Welcome to the third installment of Tactic Teardown, a series where we go over tactics problems in detail rather than making the first move that comes to mind. Let’s jump right in.
Before looking at moves to make let’s go over observations use the ChessGoals method to solve any tactics problem.
- Black is up a pawn
- White has the bishop pair
- Both kings are very safe
- White has a big hole on c6 that they could exploit in the future
- Black has a great outpost square on c4 in the future
- White’s rook is undefended
- e4 forks the bishop and queen
My first instinct in this problem was to play e4 immediately to attack the queen and bishop. This move fails due to Bxe4, threatening the h7 pawn with check, leaving no time for black to capture the rook after d5. We instead need to flip the move order and play d5 first. This gives us an attack on the a3 rook, and threatens the e4 fork. White cannot defend against both. After these moves we get the resulting position, where we can take the bishop and win a piece for free.
When looking at a move (an immediate e4 in this problem) that doesn’t work, look for alternate move orders to exploit the same idea.
Again, let’s make some observations about the position before making moves.
- Both kings are wide open
- White has great attacking chances with the queen and knight near black’s king.
- f7 is a weak square for black
- White is weak on the light squares
- Black has an extra pawn
- Black’s rook is hanging.
The most obvious move here is Qg5+. If black moves the king to h8, we have Qg8#. Let’s, then, analyze black’s only sane response after Qg5+, Ng6.
This position looks a little stuck, and black seems to be holding things together. My first instinct was to play h4 to threaten h5, exploiting the pin on black’s knight. In response, however, black can simply play h6, attacking our queen.
We must retreat our queen and our attack is completely dead. We can toss out h4 and instead look for something faster. Let’s revert back to the current position after 1. Qg5+ Ng6
The only sane knight move is Nh5+. This move turns out to win, not because of an attack on the king, but because of black’s undefended rook on c7. After Nh5+, black must move their king to the back rank. No matter where the king lands, Qd8+ will fork the king and the rook, picking up an entire rook for free.
It took me a long time to solve this problem because I was looking for a mating attack on black’s king. Black’s weak king was the deciding factor in this problem because it was too open to fend off all checks and attacks, leaving black vulnerable to a fork. After black blocked with the knight on g6, no tactic was immediately coming to me. I needed to re-evaluate the position and go back to my observations in order to solve the problem.
Both of these problems dealt with the fork or double attack motif- a crucial pattern to master to boost your rating. Both tactics also had pieces that were undefended; rooks in both cases. Whenever I am stuck on a tactical problem I almost always find it helpful to see which pieces are undefended. Undefended pieces are magnets for tactics and combinations. Do your best to always keep track of pieces that are hanging.
If you want more, check out the rest of our Tactic Teardown series or our guide on how to solve any tactic problem. If you are serious about your chess improvement, check out our study plans to see how exactly you should be spending your chess training time to maximize results. If you want to be notified of future posts subscribe to our newsletter below.