CategoriesChess For Beginners

Chess Basic Tactics Series #8 – Final Thoughts and Motivating Words

During the last few weeks we have been learning basic tactics. In this post I’m going to change the pace a bit and write a few words on topics that I believe are overlooked in competitive activities.

Besides chess I have several other hobbies. Many of these are hobbies that I have dedicated myself to for many years. Over the years I’ve noticed that the things that hold people back from improving are almost always the same no matter what the activity.

First and foremost many people underestimate the time required to become proficient. They’ll take up chess, play for a few months, realize it’s difficult, and then quit. It’s important to realize that there is a direct correlation between time invested and skill level. I’m sure if there were studies done, we would find that most grandmasters have studied more than masters, who have studied more than experts etc. etc.

The second thing that holds many people back is the failure to practice correctly. The way to improve your skill level is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you are forced to adapt. You must increase the difficulty level and push yourself. If you are studying a tactical problem and the answer doesn’t come to you study it further. The corrolary to this to get out of your comfort zone and practice playing positions that you are uncomfortable with. For example, if you primarily play 1. e4, try playing 1. d4 for several games. We must work on our weaknesses if we want to be complete. This is true in chess or anything else.

The fear of losing is also something that can hold someone back. My answer to this is to lose your ego. Even the best players in the world lose sometimes. What separates people is the ability to come back and keep fighting.

The last thing I want to say is that it’s you and only you who can determine your potential. For someone who really wants to do something there’s nothing holding them back. A lot of people want certain things, but they aren’t willing to change or put in the hard work to get there. When you feel like quitting say to yourself; I have to keep going no matter what. Chess history is filled with games where a player turned around a losing position to win or draw. History is filled with examples of people coming back from extremely difficult situations and succeeding. Use these examples as inspiration, and remember, never stop, just keep going.


CategoriesChess Puzzles

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+

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 For BeginnersChess Midgame

Chess Basic Tactics Series #2 – Discovered Attacks/Checks

In chess the discovered attack is one of the most important tactics. When we first begin playing chess we learn about simple threats. We attack one of our opponents pieces, and they defend. With a discovered attack we are creating two threats at one time. Since our opponent cannot defend against two attacks at the same time, we gain a material advantage. In a discovered attack a queen, rook, or bishop is positioned behind another piece. When that piece moves, it unleashes an attack. Let’s look at some examples to clarify.

In the above diagram it’s white’s turn to move. Notice how if white moves the bishop on e2, the white rook will attack blacks queen. There are a few moves at white’s disposal here, can you spot what the best one might be? Here the best move is Bg5! With this move white simultaneously attacks blacks queen and rook. Black has no choice but to lose material. Let’s keep studying this tactic because it’s incredibly important.

Here it’s blacks turn to move. White has just played dxc5 which was a major oversight. Here black plays 1. …Bxh2+! and white immediately resigned. Since white is forced to deal with the check, black will then play Qxd3 winning whites queen. Notice how in both of the above cases the bishop moved and created a powerful threat. Because of this, the piece that it uncovered was free to capture the enemy piece. When the piece that moves is able to check the enemy king, the discovered attack is even more powerful.

The most powerful form of discovered attack is the double check. This is extremely strong because it checks the enemy king with two pieces. When a king is in double check it is forced to move, as there is no other way to get out of check. Let’s see what this looks like in practice.

Here it’s white’s turn to move. We can see that the knight on e4 has several squares where it can move, unleashing the rook to give check. In this case however white can give double check by moving his knight to either f6 or d6. Here white plays 1. Nf6++ and gives double check and mate. Can you see why this move is superior to Nd6?

I hope you enjoyed this post! In the next part of our series we will discuss double attacks and forks.






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.