CategoriesChess Midgame

Chess Basic Tactics Series #6 – X-Rays and Windmills

In this post of the tactics series I’ll discuss X-rays and windmills. Despite their descriptive names, these two tactics are relatively rare. Let me say if you succeed in trapping your opponent in a windmill you can win his entire army!

The X-ray tactic occurs when a piece ‘sees through’ an enemy piece towards a certain target. Let’s look at an example:

Here notice the white rook on the d-file. At first glance it looks like the d8 square is adequately protected by black. However whites rook is really attacking that square by ‘seeing through’ black’s rook on d7. White plays 1. Qxd8! which leads to checkmate. As I mentioned, the X-ray is not seen too frequently in games. However it is important to notice how closely this tactic is related to the pin. In this case black’s rook on d7 is pinned to defense of the d8 square.

Although rarely seen, the windmill is one of the most powerful tactics in chess. It’s a series of checks and discovered checks where the opponent has no time to escape. The following diagram is an example of a long combination. Try to practice your visualization by seeing as far as you can.

Here white plays 1. Bf6! and black responds with 1…Qxh5.  Then the following moves occur:

2. Rxg7+ Kh8

3. Rxf7+ Kg8

4. Rg7+ Kh8

5. Rxb7+ Kg8

6. Rg7+ Kh8

7. Rg5+ Kh7

Then we are left with the diagram below:

Notice how the rook moved back and forth and caputured the enemy pieces. Also notice how the black king was unable to escape the devastating discovered checks. In the next move white will capture blacks queen.

I hope that everyone enjoyed this tactics series and gained some knowledge from it. It’s not enough however to just study the diagrams in these posts you must practice consistently to improve your tactical play. That takes solving lots of puzzles and analyzing your games. In the next post I will provide several puzzles that contain the tactics we have discussed for you to solve!

CategoriesChess For BeginnersChess MidgameChess Puzzles

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.

CategoriesChess Midgame

Chess Basic Tactics Series #4 – Deflection and Decoy

As Christmas gets nearer, I thought we should continue with our series covering basic tactics. First let’s just do some quick definitions so we can get a basic understanding of these two tactics. Deflection is exactly what you would think. An enemy piece is guarding an important square or piece. If we can find a way to successfully deflect this piece we will either win material or checkmate. This tactic occurs frequently with backrank threats.  Usually there is a piece that is protecting our opponents back rank, if we can only deflect this piece we either win material or checkmate.  Let’s see how this works in practice.

It’s blacks move. We can see that white’s backrank is weak. If whites queen were not where it is, black could play 1. … Re1#. So our idea is to deflect the queen from defense of the bank rank. How can we do that? Here Jose Raul Capablanca played 1. …Qb2! White has no defense to either checkmate or loss of material. White cannot play 2. Qxb2 because of Re1#. As an exercise try to work out the other variations until black has a winning advantage and you completely understand how this move wins. Let’s look at another example of deflection.

It’s white’s turn to move. Notice how blacks queen is only protected by her king. If there was a way to deflect the king from protecting her, we could play Qxd8. Here white plays 1. Bxf7+. Since 1. …Kxf7 is forced white plays 2. Qxd8 and wins blacks queen.

Now let’s look at the decoy. The idea is that we want an enemy piece on a particular square. So we play a move that forces the enemy piece to that square. Let’s look at a classic example of decoying that every chess player should know by heart. It shows a decoy, double check, and a queen sacrifice!

It’s white turns to move. Notice that if we could somehow get blacks king to the d8 square we can unleash a powerful double check. Here white plays the decoying move 1. Qd8+!!. Black is forced to play 1. …Kxd8. After which white plays 2. Bg5++ with mate to follow.

Many times the decoy tactic is used in conjunction with the skewer. Let’s see how this can work.

If blacks queen were further away from her king, white could play the 1. Qh7  skewer. So we need to decoy the queen to a square that is farther away. White does this by playing. 1. Rxc7. This pins blacks queen, and black has nothing better than to play 1. …Qxc7 after which white plays 2. Qh7+.

As you review your own games look for opportunities where these tactics arise. By playing often, analysing your games, and solving tactical diagrams, your ability to recognize tactics and combinations will quickly increase.

CategoriesChess Midgame

Chess Basic Tactics Series #3 – Double Attacks/Forks

In my last post I discussed discovered attacks. Technically, discovered attacks and discovered checks are forms of double attacks. I decided to do two separate postings because this tactic is so common and important. Learning the exact terminology isn’t the goal here, what’s important is recognizing the patterns and being able to incorporate them into your own games.

A double attack is an attack against two pieces or pawns at the same time. It is also possible to attack a piece and a square at the same time. Typically a fork involves one piece attacking two separate enemy pieces. The knight is the piece most associated with forking, but don’t forget that queens, rooks, bishops, kings, and even pawns can fork enemy pieces! Let’s look at some examples.

Here the white knight seems very menacing in blacks territory. Indeed it is because white plays 1. Nc7+ forking blacks king, queen, and rook! Notice that the knight can only attack squares of the same color. Keep that in mind when you are looking for forking opportunies with your knights.

The following is an example of a bishop fork, see if you can spot the fork before looking below the diagram

Here white plays 1. Bc6+ forking blacks queen and rook. Now let’s look at a king fork!

Here white plays 1. Kb3 and forks blacks rook and knight.

Now that we have a basic idea of forks, let’s do an exercise that’s a little harder. Instead of a one move fork let’s try to create an opportunity.

This diagram is a little more difficult, then the previous ones in this post and series. With that said take some time and study it. Imagine that the black king was on h8, if that were the case then Nf7 would be a fork. Is there a way for us to get there?

The winning move is 1. Qh8+! Notice that this move also skewers blacks king and queen. If black plays either Kg6 or Kh6 then white simply plays Qxe5. Because of this 1 … Kxh8 is forced. Then white plays 2. Nxf7+ forking blacks king and queen. The final fork is shown below.


The above is an example of how to turn simple tactics into multi-move combinations. Remember that the foundations for long combinations are basic tactics. Once you learn the basics by heart, then creating forcing sequences becomes much easier. We will continue our tactical study in the next post!

CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #18: Mating with a King and Queen

In the last blog, I covered mating with a King and Rook.  The idea was to box in the opposing King into a smaller and smaller area of squares until in the end you use your king to take away his final square and checkmate with the Rook.

We’re going to use a similar idea to make with a King and Queen.  Some find this easier (since the queen can move in more directions than a rook and can therefore making the King’s remaining squares smaller faster… but some people may have trouble with it (there was a game in the Under 900 section at the World Open where the game ended in a draw because the kid with a King and Queen couldn’t figure out what to do, and ended up stalemating the opposing King).

Since I don’t want you to accidentally stalemate your opponent, let’s take a look at what we need to do…  First, I’ll set up a random starting position:

We’ll say that white just queened it’s pawn and then black moved to F6 from E5 after white Checked with the new queen.  It’s now White’s move.  Remember, white wants to take away as many of black’s possible squares as quickly as possible.  There’s no need to endlessly put black in check (if you do 50 checks in a row, it’ll be a draw anyway).  We can’t just keep going back and forth either (as 3-move repetition is a draw), and we have to be careful that in the end, we don’t cut off black’s available squares until just the right time (we don’t want to stalemate black like the unfortunate player at the World Open).

White’s goal here is to corral black into the corner or edge of the board.  In the above position, black is already on the F-file… so let’s keep him confined to F-H by moving the Queen to block the E-file:

Depending on where black goes, we’ll just cut his squares off more and more.  So if he did Kg7, we’d go Qe6 making black have only 3 squares left to go to.  if he goes to g6 or g5, we’ll go to f8 to take another file away.  if he goes to f5, we’ll do Qe7 to make the space smaller.

Eventually, we’ll want to bring our king into the game, but not until we can’t take away more space with the queen.

Here’s a position, while playing against my chess computer where I finally have to start bringing my king over:

Do you see WHY I now need to bring my King over?  If I move Qg3, I take away the last of black’s squares but without checking him, so it’s a stalemate/draw.  I don’t want a draw, I want a win.  And I can’t go Qh4+, Qh3+, or any other Queen move for that matter, because it will allow black to get his King out of the little cage I’ve placed him in.  And I don’t want that.  So now, with black having only h2 to go to, it’s time to start walking my King over, forcing Black to go Kh2, Kh1, Kh2, Kh1 back and forth until my King gets to his area..

and now that the black king is wedged in place, we can mate with Qg2#:

Have a topic you want me to cover or a question you want answered? e-mail me at [email protected]


CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Noob #17: Mating with a King and Rook

Sooner or later in your chess games, you’re going to have to learn how to win with a limited number of pieces.  It may even be down to you having 2 pieces (for the sake of this blog a King and a Rook) and your opponent is left with only 1 piece (a King).

There is a 50-move rule in chess… that if each opponent makes 50 moves and has not taken another piece in that time, the game is a draw.  So, if you’re down to a King and Rook, and your opponent has just a King, you have only 50 moves left in which you have to checkmate!  The pressure is on!

It really does not matter where the pieces start, you’ve got only 50 moves to win once it’s down to just a King+Rook VS King.  So, for the sake of argument, I’ve placed everything near the center of the board… this will make winning a little harder and more time consuming, but it can be done.  So, here’s our starting position, with white to move:

There’s clearly no way to get a checkmate while black’s king is out in the open and has so much room to run… so we need to force him to an edge (preferably a corner).  How do we do that?

Imagine the Rook as a post for an invisible fence.  The black king can never cross that fence (IE any of the squares the rook controls… which in our starting position would be any of the squares along the D file or any of the 4th rank).  If you can make the the king more and more confined, you will win.

BUT REMEMBER, black has 3 goals at this point.  Goal 1) try to last 50 moves to make the game a draw. Goal 2) try to take the rook, so that only the 2 Kings remain, making the game a draw. Goal 3) get put into a stalemate for a draw.

As white, you must stop this at all costs.  You’ll be using your Rook to make the invisible fence smaller and smaller and your king to (at first) protect the Rook and then later to cut off a square from black’s king to make checkmate possible.

Let’s take another look at the starting position:

We need to make Black’s possible squares smaller, but we can’t just yet because if we move the Rook right now, we’ll be giving the black king MORE space… so first let’s move our King to keep the Rook guarded, and we’ll make the fence smaller on the next move.  Let’s go with Kc4.  My chess computer then does Ke6.

Now we can make the “fenced area” smaller with Rd5. Then black moves his King (my computer did Kf6).

Now it gets SLIGHTLY tricky, but don’t worry.  The next move needs to be a King move (we don’t want to move the Rook because then we’ll either a) put it in danger or b) give black more freedom.  We also want to keep our King on the opposite side of the “fence” so that black can never use our King as a shield to get past the fence.  So we’re going to do Kd4. Black does Ke6 and we do Ke5 to force black’s King further in the corner.

It doesn’t matter what black does.  Our goal remains the same: give black less room to move and keep the rook safe until the mate happens.  In the end, we get to this position (with black to move) just a few moves before the mate:

Black’s only 2 squares left are h8 and h7.  He HAS to go to h7 now.  We want to keep him in this micro-sized jail cell so we’ll walk our King around the back with the following:

1) Kg5…Kh8. 2) Kf6…Kh7. 3) Kf7…Kh8

See how we’ve kept black trapped in and just kept our rook safe while we walked around to a better position for our own King?  Now comes the winning move of Rh6#:

Set it up and try it yourself.  Let someone else put the 3 pieces anywhere on the board for you and see if you can figure it out (and remember to keep track of your moves… remember, if you make more than 50, it’s a draw…).  But the plan is always going to be the same: force your opponent’s King into a tighter and tighter space.