Welcome to our newest series, Tactic Teardown, where we analyze tactics problems and break down their solutions. If you want to follow along and get e-mail notifications for each tactic teardown post in the future then subscribe to ChessGoals e-mail notifications.
In this edition I will break down two tactics problems I got from chesstempo, one of my favorite sites for tactics. My chesstempo tactics rating is around 1600, with a 1700 peak. These problems are rated in the 1500-1600 range. If these problems are at or above your rating range I believe it is valuable to see how these problems are analyzed and solved. With of that out of the way: here are your problems.
Before I try to solve the problem I always look down at the dynamics of the position. After looking at the problem for 30 or so seconds I came up with The following.
- White is down a queen
- If there was no Knight on b6, white would be threatening Nd7+, forking the queen and the king.
- Black’s b4 rook is hanging
- White’s knight is hanging
- White’s f7 bishop is loose.
- Black’s king only has the e7 square available.
The most important for this problem is the final observation: Black’s king is very weak. Once you see the move Bc5+, we can easily calculate that it leads to mate. The only blocking move is Qd6, which leads to mate.
White could have immediately won an exchange. Given that white was down a full queen in this problem, I quickly discarded that solution and looked for checkmates. I spent quite a bit of time in the initial position trying to remove the defender of the d7 square (allowing my knight to fork the queen and king) but nothing seemed to work.
When looking at tactics problems, always check king safety. Seeing a checkmate will immediately pass the problem. In this case, I spent too much time looking over capture sequences without looking for checkmates. One other takeaway here is that when you are down a bunch of material in a tactics problem, a checkmate is a likely solution.
This problem appears more difficult at first glance. There are no clear captures, forks, or skewers. There is no clear path to a passed pawn.
- Material is completely equal
- Black’s e2 rook is loose, is only defended by the knight
- Playing c4 to create a passed pawn fails to Nxc4.
- White’s rook is undefended
- White’s knight is loose, is only defended by the rook.
- Black’s knight covers the e2 square
The only forcing move I saw in the position is Rh2. This move threatens Rh1+, in which there would be no square for the king to defend the d1 rook. After Rh2, the only move to stop the Rh1+ threat is Kg1, which attacks the rook. Those moves give us the following position.
Here (with black to move) 1… Rxd2 wins, due to 2. Rxd2 Nxf3+, winning the rook. Black is now up a piece and a pawn and has an easily-winning endgame.
My intermediate study plan prescribes spending about 15% of my chess time on tactics. I think it’s important to spend time on slow tactics as well as quick tactics, such as puzzle rush. I try to spend a lot of time building up my tactics skills, as I find tactics to be the deciding factor in most games at my rating level.
Check the study plan for your rating range to see how much time you should be spending on tactics and which types of tactics to look at. If you’re unsure of your rating, check out our rating comparison. See you next edition!