Chess Puzzles Posts

Chess Basic Tactics Series # 7 – Practice Puzzles

Well, I hope you all had a great Christmas! and now that it is over and we move towards the new year I thought we could look at something else.  We covered a lot of material in the previous six posts. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to practice. The first five are relatively simple to get you warmed up, the last five are more challenging. Also, I will not be stating which tactic is involved in each. Solving them is going to take some concentration and time. Try to give yourself 5-10 minutes for each puzzle, and make a note of the tactical theme that is used. The first move of each solution is provided at the bottom of the page. Some puzzles have one move answers while others require you to calculate variations. I will leave the calculation of variations as an exercise for the player.

Black to move

 White to move

White to move

Black to move

White to move

White to move

White to move

White to move

White to move

Black to move


1)  Bg4 (skewer)

2)  Rxe6 (pin)

3) Ne7+(fork)

4) Bd4(fork)

5) e5(pawn fork)

6) Nf7+

7)  Re8+(decoy)

8)  Qxf7+

9) Qxh7+

10) Qf3+

Chess Basic Tactics Series #5 – Clearance and Interference

In my opinion these two tactics are overlooked and not studied in enough detail. Imagine that you’re in the middle of a tough chess match. You notice that you can make a strong capture or check, unfortunately however one of your own pieces is in the way. That’s where a clearance sacrifice comes into play. We sacrifice one of our own pieces to clear a square, rank, or diagonal. Here two examples.

If whites rook were not in the way he could play 1. Qg7#. So how can white clear his rook out of the way? He can simply move it, but that would give black time to defend. There is one move however that leads to blacks defeat quite quickly. That move is 1. Rh7+. No matter how black captures, white plays Qg7#. A common theme in clearance sacrifices is to move the obstructing piece out of the way with check. Since our opponent must deal with the checking move it allows us to accomplish our goal. In the next diagram we can see an example by the great player Mikhail Tal.

It’s unfortunate for white that his queen is on the e6 square. If she weren’t there then white could play the knight fork Ne6+(remember forks?) Is there a solution to this problem? Tal thought there was and found 1. Qxf5! White captures the knight and clears the square at the same time. After this move black resigned.

Interference is a tactic where we disrupt the harmony of the enemy forces. Here is the classic example of interference from a brilliancy prize game.

White has some bank rank threats. Unfortunately blacks rook seems to be defending the bank rank fine. Richard Reti found a way to breakthrough with 1. Bf7+ Kh8 2. Be8!! There is no defense to the threat. Notice how whites bishop interferes with blacks bank rank defense. Interference tactics are somewhat rare, but they do happen. Interference can really be likened to the opposite of a clearance sacrifice. We put one of our pieces in harms way to accomplish a certain goal.

Chess Noob #15- The Fork

“The Fork”, believe it or not, does NOT have anything to do with the widely used eating utensil!  The fork, in chess, refers to when a piece is in a position that it threatens two pieces simultaneously. This may also include putting your opponent in check while attacking another piece (this is a highly effective tool to add to your arsenal).

While the Knight is the most popular piece to fork with (since it threatens pieces that can be nowhere near one another at the time), every piece on the board is capable of forking 2 pieces, given the right situations.  Let’s take a look at some popular examples of forking with each piece that you will likely see in your games.

Popular Knight Forks

The Knight is the easiest piece to fork with. Given it’s unusual moving pattern, it has the ability to threaten pieces that are nowhere near one another and aren’t even lined up in any way.

A highly popular use of the knight fork is to place the opponent in Check, while attacking a piece.  In this case, Checking and threatening a Rook.  Black will not take the Knight because he’d lose his Queen.  Instead he’s forced to move the King out of Check, allowing white to take his Rook.

On the other side the board, you’ll also often see the Knight used to fork the Queen and a Rook, forcing the opponent to chose the lesser of two losses.  You’ll notice the Knight is also threatening the e-pawn (though the e-pawn is defended).  Just imagine how much forking-power the Knight has given it’s “L-shape” pattern.  if there were a piece on g5, it’d be threatened right now as well.

Popular Pawn Forks

The Pawn may be the least powerful piece on the board, but by moving straight and attacking diagonally, it can create some pretty powerful forks such as the one seen in the diagram below (that I’ve seen FAR too many “chess noobs” fall for):

Black is now going to win a bishop or Knight, making him up a pawn (losing a Knight for taking a pawn and either Knight or Bishop).

To see if you’ll be able to do a pawn fork (or might fall victim of one), look for pieces that are on the same rank as one another with only one space between them (as the Bishop and Knight are in the above example).

Sometimes, the Pawn fork won’t always be so easy to see as it might need a little setup.  For instance, consider the next diagram:

Remember, to find a possible pawn fork, look for two pieces on the same rank with only one space between them.  See those two knights white has on the 5th rank?  It’s black’s move.  What black WANTS to do is push his f-pawn to fork the two Knights.  His Queen is in the way, however.  Easily solved: just move the Queen.  But most places you move the Queen will give white the chance to get out of the fork threat.  So how can we still do it?  Force white to move a different piece here.  So, we’ll do 1. … Qxf2+ which forces White to do 2. Kxf2 which then allows us to do 2. … f6, forking the knights.

All the Rest

All the other pieces can also perform forks, but they are all much less frequent as the pieces must be in line with how the piece is able to move.  So for a Rook, the forked pieces both have to be on horizontals or verticals with one another:

Diagonals for the Bishop:

Or for the Queen virtually anywhere she’s able to move to

Chess Noob #14- The Pawn Square

So you’ve played an awesome game and now it’s down to a King and Pawn(s) VS King (and Pawn(s)) endgame!  Who will win? How can you figure out the win without making the moves?

The answer to both questions is one word: COUNT!

When you get down to just pawns, a lot of the time you can figure out the outcome just by counting squares.  You’ll still need to do analyzing (“This move works if he pushes the pawn, but what if he moves the king first?”), but for the most part if you count the spaces you can solve the problem before it becomes a problem.

Who wins here?:

Answer: White!  Yes, Black will get it’s Pawn promoted first, but then white promotes with check and takes black’s new queen as soon as black moves his King to safety.

But it’s not always about Pawn races.  Often times, it’s just a case of “can I promote my Pawn before my opponent can capture it?”

So who wins here where there’s just a Pawn racing a King?:

Answer:  Black will take out white’s Pawn before it gets promoted. This game is now a Draw!


Again, it ends in a draw.  White WILL get it’s new queen, but then black takes it for a draw.

And here?:

This time white wins.  Black won’t be fast enough to get to the Pawn before it promotes, nor will it be able to take the fresh Queen.

So how can you tell just by looking (without playing it out) if a pawn will get to the back rank before the opposing King can capture it?  We create…


From wherever the Pawn is, moving toward it’s hopeful promotion, we must create the Pawn square.  The Pawn square is an imaginary box that is as wide as it is tall.  The height of the box is from the Pawn to the back rank it’s trying to get to.  The width is the same number of squares as the height (so, also, the number of squares the Pawn needs to go to to become promoted).

If the black King is anywhere inside the Pawn square, it will capture the unprotected pawn.

SO, using our earlier examples, in each case the pawn has only 3 spaces to go until it is promoted, so the Pawn square will be 4 spaces by 4 spaces (because we need to include the space the Pawn is starting on).

So our first position’s pawn square looks like this:

See that the Black King is in the Pawn square.  It will therefore capture the pawn before it gets to the end.  In fact, along the X axis, the King is at space 2, and will therefore capture the pawn when it’s on space 2 for the Y axis (sorry for bringing up high school algebra!)

In the second example, the King is on space 3 and will capture the pawn on it’s space 3 (just after it becomes a Queen):

But in the final example, the King was not able to catch the Pawn.  Why?  Because it was just outside the Pawn square, and therefore cannot catch up to the Pawn.

So whenever you have an unprotected Pawn racing for the back rank and it’s only threat is a King trying to catch up to it, you can now decide who will win!  Simply imagine a Pawn square.  If the opposing King is inside that square when you begin your mad dash, you will lose!  If he’s outside the square, then make a run for it with the knowledge that very soon you will have a new queen on the board!

Have a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like to ask? send me an e-mail at

How To Improve Your Tactical Vision

It’s been said that chess is 99% tactics. Whether that is true is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, if you fail to see the tactical possibilities on the chess board you will most likely lose the game. The great thing is that studying tactics and combinations is fun! Combinations are a big part of what gives chess its artistic flair. So now that we know tactics are important how do we get better at them? Here I’ll outline a simple but effective plan of study.

1)      Solve Chess Diagrams Every Day. Get a book of chess problems and combinations that is on the market. Practice solving the problems for around 30 minutes a day. Try to work through the problems slowly. Don’t rush; make sure you see why the move you are making wins. Visualize the series of moves to the end, which brings us to…

2)      Work to Improve Your Visualization Skills. Try closing your eyes and visualizing the board. Try mentally dividing the board into parts. Is e4 a white square or a dark square? What about d4? Don’t worry if it’s difficult at first, just keep practicing.

3)      Analyze Your Games. Look for spots where you had trouble and analyze them afterwards. Try to remember how you were thinking at that time. If you made a mistake try to think why you chose that particular move. Did you not see what your opponent was threatening? Were you just so caught up with your own moves that you had a blind spot? These are common errors that chess players make.

4)      Study Games from Great Tactical Players. Pick a player with a highly tactical style, maybe Alexander Alekhine or Gary Kasparov. Play over and study their games.

Try sticking with this study plan long term. Thirty minutes each day is over 180 hours a year you will have spent improving your tactics!