One best way to progress rapidly in chess is to solve puzzles and strengthen your pattern recognition. Tactic in chess is a series of moves that can change the evaluation of the game drastically. Tactics can give you a winning material advantage or sometimes even end the game on the spot. That is why it is important to train oneself to find tactics on the board while playing a game. In this post, we will see some basic tactical themes to get you started.
Tactics are really fun. As you will see, they make chess a lot more beautiful and satisfying.
Fork & double attacks
Fork is a tactic in which one piece attacks two pieces simultaneously, and the opponent cannot save both pieces. Thus it gains material. Double attack is when one move gives an attack to multiple opponent pieces. The purpose of both these tactics is same: to attack two or more undefended pieces at the same time. ‘Fork’ and ‘double attack’ can be used interchangeably.
- In the diagram on the left, white will play Nc7+, attacking not two, three but four black pieces! This was surely the best day of this knight!
- The diagram on the right is a two move tactic. Fork is not apparent in this very position, but if you look carefully, you will find it. First white takes the black knight with his queen Qxd4+, forcing black to take Qxd4, and then white plays Nf5+, attacking both king on g7 and queen on d4, fork!
You need to start with the practice of such two move combinations.
Pin is a tactic when one piece becomes locked or unable to move because its movement will expose the heavy piece behind.
- In the diagram on the left, white simply plays Re1. Black’s queen cannot move because it will expose the line of the rook to black’s king. Thus black’s queen is pinned.
- In diagram on the right, you see that black moves Qe4 pinning the rook on d3 with the king on b1. But white can play Kc2 and defend the rook can it not? Look further. The rook is still pinned, so black will move his pawn to c4, attacking the rook with the pawn and winning it.
When two of the opponent’s pieces are in same line, there is a possibility of skewer. It is a kind of mixture of pin and double attack.
- In the diagram on the left, black plays Bf5+ attacking the king and the knight on b1. As the king moves, the knight will be lost.
- In the diagram on the right, white would like to give a skewer with Bd6, but the bishop is not protected on d6. So first white plays dxe5, opening the d1 rook to give support at d6 square. As black takes on d6, Bd6 gives skewer to Q on c7 and R on b8
This is a very common theme in middle games. When the king is castled, usually it has three pawns in front of it and thus no space to move on next rank. In this situation, if the king is given a check by enemy rook or king, it ends up getting checkmated. There are many tactics that can be found around this theme.
- In the diagram on the left, White plays Qe8+, Black takes Rxe8, white further takes on e8 with checkmate because king can’t move a rank above, suffocated by his own pawns.
- In the diagram on the right, black plays Bd4+, forcing the white king to move to h1 and then black gives back rank mate with Rf1#.
When you make a move that attacks an enemy piece, but at the same time ‘discovering’ a check to opponent’s king, it is called discovered check. See examples below.
- In the diagram on the left, white plays Bd3+. Note that white bishop attacks the black queen on h7, while the white rook discovers a check to black king on c7. As black will have to move away from check, black’s queen will be lost.
- In the diagram on the right, white would plays Bb5+, pinning the queen and at the same time giving discovered check with the rook on e1. Note that white shouldn’t play Bf3+, because it doesn’t pin the queen and thus black’s queen will move to e6 blockading the check. Of course it is still a big material advantage for white, but wouldn’t you rather gain a queen for bishop than the rook?
When two of your pieces give the opponent’s king a check simultaneously, it is called double-check. You can very well imagine that a double check must be a discovered check also. That is the only way to give check with two pieces. The key idea of this theme is that the opponent has to move his king. Double check can’t be blockaded.
- In the diagram on the left, white plays Nf6++#. The check is given by the knight on f6 and the queen on e2. Both these white pieces are hanging but black can’t take any of these two because it is a double check. Black’s king has no place to move and so it is checkmate.
- In the diagram on the right, white’s rook is pinned. But there is a miracle here for white. White plays Bd6++, forcing the black king to move. And instead of losing his pinned rook, white will gain black’s bishop on c5.
When one piece is given more tasks than it can bear, it is called overloading.
- In the diagram on the left, the poor bishop is fighting alone against the back rank. But it won’t last long. White plays Rb8+, forcing black bishop to take on b8 and abandon f8 square. Then white can checkmate with Rf8#.
- In the diagram on the right, black’s king is being pulled apart by trying to defend both rooks single handedly. White takes any one rook and black will have to move his king away from the other. For example white plays Rxe8+-Kxe8 and Rxc8+. White wins a rook.
As mentioned earlier, tactics are very important for a beginner. Tactics happen on the chessboard far more often than you can imagine. You have to train yourself in tactics so that you don’t miss any. Start by two moves tactics like the ones shown in this article. Then slowly move towards complex tactics.