Someone stated the main difference between solving problems and
actually playing is no one taps you on the shoulder and says 'Mate in three."
So before you work out the combination. First You MUST SEE the combination.
This comes with study and experiance.
Of the two I'd say playing as often as you can when first starting out.
All too often these magic moments can pass by and the chance is gone.
And it is often. CHESS publish two pages of combo's to solve every month.
Usually at least a 3rd of these were actually missed OTB.
Don't shudder at the mystery of so called positional play
and feel the need to rush out and buy a book.
If you place your pieces on active squares and think about moves
(especially middle game pawn moves) that may limit your pieces or
enhance the movement of your opponents pieces, then you will be
playing good positional chess even without realising it.
The note;"This is posionally bad." often follows a clumsy pawn move.
So give every pawn move in the middle game extra thought.
(and then move a piece instead.)
This advice is aimed at 1600 playerss and under. Do it in stages.
Eradicate one blunders, no more 'passing the buck' silly pawn moves
and get tooled up tactically.
How to create tactical possibilities?
It takes two to Tango.
If your opponent is not willing to enter a hand to hand fight and you
want one then you have to take a risk or two (or three or four).
If you are getting beat (and you must be good enough to recognise
and accept this before it's too late).
Then you MUST mess it up. Sac pawns and pieces for active play.
Anything to put your opponent out of his stride.
Very difficult to pull off on here but OTB or in blitz this can work.
The ability to create tactical possibilities is a must if you are
going pull games out of the fire and 'cheapo' them.
The term 'Cheapo' is often misused.
I see in the 'Mate Under 20 Moves' thread Paul calls his last game a cheapo.
It ended after 6 moves thus:
No way was White losing this he just jumped on weak moves
with no risk involved
So I thought I'd Google 'Chess + Cheapo.' to find an example.
2nd hit is a Chandler Cornered,
And has this OTB game by me as Black.
I rely on White grabbing my Queen and not 'Checking all Checks'
This is a Cheapo.
It caught 3 players.
My opponent and both team captains, who were watching this game,
had written '0' after my name on the league team score sheet.
Three pieces always mate and Check all Checks.