Welcome back to Tactic Teardown, a series where we go over chess tactics in detail rather than just looking at the problem and making the first move that comes to mind. You can see the previous edition here and be notified of future posts by subscribing below.
Before I look at solving the problem, I’ll first go over all the observations I can make about the position.
- Black is up an exchange and down one pawn.
- White has a quick mating attack. For example, 1. hxg6+ Kg8 2. Ne7#
- White’s queen is undefended.
- White’s rook is undefended.
- White’s king is very open.
- Black’s king is very open and in grave danger
- Black needs a quick attack
It’s clear that black needs some sort of forcing sequence to avoid checkmate. Let’s look at a few lines.
The first move that comes to mind is 1… Rc1+, sacrificing the rook for a mating try. After running through a few lines, there is no way for white to continue the attack. For example, after the moves 1… Rc1+ 2. Kxc1 Qa1+ 3. Kd2 Qxb3+ 4. Ke1 we get the following position:
Here, there is no continuation. White is up material and has a decisive mating attack. If we go back to the original position and instead play 1… Rc1+ 2. Kxc1 Rc8+ 3. Kb1 we get this resulting position:
Once again, we are stuck. There is no follow up, black has lost a rook and still has to deal with white’s mating attack. Let’s start with a different first move. Here’s the initial position again:
The only other forcing move here is to sacrifice the queen. 1… Qa2+ is nice, but after Ra8+, the king can hide away on the b1 square, and there is nothing to do. We can’t afford a waiting move because hxg6 is so devastating. 1… Qa1+, again sacrificing the queen, looks like the correct answer. The crucial follow up is Rc1+. After Ka2 (white’s only legal move), we get this position.
From here we have a simple mate in two, using the f8 rook. After Ra8+, white can block with the queen on the a7 square, after which Rxa7 is checkmate.
It’s important to not only look at the threats you have in the position, but also look for what threats your opponent has in the position. We can quickly see that hxg6+ is devastating and there is no great way to prevent it. This is a hint to look at forcing checks and checkmates, rather than trying to win a piece.
This skill is important in blitz and OTB games as well. If our back is against the wall, look for forcing moves to try to swindle a win or back into a pereptual.
A problem similar to #1. Let’s start with observations.
- Black is up three pawns
- If the queens and rooks were traded off, black would be easily winning.
- Black’s rook is undefended
- Black’s move Qxf2+ will lead to at least a perpetual check.
- Both kings are wide open
- White’s pieces are much more coordinated than black’s.
- Rh7+ is the only valid check in the position
- White likely will need to win the a8 rook with check.
As mentioned in our observations, it’s pretty clear the first move is Rh7+. Note that if the king moves to the 8th rank, they immediately get checkmated. 1… Kf8 2. Qg7+ Ke8 3. Qxe7# or 1… Ke8 2. Qxe7#. After 1. Rh7+ then, the only move for black is Ke6, giving us this position:
Here it is very tempting to play 2. Qxe7+. This however will let black’s king out. For example. 2… Kd5 3. Rh5+ (or anything else) Kc4, we can see that the attack is slipping and black’s king is running.
Instead, after 1. Rh7+ Ke6 we need to play 2. Rxe7+. This restricts the king to the e6 square, giving us this position:
Here we can see that Qe5# is on the board.
Similar to the last tactic, when our king is in danger we need to find forcing moves. We again find a very strong threat against our king (in this case Qxf2+) in a fast and forceful way. We need to use our queen and rook coordination quickly to solve these threats against our king in a tactical way.
It was pretty easy to find the first move in this one, but we need to carefully calculate the follow up so we don’t blow our decisive advantage.