beginner's guide to winning chess", "Thousand and one winning sacrifices and combinations" and "How to force checkmate". There is also Leonard Barden's "Chess puzzle book". These books are still valuable, but if you fancy something more recent you could try Yasser Seirawan's "Winning chess tactics". Murray Chandler's "Chess tactics for kids" is also highly regarded.
If you are looking for something more advanced there is Valery Beim's "Understanding chess tactics". Gennady Nesis also produced a series of interesting tactics books that are based around complete illustrative games in key openings. They are definitely worth reading to enhance your understanding of an opening as well as to improve your tactical awareness: "Tactics in the Sicilian", "Tactics in the King's Indian", "Tactics in the French" and "Tactics in the Grunfeld".
Click here to see them on Amazon.
If you prefer your material on DVD, there are the fritz powerplay packages from Danny King including "Mating patterns" and "Tactics".
Last, but not least, there is the Chess tactics server on the Internet, started by the Hermsdorf Chess Club in Berlin and currently hosting close to 24,000 rated positions.
Next week, we'll look at a technique for enhancing your opening repertoire.