Powerful Chess Tactics


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Today sees the start of another ongoing series, this time examining powerful chess tactics.

The more familiar we become with chess tactics and their typical patterns, the more we will be ready to unleash them over the board (or on the screen, if it is still 2020 when you are reading this post).

The German chess master Richard Teichmann is credited as the original source of the oft-quoted phrase: ‘Chess in 99% tactics.’

As is often the case with chess history, the quote has been passed down as part of folklore without any hard evidence. The great chess historian Edward Winter could not find a direct corroboration and unearthed no more of a direct link to Teichmann than a piece ‘from page 134 of volume 4 of Schachtaktik by E. Voellmy (Basle, 1930)’. According to the author, ‘Teichmann explained to me years ago in Zurich (although he was slightly exaggerating):” Chess consists of 99% tactics “.’

Regardless of how much the percentage may have been exaggerated at the time, the quote certainly anticipated the future as far as playing Blitz games on the Internet is concerned.

How many times have we tried to play strategically, only to find the whole position comes tumbling down due to a simple tactic?

Time for another quote. Mark Twain, the great writer and humorist, wrote: ‘Familiarity breeds contempt and children.’ While we can agree with the sentiment, we also find, in the art of learning chess tactics, ‘Familiarity breeds success.’

Becoming familiar with the basic patterns and ideas of powerful chess tactics will result in them being all ready to explode in your games.

Chess Tactic: Removing the Guard

The first powerful chess tactic on our agenda is ably demonstrated by this position.

Removing the Guard

White to play

White would like to play 1 Rxe5 but that would lose material due to 1 …Nxe5. Black’s knight is guarding the bishop.

White can improve the situation by playing 1 Bxc6 first. This powerful chess tactic is called removing the guard. After 1 …bxc6 then 2 Rxe5 wins the black bishop, free of charge.

Powerful Chess Tactic

White is now a whole piece ahead and this should be enough to ensure – with careful play – that they will be able to win the game.

Chess Tactic: The Double Attack

Our next tactic is related to the humble fork. A fork is a move in chess which enables one piece to attack two or more of then opponent’s pieces at the same time.

Double attacks are similar but a major difference is that after unleashing the correct move it could be that two of your pieces are involved in the act of directly threatening something in your opponent’s camp.

Here is a fabulous example, featuring an unusual and unexpected winning move.

Double AttackHermanis Karlovich Mattison vs. R Millers

White to play

White plays 14 0-0-0+! Castling is always recommended! In this case White not only makes his own king safe but he also checks the opponent’s king and attacks the rook on b2.

Castling and Double AttackOnce Black escapes from check then 15 Kxb2 will swiftly follow.

This example shows the clear distinction between a fork and a double attack. Yes; after a single move, Black ends up with two pieces under attack – but the attacks are from two different white pieces.

The idea of perpetrating a double attack by castling is well-known but uncommon. The best reference book is Startling Castling! by Robert Timmer (Batsford, 1997). I can state with confidence that the book contains numerous examples of castling while simultaneously creating a double attack, because one of my games is used as an example in the relevant chapter. Yes, I was the victim of the powerful chess tactic!

Chess Tactic: The Discovered Check

The last of today’s powerful chess tactics is another valuable addition to one’s personal chess armoury.

The discovered check arises when one chess piece moves and uncovers a second piece, enabling it to check the king.

Effectively, the moving piece can place itself in a position where it would normally be in danger. However, the opponent cannot capture it as dealing with the check must take priority.

This position offers a simple example, arising after the moves 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 Nxe4 4 Qe2 Nf6.

Chess Tactics Discovered CheckWhite to play

White plays 5 Nc6+!

Is the white knight safe on c6? Under normal circumstances, certainly not; a capture by either the b7-pawn or the d7-pawn would be on the cards.

However, once the knight moves it unleashed a discovered check by the white queen. When Black gets out of check the white knight simply captures the black queen.

Even blocking the check with the queen doesn’t help; 5 …Qe7 still loses the queen to 6 Nxe7 giving White a winning advantage.

Test Yourself

Three positions; three chess tactics. What would you play to gain a significant advantage in each case?

Double Attack

White to play

1 Ng5! with a double attack. White threatens both 2 Qxh7 checkmate and 2 Bxb7, winning material.

Discovered Check

White to play

1 Rc8+! This discovered check (from the bishop) allows White to attack – and win – the black queen.

Chess Tactics Removing the GuardWhite to play

1 Rxf6! removes the guard of the h7-pawn. If Black plays 1 …gxf6 then 2 Qxh7 is checkmate. Black ends up a piece down if he stops the checkmate.

Our series on chess tactics will resume soon. Meanwhile, if you manage to uncork any of the three powerful chess tactics featured today, why not drop us a line on Twitter to let us know?

For further details on some of the positions used above and even more examples of today’s powerful chess tactics in action head for our new Chessable lesson.

Incidentally, if you would like the answers to the above questions, simply highlight the white space beneath each diagram!

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