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Ward Farnsworth's

Predator at the Chessboard

A Field Guide to Chess Tactics

Boo~[I: Introduction
The Double Attack
The Discovered Attack
Predator at the Chessboard
A Field Guide to Chess Tactics

Book I: Introduction
The Double Attack
The Discovered Attack

Ward Farnsworth

Book I: Table of Contents

Introductory Matters 5

I. I. A Short Guide to the Book 5

1.2. Rationale for the Project 6

1.3. The Elements of Tactics: A Primer 9

1.3.1. The Double Threat 9

1.3.2. The Loose Piece 10
1.3.3. The Forcing Move
1.3.4. Strategy vs. T actics "

1.4. Notation, Jargon, and the Value of the Pie<:es 14

1.5. Acknowledgments and Bibliography 17

1.6. Chess in Literature: Some Interesting Allusions 20

The Double Attack 20

2.1. The Knight Fork 20

2.1.1. Introduction 20
2.1.2. Seeing Potential Forks 26
2.1.3. The Pinned Guard 29
2.1.4. Exchanging Away the Guard J2
2.1.5. Distracting the Guard 36
2.1.6. Getting Out of You r Own Way 45
2.1.7. Unsuitable T argets 48
2.1.8. Playing Defective Knight Forks 52
2.1.9. Checking the King into Position
2.1.10. Using Mult iple Che<:ks "
2.1.11. Using Mate Threats to Force Pieces into Position 7J
2.1.12. Strategic Implications 76
2.1.13. Sununary 79
2.2. The Qu~n Fork 81

2.2.1. Introduction 81
2.2.2. Simple Cases: Forking the King and a Loose Piece 81
2.2.3. Using the Side of the Board During the Opening 87
2.2.4. Making the Fork ing S-quare Available 91
2.2.5. Loosening the Target by Exchanging It 94
2.2.6. Loosening the Target by Disabling its Guards %
2.2.7. Moving the Enemy King into Position 98
2.2.8. Clea ring the Path to the Forking S-quare 104
2.2.9. Clea ring Paths to the Targets 108
2.2.10. More Complicated Cases 114
2.2.11. Using Mate Threats 118
2.2.12. Mate Threats with Attacks on Underdefended PilX:es 127
2.2.13. Other Mating Threats 130
2.2.14. Attacking Two Loose PilX:es 1}3
2.2.15. Attacking Two Loose Pieces: More Procedures 138
2.2.16. The Enemy Queen as a Target 143
2.2.17. Sununary: Strategic Implications 147

2.3. The Bishop Fork 151

2.3.1. Introduction 151

2.3.2. Bishop Forks One Move Away 154
2.3.3. Loosening the Forking Square 156
2.3.4. Loosening the Target and Forking Square 157
2.3.5. Moving the King into Position, etc. 159
2.3.6. Bishop Forks of the King and Queen 163
2.3.7. Bishop Forks of Other Pieces 166
2.3.8. Playing Defective Bishop Forks 171
2.3.9. Strategic Implications 173

2.4. The Rook Fork 175

2.4.1. Introduction 175

2.4.2. Simple Cases 174
2.4.3. Creating a Target 178
2.4.4. Moving the King into Position 180
2.4.5. Clea ring Paths 183
2.4.6. Working with Mate Threats 186
2.4.7. Strategic Implications 187

2.5. The Pawn Fork 189

2.5.1. Introduction 189

2.5.2. Exchanges to Create Working Pawn Forks 189
2.5 ..!. Forcing Pieces into Place with Threats and Che-cks 192
2.5.4. Forks By Marching Pawns 197
2.5.5. Strategic Implications 201

The Discovered Attack 203

3.1. Bishop Discoveries 203

3.1. I. Introduction to Discovered Attacks Generally 203

3.1.2. Introduction to Bishop Discoveries 204
3.1 ..!. The Classic Pattern 205
3.1.4. The Unmasking Piece Makes a Capture or Threat 207
3.1.5. Drawing the Enemy King into Place 210
3.1.6. Drawing the Target into Place 212
3.1.7. Clearing Needed Lines 214
3.1.8. Horizontal Discoveries 219
3.1.9. Introducing the Discovered Check 223
3.1.10. Removing Impediments to Discovered Checks 226
3.1.11. The Bishop and Rook Mate 228
3.1.12. Other Large Threats By the Stationary Piece 231
3.1.13. Horizontal Discovered Checks 235
3.1.1 4. Two-steppers: Building the Kernel m
3.2. Rook Discoveries 241

3.2.1. Introduction; Simple Cases 241

3.2.2. Threatening Mate 243
3.2.'!. The Rook Discovers Check 247
3.2.4. Manufacturing Discovered Check 250
3.2.5. Two-steppers: Building the Kernel 253
3.2.6. The Windmill 257

3.3. Knight Discoveries 26l

3.3.1. Diagonal Patterns 261

3.3.2. Venical and Horizontal Patterns 263
3.3 ..!. Building Knight Discoveries 266
3.3.4. Working with Mate Threats 269
3.3.5. More on Mate Threats: Vertical and Horizontal Patterns 275
3.3.6. Discovered Check with the Knight 277
3.3.7. Discovered Checks with Preliminary Exchanges 279
3.3.8. Discovered Mate Threats 281
3.3.9. Discovered Check Leading to Mate 283
3.3.10. Building the Kernel: Diagonal Patterns 287
3.3.11. Building the Kernel: Venical and Horizontal Patterns 290
Chapter 1.
Introductory Matters.
1.1. A Short Guide to the Site. If you want to skip any or all of this first part
and plunge into the specific lessons, you can
go back to the table of contents (there’s al-
Spectacular chess moves produce the same ways a link at the upper right corner of the
sorts of satisfactions as the climactic moments screen) and click on The Knight Fork or
of other great games: the slam dunk, the thir- whatever other topic sounds appealing. The
ty-foot putt, the home run. In chess these sections build on each other a bit, but most of
moves are known as tactics. This web site them can be enjoyed on their own with no
teaches them in detail. It assumes you know trouble if you prefer to dip in at random or
only how the pieces move and builds step-by- skip parts that get tedious. If you want to na-
step from there. Every idea is illustrated with vigate through these early parts or any of the
lots of examples, and every example is ex- other sections more precisely, click on the
plained in plain language that describes a train plus (+) signs in the table of contents to ex-
of thought leading from a problem to its solu- pand each menu. Or click at the top of the
tion. Funny-looking notation is held to a min- contents page to expand all the menus and see
imum. You can treat each example as a puzzle the entire structure at once (I recommend
and try to solve it before reading the explana- this). Or you can flip around by starting any-
tion, or just read the explanations as you go. where and using the arrows at the bottom of
The object throughout is to provide a teaching each screen to go page by page. (Clicking on
tool that makes the secrets of chess easy for the forward (>) arrow at the lower right cor-
anyone to understand. It's a chess book for ner of this page, for example, will walk you
people who think they don’t like chess books. through the rest of this first section.)
(The site also has a new section—the Chess
Quizzer—that lets you test your understand- This site aspires to be the most detailed and
ing by working on positions chosen at random systematic treatment of basic chess tactics yet
and with their explanations hidden.) published. It also is meant to be the most con-
genial to those who like things explained in
You can start reading anyplace. The rest of English. How far it succeeds, and where it
this first section gives a fuller account of the might be improved, the reader will judge; I
idea behind the site and how it differs from welcome corrections and suggestions, and
existing books; then comes a primer on the apologize in advance for the inevitable typos
most important general principles of tactics: or other glitches (and thank those who have
double threats, loose pieces, and forcing called such mistakes to my attention). All
moves (if those terms aren't old hat to you, the feedback can be sent by way of the link at the
explanations probably will be useful). Last are bottom center of every page.
some pages discussing further points of inter-
est to some but not others—the notation used Let us begin.
in the diagrams, acknowledgments, how to
change the look of the font, and other miscel-
1.2. Rationale for the Project.
After this introductory part there are five large
sections, one for each of the great families of
chess tactics: the fork; the discovered attack; Why Tactics?
the pin and skewer; the removal of the guard;
and mating patterns. Within those sections are If you have played chess at all, you know it is
a total of twenty chapters; within the twenty easy for the two sides to trade pieces: your
chapters are nearly two hundred topics. Each knight takes my bishop, my pawn takes your
topic is illustrated with about a half-dozen knight, and we're even. But if your knight
positions—occasionally fewer, and some- takes my bishop and I can’t capture your
times quite a few more. knight, you gain an edge that probably will be
decisive. If one player has more pieces than
the other, he usually wins without much trou- your pieces around to fend off your oppo-
ble; between good players, a one-piece advan- nent’s attempts to launch attacks of his own.
tage is enough to cause the disadvantaged This sort of play is called strategic. You are
party to resign. Thus the most important mo- working toward general, long-term goals, and
ments in a chess game generally occur when perhaps laying the groundwork for a tactical
you take one of your opponent’s pieces and strike of the sort described a moment ago.
he gets nothing back, or vice versa. When you make these sorts of moves you
may well not be seeing many moves ahead.
So how does it happen that one side takes You just are arranging your pieces the way
another side’s pieces for free? Between be- you like, and your opponent is doing the
ginners the common answer is that you wait same. Since you aren’t making any immediate
for your opponent to blunder by leaving a threats, your opponent is free to go about his
piece unguarded, then you just take it―and business in ways that may be hard for you to
hope you aren’t the one to blunder first. Chess predict.
games that go this way aren't terribly interest-
ing, and they make it hard to understand what Strategy and tactics both are important, but
all the fuss over the game is about. tactics are more important. If you're a whiz at
finding clever moves that take your oppo-
The fuss arises because there are moves you nent’s pieces, you will be a terrifying oppo-
can make that force your opponent to cough nent, have a good time playing chess, and win
up pieces unexpectedly. All his men look lots of games regardless of whether you know
safe; but then you play a knight fork, a move a great deal about strategy. If you're a whiz at
in which your knight attacks two of his pieces strategy but not much good at tactics, you will
at once. He only has time enough (one turn) have trouble winning or having fun because
to move or protect one of them, so you take your pieces will keep getting taken. You cer-
the other for free. It's all very satisfying; and tainly want to know something of strategy;
it's even better when you first capture his you need ideas about what you can do with
bishop, and he recaptures; then you check his your pieces that will create eventual tactical
king, and it moves; and then you play the opportunities for them. We will talk about it
knight fork, winning a piece. What makes this along the way. The point is just comparative:
so pleasing is that you've planned the fork and if you want satisfaction, you had best start by
forced your opponent to step into it by play- learning how to play tactics―how to spot and
ing a few initial moves that forced his replies. execute sequences of moves that allow you to
These sequences―the little clusters of moves take your opponent’s pieces.
that win your opponent’s pieces―are known,
again, as tactics. A tactical sequence generally What was said about strategy can be said as
is a short bunch of moves that wins material well about openings. You can spend enor-
(pieces or pawns) or that forces checkmate. mous time mastering the details of an open-
Such a sequence also is known as a combina- ing―say, the Italian Game or the French De-
tion. (Some people quarrel over the distinc- fense. The yield of those efforts, in victories
tion between tactics and combinations. We and in fun, probably will be small. You fre-
won't.) quently will find that your opponent’s play
drags you away from the opening you studied;
Now there also are other types of moves you and even if not, the payoff of a successful
can make in chess that aren't meant to win any opening usually is a minor advantage in posi-
pieces. Indeed, during a game you often will tion. By itself the advantage will not win you
have no way to play one of those nifty tactical anything or bring you much pleasure. What
sequences, so you instead try to improve your will bring you immense pleasure, whether or
position: you put your pieces onto squares not you know much about openings, is taking
where they have more room to move or are your opponent’s pieces. And to do that you
aimed at a part of the board where you are need to learn how to use tactics―the weap-
trying to put together an attack; or you move onry of the chessboard.
All this advice assumes you are not a strong Its distinctive features can be summarized as
player already. Once the material on this site follows:
all is old hat to you, close study of openings
and subtler points of strategy will make better Many examples, carefully organized. This site
sense. One false move in the opening and goes into greater detail than other books do in
your goose is cooked if you are playing Garry explaining each type of tactic and how to
Kasparov; but this is a site mostly for novices, overcome the various obstacles that can arise
so if you are reading it you probably should in trying to make it work. There are about 80
not be planning to play Kasparov anytime knight forks here, for example, and they are
soon. You should be planning to play others broken down according to the different ways
of at least roughly your own strength ― pro- the tactic can look when it is lurking two or
bably friends who are casual players, or op- three moves away on an apparently placid
ponents at the local chess club or on the inter- chessboard. It may be that the square your
net. If you keep playing you will move on to knight needs is guarded but that the guard can
better players, but it still will be a long while be taken; it may be that the piece you want to
before a deep study of openings really pays fork is not very valuable but can be ex-
off. In the meantime all of your opponents ― changed for a more valuable piece; it may be
even the strong ones―will give you plenty of that you do not yet have a knight fork but that
tactical opportunities; they will commit over- after you check the enemy king a forking pos-
sights that allow you to play pretty combina- sibility will come into view. All of these pos-
tions and win pieces if you are sharp enough sibilities, and many others, are illustrated with
to see the chances for them. Acquiring this about a half dozen explanations apiece and
sharpness has nothing to do with memoriza- sometimes more. The process is repeated for
tion. It's a skill you gain by learning what all the major tactical motifs: there are more
clues signal that a combination may be possi- than 100 queen forks, more than 300 pins,
ble, and by studying how to turn those clues nearly 200 discovered attacks—all subdivided
into ideas that work. into different ways each of these ideas can
look when it is a couple of moves away from

Why Another Book About Them? This method of organization makes it easier to
learn in a systematic way about tactics and the
Since tactics are the most entertaining and issues that come up in using them. Every idea
important part of chess, it comes as no sur- is shown in several contexts so that it will
prise that there have been many books written sink in and the persistent features of the pat-
about them. This site—which amounts to an- tern become familiar to you. And the many
other book, and not a short one—thus requires examples of each complication also will make
a few words of justification. It differs from all it easier to recognize patterns during your
the prior work in several important respects. games: you will start to sense that the position
on the board almost resembles a recognizable
Most books about chess tactics follow one of pattern and almost lends itself to a known
two patterns. Some describe important tactical tactical theme. Then you can experiment with
ideas—forks, pins, etc.—and explain their forcing moves (e.g., checks and captures that
logic a bit, then provide perhaps a dozen ex- require predictable replies from your oppo-
amples of how each tactic works. The other nent) to make it work. The idea guides the
sort of book presents pages of diagrammed experimentation. But to have the idea in the
problems for the reader to solve; the answers first place—to see, for example, that condi-
usually are given in the back with minimal tions on the board suggest a possible knight
commentary. Both types of books are valu- fork, even if the exact means of getting there
able, especially when used together, but I long has yet to be worked out—you need a reper-
have felt there was a place for a different ap- toire of known tactical patterns that can be
proach. This project attempts to fill the gap. stimulated by the positions you see. The pat-
terns studied here, in all their little variations, This project especially is meant for those who
are meant to go into the reader's store of vis- like explanations in words. Not everyone
ual knowledge and become the basis of useful does; some students of chess prefer just dia-
intuitions and ideas. grams with lists of the moves required to
solve them. But I suspect that those who do
Trains of thought explained. Chess tactics think best in words will find it helpful—more
tend to involve the use of certain root ideas— interesting, easier to understand, and more
cognitive riffs—that get repeated and com- likely to improve their play—to have the solu-
bined in various ways. The explanations here tions to problems explained out in English.
are meant to explain and reinforce those ideas These are matters of taste, and you, gentle
so they become a natural part of your thought reader, may not think the world really needs
process at the board. more words about chess. But if you do share
this sense of mine, and have not found that
Here is a slightly larger statement of the point. most books about chess explain it in a way
The quality of your chess is determined by the that speaks to you or affects your play, per-
quality of your train of thought when deciding haps this site will change your relationship to
what move to make. The train of thought may the game.
be partly verbal, partly visual, or partly intui-
tive, but in any case it will involve a sequence
in which you consider candidate moves and
their pros and cons. The climb from novice to 1.3. The Elements of Tactics: A Primer.
something better largely is a move from me-
andering, unsystematic trains of thought to
more methodical and fruitful ones. For the 1.3.1 The Double Threat.
beginner it therefore is helpful to see more
than just a list of the correct moves that solve If you are new to chess, the sequences that
a chess problem; it helps to hear what ques- good players use to win games may seem
tions one might have asked to spot the pattern impossibly complicated. But most of them
and discover the correct moves for oneself. actually are based on just a few general con-
Thus every example here is accompanied by cepts combined ingeniously and persistently.
commentary explaining not just the right This frame and the ones that follow explain
moves but a train of thought that leads from the concepts broadly. The rest of the site
the position to its solution. teaches their use in detail.

The trains of thought offered in the commen- The most important idea in chess is the dou-
taries emphasize the use of clues: signs to ble threat. Generally speaking a double threat
search for during your games that indicate a is any move you make that presents your op-
tactic might be available. The explanations ponent with two problems at the same time.
show how the same sets of questions, some of Since each player can make just one move per
them simple, can generate impressive tactical turn, your opponent only has time to address
ideas when they are asked and answered me- one of the threats you have made. On your
thodically. Some trains of thought thus are next turn you execute the other one. Maybe
repeated many times. The repetition would be your first move checks his king and attacks
inexcusable if the purpose of the project were another of his pieces at the same time; or
just to transmit information, for then once maybe you threaten one of his pieces and are
would be enough. But the purpose is other- building a threat of checkmate elsewhere. The
wise; it is to help change your mental habits at result is the same: your opponent has to spend
the board, and for this purpose an extra meas- his next move dealing with your threat against
ure of clarity and some repetition both are his king, and then you get to take the other
helpful. piece you were threatening.
The universe of chess tactics can be divided [Note: A fifth family of tactical operations
into four or five great families of ideas, each involves mating patterns: characteristic ways
of them a variation on the logic of the double that kings get trapped. These are treated in the
threat. This site is organized around them: last section of this site. They do not necessar-
ily involve the logic of the double threat in the
1. The first family, and the best-known type way that those tactical devices just described
of double threat, is the fork — a move where do. We also are leaving aside a few other,
one of your pieces attacks two enemy pieces more minor families of tactics for now.]
at the same time. You no doubt have seen
examples of knight forks if you have played 1.3.2 The Loose Piece.
chess for a while; the knight naturally lends
itself to moves in which it attacks two pieces Another key idea in chess is the loose piece.
at once. But the same idea can be executed A loose piece is simply a piece that has no
with your queen or with other pieces, as we protection. It is common for players to leave
shall see. pieces unprotected here and there; as long as
they aren’t being attacked, they look safe
2. A second type of double threat, and another enough. But loose pieces make perfect targets
family of tactical ideas, is the discovered at- for the double threats described a moment
tack. This occurs when you move one of your ago. Suppose your queen performs a fork,
pieces out of the way of another so that both attacking your opponent’s king and one of his
of them make separate attacks against your rooks at the same time. He moves his king.
opponent. Again, he only has time to parry Now you can use your queen to take his
one of the threats. You play out the other one rook—if it is unprotected. But if the rook is
on your next move. guarded you won’t be able to take it because
the cost will be too high: your queen will be
3. A third family of tactical ideas involves the captured afterwards.
pin or skewer. These occur when two of your
opponent’s pieces are on the same line and We can turn this point into advice for practi-
you place an attacker so that it runs through cal play. You want to be aware of loose
both of them. In effect you again are making a pieces on the board at all times. Any piece
double threat—one threat against the piece in your opponent has left unguarded is a possible
front and another against the piece behind it. target for a tactical strike; any piece of yours
that is left unguarded is a vulnerability. In-
4. And then there are countless other situa- deed, you want to not only notice loose en-
tions that may be lumped under the heading emy pieces but also look for ways to create
of removing the guard, in which you capture them. We will see countless examples in the
or harry an enemy piece that guards some- studies to come. ("Loose pieces" also can be
thing else you want to take. Your opponent defined to include enemy pieces that are un-
can’t defend against both threats on the one derdefended: attacked once and defended
turn allowed to him, so you are able to play once by a fellow piece. As we shall see,
one of them or the other. pieces in that condition sometimes can make
targets just as good as pieces with no protec-
In effect most games of chess are contests to tion at all.)
see who can find a way to use one of those
tactical techniques first. One successful fork The great chess writer Cecil Purdy stated the
(or discovery, or skewer, etc.) often decides a point as a rule: "Never leave or place a piece
game by giving one player an insurmountable loose without first looking for a possible fork
advantage over the other. This is why Richard or pin, and never see an enemy piece loose
Teichmann said that chess is 99% tactics; and without doing the same." Do you follow this
it is why mastery of tactics is the key to hav- advice already? Many inexperienced players
ing fun at the chessboard, not to mention win- don't. When they put a piece onto a new
ning. square, they mostly just check to make sure it
won't get taken there. Purdy's advice is differ- forcing moves because they so powerfully
ent. It is to ask whether your piece has protec- limit your opponent's choice of replies.
tion on its new square; and if it doesn't, to ask
carefully whether a fork or pin or other tactic This notion of forcing moves helps clear up
might be launched against it. You may not yet some common confusions about chess. No
understand quite what it means to look for doubt you have heard about good players see-
forks or pins, but you will soon; and then fol- ing ahead five moves, or a dozen moves, or
lowing Purdy's counsel will save you many more; how do they do that when their oppo-
sorrows. nents have so many possible responses to pick
from? The usual answer is that their oppo-
nents don’t have so many choices after all.
Suppose I think like this: if I take your knight
1.3.3 The Forcing Move. with my bishop, you will have to recapture
my bishop; then if I check your king, you will
Sometimes in chess you do whatever you have to move it over one square; then if I
want to do and then your opponent does check your king on its new square, you will
whatever he wants to do. Other times it’s dif- have to block my check; then your rook will
ferent: if you capture his knight with your be left loose and I will take it. In this case I
bishop, for example, he pretty much has to have seen ahead four moves, but notice that I
recapture your bishop; otherwise he simply is didn’t have to keep track of a lot of possible
short a piece and probably will lose. (The variations. To each of my moves you only had
other pieces belonging to both sides gradually one plausible reply. I just had to realize this.
will be exchanged away, and you will end up Of course sometimes your opponent will have
with the only attacking piece left on the more than one plausible reply, and in that case
board.) you will need to keep track of some variations
after all (“if he does this, I’ll do that; if he
Another example: If you check your oppo- does the other thing, then I go to plan B,”
nent’s king, he can’t do whatever he wants in etc.). And it’s true that very strong players
reply; he has to either move the king, block can keep straight lots of variations. But it’s
the check, or capture the piece you have used also true that a lot of great tactical sequences
to make the threat. And if you make a move consist entirely of forced moves that make it
that will enable you to deliver checkmate on not so hard to see ahead.
your next turn—a “mating threat”—your op-
ponent likewise will have to address it imme- Once you grasp the idea of forcing moves it
diately. also is easier to understand how to come up
with nifty tactical ideas during your games.
Checks, captures, and mate threats therefore Of course you might like to unleash a fork or
are known as forcing moves. In other words, discovery or skewer, but what if no such
they are moves that force your opponent to moves are possible when it’s your turn? Do
pick from a small set of possible replies. They you wait around for a fork to become avail-
are the essence of tactical chess; they allow able? No; your first job when you are decid-
you to dictate your opponent’s moves and ing what move to play is to examine your
thus control how the board will look two or possible forcing moves: any checks, captures,
three or more moves from now. Other types or mating threats you can offer. You don't
of moves may be "forcing" as well, mind you: look at these things just as ends in them-
any threat you make against your opponent— selves; you ask what moves your opponent
for example, a simple threat to take one of his would be forced to make in reply, and
pieces on your next move—may force him to whether you then would be able to play a fork
reply in a certain way. This happens all the or discovery or skewer or some other tactic. If
time, and we will see examples as we go. But the answer is no, you imagine playing another
checks, captures, and mate threats tend to be forcing move after the first one and then ask
the most interesting and important kind of the same questions.
The point of experimenting with forcing during a game, because most great tactical
moves, in short, is that they change the look ideas involve one of those elements or the
of the board. They may open up lines that other.
currently are cluttered; they may cause your
opponent to leave pieces loose that now have 1.3.4 Strategy vs. Tactics.
protection; they may make him line up pieces
that are not now on the same line; they may Often you will look at your forcing moves
make him put his king where it can be and decide they lead nowhere. That’s fine;
checked. Your task is to imagine the board as now you instead play a strategic move rather
it would look after your forcing moves and than a tactical one—a move that improves the
see if changes such as those would create tac- quality of your position without trying di-
tical openings for you. Gradually a pattern rectly to win your opponent’s pieces or mate
you recognize may emerge—the makings of a his king. But strategy and tactics are linked,
fork or discovery or other idea. since one goal of strategic, “positional” play
is to increase the power of your pieces and
With practice this becomes second nature: if create fertile conditions for tactical strikes on
your rook is aimed at your opponent’s knight, later moves. Sometimes this is a matter of
you automatically consider capturing the arranging your pieces so that they have more
knight and allowing your rook to be taken. freedom of movement and denying the same
This would be a sacrifice, of course, since freedoms to your opponent; sometimes it is a
rooks are more valuable than knights, but matter of coordinating your pieces so that
great tactical ideas routinely begin with sacri- they are aimed at the same sector of the
fices like that. The question is whether the board; sometimes it is a matter of arranging
exchange of your rook for his knight would your pawns to help achieve those same pur-
leave you with a chance to play a fork or poses for your pieces. At the end of our study
other double threat—or with a chance to play of each tactical family (and sometimes more
another forcing move that isn’t yet possible. often), we will pause to consider its strategic
Maybe after your rook is captured you then implications: what the tactical ideas teach
can play a check that wasn’t available before; about the right sorts of moves to play when
and maybe after your opponent responds to there is no such tactic yet available.
the check you then will have a fork. But it all
starts by thinking about a simple capture you All this talk of weaponry admittedly is ab-
can make and its consequences. stract. It will become concrete in the studies
that follow. We will look at over a thousand
Likewise, you generally don’t want to make tactical sequences. The rough structure of
any moves without being aware of any checks most of these sequences, and of a large share
you give and their consequences. Checks are of all the great tactical moves ever played in
the most forcing moves of all because your chess, is similar; it involves the elements just
opponent is required to reply by moving his described. First there are some forcing
king, taking the piece that threatens it, or moves—checks or captures or mating threats
moving a piece between them. This usually that limit your opponent’s replies. Then there
makes it easy to see what a check will require is a denouement: a double threat, such as a
your opponent to do. And since a check often fork or discovered attack or one of the other
forces your opponent to move his king, it may themes we will consider, that becomes possi-
lead directly to tactics that make the king a ble after the forcing moves have changed the
target—a fork with the king at one end, or a board. As a result you are able to take a loose
pin with a king at the rear, or for that matter or underprotected enemy piece. We can call
checkmate. this a combination. The variations on this
pattern are limitless, and there is much to
Looking at any checks and captures you have know about its details: how to spot forcing
to offer is like looking for loose pieces on the moves and figure out their consequences, and
board: these are things you do all the time how to spot the patterns suggesting that a fork
or pin is in order. You can spend a lifetime tinguish it from the King (“K”). Pawns are
building your understanding of those things named by their squares, so that “d4-d5”
and gaining skill at carrying them out under means the pawn on d4 moves to d5. Some-
time pressure. But as you get started it all may times in this book (and routinely in other
be more manageable if you consider these books) a pawn move is described without
studies as variations on the single idea just bothering to name the square it came from:
described. one simply says "1. d5," and everyone under-
stands this means that the pawn on the d-file
The rest of this introductory section will be moves to d5.
discussing chess notation and jargon, then
some more technical aspects of the site. This 3. Captures are described with an “x” between
therefore is a good time for a reminder that if the names of the pieces capturing and being
you want to skip any or all of that stuff, per- captured. So QxB means queen takes bishop;
haps because you already are comfortable Rxa5 means the rook captures the pawn on
reading about chess positions and want to cut a5; and h7xN means the pawn on h7 captures
right to some lessons, you can go back to the the opposing knight.
table of contents and navigate from there by
using the link near the upper right corner of This last point is the way that the notation
this screen. here varies from the usual algebraic notation
in other books. Algebraic notation normally
describes a capture by just referring to the
square where it occurs. Thus if White’s queen
1.4 Notation; Jargon; the Look of the Site; takes Black’s rook on the f6 square, most
Hard Copies. chess books would say “Qxf6”; but on this
site we will say “QxR.” The reason for the
difference is that this site is meant primarily
1.4.1. Notation and Jargon. for people who haven’t read other chess
books before (as noted before, it's a chess
This site makes every effort to explain every- book for people who don't like chess books),
thing in words, but when describing a series and for that audience the notation used here
of chess moves it often is convenient to use will be more intuitive. It's easy to understand
abbreviations to describe them. Those abbre- that “QxB” means “queen takes bishop”: easy
viations are known in chess as notation. This to imagine, and easy to find on the board.
site generally uses the “algebraic” notation “Qxf6,” however, has to be translated into
employed in most chess books, though with a “queen takes bishop” by looking at the board,
small difference explained below. Despite the finding f6, and seeing what piece is there.
unpleasant label, it's very easy to understand. That’s easy when you know instinctively
Most of it can be figured out as you read, but where f6 is, but most readers of this project
here is what you need to know about how it probably will find it faster to locate the bishop
works: than to locate f6. The real benefits of naming
captures by the squares where they occur
1. Squares are named by their coordinates— come when describing long sequences, and
a4, e5, h8, etc.; these should be self explana- few of the sequences here will be all that
tory, since every diagram includes numbers long. (The approach used here is similar to the
running up the side of the board and letters one used in Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, a
along the bottom. The numbered horizontal well-executed book for beginners.)
rows are called ranks. The vertical columns
named by letters are called files. This approach to describing captures should
be easy to follow for readers already used to
2. Pieces are named by their first letter. Q = ordinary algebraic notation; anyone can un-
queen; R = rook; etc. The only exception is derstand what QxB means even if they are
the knight, which is referred to as “N” to dis- used to reading Qxf6. The gripe I anticipate
from those who get worked up about these 6. Sequences of moves are described in pairs,
things is that if readers become used to this with the White move first. Thus a game might
approach they will find it hard to read alge- begin 1. e2-e4, e7-e5 [again, this could have
braic notation in other books: they will see, been written "1. e4, e5"]; 2. Nf3, Nc6; 3. Bb5,
say, “Qxf6” elsewhere and have trouble re- a7-a6; 4. BxN, d7xB. This means that White
membering that the other author means to say started by moving his e-pawn forward two
the queen captures whatever piece is on f6, squares, and that Black then did the same;
not that the queen captures the f6 pawn (as it then on White’s second turn he moved his
will mean here). I regard this as a trivial com- knight to f3, and then Black moved his knight
plaint; the reader of this site who does move to c6. White brought out his bishop. Black
on to other books should have no trouble chased it with his pawn on the a-file. White
making the transition if the above explanation replied by taking Black's knight. Black recap-
is kept in mind (or just figuring it out on the tured with pawn on c6. The position on the
fly; for this explanation makes the whole left illustrates the result.
business sound more confusing than it is in
practice). It's not that big a deal. When we look at positions from the middle of
a game (as we generally will) we will de-
4. Turning back to the notation rules, castling scribe White’s first move in that position with
is indicated by writing 0-0 (if it's on the side the numeral “1” (as something like “1. Nf5,”
of the board where the king starts) or 0-0-0 (if for example). We call it “1” because it’s the
it's on the queenside: long castling, as it is first move in the pictured position, even
called). though it’s not the first move in the game.

5. Now a couple of minor points that don't If we want to start by describing a move of
come up often; you probably don't need to Black’s, we do it by saying something like:
worry about them, but for the sake of com- “Black can play 1. …Nf5.” The “1” followed
pleteness: if a capture is made en passant, by the three dots indicates that we’re looking
that's indicated by writing "ep" afterwards or at the first pair of moves in the position but
some variant. (I'm assuming you know what that we’re starting with the second half of the
an en passant capture is, but if you don't, I'll pair: in other words, with Black’s move.
explain it if it ever gets used here—and in the
meantime you easily can find an explanation 7. A plus sign after a move (like this: Rh8+)
of it elsewhere on the web.) Second, if one of means that the move checks the enemy king.
your pawns reaches the opponent's back rank, A "#" sign after a move (like this: Rh8#)
it gets promoted to some other more powerful means that the move is checkmate (or simply
piece of your choice—usually the queen, “mate,” as we more commonly say).
though very occasionally some other choice
works better. We indicate promotion with an 8. It often happens that a player can sacrifice
equal sign: f7-f8=Q means the pawn on f7 a knight or bishop to win an enemy rook.
moves to f8 and becomes a queen. Again, I'll Since rooks are more valuable than knights or
say more about this wherever it pops up. bishops, a player who does this is said to have
“won the exchange.” If we reach a stage of
Finally, if more than one piece could be indi- the game where I have, say, a bishop and a
cated by a description (in other words, if I rook and you have a bishop and a knight, I am
refer to "R" but there are two rooks on the said to be “ahead the exchange.”
board and it's not obvious which one is
meant), sometimes the coordinate of the piece 9. A piece is said to be “loose” if it has no
will be given as well. So Rc8xN means the defenders. It is “hanging” if it is exposed to
rook on c8 (not some other rook) captures the capture; you hang your queen if you leave it
opponent's knight. Occasionally this approach where your opponent can take it for free. This
also will be used just for clarity's sake even if also is known as leaving a piece en prise.
there is no technical reason for confusion.
1.4.2. The Value of the Pieces. If you use Mozilla’s Firefox browser, you
likewise can fiddle with Tools …Options
This site assumes that you know how to play …Fonts & Colors. Check "Always use my
chess—in other words, how the pieces move. fonts"; then set your preferred font elsewhere
If you know that much, you probably also in that same window. The Microsoft browser
know which pieces are worth more than produces slightly better results for some peo-
which. But to be on the safe side, it is conven- ple (sorry!), but it may depend on what sort of
tional to rank the pieces in the following order monitor you use.
of value, with points given to them as indi-
cated to make it easier to work out whether a If none of this helps, please let me know. I'm
set of exchanges is favorable or unfavorable: still working on making the type easy to read
on every computer screen.
Queen = 9

Rook = 5
1.4.4. About the Dinosaurs.
Bishop = 3
This site is titled Predator at the Chessboard,
Knight = 3 and is decorated with dinosaurs; yet the dino-
saurs pictured are herbivores. Is this not a
Pawn = 1 contradiction of some sort? In fact it isn't; and
this, patient reader, for two reasons.

First, if you unexpectedly were to encounter a

1.4.3. Making the Site Easier to Read. Stegosaurus or a Triceratops—such as, per-
haps, the handsome one shown to the left—
First of all, the site is best viewed at a resolu- you yourself would regard it as a decidedly
tion of at least 1024 x 768. Anything smaller formidable predator, would you not? But sec-
will force you to use a slider bar to read the ond and more to the point, the complaint
pages: no fun at all. My apologies to those about the dining habits of the pictured dino-
who don't have such an option, but the major- saurs reflects, I say, a failure of perspective
ity of all monitors nowadays can achieve this, and imagination; for you too hastily are as-
and it makes for the best reading environ- suming that they are the predators. Has it oc-
ment. curred to you that they are the prey, and that
you are the Tyrannosaurus (or, perhaps, the
If the size of the type on this site, or the Allosaurus) intending to dine on them? That
spaces between the lines, aren’t to your liking, is the sort of thinking this site means to en-
you should be able to adjust them in the usual courage. After reading it for a while, situa-
way (hit CTRL and then use the scroll button tions that formerly caused you to react with
on your mouse; or use the “View” menu on dread and an instinct for defense and retreat
your browser). If you are having trouble get- will instead inspire you to think by habit—
ting satisfactory results this way, you may aye, and with relish—about making a meal of
find it useful to disable the site’s automatic your opponent.
formatting. On Microsoft’s Internet Explorer
you do this by going to Tools… Internet Op- Either that, or plants make underrated prey;
tions… Accessibility… and then checking the but Herbivore at the Chessboard didn't have
boxes to ignore the font styles or sizes (or the same ring to it.
both) specified on web pages. Then set your
own font (still on the Internet Options page) Onward.
and play again with the browser’s type size
settings (under the View menu).
1.4.5. Hard Copies. Second—in alphabetical order only—is Tim
Feinstein, a wonderful chessplayer and terrific
Many readers of the site have written to ask if lawyer who read the manuscript. He caught
the material it contains is available in hard many mistakes and made a lot of great sug-
copy. Now it is; there are links at top of the gestions. (Many errors no doubt remain here
front page. These are oversized paperbacks, and there. He isn’t responsible for them.) Tim
and they contain every position and discus- is a generous teacher from whom I have
sion that appears in the online version: over learned much about the game, and I thank him
700 pages in total, with over 1,000 illustra- profusely. In everyday life he is far kinder
tions and commentaries. I hope they will be a than he appears in this picture, which captures
convenience to those who prefer reading him in a moment of characteristic brutality
books to reading screens. Hardcover versions toward an opponent. You wouldn't want to
are available, too; you can find them by cross him at the chessboard.
searching at www.lulu.com, which is where
the links on the front page will take you any-
way. At the lower left of the publisher's site,
you can ask to have the prices displayed in
pounds or euros if you prefer.

1.5 Acknowledgments and Bibliography.

I now wish to thank two gentlemen, each of

whom has lent a bit of his genius to this pro-
ject. Tim Feinstein

The first is Alon Cohen, the builder of this

site, pictured to the left. He is a man of sur-
passing energy, generosity, and creativity, and Bibliography.
I hope you will share my judgment that he has
done a beautiful as well as a functional job. One of the goals of this project is to take
We collaborated on the design; anything you every problem that commonly arises in tacti-
don’t like about it safely can be blamed on cal play and illustrate its handling with a half
me, while the good parts almost certainly dozen or so progressive illustrations. To find
were his idea. the positions needed for the purpose—roughly
1,200 in all—I drew on just about every
source I could find. I list them below, and
thank their authors (and beg the pardon of any
I may have neglected to mention). I have
learned from all of them. There are a few
notes at the end about some particular titles.

Alburt, Chess Training Pocket Book (1997)

Ault, The Chess Tutor (1975)

Bain, Chess Tactics for Students (1993)

Alon Cohen Blokh, The Art of Combination (1994)

Blokh, Combinational Motifs (1998) Lein and Archangelsky, Sharpen Your Tac-
tics! (1996)
Blokh, 600 Combinations (2001)
Littlewood, Chess Tactics (1984)
Burgess, The Mammoth Book of Chess (1997)
Livshitz, Test Your Chess IQ (1981)
Chandler, How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
(1998) Neishtadt, Test Your Tactical Ability (1981)

Chernev, Combinations: The Heart of Chess Neishtadt, Your Move! (1990)

Palatnik and Alburt, Chess Tactics for the
Chernev, Logical Chess: Move by Move Tournament Player (1995)
Polgar, Chess (1994)
Chernev and Reinfeld, Winning Chess (1948)
Pongo, Tactical Targets in Chess (2000)
Emms, The Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book
(2000) Purdy, The Search for Chess Perfection
Fischer et al., Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
(1966) Reinfeld, 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate
Furst, Theme Artistry (1987)
Reinfeld, 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and
Gillam, Winning At Chess (1994) Combinations (1955)

Gillam, Your Move (1994) Renaud and Kahn, The Art of the Checkmate
Harding, Better Chess for Average Players
(1996) Robertie, Winning Chess Tactics (1996)

Hays, Combination Challenge (1991) Seirawan and Silman, Winning Chess Tactics
Hays, Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors
(1994) Tal, Tal-Botvinnik 1960 (1970)

Horowitz, How to Win in the Chess Openings Vukovic, Art of Attack in Chess (1998 ed.)
Walker, Chess Combinations (1999)
Horowitz and Reinfeld, First Book of Chess
(1952) Weeramantry, Best Lessons of a Chess Coach
Ivaschenko, The Manual of Chess Combina-
tions (1997) Wilson and Albertson, 303 Tricky Chess Tac-
tics (1999)
Koltanowski and Finkelstein, Checkmate!
(1998) Znosko-Borovsky, The Art of Chess Combi-
nation (1959)
Koltanowski and Finkelstein, Checkmate
Strategies (1999)
Some positions also have appeared in Shelby man offers a number of good online resources
Lyman’s chess column in the Boston Globe or as well.
in Riga’s Chess magazine.
5. And for the reader simply looking for good,
A few notes on these: lively writing about chess, I suggest checking
out any of the writings of C.J.S. Purdy, start-
1. The books by Reinfeld and Hays probably ing with the one referenced above. He is
are the best collections of positions to solve if magnificent.
you are looking for practice (a number of po-
sitions from those books are discussed here);
Livshitz and Gillam also are excellent for that
purpose, as is the book by Lein and Ar- 1.6 Chess in Literature.
changelsky. Some Interesting Allusions to Chess.

2. Among books that offer instruction in Fielding, Joseph Andrews (1742):

words, I suggest Chernev and Reinfeld's Win-
ning Chess, Ault's The Chess Tutor, and Sei- But human life, as hath been discovered by
rawan and Silman's Winning Chess Tactics. some great man or other (for I would by no
(The first two may be hard to find, but are means be understood to affect the honour of
worth the trouble.) Many of the others are making any such discovery), very much re-
excellent, too, and I don't mean to slight any sembles a game at chess; for as in the latter,
of them by mentioning these three. Of course while a gamester is too attentive to secure
those books fill a somewhat similar niche to himself very strongly on one side the board,
this site; for those who are reading this, they he is apt to leave an unguarded opening on the
are my competition. But I encourage you to other; so doth it often happen in life, and so
check them out and make comparisons. Dif- did it happen on this occasion; for whilst the
ferent people learn better from different writ- cautious constable with such wonderful sa-
ers. gacity had possessed himself of the door, he
most unhappily forgot the window.
3. The titles by Renaud and Kahn and by
Chandler are terrific sources on mating pat- Fielding, Life of Jonathan Wild the Great
terns; so are the Koltanowski and Finkelstein (1743):
books, which are overlooked. Again, many
positions in the "mating patterns" section of How impossible for human prudence to fore-
this site are drawn from those sources. see and guard against every circumvention! It
is even as a game of chess, where, while the
4. For the reader looking to move on to the rook, or knight, or bishop, is busied forecast-
study of strategy, I especially recommend ing some great enterprize, a worthless pawn
Chernev's Logical Chess and Nunn's Under- exposes and disconcerts his scheme.
standing Chess, both of which walk you
through chess games and explain the strategic Boswell, Life of Johnson (1791):
(as well as tactical) thinking behind the
moves. My other favorite titles on strategy are There is one circumstance in Sir John's char-
Jeremy Silman's The Amateur's Mind, How to acter of Bishop Still, which is peculiarly ap-
Reassess Your Chess, and (perhaps most use- plicable to Johnson: “He became so famous a
ful of all) The Reassess Your Chess Work- disputer, that the learnedest were even afraid
book, which is full of excellent examples and to dispute with him; and he finding his own
discussion. Seirawan and Silman's Winning strength, could not stick to warn them in their
Chess Strategies is another fine overview you arguments to take heed to their answers, like a
may find helpful. Everyone's Second Chess perfect fencer that will tell aforehand in which
Book by Dan Heisman also has a wealth of button he will give the venew, or like a cun-
tips on strategy as well as other topics; Heis- ning chess-player that will appoint aforehand
with which pawn and in what place he will sane, but extremely business-like; and if
give the mate.” Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was
because he was much the safest man to hold
Dickens, Bleak House (1853): them. Imagination does not breed insanity.
Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.
He is clear that every such person wants to Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do.
depose him. If he be ever asked how, why,
when, or wherefore, he shuts up one eye and Stoker, Dracula (1897):
shakes his head. On the strength of these pro-
found views, he in the most ingenious manner So be it that he has gone elsewhere. Good! It
takes infinite pains to counterplot when there has given us opportunity to cry 'check' in
is no plot, and plays the deepest games of some ways in this chess game, which we play
chess without any adversary. for the stake of human souls.

James, The Figure in the Carpet (1896): Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938):

The figures on the chessboard were still the What purpose is served by saying that men
passions and jealousies and superstitions and like Maxton are in Fascist pay? Only the pur-
stupidities of man, and their position with pose of making serious discussion impossible.
regard to each other, at any given moment, It is as though in the middle of a chess tour-
could be of interest only to the grim, invisible nament one competitor should suddenly begin
fates who played the game – who sat, through screaming that the other is guilty of arson or
the ages, bow-backed over the table. bigamy. The point that is really at issue re-
mains untouched.
Churchill, The People’s Rights (1909):
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Autocrat of
Moves are made upon the scientific and stra- the Breakfast Table (1858):
tegic boards, advantages are gained by me-
chanical means, as a result of which scores of The whole force of conversation depends on
millions of men become incapable of further how much you can take for granted. Vulgar
resistance, or judge themselves incapable of chess-players have to play their game out;
further resistance, and a fearful game of chess nothing short of the brutality of an actual
proceeds from check to mate by which the checkmate satisfies their dull apprehensions.
unhappy players seem to be inexorably But look at two masters of that noble game!
bound. White stands well enough, so far as you can
see; but Red says, Mate in six moves;—White
Roosevelt, The Conditions of Success (1910): looks,—nods;—the game is over. Just so in
talking with first-rate men; especially when
There are exceptional cases, of course, where they are good-natured and expansive, as they
there is a man who can do just one thing, such are apt to be at table.
as a man who can play a dozen games of
chess or juggle with four rows of figures at Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Poet at the
once—and as a rule he can do nothing else. Breakfast Table (1872):

Chesterton, The Maniac (1908): Men's minds are like the pieces on a chess-
board in their way of moving. One mind
Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologi- creeps from the square it is on to the next,
cally unreliable; and generally there is a straight forward, like the pawns. Another
vague association between wreathing laurels sticks close to its own line of thought and
in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts follows it as far as it goes, with no heed for
and history utterly contradict this view. Most others' opinions, as the bishop sweeps the
of the very great poets have been not only board in the line of his own color. And an-
other class of minds break through everything solitaire with the members of your own fam-
that lies before them, ride over argument and ily for pegs, if you like, and if none of them
opposition, and go to the end of the board, rebel. You can play checkers with a little
like the castle. But there is still another sort of community of meek, like-minded people. But
intellect which is very apt to jump over the when it comes to the handling of a great state,
thought that stands next and come down in you will find that nature has emptied a box of
the unexpected way of the knight. But that chessmen before you, and you must play with
same knight, as the chess manuals will show them so as to give each its proper move, or
you, will contrive to get on to every square of sweep them off the board, and come back to
the board in a pretty series of moves that the homely game such as I used to see played
looks like a pattern of embroidery, and so with beans and kernels of corn on squares
these zigzagging minds like the Master's, and marked upon the back of the kitchen bellows.
I suppose my own is something like it, will
sooner or later get back to the square next the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Guardian
one they started from. Angel (1867):

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Ralph Waldo We often move to the objects of supreme cu-
Emerson (1891): riosity or desire, not in the lines of castle or
bishop on the chess-board, but with the
Inherited qualities move along their several knight's zigzag, at first in the wrong direction,
paths not unlike the pieces in the game of making believe to ourselves we are not after
chess. Sometimes the character of the son can the thing coveted.
be traced directly to that of the father or of the
mother, as the pawn's move carries him from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., The Guardian
one square to the next. Sometimes a series of Angel (1867):
distinguished fathers follows in a line, or a
succession of superior mothers, as the black With most men life is like backgammon, half
or white bishop sweeps the board on his own skill, and half luck, but with him it was like
color. Sometimes the distinguishing charac- chess. He never pushed a pawn without reck-
ters pass from one sex to the other indiffer- oning the cost, and when his mind was least
ently, as the castle strides over the black and busy it was sure to be half a dozen moves
white squares. Sometimes an uncle or aunt ahead of the game as it was standing.
lives over again in a nephew or niece, as if the
knight's move were repeated on the squares of
human individuality. It is not impossible,
then, that some of the qualities we mark in
Emerson may have come from the remote
ancestor whose name figures with distinction
in the early history of New England.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Over the Tea-

cups (1890):

Life is a very different sort of game. It is a

game of chess, and not of solitaire, nor even
of checkers. The men are not all pawns, but
you have your knights, bishops, rooks,—yes,
your king and queen,—to be provided for.
Not with these names, of course, but all look-
ing for their proper places, and having their
own laws and modes of action. You can play
Chapter 2:
The Double Attack.
2.1. The Knight Fork. reaches its fourth rank, it can attack your op-
ponent’s back rank, and often his king, in one
2.1.1 Introduction. move (thus in the diagram to the left, White’s
knight might have been on e4 a move ear-
lier—seemingly pretty far from Black's king).
Hence the strategic importance of planting
knights on central and advanced squares, and
the tactical importance of constantly looking
for forks your knight might be able to deliver
once it is properly developed.

The difficulty in fashioning a fork, of course,

is that no matter where your knight sits you
rarely will find a fork lying one move away
against a decent player. Leaving two pieces to
Dg001: Black to move be forked by a knight on the next move is a
blunder almost as bad as leaving a piece
Dg001: We begin our study of tactics with hanging outright. Forks have to be manufac-
double attacks, or forks: moves that attack tured; the challenge is to see when one lies a
two enemy targets at once. few steps away. Fortunately knight forks a
few steps away come in a finite number of
And we begin our study of double attacks types that you can learn to search for system-
with knight forks. In the skeletal diagram to atically and, with practice, recognize quickly.
the left, White’s knight has forked Black’s Such situations can be sorted into two general
king and rook; in other words, it attacks them types.
at the same time.

Why start with the knight? Because it is an

especially vicious and common forking tool.
First, it can threaten a wide range of targets.
The knight is roughly comparable in value to
a bishop, and so is less valuable than a rook or
queen; thus a knight not only can attack any
unprotected (or “loose”) enemy pieces but
also can be exchanged favorably for enemy
queens and rooks regardless of whether they
have protection. Second, the knight’s unique,
non-straight pattern of movement creates two Dg002: White to move
advantages: it allows a knight to attack other
pieces without fear of being captured by Dg002: First, sometimes two of your oppo-
them; and it enables a knight to make jumps nent’s pieces sit on squares that can be forked
and deliver threats that are surprising to the with one move of your knight, but there is
eye and so are easy to overlook. some obstacle to your taking advantage of
this; most commonly, the square your knight
To spot possible knight forks you will want to needs to reach—call it the “forking square”—
become habitually aware of the relationships is defended by your opponent (the diagram to
between your knights and your opponent’s the left shows such a case, again in skeletal
pieces (and between his knights and your form; White would like to play the fork Nf6+,
pieces), especially as the knight progresses up but he can't; the f6 square is defended by a
the board. Every rank a knight moves forward pawn). We will refer to these as cases where
tends to bring it closer to forking targets, es- you have a potential fork—a move that
pecially the king; notice that once your knight amounts to a fork on its face, but that needs to
be perfected by overcoming some defensive least are on forkable squares. The first impor-
measure that your opponent has in place. In a tant thing is to see all such forks in the first
moment we will catalogue those defensive place. It helps to start by learning to spot all
measures and how to deal with them. of a knight’s possible moves at a glance. For
this purpose you will want a clear mental pic-
ture of the ring of eight squares that are the
maximum to which a well-placed knight can
move. In the diagram on the left, the White
circles show squares where the White knight
can jump, and the Black circles show squares
where the horribly positioned Black knight
can jump. Now you can understand why hav-
ing your knight near the edge of the board
generally is bad policy: it can’t reach—and
thus can’t control—many squares from there.
Study these visual patterns so that seeing a
Dg003: White to move knight’s moves from any position comes eas-
ily to you.
Dg003: Second, sometimes you will not have
even a potential fork because your opponent’s
pieces are not arranged for it; there are no two
enemy pieces that your knight can attack in
one move. Thus in the diagram to the left,
White cannot deliver a fork, but he could if he
were able to get Black’s king to move over a
square onto g8. In cases like this it sometimes
is possible to draw enemy pieces onto fork-
able squares with some forcing moves—most
often with a check or two. Later we will con-
sider the clues that such possibilities for ma-
nipulation may exist and how they can be Dg005: Black to move
brought to fruition.
Dg005: Now to the matter of spotting knight
forks in particular. You may be used to certain
forking patterns: your opponent’s king and
2.1.2. Seeing Potential Forks. rook are a square apart on his back rank, in-
viting you to fork them. But it takes more care
never to overlook a potential fork when the
board is crowded and the pieces to be forked
are not lined up so neatly on the same row.
Consider the opportunities here for Black’s
knight on b7. By moving to c5 it can fork four
White pieces (find them); by moving to d6 it
can fork two pieces. Whether either of these
forks "work" is another question (the squares
the knights need are guarded, though Black
has possible replies, etc.), but don't worry
about that now. It's just an exercise in geome-
Dg004: White to move try: we want to see everyplace where two
White pieces are in a forkable position. See-
Dg004: Let's begin with ways of perfecting ing only the obvious forking candidates is no
potential forks—in other words, cases where good, and won’t lead to tactical magic. If they
your opponent starts with two pieces that at
are obvious your opponent can see them, too, Dg006: As you do your scanning you will
and can avoid them. You want to see all of discover certain additional laws of knight
the possibilities every time they exist. moves that will become part of your visual
vocabulary. An important example is that two
Notice an important feature of the knight's pieces can't be forked if they are on the same
movements: every time a knight moves it diagonal with one square between them. Thus
lands on a different colored square. This can the Black king and queen in the diagram to
be used to make your searching more effi- the left are on squares of the same color, but
cient. It means that two pieces can be forked there is no square from which a knight would
by a knight only if they are on squares of the be able to attack them both. This is a familiar
same color; it means that they only can be pattern, and when you see it you will not need
forked by a knight that lands on a square of to pause to think about whether a knight fork
the opposite color; and it therefore means that is in the immediate offing; the sight of it will
if a knight is in position to deliver a fork on be self-explanatory, and you will move on.
its next move, the knight and its targets must
all then be sitting on squares of the same Similarly, if your knight is on the same di-
color. This is a valuable idea; consider it a agonal as an enemy piece and separated from
law of knight forks. it by one square, the knight is three moves
away from being able to attack the piece.
To state the practical implication plainly, one Thus in the diagram the White knight is three
way to build your ability to see all the poten- moves from being able to attack the Black
tial knight forks on the board is to look for king; it must move, say, to e4, then to g5, then
any two pieces of your opponent’s that are on to e6.
squares of the same color as the square where
your knight sits. If, as in this case, your knight Another useful thing to know is that a knight
is on a light square, scan the board for pieces may be able to attack an enemy target two
of your opponent’s also on light squares. Can different ways—but never more than two. In
any two of them be forked by your knight? the diagram, for example, White's knight can
This only takes a moment; you aren’t yet ana- attack the Black rook by moving to e4 or d5
lyzing whether any of the forks would work, (and only the latter move creates a fork). This
but just are reviewing the board visually for is useful to remember because the first attack-
simple patterns—a color scan. Sometimes this ing idea you see with your knight may turn
will be a helpful way to alert yourself to fork- out not to be the best one—even against the
ing opportunities; in other positions it will be same enemy piece.
more efficient just to look directly at your
knight moves without reference to square Practice broad-mindedness when you scan for
color. Experiment. forking prospects. It is especially important
not to dismiss a possible fork automatically,
perhaps half-consciously, when you notice
that the square your knight needs is protected
by a pawn, or when you see that the fork
would involve your opponent’s king on the
one hand but a knight or protected pawn on
the other. In the latter case you might quickly
imagine that if you tried the fork the enemy
would move his king and the pawn would not
be worth taking, and so write off the forking
prospect without taking it seriously. But that
train of thought is premature; great combina-
Dg006: White to move tions often look just that way at first. You
want to separate the creative process of seeing
that the geometry is there for a fork from the
editing process of analyzing whether the fork with Nf2; the placement of White's king and
can be made profitable. Much of the rest of queen with three squares between them on the
this chapter is devoted to the editing process: first rank is a classic setup for a double attack.
how to take potential forks that look defective If that isn't yet obvious to you, notice that
and turn them into tactical shots that work. your knight is on a light square and that
But all along you also want to build the visual White's king and queen (not to mention sev-
habit of noticing every time your knight can eral other pieces) are on light squares as well,
attack two sensitive points at once, no matter which encourages a look at whether you can
how implausible the attack looks at first. fork any of them. Having found Nf2 one way
or another, ask: is f2 protected? It seems to
be, by the White rook at f3; so study the rook
more carefully. It's on the same line with its
2.1.3. The Pinned Guard. king, and with your queen. This means that if
the rook moves it will expose its king to at-
When you see a possible knight fork, a natural tack—which is to say that the rook can't le-
first question is whether the square your gally move at all. So Nf2+ can be played with
knight needs is protected by any of your op- impunity, and it wins the queen after White
ponent’s pieces. If it is, your attention turns to moves his king.
the guard of the square and whether you can
get rid of it—or whether you really need to
get rid of it. Perhaps you don't; maybe the
protection that the piece appears to offer is an
illusion, as is the case if the guard is pinned.
A piece is pinned if it can't move without ex-
posing the king or another valuable piece to
attack. Indeed, a piece that screens its own
king from attack is subject to an “absolute”
pin and so cannot legally move. We will study
pins in detail in later chapters, but this much
is enough to help you see that sometimes a
square that looks well-defended really isn't. Dg008: White to move

Dg008: Our modus operandi is to look for

double attacks with the knight and ask
whether they can be made to work. This time
you're playing the White pieces. Notice first
here that your knight is on a dark square; now
look for Black pieces also on dark squares.
You find the Black rook and king, and ask
whether they can be forked. They can, with
Nd5+. Now ask: Is d5 protected? Yes, by the
pawn at c6. But before worrying further you
examine the pawn to see if it is constrained. It
Dg007: Black to move is; it’s pinned to the king by the White rook at
a6. So Nd5+ is safe, and it forks and wins the
Dg007: So here is our method in this section: Black rook. This position is structurally about
consider the piece that protects the square you the same as the previous one.
want to occupy—we can call it the guard of
the forking square—and see what other pieces Dg009: White’s most advanced knight (gen-
may be on the same line with it and thus ex- erally the one you want to examine first) is on
posed to attack if it moves. Start with the dia- a light square. Again you might just look for
gram. There is a knight fork waiting for Black knight moves, or you might look for forking
candidates by scanning for Black pieces also sequence. His bishop back on g5 now is at-
on light squares, and find many—both of his tacked twice and defended only once. Does he
knights, one of his bishops, one of his rooks, lose it? No—but only because once his knight
and his king. ends up on b7, it attacks Black’s queen. Now
if Black plays BxB, White has NxQ. Black
therefore needs to spend his next move taking
his queen out of danger, and White’s fork
works after all. The general lesson: be mind-
ful of the defensive work your pieces are do-
ing before you send them off to attack.

Dg009: White to move

Nd6+ forks Black’s king and b7 bishop; the

bishop is unprotected—is “loose”—making it
a good target. The next question is whether
the square you need (d6) is protected. It is, by
Black’s bishop at e7. But then consider how Dg010: Black to move
the board would look if the bishop moved to
d6 to take the knight. See that Black’s queen Dg010: Black’s knight is on a dark square. So
would then be taken by White’s bishop at g5; are several of White’s pieces, most usefully
in other words, Black’s bishop is pinned to his his king and e1 rook, which can be forked
queen. Nd6+ thus wins Black’s b7 bishop from f3. But notice as well that f3 appears to
without fanfare. be protected by the rook on e3. So examine
the rook and its freedom of movement, play-
There is another point to consider here. You ing through its move and what would then be
want to think not just about what your tactical possible in your mind’s eye. If 1…Nxf3+; 2.
moves will achieve in the way of material RxN—and then Black can play RxRe1.
gains, but also about how the board will look White’s queen wouldn't then be able to recap-
after the sequence you want to play. This ture at e1 because Black would have a second
point applies to all tactical operations; we will rook still trained on the square. The point:
encounter it constantly. The important point White's rook on e3 is pinned—not to its king,
here involves the work that your e4 knight is but to the other rook at e1. One way or an-
doing before it is sent off to inflict a fork. It's other Black gains a pawn and the exchange.
guarding the bishop on g5. To be more pre- (Capturing a rook in return for a bishop or
cise, at the start of the pictured position the knight is known generally as “winning the
bishop is protected twice (by White’s two exchange.”)
knights) and attacked twice (by Black’s
bishop and the queen behind it). The bishop
therefore was safe: if Black captured it, White
would recapture; if Black captured again, Dg011: Here is an important twist. Black’s
White would recapture again. But when most advanced knight is on a dark square. So
White sends his knight off from e4 to d6, the are White’s queen, king, and rook, with the
bishop loses one of its guards. While this latter two pieces subject to a fork at c2. But c2
doesn’t matter so long as White is keeping appears to be protected by White’s queen.
Black busy with checks, notice the hazard that
arises once White plays NxB at the end of the
by White’s queen. Ne6+ thus wins the queen
without further ado.

Dg013: With White’s knight and Black’s king

and queen all on light squares, conditions
seem right for a fork on f6. Is the square pro-
tected? Yes, by the Black bishop on e7. If
White tries to first capture it with his own
bishop, then Black recaptures with his queen
and the fork is ruined.

Dg011: Black to move

The queen is not constrained by a pin—yet.

But examine the fork by actually playing it in
your mind’s eye, imagining the knight on c2
and not on b4. When you so imagine a move
or exchange, pay attention to what lines are
opened and closed by it and what conse-
quences may follow—especially new pins and
new possible checks.

In this case, once the knight moves the White Dg013: White to move
queen is pinned by Black’s queen. So play
goes 1. …Nc2+; 2. Kf1, QxQ (without this But again the trick is to imagine the fork,
intermediate step, all is lost; do you see mentally placing the knight on f6 and not on
why?); 3. NxQ, NxR. This time the lesson is e4. Then you can see that once the knight
that you do not just ask whether the trouble- moves, the Black bishop becomes pinned to
some piece currently is pinned; you ask, too, Black’s queen by White’s queen—another
whether it would be pinned if you made the “discovered” pin. The point repeats: don’t just
forking move. ask whether moves are possible; picture
moves, visualize whatever countermoves
seem to make them impossible, and ask what
would then be possible if the countermoves
were made.

2.1.4. Exchanging Away the Guard.

Now let’s assume an enemy piece guards the

square your knight needs, and it isn't pinned.
Perhaps you nevertheless can get rid of it.
Dg012: White to move Sometimes the guardian of the forking square
may be captured: you can take it, and the
Dg012: A similar problem. White’s knight is piece that recaptures yours no longer will pro-
on a dark square. So are Black’s king and tect against the fork.
queen. A fork is indicated at e6. The square
appears to be protected by the pawn at d7, so Dg014: The position of Black’s king and rook
look more closely; imagine the knight moved, make the idea for White clear enough: Nf7+.
and observe that the pawn then will be pinned But f7 is protected by Black’s knight. Ask if it
can be captured, and see that it can be―with
White’s rook. After playing RxN, White loses Dg015: Again one of White’s knights is pretty
the rook to f6xR; but he regains it with the far advanced up the board on f5; any knight
fork Nf7+, capturing Black’s rook next move planted on the fourth or fifth rank is a con-
and leaving White a knight to the good. stant forking threat. So White does a quick
scan for forks and observes that the knight is
on a light square along with Black’s king and
queen―which can be forked with Ne7+. The
needed square is protected by one piece: the
bishop on d6, but White can take out the
bishop with his rook now on d1. So White
picks up a piece, and if Black recaptures
White can follow up with the fork: 1. RxB,
c7xR; 2. Ne7+.

Dg014: White to move

Remember when you play a capture that your

opponent may not be required to recapture.
Usually that will be his choice, but in princi-
ple he also may be able to make some other
capture or counterthreat of his own. Here
Black can reply to White’s RxN by playing Dg016: White to move
RxN himself. Doesn't this end the forking
threat? It does, but at a prohibitive price; for Dg016: The thought process is identical:
then White has Re8#—a classic back rank White examines his knight’s moves, or per-
mate that takes advantage of the way Black's haps does a color scan and notices that his
king is stuck in the corner. At the outset of the knight and Black’s king and queen all are on
position the Black rook on d8 is the only dark squares; one way or another there is a
piece protecting against this mating threat, so potential fork in Nd7+. The hindrance is that
it can't afford to leave its post. We will study the bishop at c8 protects the needed square.
back rank mates in detail at various points Can White capture the bishop? Yes, with his
later in this project (they get a section to queen—a sacrifice worth making for the fork
themselves toward the end). that follows. So White picks up a piece, and if
Black recaptures White can follow up with
the fork: 1. RxB, c7xR; 2. Ne7+.

Dg015: White to move

Dg017: White to move

Dg017: Your most advanced knight is on a When you capture the f7 pawn at the begin-
light square, as are Black’s king and queen; ning, you should not assume that your oppo-
there is a potential fork at e7. Ask if the nent necessarily has to recapture the way you
square is safe, and see that it is guarded by the would like. He might prefer to let the pawn go
bishop at d6. Now look for pieces you can use rather than play into your hands; it depends
to attack the bishop and notice the queen at on the quality of his alternatives. Here Black
d1―but also the knight at c4. It is important has the option of replying to Rxf7+ with Kg8,
to notice both. The question is not “do you which loses the pawn but also takes the king
have a piece attacking X?” It’s “how many of out of forking range. What happens next?
your pieces—plural—attack X?” You don't Imagine the board with White’s rook on f7
want to sacrifice your queen when a knight and Black’s king on g8, and you should see
will do, especially as it would make the se- that White then has an easy capture of a piece
quence a wash, Correct is 1. NxB; c7xN; 2. with RxN: the rook has protection from the
Ne7+. knight on g5, and so cannot be recaptured by
Black’s king.

Dg018: White to move

Dg019: White to move
Dg018: The pattern repeats. White can fork
three Black pieces with Ne6+. The only diffi- Dg019: The usual color scan reveals a poten-
culty is the pawn at f7 that guards the needed tial knight fork to be had at d6, but the square
square. There are various things one can do is protected. How many times? Twice—by the
about such problems. The most obvious is bishop at f8 and the knight at f7; be sure to
simply to capture the pawn if you can, so here account for all the guards, not just the first
it goes 1. Rxf7, RxR, and now the pawn has you notice. Fortunately White has bishops
been replaced by a piece that can't protect the attacking each of the two bothersome pieces,
e6 square. True, White sacrificed a rook to the but there still is a complication: when White’s
cause; but now Ne6+ wins the queen. And bishops take Black’s bishop and knight, Black
then after Black recaptures RxN, White picks will use his king to recapture, and the king is
up a pawn that has been left loose by the se- supposed to be one of the pieces in the fork.
quence: Qxg6. White ends up trading a knight Will its recaptures ruin the forking opportu-
and a rook for a queen and two pawns. nity? Not necessarily; so long as the king ends
up on f7 it still can be forked. But this means
You might imagine that the g6 pawn could be that it is important to perform the exchange
protected by Black's king, which (on this the- on f7 last so that the king ends its travels
ory) would have escaped the knight fork by there. Thus 1. BxB, KxB; 2. BxN, KxB; and
moving to f6. But if Black does move his king now Nd6 forks king and rook and so wins the
there, White mates in three moves. It starts latter.
with Nc3-d5+. Black has no good replies; if
he plays BxNd5, for example, White has Naturally Black might prefer to bow out of
Rf1+. This forces Black to play KxNe6. Now this sequence earlier, giving up a piece rather
White replies e4xBd5#. than stepping into the fork. That's often how
tactics work, as we will see many times (but both out of commission. And it gets better
won't always point out): the victim can escape still: once Black's bishop on d5 is out of the
final execution of the fork or other idea, but way, White's rook on d1 attacks the Black
only by making a sacrifice. In that case— rook on d8. So when White plays the fork, as
which is normal—the tactic still must be he now can, he can use his knight to take the
counted a success. d8 rook without fear of recapture by the Black
rook on e7.
The point to take away from this example,
apart from the importance of accounting for
multiple defenders, is that the order of opera-
tions in a tactical sequence can matter a great
deal. Here the tactic doesn't work if White
takes Black’s knight first and his bishop sec-
ond. When you consider a sequence that in-
volves more than one exchange, ask whether
changes in the order of the moves would
make a difference to the outcome.

Dg021: Black to move

Dg021: By moving to e2 Black’s knight

would fork White’s king and queen. But the
needed square is under protection—twice,
from White’s knight and rook. Each of the
guardians is attacked only by Black’s queen.
So imagine taking out one of them, and then
imagine taking out the other. If QxN, then
White replies f2xQ (or BxQ) and the White
Dg020: White to move rook at e4 still guards the needed square. But
if Black begins with QxR, then White replies
Dg020: Black’s queen is about to take yours NxQ and now e2 is available for Black’s
for free. Your initial impulse might be to re- knight. Once more, an exchange of one of the
treat your queen or play QxQ. Maybe one of two guardians effectively gets rid of both of
those moves is right, but don't play either until them, as guardian #2 has to recapture the
you have asked whether they can be fit into an piece that captured guardian #1.
offensive plan. White’s most advanced knight
is on a dark square; so are Black’s king and
one of his rooks, suggesting a fork at f7. Be-
fore you do anything you ask whether the 2.1.5. Distracting the Guard.
needed square is protected, and how many
times. Again, twice—by Black's bishop and In the positions we just considered, the guard
queen. Unless you can eliminate both defend- of the forking square always was under attack
ers of f7, no fork. Each of the defenders is by one of your pieces, making possible an
attacked once: the Black bishop by your rook exchange that freed up the square for your
at d1, and the Black queen by your queen. knight. But what if none of your pieces are
The natural thought is to try QxQ, which you trained on the enemy pieces doing the guard-
were considering anyway for defensive pur- ing? Then capturing the guard won't work, but
poses, and then to notice that Black’s recap- there are other questions we can ask. Here's a
ture, BxQ, leaves the forking square f7 loose good one: is the guard also protecting some
for your knight. Capturing one of the two other piece or square that you might attack,
guardians in the right order thus takes them thus distracting the guard away from its de-
fense of the forking square? This theme— You look for ways to take out the knight di-
distracting the guard—is one we will consider rectly but find none. So now look more
at many points in these materials; it gets a closely for anything else the knight protects
chapter to itself toward the end. that you might take. It guards the rook at c6,
which you can capture with your queen—
extinguishing the pin as well. So 1…QxR; 2.
NxQ, Ne2+ and the fork is made. Black wins
the exchange, having traded queens and
swapped his knight for a rook.

Once you see the relationship between the

rook on c6 and the potential fork far away on
e2 (they are connected by the knight on d4,
which guards against both of them and thus is
Dg022: White to move overworked), you can choose between ex-
ploiting the situation at either end. In other
Dg022: In the example, the arrangement of words, you can (a) play the sequence just de-
White’s e5 knight and the Black king and scribed, or (b) start with Ne2+, allowing
queen naturally suggest a fork with Nf7. The White to play NxN, and then playing QxR
difficulty is that f7 is guarded by Black’s since the White rook’s guard (the knight) has
rook. This time you can't capture the rook, so abandoned its defensive duties. Which se-
ask if it protects anything else you can take. It quence is better? Either way you end up
does: White plays QxN; if Black recaptures ahead the exchange, but the first sequence
RxQ, the f7 square is left loose and available also has the advantage of getting the queens
for White’s knight. The fork Nf7+ then wins off the board—which magnifies the signifi-
back the queen with the gain of a piece. cance of Black’s material edge.

Dg023: Black has worries; he is up a piece That last idea is worth another minute of ex-
(though White has an extra pawn), but his planation if it's not already familiar. In sim-
queen is pinned by White's rook and seems plest terms, the point is this: if you have one
about to be lost—and his knight on f4 is hang- piece and your opponent has none, this lets
ing (in other words, it is under attack and has you dominate the game in a way that an edge
no protection). Look for counterplay before of five-to-four doesn't. So if you win a piece
falling into a defensive mindset. Black’s from your opponent and have five pieces
knight and White’s king and queen are on against his four, your usual goal is to ex-
dark squares, suggesting a possible fork at e2. change away the rest of the pieces on the
Alas, e2 is protected by the knight at d4. board, making captures when you can; finally
you are left with the only attacker (at which
point your opponent probably resigns, if not
sooner). Naturally it follows that if you can
start whittling down the number of pieces on
the board while you're gaining your edge in
the first place, you want to do so—as Black
does here by starting with QxR.

Dg024: Black's knight is on a dark square.

White’s king and bishop also are on dark
Dg023: Black to move squares, creating a potential fork at f3; but f3
is protected by the queen at d1. Can the queen Here as in the previous problem, the exchange
be captured? at the beginning both made the fork possible
and improved it by turning the guardian of the
forking square into a target. Notice that Black
really has no choice but to take White’s queen
with his king; if Black’s king merely moves
out of the way, White plays QxQ—a forma-
tion known as a skewer (you attack two pieces
on the same line; the more valuable gets out
of the way, leaving the less valuable to be

There are other little trains of thought that

might have brought you to the solution here.
Dg024: Black to move You could have just examined any checks you
are able to give and then realized that 1.
No. Is the queen protecting any other piece QxR+, KxQ leaves Black vulnerable to a
that can be attacked? Yes, the bishop at d4— fork; or you might have seen that White can
and the bishop already is one of the pieces in attack the Black queen via Nxf7, and won-
the fork. So if 1…QxB, 2. QxQ, you not only dered whether there was a way to draw
have a clean fork at f3; you have a better one: Black’s king onto another dark square that
Nf3+ wins the queen. also could be attacked from f7.

Dg025: White to move Dg026: White to move

Dg025: White’s queen is under attack. The Dg026: White’s knight is on a dark square, as
obvious impulse would be to move it to pre- are Black’s king, queen, and both rooks; a
vent RxQ, but that would be premature. First fork at g6 suggests itself. The square is pro-
take stock of your offensive possibilities. tected—how many times? Twice: by the
Here you have a knight to work with; it's on a queen and by the pawn at h7. The pawn is
dark square, and so are Black’s king, queen, pinned by White’s queen, so the problem is
and rook—and the queen and rook can be just the defense of g6 by Black’s queen. Con-
forked by Nxf7. But the needed square is sider whether it is protecting any pieces that
guarded by Black’s king. Ask whether the you might take and you see that it guards the
king is protecting anything else White can rook at f8 and bishop at e5. You can’t capture
take, and see that it guards the Black rook. So: the bishop, but you can take the rook with
1. QxR+ (extinguishing the threat with a tem- RxR. This looks a lot like the previous prob-
porary sacrifice), KxQ; 2. Nxf7+ and when lem, but with a small difference: the rook at
the smoke clears White will have gained a f8 is protected twice—by the other rook at d8
rook. as well as by the queen. If Black retakes with
his other rook instead of with his queen, you
still won’t have a fork. But then you will have Dg028: This is the same as the previous prob-
another rook at f1 that you can use to attack lem but a move earlier. It is given here as a
again. Hence: 1. RxR+, RxR; 2. RxR+, QxR; little study in how the same train of thought
3. Nxg6+ and the fork is complete. Think of looks from a defensive perspective. It would
this just as a case where two exchanges were be easy for White to imagine that he can af-
needed to lure away the guardian rather than ford to play a3xB since then Black's QxR is
one. met with QxQ. But when Black’s knight is
placed this dangerously it is unwise to initiate
any exchanges without making sure that no
forking opportunities will be created for it—
as would be here.

Dg027: Black to move

Dg027: It’s Black’s turn to play, and his

queen is attacked by the rook at a1 and the
pawn now on b4. It would be natural but er- Dg029: White to move
roneous for him to begin looking for places to
move the queen. Black has a well-advanced Dg029: White’s knight is on a light square.
knight at d4 and so should be looking for You see a potential fork at e7, but the square
forking chances. The knight can attack the is protected by the rook at e6. Can that rook
White king in one move to f3 or c2; and at c2 be exchanged away? No, White has nothing
it can fork king and rook. The only trouble is attacking it. So is the rook protecting anything
that the queen guards the needed square. Is else that can be taken? The main thing it is
the queen protecting anything that Black can protecting is the other rook at c6; so if that
attack? Yes—the rook at a1. So Black plays rook could be taken, the rook at e6 would
1. ...QxR, which is met with 2. QxQ—now have to move over to recapture, and then the
making possible 2. ...Nxc2+. Black nets a fork at e7 would work. Here as in the previ-
rook and a pawn. One lesson of the position is ous example, White has a battery of rooks
that when you are under attack, sometimes the aimed at the critical Black rook on c6. If only
best defense is a good offense: consider a cap- the pawn at c5 weren’t in the way. Might it be
ture rather than a retreat, and ask what the removed, or simply moved? What is it pro-
board would look like afterwards. tecting? The pawn at d4, which is protected
twice. So if 1. Bxd4, BxB+; then 2. Rc4xB,
c5xR—and finally 3. Rc1xR, RxR. Now at
last the fork can be achieved with Ne7+.

Structurally this example is easy enough to

understand: the rook on e6 has to be attracted
away to c6 for the fork to work; but before c6
can be attacked, two preliminary exchanges
are needed to clear the way. What makes it
tricky is that each of those initial exchanges
involves choices by both sides about which
pieces to use—including pieces that you
Dg028: White to move
might barely have noticed on initial inspec- move Nxd5. To see its full significance we
tion of the position. For example, if you’re need to consider Black’s king and the con-
not mindful of all of the pieces on the board it straints on its movement. White can give
is easy to overlook Black’s bishop on g7 and check with Qh8. This would be mate except
to imagine that if White plays Bxd4, Black that Black’s king has a flight square in e7.
will have to recapture with his c5 pawn. The e7 square itself thus is a vulnerability, or
Likewise, if you’re not careful it is possible to target, in Black’s position; and now return to
overlook White’s second rook on the c-file, White’s Nxd5 and see that it forks the e7
and thus fail to see that with the rook on c4 square and Black’s queen. So Black has to
and pawn on c5 out of the way, White will reply BxN to avoid mate, which in turn allows
have a clear shot at Black’s rook on c6. The White’s next fork: Nd7+.
general lesson is not to let any of the pieces
on the board drift off your radar screen, and Indeed, White can turn these insights around
always to ask whether there is more than one and play an even stronger sequence by start-
way for you or your opponent to capture or ing with Nd7+. If Black then plays BxN,
recapture in a series of exchanges. White replies Nxd5 and Black has headaches:
he is required to take emergency steps to pre-
This position is a good example of how to vent White from mating on h8, and finds that
work backwards from a tactical idea to sev- he has no way to capture White’s troublesome
eral exchanges needed to make it work. It is knight. He has to play g7-g6 so that his own
worth considering until the train of thought is queen has an open line to guard h8 if White’s
clear. queen lands there. But now White has NxQ,
and (assuming Black moves his king to e7)
NxR. Black is better off replying to the initial
Nd7+ by moving his king to e7 and letting his
queen be traded away for a knight. All this
suits White, who still ends up winning Black's
queen but at lower cost than in our original

How would you see these richer ideas in the

position? It all starts by focusing on the en-
emy king, how you threaten it, and how your
threats are being staved off. We will see many
Dg030: White to move times how this approach to analysis pays off
with useful tactical ideas.
Dg030: The usual scan of knight moves re-
veals that White’s most advanced knight has a
fork at d7, but d7 is guarded by the Black
bishop at e6. The bishop can’t be captured;
you have no piece trained on it. But the
bishop also guards the pawn at d5—which
can be taken by your other knight at c3. So
Nxd5, and you gain a pawn. If Black recap-
tures with BxN, you have Nd7+; after you
next play NxQ and Black recaptures, you've
won a queen and a pawn for two knights.

That's a simple analysis of the position along Dg031: White to move

the lines we have been discussing. But there
also is another, better way to size it up. Let’s Dg031: White has several pieces bearing
look a little more deeply at White’s initial down on the Black king’s general position—a
queen trained on h7, a rook on the sixth rank, dark square. So are Black’s king and queen,
another rook on the f-file, and a knight nearby and they can be forked at e6. The trouble is
as well. Focus on that last piece: when you that the square is protected by the Black
have a knight near the enemy king, the search bishop on f7. The bishop can't be captured;
for forks should be automatic; all those other none of White’s pieces attacks it. Nor is the
pieces nearby are important in part because bishop quite protecting any pieces that White
they can be used as tools to help make a fork can take. It guards the d5 pawn, but so does
work. In this case you see that White’s knight the c6 pawn. But now you also can ask
has a forking square in f6. The trouble is that whether the restricted bishop is protecting any
the needed square is protected by the pawn on squares that White can occupy. Mostly you
g7. White has no way to take the pawn, and it want to see if it is guarding any squares next
doesn’t protect any pieces White can take, to Black’s king, because then you may be able
either. But it does protect sensitive squares to draw it away by threatening mate on one of
near Black’s king, so putting an attacker on those squares. Think of it this way: the bishop
one of those squares may be as good as taking on f7 is confined (if it wants to prevent the
a piece the pawn protects. Here White sees fork Ne6) to the diagonal running from a2-g8;
that since his queen already attacks h7, adding it really cannot afford to go off on the e8-h5
another attacker against that square would diagonal—so look for play there.
create a mate threat. (This is a common for-
mula: if your queen attacks a square adjacent What you find is that if White’s rook moves
to the enemy king, adding another attacker forward a square to h5, it checks the Black
against the same square often creates a threat king. The king wouldn’t be able to capture it
of mate.) Thus White plays Rh6. The rook because the square also is attacked by a
now provides the cover White needs to play knight, so Black would have to respond to the
Qxh7# next move. To prevent this Black has check in some other way. Let's consider the
to play g7xR—and now the f6 square is avail- possibilities:
able for White’s knight. He plays Nf6+, and
after NxQ next move White has won a queen One option would be for him to take the rook
for a rook. with his bishop, which would clear the way
for the fork White seeks. The idea is 1. Rh5+,
We see again the power of combining our BxR; 2. Ne6+, Kf6; 3. NxQ. This looks
knowledge of the knight fork with a close strong, and it is—but take a moment to ask
look at your mating threats against the enemy how Black will reply at the end. He has Rc8,
king. attacking the knight; and this turns out to be
surprisingly troublesome, since the knight has
nowhere safe to go. Na6 is met with Ra8, re-
newing the attack and the knight still has no
retreat. But the knight can take a pawn on the
way down by replying to Rc8 with Nxd5; and
then after Black recaptures (c6xNd5), White
grabs yet another Black pawn, and creates a
passed pawn of his own, with Bxb5. So in the
end White ends up winning a queen and two
pawns for a knight and a rook.

Another possibility is that Black could reply

Dg032: White to move to Rh5 by moving his king to f6. So look for
your next check and find Rxf5. When the king
Dg032: Here is another application of the moves again in response, you ask whether any
same idea: thinking about whether you can Black pieces will have been loosened―i.e.,
distract a guard by making a threat from a left unprotected―by all this activity, and you
square it protects. Here White’s knight is on a find KxN for White.
This problem is a good example of a valuable they are guarding anything Black can attack,
general point: effective combinations often and they are: they both protect the knight at
require both (a) pattern recognition, and (b) e4. Can Black attack that knight? Yes, twice:
skill at identifying forcing moves—especially with the bishop at f5 and the queen behind it.
checks—and their consequences. The key
move here—Rh5+—might have been spotted Now begin thinking about possible move or-
in an effort to make the fork work, or it might ders and their consequences, always bearing
as well have been spotted just by examining in mind that you are hoping to free up either
the consequences of any checks you can give d3 or e2 for your knight. Try BxN. How will
and any vulnerabilities of the enemy king. White respond? There are two possibilities if
You notice that one of the possible Black re- he chooses to recapture: NxB or RxB. If NxB,
sponses to this particular check would be then one of the two guardians of d3 has been
BxR; you imagine the board with your rook eliminated; only the queen remains, and it can
and his bishop moved, and a simple color then be taken with QxQ. After White then
scan or inspection of knight moves reveals the plays h2xQ, Black can play Nd3, forking the
fork waiting at e6. If Black instead responds rooks. If White instead plays RxB, the rook
to the check with Kf6, you look for the next still guards e2. But Black can attack it again;
check, and so forth. remember that when two pieces are lined up
like the queen and bishop here, they attack e4
twice. So Black plays QxR, and after White
replies with NxQ the e2 square is available
for Ne2+, forking White’s king and queen.
The conclusion: Black wins by starting with
BxN, because any recapture White makes in
response leads to a knight fork for Black.

This position is tricky because Black has two

offensive options and White has choices to
make as well in response to BxN. But a me-
thodical examination of Black’s goals, the
Dg033: Black to move impediments to them, and White’s possible
replies to Black’s captures nevertheless
Dg033: Here is another more complicated breaks it all down easily enough.
sequence; it will take a bit of patience to un-
tangle. Black’s knight is on a dark square in
White’s territory; also on dark squares are all
of White’s most valuable pieces—king,
queen, and both rooks. Start by just looking at
each of the knight’s moves in search of poten-
tial forks. There are two: Ne2+, forking
White’s king, queen, and rook; and Nd3, at-
tacking both rooks. Now carefully identify
what prevents either of those two moves.
Ne2+ is stopped by one thing: the rook at e1
that protects the square. Nd3 is stopped by
two things: The knight at f2 and queen at g3 Dg034: White to move
that both protect the square. Take stock next
of what resources Black can bring to bear Dg034: Black’s knight on d4 is creating a
against those guardians. White’s queen can be great deal of trouble; it's about to take White’s
taken by Black’s queen. As for the knight at queen and also threatens a fork at e2. The
f2 and the rook at e1, neither of them can be natural idea is to take the knight—but with
captured by Black. So next consider whether your bishop or with your own knight? Con-
sider what else you can do with either of protect something else, creating a way to
them. White’s knight is on a light square, and break the jam? If White somehow could force
so are Black’s queen and rook (and his king, a Black piece onto d4, then he could take it
but for now only the queen and rook are with his bishop, initiating the sequence de-
within range of White’s knight). White would scribed a moment ago. So he experiments
like to play the fork Nxe5, but now he can’t. with threats; a2-a4 forces the knight to move,
The problem isn’t the pawn on e5; it’s the and to where? A knight has a maximum of
pawn on f6 that guards e5. White has no other eight places it can move when attacked, and
pieces he can use to capture either pawn, but when it’s near the side of the board the num-
the more natural way to get rid of trouble- ber is smaller. Here there are just six squares
some pawns is to capture things they protect, it can reach, and only one that is available and
for then they move to recapture and no longer doesn’t result in immediate capture: Black
guard the squares they once did. So White plays Nd4. And now the stage is set for the
breaks the logjam with BxN, forcing Black to sequence examined in the previous problem.
recapture with e5xB. Now the path is clear for
White to play e4-e5, still in an effort to get the None of this is easy to see. And if you did see
f6 pawn to move. Black has to play f6xe5 (if it, it might have been as a result not of spot-
he instead moves his knight away from d6, ting the forking idea but just of playing with
White pushes the pawn to e6 and forks the threats and their consequences. You start
rook and queen with cover from his own thinking about a2-a4, see where the knight
queen at b3). At last nothing guards e5, so goes, imagine taking it once it lands on d4,
White can play Nxe5, forking queen and rook see that this clears the way for a pawn push to
and winning the exchange. e5, observe that Black needs to take the pawn,
and then at last come up with the knight fork
Observe how the whole sequence was driven on e5 at the end. But it's a lot easier to think
by an idea: if the f6 pawn could be lured off usefully about these things if you know that
of guard duty of e5, the fork would be possi- you have a potential knight fork lurking on e5
ble; so White works on ways to attract it away if conditions change. That threat lends struc-
with captures and threats. ture to the train of thought about your forcing
moves and where they lead.

Anyway, look at this position also as another

study in the art of getting a bothersome pawn
out of your way. If you can force an enemy
piece to become a protectorate of the pawn,
you can then capture the piece and force the
pawn to recapture, moving out of the way.

2.1.6. Getting Out of Your Own Way.

Dg035: White to move
You don't want to overlook a potential fork
Dg035: Here is the same position still one just because the forking square already is oc-
move earlier. The train of thought starts the cupied by one of your own pieces. Ask: can
same, but here there is no way to get the e5 the piece that is in the way evacuate the
pawn off of its square by attacking something square violently, thus requiring a time-
it protects; for it protects nothing. Observe the consuming response from your opponent and
difficulty of forcing an enemy pawn to move making the fork possible on your next move?
when it protects nothing that you can capture.
Don’t give up, though: can you play a forcing
move that will cause one of the pawns to then
Dg036: In this first example White’s knight is smashing finale if your opponent recaptures
on a light square and so are Black’s king and after each of them; but of course he may not
rook. recapture, leaving you with lesser gains. In a
good game of chess this often is the impor-
tance of seeing tactics. You may or may not
actually get to play the fork, but seeing the
threat of it allows you to make other gains.

Dg036: White to move

Or just look at the knight’s potential moves

without being distracted by pieces of your
own that already occupy the squares the Dg037: White to move
knight might like to reach. Either way the
point to notice is the potential fork at f6. The Dg037: White’s knight is on a dark square; so
trouble is that White’s own rook already is on are Black’s queen and rook. Thus there is a
the square. There is standard method for deal- forking square at f3 which is easy to overlook
ing with this: Ask whether the rook can be but should be made no less visible to you by
moved in a way that requires an immediate the presence on it of White’s own queen. You
reply from Black, keeping his king and rook need a move for the queen that forces a re-
where they are. A capture is good for the pur- sponse from Black, making Nf3 possible. You
pose, and the one possible here is RxN: it might first see QxN, but look harder for a
calls for Black to respond b7xR, and White check or capture that doesn’t require you to
then follows up with Nf6+. sacrifice the queen. Correct is 1. Qa8+. 1. …
Kh7 then is forced (Ne8 just loses the knight);
Keep track of what you are losing and gain- and 2. Nf3 can then follow. White wins the
ing. Here you have sacrificed a rook for a exchange.
knight, and are about to win a rook. But then
won't you lose your knight after the fork, Most of our forks so far have involved the
leaving the sequence a wash? No, though that enemy king as one of the targets, but not this
would be true if Black could respond to the one. When the enemy king is not a party to a
fork with Kf8, for then after NxR Black could fork you are considering, it is important to
play KxN. But here Black can’t play Kf8 be- pause and ask whether either of the forked
cause White has a pawn guarding the square. pieces would be able to break out of it and do
Black has to play Kh8, and then White wins damage or seize the initiative with a check. In
the rook cleanly. this case that’s not a problem, though; neither
Black’s queen nor his rook has a good option.
When we say that White's initial RxN "re-
quires" or "calls for" Black to play b7xR, this Dg038: A color scan or a look at the White
should not be taken literally. If Black sees this knight's circle of moves turns up a potential
sequence coming he will respond to RxN by fork to be had at e6, and again its potential
forgetting about his lost knight and instead should not be obscured by the presence of
moving his king to avoid the fork at f6. This White’s queen there. The question is whether
is a point common to many of our studies: the queen can make a move that will force
you have a series of captures that lead to a
Black’s response, giving him no time to pre- check. There is just one: QxN. What follows
vent the fork Ne6+ a move later. from that? Either g6xQ or RxQ; and either
way, Ne6+ picks up Black’s queen and wins a
knight with the sequence.

Incidentally, it may come as a small surprise

to you to hear that White's rook on c1 is doing
absolutely essential work in this position. Do
you see why? It protects f1. If the rook on c1
were gone and f1 thus were unprotected,
Black would reply to QxN with RxQ, aiming
his rook at White’s back rank—and then after
White finishes his knight fork with NxQ,
Black has Rf1#, checkmating White’s trapped
Dg038: White to move king. The moral: be ever mindful of your own
king’s vulnerabilities and how any offensive
First you look for a check, but it turns out that sequences you are planning may unexpectedly
most of the squares from which the queen can expose it to checks (and worse) that are not
attack the king―e7, e8, f6, f7, g8, d6—result possible on the board in front of you.
either in (a) the queen being captured by
Black’s king or queen, which ruins the fork,
or (b) the king simply moving, which likewise
ruins the fork. But if you persist you come up
with 1. QxR+. If 1. …RxQ, then 2. Ne6+,
forking king and queen; and if not RxQ, so
much the better: after 1. ...Ke7, White can
play QxRc7+ and has still more fun from

Dg040: White to move

Dg040: This example combines two recent

points we have studied. The initial key is to
see the potential knight fork Nd5 despite the
fact that you already occupy d5 with another
piece. The question is how best to vacate the
bishop from the forking square. It runs on the
light squares and the king is on a dark one, so
Dg039: White to move the bishop won’t be able to deliver a check. Is
there anything that it might capture? Yes:
Dg039: White’s knight is on a dark square. So Black’s bishop. But before you play BxB,
are Black’s king, queen, and rook. Ne6+ notice (as would be obvious in a game) that
would be great, but White’s queen is in the Black is about to play QxQ, ruining your fun.
way. The question, now familiar, is whether So the correct play goes 1. QxQ, RxQ; then 2.
the queen can make a move that will force a BxB, b5xB; 3. Nd5, forking the rooks.
response from Black that costs him a move.
You might start by examining, if briefly, any This position, like the previous one, contains
checks the queen can administer, but all of a rook that looks unassuming but that pro-
them cause either Black’s king or queen to vides crucial support for the whole sequence:
move, ruining the fork. So now look for cap- the one on f1. Imagine it gone and rethink the
tures the queen can make without giving
position. Now in reply to 3. Nd5, Black
moves his rook from e7 to d7; and if White
then plays the capture NxRf6, Black has
RxRd1+. (In effect Black uses his rook to pin
the White knight to the White rook on d1.) In
the actual position White’s rook on f1 pre-
vents this because it protects the rook on d1.
The general lesson you can draw from this
little note is that loose pieces (as the d1 rook
would be if the f1 rook were gone) are a haz-
ard. Even if they don’t appear to be part of the
action, they can find themselves suddenly Dg042: White to move
captured during or after a sequence you are
planning elsewhere. Dg042: White’s knight is on a dark square.
Black’s queen and knight are on dark squares
(and also the king, but at the moment it’s too
far away to fork). So you need to see that
2.1.7. Unsuitable Targets. White has a potential fork at e4 but that one
of the targets is Black’s knight, which won't
Sometimes a knight fork is available but only do. Ask whether White can take the knight
one of the forkable pieces is a good target; the with something else and thus cause it to be
other is a piece of equal or lesser value to exchanged for a suitable target. He can, by
your knight, and perhaps is guarded. The playing QxN+; if Black responds KxQ, White
question then is whether the bad target can be has Ne4+, forking king and queen. He ends
made a good one through an exchange. up gaining a knight. Throwing away your
queen to take an enemy knight looks counter-
intuitive, but a temporary sacrifice of this
kind is a common opening thrust in a tactical

Dg041: Black to move

Dg041: We start here with a case where at

first glance there might seem to be no forking
possibility for Black. The point to see is that Dg044: White to move
Nc5 is a potential knight fork even though it
won't work now because one of its targets is Dg044: White’s knight is on a light square;
another knight (so Black's Nc5+ is simply met Black’s king and knight also are on light
with NxN). Ask whether you can make your squares and can be forked at e7. If you notice
opponent replace the knight with something the forking idea at all here—in other words, if
better by forcing an exchange. Here Black you aren't lulled into overlooking it because
gets it done by taking the knight with his
rook: 1. …RxN, BxR, and now Nc5+ wins the the target on c6 is another knight—you are
bishop and thus gains two pieces for the rook. most of the way home. Of course the knight is
an unsuitable target, so you force Black to
replace it by first taking it with another piece. knight can be taken by any of White’s pieces,
Thus 1. QxN; QxQ; 2. NxB+. After playing and see that one of them—the rook—is ready
out the fork White has won two pieces. to do the job, and with check. After RxN+
Black appears to have a choice of recapturing
with his queen or king, but on closer inspec-
tion the queen is pinned. So the only recapture
is KxR; and then Nc5+ follows. And again the
same result can be reached by just experi-
menting from the outset with the check
RxN+. After the recapture KxR you see
Black's king and queen in the telltale position
for a knight fork.

Dg045: Black to move

Dg045: Nxd4 looks implausible for Black because

it loses a knight for a pawn. But the implications
of the move change when you see that it is a fork,
attacking the knight on e2 and the queen at f5. For
then you see the real question is whether White's
knight can be replaced with a working target. It
can: Black plays 1. … QxN+; 2. KxQ, Nxd4+,
winning back the queen with the net gain of a
pawn after White recaptures RxN. Like many of Dg047: White to move
these positions, this one can be solved as well by
having a look at the consequences of any checks Dg047: White’s knight is on a dark square,
you can give. Black’s queen can deliver check in along with Black’s knight and king. There is a
four ways; one of them, QxN, moves the king into potential fork at f5, but the g3 knight is
a new position in which the fork might be seen if pinned, f5 is protected by both queen and
it wasn’t already. knight, and anyway the fork is of no use be-
cause it ends up trading a knight for a knight.
So it’s only the barest glimmer of an idea, but
when you ask whether you can capture the d4
knight with something else (and what happens
then) you find 1. QxN+, QxQ; 2. Nf5+, a
knight fork that wins a piece.

Regardless of whether the fork occurred to

you at the start, consideration of QxN+ would
have been mandatory because it was one of
White’s three possible checks. We keep em-
phasizing these separate paths to the solu-
Dg046: White to move tion—i.e., showing how it might have been
found by looking at checks and their conse-
Dg046: White’s knight is on a light square, as quences—because in many positions the idea
are Black’s queen and knight. The structure isn't as clear at the outset as it perhaps has
of a fork is there; if the Black knight could be been in these early positions; and in that case
replaced with the king, the fork would be- starting with a look at your forcing moves is
come playable with Nc5. So ask whether the the best way to find tactical ideas. In this case,
after imagining QxN+ and the recapture QxQ
you reevaluate your knight's tactical pros- Dg049: White’s knight is on a dark square.
pects. You notice that your knight and Both of Black’s rooks and his bishop likewise
Black’s queen and king all would be sitting are on dark squares and are positioned for a
on dark squares (and the knight would have
fork at d7. Black’s queen guards the square
become unpinned), calling for the fork Nf5+.
but can be eliminated with the simple capture
1. QxQ. Consider Black’s possible replies to
that move. RxQ is out because the rook is
pinned. It will have to be 1. …KxQ or 1
…BxQ, either of which leaves d7 available
for White’s knight. Yet this is no good be-
cause then Nd7 is met by Black with RxR!
Again, when you are forking pieces and none
of them are a king, you need to ask what
damage any of them might be able to do while
breaking out of the fork. And anyway you
Dg048: White to move should not be settling for a fork of a bishop
and rook when the king is so close to being on
White’s knight is on a dark square; so are
a forking square as well. So after the ex-
Black’s bishop and rook. You see a knight
change of queens White plays 2. RxR+,
fork at c6. But it won’t work because Black
KxR―then Nd7+, winning a rook with the
can respond by moving his rook to e8, both
taking it out of harm’s way and using it to
protect the bishop. As we know, this is a
common difficulty when forking two pieces
neither of which are the king; one often can
move to protect the other. Can you improve
the target by capturing one of the pieces and
forcing an exchange? Yes, with RxB+, to
which Black replies KxR. Then comes Nc6+,
and now White wins the rook; moving the
rook to protect the other piece doesn’t work
anymore for Black because now the other
piece is a king. Dg050: White to move

Dg050: Now combine the current theme with

an earlier one. A routine color scan (or a look
at your checks, or a look at your knight
moves) turns up a potential fork of Black’s
king (good) and knight (no good) to be had by
playing Nxc6. Can the knight on b4 be ex-
changed for something better? And what
about the fact that the forking square, c6, is
guarded? Experiment with exchanges that
may clarify the board. 1. Ra4xN leads to 1.
…RxR; now the fork has a better target in the
rook, but the forking square still is protected
by the second Black rook at b6. So it becomes
Dg049: White to move a straightforward problem of attracting away
the guardian of the forking square by attack- keeps the opponent too busy to do anything
ing a piece it protects. Just do another ex- about the forthcoming fork. In this case the
change: 2. RxR, RxR then allows Nxc6+. initial move Nf8 threatens Black's queen, so
his choice of replies is very limited.

2.1.8. Playing Defective Knight Forks.

Suppose you spot a potential fork but find that

the forking square is defended and there is no
way to pin the defender, capture it, or capture
anything it protects. It still isn’t time to give
up; instead, imagine going ahead with the
fork and letting your knight be captured. Pic-
ture the board as it then will look: without
your knight, and with your opponent’s guard
Dg051: White to move moved from its current square onto the fork-
ing square. What then would be possible?
Dg051: This one takes a little imagination. Consider the consequences of any checks you
You might start by seeing the capture you then would be able to inflict; consider
have available: QxN. It doesn’t work because whether the stage has been set for another
Black’s knight is guarded by its queen. Might fork; consider whether any pieces that used to
you be able to chase away the queen, as with be protected now are loose; consider whether
Nc5 or Nf8? No, because the queen just any open lines have been created that would
moves to another square from which it guards allow you to pin one piece to another. Indeed,
the knight (e.g., Qe8 or Qd6). But when your sometimes playing fork and letting it fail is
own knight is nearby the thought of a fork more powerful than "perfecting" it by remov-
always is there, and now such a possibility ing the guard of the forking square. And
comes into view: notice the position of sometimes you thus will find that an implau-
Black’s king and knight; they are on squares sible-looking fork works after all because the
that are poised to be forked. If Black’s queen cost to your opponent of taking your knight is
were substituted for his knight, White’s too high. All this will be made clear with
knight could fork them if it could get to g6. some examples.
White’s knight can’t get to g6 from its current
perch, but in two steps it becomes possible. In the position to the left White has the mak-
First comes Nf8, attacking Black's queen. The ings of a fork with Ne7+, but e7 is protected
queen moves anyplace where it still can pro- by the Black queen. The queen cannot be cap-
tect the knight; White plays the exchange 2. tured or threatened, and White can’t attack
QxN, QxQ; and now 3. Nxg6+ imposes the anything else the queen protects. So: what if
fork, wins back the queen, and gains White a White goes ahead with the fork and Black
piece. plays QxN?

Another way to think here, I suppose―the Dg052: What will the board then look like?
reader can judge its utility―is to say it's a Two things will have changed: the White
case where the knight isn't on the right col- knight will be off the board and the Black
ored square at the start, so it needs to make queen will have moved from e6 to e7. Both
two moves rather than one: first a move to a changes are significant. The removal of the
dark colored square, to match the one where knight creates an open line on the c-file, al-
the king sits; then, after the queen is likewise lowing the White queen to attack the rook at
moved to a dark square, the fork from g6. But c8; and the movement of the Black queen
notice that this pattern―two knight removes the rook’s protection, leaving it
moves―is likely to work only when the loose.
knight makes a threat on its first move which
You might as easily have seen the idea the
other way around: you observe that your bat-
tery of rooks on the g-file nearly is ready to
mate on g8, but that the bishop on g7 stands
in your way; this means the bishop is pinned
(we will see many studies like this in the
chapters on pins), and is not really defending
e5. Since the e5 pawn’s other defender also is
pinned (to its queen), e5 is available to your
knight for a possible fork.

Dg052: White to move In any event, if Black sees all this as well as
you do (and you should assume he will), the
So White then plays QxR+ and takes a rook actual consequences of the forking move
for a knight, winning the exchange. Nxe5 still require some thought. If he tries to
forfeit “only” the exchange by just moving his
queen and letting go of the rook on f7, Black
ends up losing more than that; for White can
instead take the rook on c4 at no cost. Notice
that once White plays Nxe5, the c4 rook is
attacked twice by White and protected only
once by Black. So the lesser evil for Black in
reply to 1. Nxe5 probably is 1. … d6xN; 2.
RxQ, RxRc6 losing his queen and a pawn in
return for a knight and a rook.

Dg053: White to move

Dg053: Both White knights are on light

squares. So are Black’s queen and both of his
rooks. The knight on d5 has no forking
moves, but the knight on d3 has one: Nxe5,
forking the queen and both rooks. Is the
square protected? Yes―twice (all defenders
must be accounted for!). Start by worrying Dg054: White to move
about the pawn on d6. It turns out to be a non-
issue because it is pinned to its queen by Dg054: White’s knight is on the same color
White’s rook at g6. That leaves the bishop on square as Black’s king and queen and can
g7 to consider. Imagine the board after 1. fork them at f7. Black protects the square with
Nxe5, BxN. What lines would that exchange his rook. If White tries to start by taking out
open, and what checks would you then have? the rook with his queen, Black recaptures
Just one: Rg8. Examine its consequences and with his own queen and the fork is spoiled. If
you find that they can be summarized in a White plays QxQ, however, Black replies
word: mate! For when you imagine the king with RxQ, and now the fork works, winning
fleeing to e7, notice that your d5 knight al- White a rook. Yet with king and queen posi-
ready attacks the square; and you should be tioned like this it would be rash to settle for a
mindful from the beginning of the battery of rook; consider what happens if White simply
rooks you have bearing down on the g-file goes ahead with 1. Nxf7+ and allows his
adjacent to the king. knight to be captured by RxN. Now Black's
queen is left loose for the taking with QxQ,
which mates a move later (after Black gives a
futile interposition with his rook). So the fork
1. Nxf7+ works after all, as the lesser evil for
Black is letting his queen be taken by White’s
knight—after which Black recaptures with his
rook, allowing White to then play QxR+.
White ends up with a queen and a rook
against Black’s two knights, an easy win from

Dg056: White to move

Dg056: White’s knight and Black’s queen and

rook are on dark squares; White would like to
play Nh7 to fork them, but then Black’s king
can capture the knight. So what then? Con-
sider the position that results. When the king
or the pieces around it move, it’s always wise
to begin by checking for any pieces that may
have become pinned—pieces, in other words,
that now find themselves lined up with the
Dg055: White to move king and that can’t move without exposing it
to attack. Here the king’s move to h7 would
Dg055: 1. Ng6+ looks like a promising fork cause the pawn on g6 to become pinned. As
of Black's king and rook, impeded only by the we know from earlier studies, a key conse-
knight at e7. One way to handle this, of quence of a pin is that the pinned piece can't
course, is to capture the knight with 1. RxN, guard anything because it can't move. In this
to which Black replies 1. …BxR. Now the case the pin of the g6 pawn means the h5
fork Ng6+ wins back the exchange, but the pawn—and perhaps more importantly the h5
sequence is a wash. So start again, taking a square—are left loose. Perhaps you can take
moment to look at what happens if you try for advantage. Carefully examine any check that
the fork without clearing g6 and just let the could be given from there. Think of Qxh5+.
knight get taken. Notice especially the battery The king would have to retreat to g7 or g8.
of two rooks on the seventh rank, which is With the rook behind it, the queen then can
always a powerful combination. If Black re- move in for the kill: Qh7#.
plies to Ng6 with NxN, that opens the seventh
rank; what checks does White then have? An- So the original knight fork Nh7 does work,
swer: just one; RxR―which is mate. So winning the exchange; Black can't afford to
Black doesn’t dare play 1. ...NxN; in effect play KxN, and so must move his queen and
his knight is pinned to the mating square at let his rook be taken. But it only becomes
h7. White’s best bet thus is to play 1. Ng6+ possible to see this once you imagine what
straightaway followed by NxN, as this wins a would happen if the fork "failed" because
whole knight for free—a rare case where a your knight got taken.
knight fork wins a knight. If White instead
finishes with NxR, he merely wins the ex- Dg057: White’s more advanced knight has no
change, as Black will then be in a position to potential forks except the ineffective Ne6.
recapture with his king (it would have moved The less advanced knight at e4, however, is
to g7) whereas if White finishes with NxN on the same color square as Black’s king and
Black can't recapture with his rook because queen, suggesting a fork at f6. The needed
his king is in the way. square is protected by Black’s bishop at g7,
and on inspection you see that the bishop
cannot be pinned, captured, or lured away by Dg058: White’s knight is on a light square,
an attack on one of its protectorates. along with Black’s king and queen. Examine
every square the knight can move to and a
fork at d8 suggests itself; but d8 is protected
by one of Black’s rooks. You look for ways to
pin, capture, or distract the rook, and find
none. But before giving up on the thought,
imagine carrying out the fork and letting the
knight get taken; ask how the board would
look with the knight gone and the rook moved
to d8. Methodically imagine any checks you
then would have. The most interesting is
Qxe7, since it's safe and attacks not only
Black's king but also the now-loose rook on
Dg057: White to move d8. How would Black respond to the latter
threat? With Kg8; it would be his only legal
But imagine proceeding with the fork anyway move. Now White has the simple QxR+. Here
and allowing BxN; in other words, picture the the fork is just a means to an end, viz., captur-
board with the knight on e4 gone and the ing the rook and winning the exchange.
Black bishop moved to f6. You are especially
interested in whether that sacrifice might
make an attack on Black’s king possible, so
study its position carefully. Consider any pins
that would be in place and any lines that
would have been opened by that little ex-
change. Starting with pins, White’s bishop at
c4 already pins Black’s pawn at f7, and still
will do so after 1. Nf6+, BxN. As for open
lines, the move of the e4 knight would have
opened a path for your queen to g6, where it
would be possible for you to give a new check
(g6 is loose; this is the significance of the pin Dg059: White to move
we just noted).
Dg059: White’s knight is on a light square, as
In reply to 2. Qxg6+, Black would be able to are Black’s king, queen, and rook. You try
play Bg7 or move his king to h8; either way first to fork the two more valuable pieces and
mate follows with Qh7, since h7 is guarded so see that Nxf6+ attacks the king and queen.
by White’s remaining knight. So the original The trouble is that g7xN follows. Black’s g-
fork at f6 wins at least the queen for a knight, pawn can’t be pinned, captured, or distracted.
and delivers mate if Black is careless. But you must habitually persevere, playing
the moves in your mind’s eye and imagining
the aftermath and its opportunities: think of
the board without White’s knight and (in ef-
fect) without Black’s g-pawn, which will have
replaced his current f-pawn. Examine every
check you then would have—with every
piece. There would be three: Qf5; Qxd4; and
Rxd4. The first, Qf5, is met with QxQ and
nothing more. The second, Qxd4, causes
Black to play QxQ and then White to play
RxQ+; the king moves, and in the end White
has traded his knight for two pawns. But
Dg058: White to move
Rxd4+ is another matter. If Black moves his
king, White plays RxQ. If Black plays QxR,
White plays QxQ. So the original move,
Nxf6, is a good one, gaining Black’s queen
and two pawns in return for a knight and a

Dg061: Black to move

Dg061: Black’s advanced knight at c3 is on a

dark square. So are White’s king, queen,
bishop, and rook; examine the knight’s ring of
possible moves, and see that the king and
queen can be forked at e4—but that the
Dg060: White to move square is protected by the pawn at f3. Can the
pawn be pinned, captured, or distracted? No,
Dg060: White’s more advanced knight at f5 no, and no. Okay; what results if Black plays
has no good forks; the only Black pieces on the fork anyway and permits f3xN? Visualize
the knight's square color are the king and what is left on the board. Black then has two
bishop, which can’t be reached from any checks—Qd2 and Qe1—but neither are help-
square within range. White’s other knight, ful since White captures the queen in either
though, is on a dark square (d4), and so are case. Nor does Black have any further knight
Black’s queen and one of his rooks. So how forks. But remember that when considering an
about Nxc6? The square is protected by exchange you also want to examine what lines
Black’s bishop, which can’t be pinned, cap- would be opened by it and what pins then
tured, or distracted. But still: if White plays would exist or become possible. Here, mov-
Nxc6 and Black replies with BxN, what then ing White’s f-pawn to e4 would put White's
is possible? Imagine White’s d4 knight off the king and queen on the same file with nothing
board and Black’s bishop at c6, and then ex- between them. Anytime you see this pattern
amine every check. There are two: Nxh6+, you should be thinking “pin”; the opponent’s
which doesn't help, and Ne7+—which forks second piece will be powerless to move when
the king and bishop. Then it gets even better: attacked if moving would expose the king.
Black has no alternative but to move his king; (Consider this a preview of the patterns we
White then plays Nxc6, winning the bishop will be studying in our later work on pins.)
and inflicting yet another fork, this time of Here Black would be able to pin the queen
Black’s queen and rook. Now it's safe because with Rf8 and take it a move later. So the
the bishop is gone. original Ne4+ ends up winning the queen af-
ter all in exchange for the knight and a rook.
A lesson of the position: anytime a sequence
calls for a knight to move in enemy territory, If you didn’t spot this, it’s probably because
think about whether its move might be a (or you haven’t studied the art of the pin in any
another) fork. Remember that every move by detail—a problem we will cure later. But the
a knight changes the color of the square on next couple of positions also will offer some
which it sits, and thus may radically change practice in thinking about pins that may arise
its forking prospects. after a "failed" fork. Watch for them.

Dg062: White’s knight is on a light square, as

are Black’s king and queen, calling for con-
sideration of a fork at b6. Black guards the
square with the pawn at c7, which (a brief
examination reveals) cannot be pinned, cap-
tured, or effectively distracted. White never-
theless imagines playing the fork and losing
the knight. With the knight off the board and
Black’s c-pawn moved to b6, is anything in-
teresting possible?

Dg063: White to move

But one must always ask what the response to

the fork might be, especially when neither of
the forked pieces is a king. Here Black has a
clear saving move: Qc7, both taking the
queen out of danger and enabling it to protect
the previously unguarded bishop. As usual,
however, this is no reason to give up on the
Dg062: White to move idea. Once Black makes his reply, a new color
scan or other examination of knight moves
White has one check―Qe8―but it just loses would be in order: now White’s knight would
the queen. He has no more knights he can use be on a light square and so would Black’s
to fork anything. But here as in the previous king and rook. So how about Ne7+? Alas, the
example he sees that Black’s king and queen square is protected by Black’s queen, now (in
are on the same line—this time a diagonal. He our imaginings) sitting on c7. And yet this
thinks “pin,” again, and can impose one with still is no reason to give up on the idea, since
Be6, winning the queen. (Black replies Ne5, we always can ask what becomes possible if
which will allow him to retake White's bishop Black then captures the knight. What lines
after BxQ; then White has Qxg6.) then would be opened? What pins would
come into existence? With White’s knight off
Here the key thing to visualize was White’s the board and the Black queen ending up back
own knight cleared from the board. The at e7, White’s e1 rook would pin Black’s e6
alignment of Black’s king and queen already pawn to his queen. A pinned pawn can guard
was present; the fork serves just as a way for nothing, and in this case the pin leaves
White to move his knight out of the path of Black’s rook at f5 unprotected. White takes it
his bishop, and in a manner that forces with his queen.
Black’s response before he can take measures
to avoid the pin that follows. One of our gen- This sounds complicated, and at first it isn’t
eral points repeats: in addition to examining easy to see. But you might be aided by ob-
every check you would have after an ex- serving a visual pattern trying to emerge. If
change, look for any newly open lines that White’s knight could vacate his square,
might allow for a pin or other tactic. White’s rook would pin the pawn that protects
Black’s rook, which could then be taken. The
forcing way for White to vacate his knight
from e5 is with a fork at c6. Unfortunately
Dg063: This position is still more demanding. Black’s queen then moves, ruining the pin
A scan of the pieces on dark squares turns up White is trying to achieve; fortunately, White
a knight fork: Nxc6, attacking Black’s queen can draw the queen back into place at e7 with
and his bishop; the latter piece makes a suit- another knight move to that square. So solv-
able target because it is unprotected. ing this problem might involve two trains of
thought: one that sees a goal and tries to rea- within fresh striking range of a knight or other
son toward it (here, creating the pin so the piece. Let's turn to examples.
rook can be taken), and one that involves
looking at various attacks you can make and
what their consequences would be.

2.1.9. Checking the King into Position.

In all the positions so far a knight has been

one move away from striking at two pieces.
We now turn to cases where that is not yet so.
Whereas the previous positions typically re-
lied on pattern recognition—you see the Dg064: White to move
structural pattern for a fork in place and look
for ways to perfect it—the positions here in- Dg064: In the position White has no forks, so
volve the other side of tactical play as well: start by examining every available check. Ask
examining forcing moves to see where they piece by piece whether you have any way to
lead. Most often we will begin the train of attack the king and what would happen if you
thought by examining checks and their conse- did—what move would be made in response
quences. Checks are the most forcing of all and what the board would look like after-
moves because the choice of replies to them is wards. Here White has just one: Ra8. It re-
so limited: your opponent has to reply by cap- quires Black to move his king to g7. Now
turing the piece threatening his king, or by imagine the resulting position and ask what
moving his king, or by interposing something could be done with it—by use of a color scan
between his king and your threatening piece. or by looking for your next check. Either way,
And often one or two of those options will be see that 2. Ne8+ forks and wins the queen.
unavailable, reducing more the number of
replies you need to worry about.

Pushing your opponent’s king around with

checks is a good way to generate tactical op-
portunities. Eventually the king may end up in
position to be forked (or be used to create a
pin, or a skewer, or a discovery—as we shall
see later). We already know that kings are
ideal targets for double attacks, because when
your opponent is in check he rarely will be
able to use his next move to launch a counter-
attack. This point makes it easier to find fork- Dg065: White to move
ing ideas in the first place; for even if there is
no fork yet in sight, you always can ask Dg065: It would be tempting to play the sim-
whether your knight is positioned to attack ple QxN for free here—and erroneous. Don’t
your opponent’s king. If it is, then one of your play any capture, not even of a loose piece,
background goals as you play with your forc- until it’s clear that you can’t do better. Among
ing moves is to move another of your oppo- other things this means examining checks you
nent’s pieces onto a square of the same color can give and their consequences. White has a
as his king’s, and into a position where you few with his queen; the most interesting is
can administer a fork. Likewise, anytime you Qe8. Black’s king is forced to a7 (the White
deliver a check that forces the king to move, knight seals off b7)—and now rethink the
consider whether the king has been brought board and ask if new tactical strikes might
have become possible. With your knight so
prominently posted it is natural to look for forks bishop and king. Notice that Black had
forks it might inflict, which train of thought thought the White knight was pinned to
leads to Nb5+. White wins the queen for a White’s queen, but since Ne5 is a check Black
knight. has no time to take advantage of this; he has
to move the king, and then loses the bishop.
Another point to note: the bishop is protected
by the Black knight at f6. Do you care? No,
because after Ne5 the bishop also is attacked
a second time by White’s queen; so if Black
recaptures with NxN, White plays QxN and
still is ahead a pawn. The question is not just
whether a piece is protected; it’s always how
many times it is protected compared to how
many times it is under attack.

Dg066: Black to move

Dg066: A quick color scan shows that Black

has no potential forks to perfect, so start by
examining every check. Here there is just one:
Rxh2+. How would White respond? If he
moves the king to f1 or g1, examine the re-
sulting position: he loses his d2 rook to RxR
(a skewer). So presumably he will instead
play KxR. Examine the resulting board.
Black’s knight will be on the dark square Dg068: White to move
where it already sits; White’s rook and king
will be on d2 and h2, respectively. So Black Dg068: Black’s king is trapped; it can't escape
then forks them with Nxf3+ and gets back the to g6 if it's pressured from behind. A natural
rook (as well as the two pawns captured along idea for White thus is Qe8, preparing for the
the way). kill on h8—but Black’s bishop guards the
square, so White has to look elsewhere for
ideas. Start by examining every check. There
is just one: Rh8. And Black has only one re-
ply to this: KxR. Now reexamine how the
board will look. White’s knight and Black’s
king and queen all will be on dark squares,
inviting the fork Ng6+. You could have ar-
rived at the same conclusion by noticing that
White can attack Black’s queen with Ng6 and
asking whether there is any way to draw
Black’s king onto the square at the other end
of the fork, h8. A common way to move an
Dg067: White to move enemy king onto a square where you want it
is to put one of your pieces on the square,
Dg067: A common sort of position. Again attacking the king and requiring it to move
White has no potential forks, but as a matter onto the square with a capture to defend it-
of course we examine every check. Here there self—a decoy. Here the White rook can do the
is only one: Bxf7+. Black can reply KxB or job.
Kd7. Then what? Redo the color scan: now
White’s f3 knight, Black’s g4 bishop, and
Black’s king all are on light squares. Ne5+
KxQ). This last sequence is the most interest-
ing one. Why?

Dg069: White to move

Dg069: Start by examining the consequences

of any checks you can give: our modus oper- Dg070: White to move
andi. There are four: Ne6 (does nothing), and
Qf8, Qg8, and Qh8. Qf8 can be dismissed Because it forces the king to move, which
immediately as it results in RxQ with no gain. often creates new tactical openings. Here it
Qg8 is unhelpful because it is met with KxQ, results in the Black king and queen and White
drawing the king to a light square; since all knight all being left on dark squares; there is a
White has is his knight, and since the knight fork at f7. But wait: what is Black’s reply to
and Black’s queen already are on dark 2. NxR+? He can play Ra7xN, in effect trad-
squares, it should be obvious that you would ing a rook for White’s queen and knight! The
like to draw Black’s king onto another dark problem for White, of course, is that the fork-
square as well. Qh8 accomplishes the mis- ing square (f7) isn’t safe. We have ways of
sion, forcing KxQ (if the king instead moves handling that, however: here, start by taking
to g6 or h6, White plays QxQ, as should be the piece on the forking square in some other
obvious if you are visualizing the White way and see if the piece that replaces it after a
queen on h8; it’s yet another skewer). Now recapture might then be loose. Hence White
the White knight and the Black royals are plays 1. BxR, RxB; then comes 2. Qh8+,
arranged for a fork via NxR+. KxQ; 3. NxR+, forking and then taking
Black's queen. White wins a queen and two
Another way to see this would be to start with rooks in return for a queen and a bishop.
the knight and notice from the pattern of its
relationship to the Black king and queen that
it is just one move from attacking either of
them, but that they cannot be attacked at the
same time. To achieve a simultaneous attack,
one of them would need to be drawn onto a
different dark square. This can be done by
moving your queen to a square where you
want the king to move, and from which your
queen gives check (and skewers the Black
queen to boot, thus requiring Black to play
KxQ and walk into the fork).
Dg071: White to move

Dg071: Standard procedure starts with an

Dg070: Start by examining every check you inspection of any checks you can give. One of
can give. There are three: BxR (leads to them is Nc4. On a board so open you might
RxB); Qg7 (leads to QxQ); and Qh8 (leads to be tempted merely to conclude that the king
then gets away, but don’t be satisfied so eas-
ily; try to figure out where it will go. It’s easy
here because many of its apparent flight which it could be forked at the same time,
squares are unavailable (e.g., d4, d5, or e6). White would have the game. Does Qh8+ ac-
Indeed, Black has only two possibilities: Ke4 complish this?
or Kf5. Now look for your next check—or,
since you are playing with your knight, look
for a fork. If Black plays Ke4, you have
Nd2+; if he plays Kf5, you have Ne3+. In
either event you win the queen next move.
The important lesson is to observe how im-
probable a knight fork might have seemed in
the original diagram given the distance of the
knight from Black’s queen. It turns out that
two jumps of the knight can cover a lot of
ground; if the first of its moves requires a
forced response from your opponent, you may
end up with a fork on the other half of the Dg073: White to move
board from where you began.
No; Black replies BxQ, and anyway if the
king were to move to h8 it would be too far
away from e6 for White to fork with his
knight. What about Qh7+? The difference is
that the queen would be guarded by White’s
knight, which also attacks f7. Thus Black
would have to move his king to f8—and into
a fork. White plays Nxe6+ and wins the

We aren’t finished. Black of course must

move his king once it is forked, so press far-
Dg072: White to move ther and ask where it will go. Moving it
backward along the back rank is out, because
Dg072: Start by examining every check, how- White’s queen is there. He has to play Kf7.
ever briefly. There are two. The first, Qxf5, Does White then have any more checks? Yes;
loses the queen, so the follow-up had better be among others he has QxB—which is mate.
spectacular; and it isn’t. But then there is Rh6. The moral of this part of the tale is that when
Consider Black’s possible responses; visual- you have two pieces in the vicinity of the en-
ize the rook on its new square. If Black moves emy king, and especially when one of them is
the king out of the way—say, to g7, or g5 a knight, always be mindful of the relation-
(taking the knight)—White wins the queen by ship between the pieces—how one can protect
playing RxQ (another example of a skewer). the other in an attack, how the knight can seal
So assume Black will play KxR. Now how off escape squares in different directions by
will the board look? White’s knight will be on virtue of the odd shape of its moves, and
a dark square, along with Black’s king and whether the ultimate goal—checkmate—thus
queen, which can be forked with Nf7+. So might be achieved.
Rh6+ effectively wins the queen.
Dg074: At present Black has no forks; only
Dg073: Start by examining every check you one White piece is on the same color square
can give. There are two: Qh7 and Qh8. As as his knight. It might be natural for Black to
you examine these, you also should notice consider Nh3, creating a threat of mate next
that White’s knight can strike against the move with Qf2 or Qg1. But then you think
Black queen in one move—Nxe6; if Black’s about what checks White would have in reply
king could be forced onto a dark square on
and notice Qc8+—a queen fork that would you picture the outcome of the exchange you
win Black’s knight on h3. realize that it leaves Black’s king and queen
on light squares, just like White’s knight; or
even without that observation you simply
look for your next check and observe that
Ne7+ forks Black's king and queen, winning
the latter.

Dg074: Black to move

So Black scratches that idea and starts by ex-

amining every check of his own. There are
three: Qd1, Qf2, and Qg1. Qd1 loses the
queen without accomplishing anything. Qf2 Dg076: White to move
forces White to reply KxQ and almost leads
to a knight fork at d3, but the square is pro- Dg076: You know the drill: start by examin-
tected by White’s bishop. Qg1 also forces the ing every check. There are three to find—
reply KxQ, but it moves the king to a different Nh6, Ne7, and Qg4. Start with 1. Nh6, which
dark square. Now Black can launch a fork forces Kh8 or more likely Kg7. What check
from e2, which is occupied but unprotected; can White then play? If he tries 2. Qg4+, then
NxB+ thus wins the queen a move later. Black plays KxN. So 1. Nh6+ doesn’t look
very fruitful, at least on inspection of where it
leads anytime soon. And Ne7+ just loses the
knight. But then there is 1. Qg4+. If Black
responds by moving his king, White can play
2. Qg7 and mate. Since moving the king
therefore is out of the question and Black has
no way to capture the threatening queen, his
only remaining option is to interpose some-
thing in front of his king. He has to play Qg6.
Pause to visualize the resulting position and
ask whether you can do anything with it. Yes,
the Black king and queen are now arranged to
Dg075: White to move be forked by the White knight via Ne7+.

Dg075: Start by examining every check.

There are three: Ne7 (resulting in QxN; forget
it), Rb8, and Rxc6. Rb8 leads to KxR, which Another train of thought leading to the same
is of no use to White; here as in the previous outcome might start by observing that
example, all White has is his knight, so draw- White’s knight on f5 attacks the g7 square in
ing the king to a square of a different color front of Black’s king, which is exposed; this
doesn’t help. But what about Rxc6? As usual, suggests the possibility of mate if White can
one must actually visualize the Rook on c6 to get his queen onto g7. The natural route to
see all the effects of moving it there. In addi- that result starts with Qg4, putting the queen
tion to checking the king, the rook then at- on the right file. Black’s response is forced:
tacks Black’s queen; so if Black moves his Qg6. Then you see the fork.
king, RxQ. Black thus has to play QxR. When
board would look, and see that it would invite
a fork of king and queen via Nf7+. Again, you
might have been helped along in seeing this
by observing from the start that White can
attack the Black queen with one move of his
knight and wondering whether Black’s king
might be forced by a check onto the dark
square at h8 where it could be forked.

As noted, Black has one alternative to moving

his king to h8 in response to Bd5+: he could
Dg077: White to move interpose his f8 knight by playing it to e6. But
if you ask what checks White then would
Dg077: Start by examining every check have, you see that in addition to BxN+ he
White can give. There are four: Ng6, Nf7, now has the better move QxN+, capturing the
Qxh7, and Rf8 (don't forget to consider every knight that had previously prevented him
attacker). The knight checks are important from checking with his queen. This would
because they show you that Black’s king can again force Black’s king back to h8 and allow
be attacked with the knight in just one move; White's knight fork on f7. (With his own
they suggest that White might have a crushing knight out of the way, Black also would have
fork if Black’s queen could be forced onto a the option of playing Kf8, but this leads to
dark square. Qxh7+ just loses the queen and mate on the move for White with Qf7).
doesn’t help the forking prospects. Rf8+,
however, permits only one reply: QxR. Visu- The reason White should reply to 1. Bd5+,
alize the resulting position and see that it calls Ne6 with QxN rather than BxN is that if he
for a knight fork at g6. Ask whether the captures with the bishop, Black’s move of his
square is protected and see that the h7 pawn king to f8 works after all; there is no mating
appears to be on the job—but it’s pinned. threat because White’s queen still is back on
White wins a queen for a rook and a knight. e2, stuck behind the bishop now at e6. The
general point is that after administering a
check and seeing a response that leaves you
short of your goals, examine all remaining
checks rather than rushing to re-administer
check with the same piece you used the first
time. Bringing your queen into your attack
can be a particularly potent move, as this po-
sition shows.

Dg078: White to move

Dg078: Start by examining every check.

There are two: Qe6 and (less obviously but
critically—examine every piece!) Bd5. Qe6+
loses the queen to NxQ. Bd5+ is more inter-
esting. The bishop can’t be taken by any of
Black’s pieces, and Black can’t move his king
to h7 because of White’s knight. So Black has Dg079: White to move
to play Kh8 (actually he does have one other
option we will consider in a moment, but let it
pass for now). Now ask how the resulting
Dg079: Start in the usual way: examine your (Qc4+) and Black’s response (Kd7). It is a
checks and their consequences. All the checks perfect example of the importance of visualiz-
White has here involve its queen, which can ing not only the move you imagine making
attack the king by moving to b6, d6, c5, c4, but also the move that comes after it.
c3, or g7. Four of those moves lose the queen
on the spot, but 1. Qc4+ does not. Black can’t
capture White’s queen in response, so he
would have to either move his king or inter- 2.1.10. Using Multiple Checks.
pose something. Which will it be? Don’t just
think of the queen moving to c4; imagine it The skill called for in that last problem—the
there—and see that it also would be attacking ability, when you examine a check or other
Black’s rook, which is unprotected. Black forcing move, to keep the resulting appear-
would like to avoid the loss of his rook, and ance of the board clear in your mind’s eye—is
so might play Kd7 to protect it while also one of the keys to good chess. It gets even
moving his king out of harm’s way. Now how more important as we turn to positions that
would the board look? White’s knight is on a require you to follow up on a first check with
light square; so are Black’s king, queen, rook, a second one before the fork is ready. Gradu-
and bishop—all of which can be forked from ally your ability to recognize an emerging
c5! The only apparent difficulty is the Black forking pattern will kick in as you are exam-
pawn at d6, which protects the needed square. ining the checks and follow-up checks avail-
But an early question about any such case is able to you. By working back and forth be-
whether the protecting piece is constrained by tween forcing moves and glimpses of pat-
a pin, and the d6 pawn is indeed pinned to terns, you build a combination. Start the fol-
Black’s king by White’s rook. So 2. Nc5+ lowing position.
wins the queen.

If Black doesn't fall for this by playing Kd7 in

the first place, then of course White instead
uses his second move to take Black's rook. It's
an example of a queen fork, which is a theme
we will study in detail soon, but the general
point already is familiar: sometimes a knight
fork (or any other tactic) does its work with-
out ever being carried out. The threat of it
forces your opponent to cough up material to
avoid seeing it executed. To put it differently,
you don't play a move like Qc4+ here hoping Dg080: White to move
that Black will play Kd7. It's great if he does,
but you should always assume he will see the Dg080: Anytime you have a battery of rooks
trouble coming and will play the best move on an open file like this, consider what would
available to him—probably Qc6, but in any happen if you drove them both through to
event not Kd7. We say the sequence works your opponent’s back rank. Sometimes the
here not because we fantasize that Black will result may be a mating sequence there; even if
play Kd7, but because you are sure to win at not, though, the threat is powerful enough to
least a rook if he plays anything else. Alas, force results—and forced results always have
many of the prettiest forks never end up get- to be inspected in search of forks or other
ting played. tactical opportunities they may create. Thus
White imagines Rc8+, to which Black would
Going back to the main idea of the position, reply NxR; then comes RxN+, and Black’s
the tricky part is that the fork depends on the king is forced to f7. If you were looking only
pin of the d6 pawn, which is visible only if for checkmate you would have to consider the
you clearly are imagining both White’s move sequence a failure, since the king escapes. But
if you're looking for a tactic the sequence is a swer with RxQ; but rather than abandon the
spectacular success, as it leaves Black’s king idea, follow it through: then what check can
and queen both on light squares and ready to White play?
be forked with Ng5+. White wins a queen and
a knight for a rook and ends up with two at-
tacking pieces on the board against none.

Notice how remote the chances for a knight

fork by White appear to be on the face of this
position; the knight on f3 just seems too far
away from Black’s king. It’s a study in the
importance of reevaluating such possibilities
whenever you can make the enemy king
move. A useful rule of thumb is to ask every
time the king moves whether you have any
new checks against it. Here that would turn up Dg082: White to move
Ng5 on White’s third move.
The obvious follow-up is RxR+ (exhausting
the battery on the f-file), and again the re-
sponse is forced: KxR. The result of this se-
quence will have been the loss of White’s
queen and rook in return for Black’s rook, but
also—and most importantly—the movement
of Black’s king to f8. Black’s king and queen
would then be on dark squares; NxB+ forks
them, and after winning the queen White has
gained a piece (the bishop captured by the

Dg081: White to move

Dg081: Start by examining every check.

There is only one: Ra8+. Black must defend
himself. He has no way to capture the rook
and can’t move his king because both of its
flight squares are attacked by White’s knight.
All that’s left is to interpose his bishop at d8.
Now what next for White? Look for another
check. Again there is just one: RxB+. If Black
responds with KxR the board looks even sim-
pler than it did at the beginning: Black rook at Dg084: White to move
h8; Black king on d8; White knight on e5.
The fork at f7 is self-evident. Dg084: Start by finding every check White
can give. There are four: Qxe6, QxB, Nf6,
Dg082: The most natural moves to consider and Ne7. The first two lose the queen and
here might be Nxb7, picking up a pawn, or have no good follow-ups, but Nf6+ is interest-
Qf7+, safely giving check and perhaps start- ing; Black can’t respond with BxN because
ing to hunt the king. But White can do better, his bishop is pinned by White’s queen. So
and you will see this only by considering less Black must move his king. Now ask if White
obvious checks and their consequences. In will have another check after the king moves.
addition to Qf7+ White also has Qf8+. This Notice that whether the king goes to h8 or f7,
loses the queen, as Black is required to an- White can play QxB+. Either way Black has
the reply KxQ. So then his king will be where Dg086: Start by examining every check.
his bishop now sits, on g7—at last on a dark (Again, it's drill.) There are three: Nxa7, or a
square; and your knight will be on f6. Since move of either knight to d6. Nxa7 loses the
your only plausible attacking piece is your knight to NxN without a good follow-up.
knight, you naturally are on the lookout for a Moving either knight to d6 results in BxN, but
fork. In the resulting position you find it at e8. White then can recapture with another check:
After taking Black’s queen, you’re up a NxB+. With his ability to capture on d6 now
bishop. exhausted, Black would have to move his
king out of check to b8 or c7. Then what?
You could look for yet another check using
White’s bishop, with inconclusive results. Or
you could notice that White’s remaining
knight then would be on a dark square and
that Black’s rooks both would be on dark
squares, too. Nf7 forks them and wins the
exchange. This time the point of the checks
wasn't to move the Black king into position to
be forked. It was to keep Black busy with
threats he had to address while you prepared
to fork his rooks.
Dg085: White to move

Dg085: Your only piece that can do any

checking is the queen, at g7 and g8. There is
no apparent follow-up if it goes to g8 and is
taken by Black’s king. But now suppose
White plays Qg7 and look at the resulting
position. Notice the significance of the pawn
at f6; it means Black would have no choice
but to play QxQ. You still are thinking in
checks, so look for the next one and arrive at
the natural recapture f6xQ. Again Black then
has only one legal move: Kg8. Continue to be Dg087: White to move
relentless in looking for the next check and
you come to Ne7+—a fork of Black's king Dg087: White has no forks yet in view, so
and c8 rook. White nets a rook with the se- start by examining every check. The queen
quence. has several—Qxh6, Qh8, Qg8, Qg7, Qf7, and
Qe7. All of them lose the queen without creat-
ing a good fork. But there is one more check:
Bxg6. How would Black respond? With KxB.
Still no fork would be possible, but once the
king moves you naturally reconsider the
checks you can give and their consequences.
(As you do it, bear in mind that the knight on
d4 already can attack Black’s queen from e6,
and so will have a fork if the king can be
forced onto g5 or g7; this is an example of
working back and forth between ideas based
on pattern recognition and experiments with
Dg086: White to move checks.) The interesting new check White has
is Qf5—interesting because the queen attacks
the king and is protected by the knight.
Black’s only legal reply is Kg7. Again, with a
move by the king you reevaluate your tactical
options. Now the king and queen sit on fork-
able squares; Ne6+ forks and wins the queen.

This position is a little tricky because it takes

a moment to see that White's key move (2.
Qf5) forces Black's king to g7. Learning to
see where the king can and can't go when it's
checked takes a little practice.

Dg089: White to move

Dg089: Actually this one doesn't involve two

checks, but it fits here because it does involve
the search for a check after another forcing
move. The trouble from the outset is that nei-
ther of White's available checks are produc-
tive (Be6+ loses the bishop; Qxd5+ loses the
queen). Still, White sees that his knight is
close to being able to deliver a game-ending
fork at f7: there it attacks the queen and would
Dg088: White to move attack the king if it could be driven into the
corner at h8. Since checks don’t seem helpful
Dg088: White has three checks to analyze: in producing this result, White considers the
Qe7, Qf8, and Bxe6. The two queen checks, next prominent way of forcing changes on the
in response to either of which Black plays board: captures. The most prominent piece-
KxQ, almost create opportunities for White’s for-a-piece capturing possibility is BxN,
knight to fork the king and queen, but not which leads to h7xB. The important question
quite; the forking square (e6) is protected in about such an exchange, of course, is what
either case. So consider Bxe6+. Black's likely does it leave behind? What open lines? It
reply is BxB (we will consider an alternative opens the h-file, so ask anew what checks are
in a moment). Now ask what checks you then possible and with what consequences. There
would have, and you are returned to the same is a fresh one: Rh8+. Black has to play KxR
two queen checks mentioned a moment ago. in reply (White’s knight guards the king’s
Qf8+ requires KxQ (notice that the king can’t flight square at f7); the check at h8 sucks the
move to g6), leaving the Black king and king onto that same square.
queen on dark squares along with White’s
knight. The forking square (e6) no longer is So now the king has moved, and whenever
protected by the bishop; now the bishop is on that happens you ask what checks have be-
e6. So 1. NxB+ works for White, netting a come available—especially given that the
pawn. Notice the repeating pattern in the knight has been waiting to administer a fork
thought process involved: find a check; con- at f7. Indeed, Nf7+ is White’s only check then
sider the response; look for another check, all remaining. It wins the queen. (Black moves
the while keeping the changes occurring on his king, and White plays NxQ. Now Black
the board clear in your mind’s eye and watch- recaptures BxN; and if the Black move of his
ing out for forks. king was to g8, then White now has the queen
fork Qxd5+.) What all this means is that the
After White's initial Bxe6, Black has another original BxN wins a piece, as Black cannot
option: Ke8. But now he immediately loses afford to recapture h7xB. As we have seen,
another pawn to Nxd5, with more complica- that often is the significance of seeing a fork:
tions to follow; so BxB is less costly. not that you get to play it, but that you are
able to make material gains because you real- 2.1.11. Using Mate Threats to Force Pieces
ize (and your opponent realizes) that if your into Position.
captures are avenged by your opponent he
ends up the victim of an even worse double Now we're going to consider a few positions
attack. where the elements of a fork are brought into
being by a judicious use of mating threats.
Incidentally, it might have occurred to you These studies will be pretty hard, at least by
that Black could reply to White’s 1. BxN with comparison to those we've seen already; pe-
1. …QxB, but this is worse. The problem for ruse them for the ideas involved. The whole
Black is that White then plays 2. Qxd5+ question of the tactical use of mating threats
(again, always looking for the next check) and will be explored in more detail, and in a more
now has tremendous pressure against the step-by-step fashion, in the next chapter (on
Black king's position. The pressure may not queen forks).
result in immediate mate, but it produces
heavy casualties:

(a) If Black moves his king to h8, White has

3. Rxh7+, which requires the Black queen to
take the rook on h7 (the king can't move)—
and then the queen gets taken by White’s
knight: 4. NxQ. (If Black recaptures KxN on
h7, White has a queen fork: 5. Qh5+, which
wins the rook on e8 and leads to mate soon
after. This last kicker might be hard for you to
spot, because you have to see that by the fifth
move the White queen would have clear paths Dg090: Black to move
from d5 to h5 and from h5 to the rook on e8.
But just seeing that Black loses his queen is Dg090: Prospects for a knight fork for Black
enough for now. (White also can do at least as might seem remote in the position to the left,
well—maybe better—by playing 3. Nxh7, but but it turns out to be easily accomplished.
let that pass for now; it's more complicated..) Begin by thinking about the enemy king and
any pressure you can put on it. Ng4 is inter-
(b) If Black instead replies to Qxd5+ by mov- esting because it seals off f2 and (more to the
ing his king to f8, White has Nxh7+ and point) h2, leaving the White king trapped on
Black again must sacrifice his queen with the back rank just as it would be if there were
QxN to put out the fire. (If Black instead re- a wall of pawns in front of it. You look for the
plies to Nxh7+ by moving his king over to e7, follow up and see that Black would then be
White plays BxBc5+; now Black’s only legal ready to mate with Ra1+ (White would have
option is to interpose his queen on d6, losing the useless interposition Rd1, to which Black
it next move and getting mated soon after.) replies RxR#). Now of course after Black
plays Ng4 White has a move he can use to
There are some other possibilities, but White fend off the coming Ra1+; he plays Rd1, thus
does pretty well in all of them. White also preparing to meet Ra1 with RxR. What now
does nicely by starting with Qf3, but that's a for Black? Anytime your knight is in the pic-
tale for another time. ture and enemy pieces have moved, consider
forking possibilities. From g4 the knight
Some of those variations sketched a moment would be able to jump to f2 with check and
ago take a little time to see. The trick to them take the rook for free next move.
is to think relentlessly about what checks
White might play in response to each of The trick to the position is to carefully look
Black’s moves. not only for any checks but also for any ma-
ting threats you can create - not necessarily
because you expect them to lead to mate, but does move his king to h2, another dark
because you know they can create pressures square, Black can skip Rh1; instead he wins a
that have tactical payoffs. A search for mating rook with the knight fork Nf1+.
threats includes consideration of any move
like Ng4 that, while not giving check, traps (b) White’s other option in reply to 3. …Ne3
the enemy king in a tight space. Then you is to step his g3 pawn forward to g4, giving
figure out what your opponent would have to the king a flight square to the side. Now
do to defuse the threat, and ask whether any Black plays 4. …Rh1 and White has 5. Kg3.
forks or other tactical moves would be possi- Again, though, this puts White’s king onto a
ble on the board as it then would look. dark square and allows Black to win the rook
with the knight fork Nf1+.

This whole sequence also was available in the

previous position; if you saw it there, great.
The point is that here you would have to use
it. The shorter fork described in the previous
frame no longer works. In a sense, though, the
lesson of this position is the same as in the
prior one: think about checks and mate threats
you can create, not just on the board in front
of you but also on the board as it will look
after a check or two or after some other set of
Dg091: Black to move forcing moves. Here this means seeing 3.
…Ne3, which doesn’t give check but does
Dg091: This position closely resembles the threaten mate and so forces White to choose
last one; but here each side has an extra piece, between two moves that each lead him into a
and the one that matters is White’s bishop on fork. When your knight is hopping around as
c7. Now if Black tries the same beginning Black's does here, you especially want to
move discussed in the prior position—Ng4— think about forking possibilities at every turn;
White has a better way than Rd1 to fend off 3. …Ne3 not only creates a mate threat but
the threat of Ra1#. He can instead play Bb6, also puts the knight on a dark square along
preparing to meet Black's Ra1 with Bg1, with White’s rook, meaning that Black can
which would effectively block the check. So fork the rook if White’s king steps onto one of
Black needs another idea. its available dark squares as well—as it soon
The natural alternative to explore is an imme-
diate 1. …Ra1+, forcing White’s king to h2.
Black then looks for his next check and finds
2. …Ng4+, forcing the king up another square
to h3. Now watch this: Black plays 3.
…Ne3—not a check, but renewing the threat
of mate via Rh1 since the knight now seals off
g4 and keeps the White king trapped on the h
file. White somehow has to find an out for his
king. Moving it to h4 won’t do; that still
leaves no safe square after Black plays Rh1.
But White has two other choices.
Dg092: White to move
(a) The first is Kh2, readying the king to cap-
ture the rook if it moves to h1. But keep track Dg092: White has limited resources, but one
of the Black knight’s position: it has moved of them is a knight on e5 that can give check
twice and is on e3, a dark square. If White with Nxf3 or Nxg4. Those checks are of no
use now, but they're important to see because on the sixth rank, allowing it to reply to 1.
they mean the knight is poised to deliver a ...Qb6 with 2. RxQ.)
fork if one of Black’s pieces can be lured onto
another square that the knight is able to reach So the short of it is that starting with Rf6 wins
from f3 or g4. Another way to put the point is the game for White; Rxg5, which looks safer,
that any other squares the knight can reach loses it. To reiterate the crucial train of
from f3 or g4 may now be very safe for White thought, you might overlook the resource
to occupy with one of his other pieces (he Black has in 1. ...Qb6 by focusing too much
would be happy to see Black perform a cap- on how he can defend against mate, since
ture there and walk into a fork). Since White from that perspective Qh6 does seem to be his
only has one other piece, a rook, the natural only move. The key, again, is to ask not just
thing is to experiment with places it can go about defense but about what counterthreats
that take advantage of this forking potential. Black might try, and especially what checks
There is one such square: f6. If Black replies he can give (Qb6)—and then what further
to 1. Rf6 with QxR, he gets forked with Nxg4 checks (Qe3 or Qg1). That's the biggest dif-
and loses his queen. ference between working with checks and
working with mate threats: they both force
Well, so what if Black doesn’t play QxR? The your opponent's replies to some extent, but
first way to explore that question is by asking the mate threat gives him the option of seizing
what checks you next would have—and see- the initiative if he can find a way to do it; so
ing Rh6, which turns out to be mate. (Notice you must ask if he can.
how constrained Black’s king is.) So actually
Black does have to play 1. …QxR to avoid Going back to the original idea, of course you
the mate threat, and this results in the afore- might have seen it not only by thinking about
mentioned knight fork. your knight check but also by starting with
the stuckness of Black’s king; it has no safe
Once you understand White's mating idea escape from the h-file. This makes you think
here, it might occur to you to start instead of putting a rook onto the h-file, but it’s hard
with 1. Rxg5. This, too, puts White one move to get it there because Black has a queen posi-
away from mate on the h-file (with Rh5). tioned to defend against any such effort. Yet
When you look for ways Black could fend off for the sake of argument you go ahead and
the mate, you see Qh6—and realize that this imagine 1. Rf6, QxR—and then see that this
would arrange Black's king and queen to be puts Black’s king and queen both on dark
forked with Nxg4+. Indeed, this achieves the squares, enabling them to be forked with
knight fork without giving up a rook at the Nxg4+.
beginning, so at first blush it looks better than
the brazen Rf6. But there is a catch. Are you
sure Black would walk into the fork by reply-
ing to Rxg5 with Qh6? Rxg5 is a formidable 2.1.12. Strategic Implications.
threat, but it isn't a check, so Black has some
freedom in replying to it. Consider not only Your first question before making almost any
Qe8 but the possibility that Black can go on move is whether there is a tactical opportunity
the offensive with Qb6+. White is pretty for you on the board. If there isn't—as rou-
much forced to play his king to e1 (Kf1 re- tinely will be true—then your choice of move
sults in Qg1#). And then Black holds the ini- will be determined by strategic considera-
tiative with another check: Qe3+—and notice tions: attempts to secure positional advantages
that this is a queen fork of the rook now on that may ripen into tactical opportunities. One
g5, which White is about to lose. And then goal of strategic play is to create the types of
White has to worry about the Black f-pawn positions where tactics, such as the double
promoting, and will have to sacrifice his attacks we have studied, become possible. It
knight to stop it. (Starting with Rf6 avoids the is not the purpose of this site to advise you on
mess just described because it puts the rook effective strategy in any depth, but here are a
few elementary points on the subject, particu- So when you aren’t playing tactics, think
larly as it relates to the knight. about these two considerations: how you can
place your pieces to enlarge the amount of
A couple of general things first. It often has territory (“space”) they attack and control;
been observed that good positional play leads and how you can place your pieces and pawns
naturally—perhaps even mysteriously—to to confine your opponent’s army. This partly
chances for tactical wizardry. Why? The rea- is a matter of simple gestures like moving
sons have to do with what good positional your rooks onto open files, getting your
play accomplishes. The most important pur- knights and bishops off the back rank and out
pose of it is to expand the power and mobility where they can exert pressure down the
of your pieces—often the same thing, because board, and keeping a pawn or two in the cen-
the power of a piece largely is a function of ter so that your opponent can’t plant pieces
how many squares it attacks, which in turn there and so that your pieces there are pro-
will depend on its mobility. A rook on an tected. It’s also a matter of subtler things:
open file—i.e., a file containing no pawns—is exchanging pawns where the exchange will
very mobile and for that reason very power- create an open or half-open file for your rook
ful. Likewise a bishop on an open diagonal. (but perhaps not if it creates such files for his
So when you look at a piece and assess the rook); placing your pawns (and keeping his
quality of its position, consider how many pawns) on squares that block the paths of his
squares it controls. A fully deployed army of bishops; and thinking about how pawn moves
pieces will attack a large share of the squares and exchanges affect the lines open to other
on the board, especially including squares in pieces on both sides. These are general ideas
your opponent’s half of the board, many of to consider when you are picking a move
them two or three times. A second purpose of without any immediate tactical purpose.
positional play, of course, is the converse:
limiting the power and mobility of your op- Against this backdrop consider the knight in
ponent’s pieces. The fewer the squares he particular. The knight doesn't need open lines
attacks, the greater your ability to put your because it jumps rather than slides. But it still
own pieces there. needs help from your pawns to be effective.
The first thing to grasp is that the knight’s
These principles relate to tactics in obvious prospects for creating mischief tend to in-
ways. If your pieces have lots of room to crease as it moves up the board. A White
move and attack lots of squares, that means knight on f3 early in the game serves mostly a
they can range more boldly into parts of the defensive purpose, and a valuable one (though
board where they can cause trouble to your of course even this knight has offensive po-
opponent; it also means you are more likely to tential, as we occasionally have seen); the
be able to coordinate them, bringing two or same knight on, say, d4, d5, or d6 becomes a
three or four pieces to bear on a sector in terrible offensive threat. On d6 it strikes out at
ways that permit a combination: perhaps sac- eight squares, including six in your oppo-
rificing one, pinning with the other, and then nent’s half of the board; from any of the
capturing or forking with the third. Note that squares just listed the knight can attack the
an individual piece does not threaten much opponent’s back rank, and often his king, in
when it ranges into enemy territory by itself; one move. (More than 90% of the knight
as we have seen many times, a knight usually forks we have considered involved the king as
needs help from other pieces to set up a good one of the two targets.) So an important gen-
fork. Meanwhile if your opponent’s pieces are eral strategic aim is to get one of your knights
constricted or blocked in their movements, planted on a square on your fourth rank or
this does more than prevent them from caus- beyond. An especially good place to plant a
ing you trouble. It makes them prey to tactical knight is on a square near the center, since
strikes, because they give him fewer good from there it can make threats and influence
options in responding to checks, captures, and play in all sectors of the board. This is why
threats that you make. chess books often speak of the importance of
controlling the center, and of the battles that and no light-squared bishop. As a result, the
players wage to keep a pawn on the central knight probably will be impossible for Black
squares and to keep enemy pawns away from to dislodge without a sacrifice. White had to
there. The point is not necessarily that pawns fight to create this position; for an account of
in the center themselves threaten anything; it the battle, see Weeramantry’s first-rate book
is that the pawns control the squares that they Best Lessons of a Chess Coach.
can attack. When you have a pawn on e4 it
controls not e4 but d5 and f5. Enemy pieces The conditions of a good outpost square may
are unable to move to those squares; your seem numerous, but creating them is a suit-
pieces can. Having good central squares on able task to keep you busy when you aren’t
which you can plant your pieces is important. playing a tactic. Some of them take care of
That is where they are most powerful. themselves; others require work. Realize,
first, that every time you move a pawn for-
ward you weaken the squares it used to pro-
tect. If the pawns on either side of a square
have moved forward or are off the board, the
square becomes a hole where the other player
eventually can put his pieces, comfortable in
the knowledge that no pawn will be able to
chase them away. It is common for such holes
to be created inadvertently as each side ad-
vances and exchanges pawns. (In the diagram
here, Black allowed a hole to be created on d5
by moving his e-pawn to e5 and by allowing
Dg093: White to move his c-pawn to be removed.) This is a critical
consideration to bear in mind both offensively
Dg093: The key word is “plant.” It’s not and defensively. From an offensive stand-
much use to move your knight to a central point, realize that the most important conse-
square only to have it chased away by a pawn. quence of an exchange of pawns (or of any
You have to create a hospitable square - an sequence) sometimes can be to foul up your
“outpost square”—for your knight. A good opponent's pawn structure and leave holes
outpost (d5 in the diagram) is a square where behind. On the defensive side, think carefully
the knight cannot be harassed by pawns, be- about whether your pawn moves or exchanges
cause the enemy pawns on either side of its will result in holes that create outpost squares
file are gone, are blocked, or have advanced for your opponent’s knights and other pieces;
up to your knight’s rank or beyond it. Ideally place your pawns so that they guard (rather
the well-posted knight also is protected by than occupy) the attractive squares where his
one of your own pawns; that will prevent it knights might like to perch. A few pawns
from being chased away by one of your op- well-placed in this way can neutralize a
ponent’s rooks or his queen. The remaining knight quite thoroughly.
point is to make sure the knight is not threat-
ened by one of your opponent’s bishops or As for your opponent’s bishops, if one of
knights. The White knight in the diagram has them is off the board, then squares of the
all of the good properties just described. It is color the missing bishop used to patrol are
planted in the center of the board on d5, natural candidates for outposts. Likewise, if
where it has two ways to check the Black you see a promising outpost square it is worth
king. So long as the knight stays where it is it hunting down and exchanging away the en-
will be a constant forking threat, exerting a emy bishop that travels on squares of that
great influence over everything else that hap- color. If you then have to move a knight three
pens in the game. Notice the role of the pawns times to get it onto a good outpost square, it
here: White controls the knight’s square with may well be worth it. A knight often will not
the pawn on e4; Black has no pawn that can be a big factor in a game—and will not be
chase the knight away—and also no knight,
able to make the types of moves seen in this opponent’s pieces, and especially within strik-
chapter—unless it finds a suitable outpost; ing range of his king. Again, the order in
once it does find an outpost, it may dominate which the questions are asked is not particu-
the rest of the action. Even if you cannot sat- larly important, and will depend on the salient
isfy all of these criteria for an optimal outpost features of the position that suggest them-
square, taking care of one or two of them— selves to your eye; nevertheless, the ones
creating the characteristic pawn structure in most often important are these:
particular—may create an outpost that is suit-
able for quite a while. (If you can’t get rid of Do I have a potential fork? If so,
the bishop on the color of the outpost square,
for example, it may nevertheless be out of Is the square that I need protected? If so,
position to do anything about your knight.)
And naturally a safe outpost may be easier to Is the protecting piece constrained? Is it
create later in the game when there are fewer pinned, can it be pinned, or would it be
enemy pieces on the board. pinned after the sequence of moves I am con-
sidering? Can the protecting piece be cap-
tured, and then be replaced with a piece that is
less effective? Can I capture something that
2.1.13. Summary. the protecting piece guards, thus luring it
away from the forking square? If there is no
The natural tendency of the mind when look- immediate way to do this, are there any se-
ing at a chessboard, as elsewhere, is to jabber quences of exchanges that would have this
away with tangled thoughts. Effective chess effect?
requires a different style of thinking: system-
atic, thorough, and aggressive. You want to Can one of the pieces in the fork be captured
ask the right questions before you decide what and thus exchanged for a more suitable tar-
to do. There are, first, general questions that get?
must be considered routinely. As the great
Australian chess writer Cecil Purdy sug- If I go ahead and deliver the fork and let my
gested, the most basic are “what does he knight be captured, what then becomes possi-
threaten?” and “what is his reply if I make ble? What lines are opened, and what pins
this move?” Also, and relatedly, “if I do this, created? What checks could I then administer,
will I leave anything unprotected?” and “does and with what replies? Then what checks or
he have any checks that can cause me trou- forks would I have?
ble?” There is no need to blunder away a
piece by leaving it unguarded if you are care- If I don’t have a potential fork, can my knight
ful to interrogate the board this way as a mat- check the king? If so, can a valuable enemy
ter of course. piece be moved onto a square that would be
forked by my check? If my knight can't give
The principles laid out in this chapter might check, what checks with other pieces now are
likewise be summarized into a sort of check- available to me? What are the responses re-
list. The goal of studying patterns is to inter- quired by each of them? What checks could I
nalize all this and think with your eyes, rather then add, and with what responses? Do the
than in a verbal flow chart, but as you are positions resulting from any of these se-
getting started it helps to dwell on the ques- quences create chances for knight forks?
tions that are helpful to ask yourself, with or
without words, before deciding what move to Let this chapter change the way you think
make. about checks and captures. Very often they
are usefully given not for their own sake but
With respect to knight forks, the important because they require responses that change
questions generally arise when you have a the board and may then create good opportu-
knight in the same vicinity as some of your nities for double attacks or other tactical
strikes. So when you imagine making a cap- 2.2. The Queen Fork.
ture, do not just ask whether your opponent
can recapture and write off the idea if he can.
Imagine what would be possible after your 2.2.1 Introduction.
opponent recaptures that might not have been
possible before. By the same token a check Double attacks by the queen, like all others,
that easily can be evaded hardly is worthless have certain repeating characteristics that fol-
for that reason; the point of a check com- low from the value of the piece and the types
monly is to force the king to move or to force of moves it can make. Every chess player
other responses that eventually might make a knows to value the queen because of all the
fork or other tactic possible. This basic prin- different ways it can move. As students of
ciple—viewing checks and captures as ways tactics in general and double attacks in par-
of changing the look of the board to create ticular, however, we can see the queen’s value
other opportunities, rather than as ends in more precisely: purely as a matter of geome-
themselves—is the essence of tactical think- try, the queen can attack any two squares on
ing. the board at the same time; if you put the en-
emy king on one square and another enemy
piece on another square, there is always a
third square from which your queen can, in
principle, attack them both. (In the skeletal
diagram to the left, White’s queen forks
Black’s king and rook.) We say “in principle”
because often the needed square will be un-
reachable or protected, or the lines from the
square to the king and loose piece may be
blocked by other pieces. But it is worth re-
flecting anyway on this feature of the queen’s
power. It helps explain why the queen sur-
passes all other pieces as a tactical weapon.
As a double attacker it has no peer.

The queen’s immense usefulness also limits

its power in this respect: it generally is too
valuable to trade for any other enemy piece
on the board. Of course the queen sometimes
may be sacrificed to achieve checkmate; you
may exchange queens, if the other is more
dangerous than yours; and very occasionally
you may give up your queen in return for a
large number of your opponent’s other pieces.
But usually it isn't worthwhile to use your
queen to take an enemy piece that is pro-
tected. Either the protection has to be elimi-
nated or a different, loose target has to be
found. Notice the practical implication: usu-
ally at least one loose (i.e., unguarded) enemy
piece must be found or created for a queen
fork to be effective. This principle—the re-
quirement of a loose piece—does not apply to
knight forks, because if a knight attacks a
rook or queen it makes no difference whether
they are defended; you gain just by exchang-
ing, because knights are less valuable than square is blocked, or the line from the forking
those other pieces. square to one of the targets is blocked; the
king is not yet in position to be checked, but
We can go farther. When your queen inflicts a can be brought into position; there is not yet a
double attack, the enemy will have time to loose piece at the other end of the fork, but a
move one of the attacked pieces; if neither of piece there can be loosened or an already
them are his king, he usually will move loose piece can be forced there by threat or
whichever is unprotected. That means that to attraction. In the next sections we will study
be effective a double attack by the queen usu- how to identify and solve each of these prob-
ally has to attack either two unprotected lems. The solutions to most of them involve
pieces or an unprotected piece plus the king; exchanges.
for only then will there still be an unprotected
piece left behind for your queen to capture
after your opponent moves the more valued or
vulnerable target of the fork to safety. Attack- 2.2.2. Simple Cases: Forking the King and
ing the king here has all the advantages that it a Loose Piece.
did when we studied knight forks: the oppo-
nent must attend to the threat, usually by We start with simple positions where the
moving the king or interposing something, queen is one move away from inflicting a
thus leaving the other piece being forked to double attack. Even if you are new to queen
get taken. (An additional possibility we will forks you may be able to see the solutions to
consider, almost as good as attacking the many of these right away. It’s still worth
king, is threatening mate. This less often is an studying them methodically so that your grasp
issue for the knight than for the queen, be- of the principles involved will be clear when
cause the knight less easily can make such we move to more complicated cases. For
threats.) other readers double attacks with the queen
may be hard to spot at first; in the beginning
the board will look like a sea of pieces and
squares, with the queen coming out of no-
where to attack two targets. But in fact most
double attacks with the queen follow recog-
nizable patterns, and these simple positions
will enable you to nail down their fundamen-
tals before worrying about how to remove
obstacles to their execution.

In each position your task is to find a square

your queen can reach and from which it will
Dg094: Black to move (a) check the enemy king and (b) attack a
loose enemy knight, bishop, or rook. So you
Dg094: Here, then, are the key points to guide might begin by finding the undefended enemy
your hunting: the targets for a double attack pieces on the board. Think of this as a basic
by a queen usually include (a) the king— and ongoing part of your job during a game;
either by a check or by a mating threat, and every loose piece is a potential target you
(b) an unprotected knight, bishop, or rook. might be able to take for free with a double
You are looking for squares from which your attack.
queen can attack two of those targets, or
where it might be able to attack them after Next, look at any checks available to your
some preliminary maneuvers. From this we queen. Sometimes this will be easy, but more
can deduce a fairly manageable set of chal- spectacular double attacks often require you
lenges to making queen forks work: the fork- to notice checks possible from counterintui-
ing square is guarded; the line to the forking tive squares. It is good to be exhaustive.
Think of it this way: the queen can move in Dg096: First observation: White’s rook is
both directions on the rank where it sits, on unprotected. (So is his queen, but it’s a harder
the file where it sits, and on each of the two target to go after.) Second observation: in
diagonals where it sits. So it has a maximum Qd4, Black’s queen has a safe check that at-
of eight available paths. Be aware of its pos- tacks White's rook.
sible movements along each of them, asking
if any squares it can reach would provide it So there is the idea of the fork. But then you
with an open line to the enemy king—and also want to make sure White can't wriggle
whether any of those same squares also pro- out of it. His natural idea would be to try to
vide it with an open line to a loose enemy move the rook away and block the check all
piece. In practice you can disregard some in one move with Rf2. So suppose he does;
checks very rapidly, but as you are learning how do you figure out whether this reply
about forks you are better off erring on the spoils your idea? Ask the cardinal question:
side of being thorough. consider what your next check would be, and
with what consequences. Here it's Ra1, which
forces White's king to h2. His rook has been
left loose, so Black takes it: QxR.

Dg 095: White to move

Dg095: The example is as simple as the pat-

tern gets. Again, you are looking for two Dg 097: White to move
things: unprotected (“loose”) Black pieces,
and moves by White that check the Black Dg097: Look for unprotected Black pieces
king. The idea is to combine those ingredients and you find the rook at g5. Look for checks
to create a double attack. Black has one un- White can give with his queen and you find
protected piece: the knight. White has one two: Qd8 and Qxg7 (be careful not to over-
way to check the king: Qd8. That move also look a check just because the needed square is
attacks, and collects, the knight after Black occupied by an enemy piece). Qd8 is the win-
spends a move relocating his king to h7. ning move; it checks the king and also at-
tacks, and wins, the rook.

Dg096: Black to move

Dg098: Black to move
Dg098: What White pieces are unprotected? (b) Goal #2: be conscious at all times of any
Both rooks. What checks does Black have? checks you can give. Here there are two: Qd3
Might as well be thorough about it: QxQ, andQc2.
Qxe3, Qf3, Qg4, and Qxg2. Do any of those
also attack a loose rook? Yes, Qxg2; it wins (c) Goal #3: look for any ways a check can be
the rook on h1 after White moves his king. combined with an attack on a loose piece.
This example illustrates the importance of Here Qc2+ attacks and wins the bishop.
habitually noticing checks on squares like g2
where enemy men currently sit.

Dg101: Black to move

Dg099: Black to move Dg101: Search carefully for loose pieces and
checks. White has one piece that is unpro-
Dg099: You are looking for unprotected en- tected: the rook at a2. Black has three checks:
emy pieces and for checks, hoping to link Qe8, Qe6, and Qe4. You can match a check
them for profit. Scan for unprotected White with an attack on the rook with Qe6+; and e6
pieces and you find the knight (as well as the is unprotected. Black wins the rook.
queen, but again the knight makes a more
feasible target for a fork). Now look for
checks, and in particular for a match—a
check that also attacks the loose knight. Qf5+
or Qf1+ work (it’s important to see both,
since they may have different side conse-
quences), attacking both knight and king, and
winning the former after the latter moves.

Dg102: Black to move

Dg102: Does White have any loose pieces?

Yes, the rook on d7. How many checks does
Black have? Three: Qe2, Qd1, and Qb5 (ex-
amine the queen’s movements on every axis
open to it—vertical, horizontal, and diagonal).
You ask whether the queen can attack the
Dg100: White to move rook from any of those squares, and see that it
can do it from d1 or from b5; but of course at
Dg100: d1 the queen is unsafe, as it gets taken by the
(a) Goal #1: be aware of loose pieces on the rook. So Qb5+ is the winning move.
board at all times. The Black bishop at c6 fits
that description.
cially on an open board like this, whether
your opponent might be able to move his
loose piece out of danger and block the check
at the same time. Here White can do this with
Rh2. Does this scotch the idea for Black?

Dg103: White to move

Dg103: Black’s rook is unprotected and so

makes a fine target. Now you look for queen
checks available to White and find many on
this open board: Qd7, Qb7, Qb4, Qg5, Qc5,
Qe8, Qe5, and Qe2. But we are only inter- Dg105: Black to move
ested in checks that also attack the Black
rook, and from a square that the rook cannot No; he persists in looking for his next check
attack. Qe2+ works—a study in the impor- and sees that Qb1 would then be mate. (No-
tance of considering backward moves as well tice how cramped the White king’s position
as the more obvious attacking moves that becomes once the rook is on top of it; the
push your pieces toward your opponent’s end Black king at f3 is doing valuable work cut-
of the board. ting off flight squares. These cues suggest the
importance of looking carefully at the effect
of any attacks you can make against Black’s
king.) So if White is alert, Black’s queen fork
wins the rook on c2 after all. If White isn’t
alert, he is mated. It’s a study in the value of
always examining your next check and its
consequences, even if the result of the first
one you saw was disappointing.

2.2.3. Using the Side of the Board During

Dg104: White to move the Opening.
Dg104: Now a defensive study. White is Before examining some complications, let's
about to play BxN, which looks safe. But focus for a moment on one type of simple
consider the board as it would appear after the queen fork that often arises early in a game:
capture. Ask what White pieces would be left the move of a queen from its original position
loose and you find the bishop then at b3. Ask to the side of the board, where it may be able
what checks would Black have, and especially to check the enemy king and also attack a
any that also would attack the bishop, and you loose piece in the center. First we will look at
find Qb6+, which would win back the lost a couple of elementary examples to illustrate
piece after White moves his king. the idea; then we will examine what the pat-
tern can look like from a defensive standpoint
Dg105: Look for checks; look for loose en- just before it arises.
emy pieces; put them together with Qh7—a
queen fork that appears on its face to win the
rook at c2. But always you have to ask, espe-
Dg106: White to move Dg107: Black to move

Dg106: In this first example, examine the Study the pattern of open squares on the d and
protection each Black piece enjoys and notice c files here so that it is visually familiar to
that both rooks and (above all) the knight are you.
unguar-ded. Now ask what checks White’s
queen can administer and what else it can do Generally speaking, the most striking early
at the same time. You see that it can attack tipoff that a move like this may be possible is
Black's king by moving to a4, and that from the movement of pawns on the c or f files.
there it also attacks and wins the loose knight. Movement of the d and e pawns early in the
game is common; early movement of the c or
This is a classic pattern. A queen from its f pawns is a little less standard, and so should
starting position on the board often can check jump out at you as creating the possibility of
the enemy king by jumping to the a-file or the moves like we see here.
h-file, so long as the pawns blocking its
path—first its path to the side of the board,
and then its path to the enemy king—have
been moved out of the way. The key squares
to monitor are the c2/d7 pair and the e2/f7
pair for White; if either of those sets of
squares have been evacuated by their pawns,
the White queen may be able to check the
enemy king with one move and simultane-
ously attack a loose piece near the center.
Likewise the c7/d2 and e7/f2 pairs from
Black’s standpoint. When you see these pairs
of squares open up early while the enemy Dg108: Black to move
king still is in the center, think hard about any
moves or exchanges that would leave a piece Dg108: Here is a study in caution. White just
unprotected in the middle of the board, or that played the pawn capture d5xe6. Black must
would leave a piece there attacked once and respond; but how? The important thing to
protected once. notice is that White’s c and e pawns have
moved, creating open diagonals for his queen.
Dg107: Now the same idea from Black's side. If Black’s f-pawn moves (to play f7xe6), the
White has just made a capture that left his White queen suddenly will be able to check
knight loose in the middle of the board; he the Black king by moving to h5; if Black
thought the e5 square looked safe. But with plays Bxe6, White’s queen can check with
the d2 and c7 pawns both moved, see how Qa4. The reason this matters, of course, is that
Black’s queen can check the White king and Black has left a piece loose on a5. So Black
attack (and win) the loose knight with one mustn’t play f7xe6—as he did here, losing the
move: Qa5+. knight to the queen fork Qh5+. He is better
off using his d7 bishop to take the pawn on
e6; for then if White tries a queen fork on the White’s center and attacks Black’s knight,
other side—Qa4+—Black can both move his forcing it to move. But first you need to no-
knight to safety and block the check with tice that White’s d-pawn and Black’s c-pawn
Nc6. This is a common way that a good- have been moved—a normal state of affairs in
looking queen fork can be spoiled: the forked this opening. This means that Black’s queen
piece moves to block the check, and suddenly is one move away from being able to both
both threats are gone. check the White king and attack any White
pieces on the fifth rank, which White must
Another way to see this, naturally, would be therefore regard as a zone of great danger.
to start by keeping tabs on Black’s loose Playing e4-e5 thus is a mistake because it
pieces. Here he has a loose knight on the fifth leaves the pawn loose; it will be taken a move
rank. Loose pieces on the middle ranks often later by the double attack Qa5+. White should
are vulnerable to double attacks of this type instead protect the pawn with Nc3.
by the queen, especially early in the game; in
view of this vulnerability, Black should think
carefully before opening any fresh lines to his
own king. White can treat the situation as an
opportunity; in effect Black's f7 is subtly
pinned in place, since if it steps forward
White has a queen fork.

Incidentally, f7xe6 also would be a weak

move for Black on strategic grounds. It weak-
ens the pawn cover on his kingside, where he
might want to castle; and it creates a little
pawn island—an “isolated” pawn with no Dg110: White to move
fellow pawns on the files to either side of it—
that will have to be protected by a Black piece Dg110: More exercise in avoiding trouble.
from now on. It’s early. White has moved a pawn and one
of his bishops; Black has just made c7-c6 his
Dg109: Another study in due care. Black has second move. What should White play? The
just played Nf6, resulting in a common posi- important thing to notice is that now the
tion four moves into the open Sicilian de- White d-pawn and Black c-pawn both have
fense. White’s e-pawn now is under attack been moved. With Qa5+ the Black queen can
and is not protected. White has to do some- check the White king and also attack anything
thing; but what? on the fifth rank, such as White’s loose
bishop. White should protect the bishop or
block the queen’s path to the king with a
move like c2-c3. If White instead plays e2-e3
here, naturally Black replies Qa5+, winning a

Notice, by the way, that in the position as

diagrammed Black would not quite be ready
to win anything with Qa5; the move is a
queen fork, but White has a solid response in
Bd2 or Qd2, either of which both blocks the
check from a5 and gives protection to the
Dg109: White to move bishop. It is a regular part of considering a
fork to ask whether both prongs of it can be
One possibility is to push the pawn to e5. This blunted by a single move like one of these.
might seem attractive because it advances But if White plays his pawn to e3 those de-
fensive moves no longer work because he has Dg112: A last example of the defensive im-
obstructed the path from his bishop to the d2 plications of our current theme. Black just
square. played c5xd4. If White plays Nxd4, the natu-
ral recapture, his knight and bishop are poised
Study the visual appearance of the Black to be forked by Black’s e-pawn. (We will
queen’s path here—the elbow-like pattern of study this pattern closely in the chapter on
open black squares leading from its position pawn forks.) Perhaps White shouldn’t worry
to the White king. It's something you never about this, because if Black plays e7-e5,
want to overlook. You also can treat this as a White can just play Bxe5. Or can he? Again,
case study in the danger of leaving pieces on White should not play in the middle of this
the board that have no protection but that board without noting that White’s d-pawn and
seem safe because nothing is attacking them. Black’s c-pawn both have been moved. That
They are prey to forks. The sight of White's means anything White leaves on the fifth rank
bishop sitting out on g5 like this, bereft of at the end of an exchange is likely to get taken
protection, should make you edgy. in a fork by Black’s queen. Bxe5 indeed
would have that effect, losing the bishop
when Black plays Qa5+. So White would
have no good answer to the pawn fork e7-e5,
and dares not play Nxd4 in the first place.

Dg111: White to move

Dg111: Black has just played e7-e5. The

pawn he has left on e5 has no protection, so
White appears to be able to take it for free Dg113: Black to move
with his knight. Again, however, notice that
the move would leave the knight loose. No- Dg113: Play began 1. e4, e5; 2. Qh5. Now
tice also that the Black queen can give check what should Black do? White’s last move is
with Qa5 and at the same time can attack the not quite comparable to the forking moves the
fifth rank. So White must not leave any pieces queen made in the previous examples, be-
loose there; Nxe5 would lose the knight to cause here the queen does not have an open
Black's queen fork a move later. line from the h-file to the enemy king. But
danger lurks nevertheless. One way for Black
to chase away the queen is to play a pawn to
g6. The move fails to protect the e5 pawn and
is poor for that reason alone; but more impor-
tantly, ask the question White will be asking
himself after that move: what checks will he
have? Qxe5+—which also attacks and wins
the unprotected rook on h8, the line to which
would have been opened by Black’s last
move. A simple move to protect the pawn on
e5, such as d6 or Nc6, was indicated for
Dg112: White to move
Black’s bad second move is unlikely to occur Dg114: Examine the position using the ap-
in any actual game you play (nor is White's proach already established: look for ways to
second move, Qh5); this position is given just combine a check with an attack on an un-
to illustrate the damage a queen can do after it guarded enemy piece. Here you see that Qd5
has moved to the side of the board and then is gives check and also threatens the loose
given a chance to move to the center. We will knight on a5. But before you make the move
see a more involved example of this pattern you also have to ask whether—and how many
later in the chapter. times—the needed square is protected. In this
case it's guarded by the knight on f6. So: do
you have any pieces attacking the knight?
Yes, the bishop on g5. The idea behind the
2.2.4. Making the Forking Square Avail- resulting sequence is familiar from the chap-
able. ter on knight forks: 1. BxN, QxB; 2. Qd5+,
and White wins the knight.
Now that you are familiar with simple queen
forks, consider a first way they can become
complicated: the square you need—the fork-
ing square—might be protected. “Protected”
does not mean there is an enemy piece on the
square, of course; it means there is an enemy
piece attacking the square—perhaps defend-
ing a piece that sits on it, or else just protect-
ing it while it is empty. In either case, here
just as in the chapter on knight forks we will
see that an exchange often eliminates the
problem. Perhaps the defender itself can be
captured; perhaps the piece sitting on the Dg115: White to move
square can be captured, so that when its de-
fender recaptures the square is left unpro- Dg115: Black has one loose piece: the rook at
tected (with its former guardian now sitting h7. White has one check with the queen: Qg8,
on it); or perhaps the defender can be lured which also attacks the rook. It all looks fine
away by capturing another piece it protects or except that Black guards g8 with his knight.
making a threat (e.g., a check) that requires So press forward with the next question: Does
the guardian’s services elsewhere. Since the White have any pieces attacking the knight?
basic theme is familiar from the chapter on Yes, the bishop at c5 and the knight at f5.
knight forks, we will look more briefly at ex- (The two attackers are important; do you see
amples of how it works here. why?) Thus 1. BxN (or NxN), and after
Black's recapture, g8 is available for the
White queen to administer the fork.

The answer to the question about the two at-

tackers is that the double attack would be
foiled if Black could recapture on e7 with his
king; for then White no longer would be able
to give check with Qg8. But Black's king can't
make the recapture because whichever piece
White uses to capture on that square is still
protected by the piece he didn't use.

Dg114: White to move Dg116: Notice the checks Black has with his
queen: Qd1, Qe2, and Qxe5 (never overlook a
check just because the needed square already
is occupied by the enemy). Consider whether draw the knight onto e6 so that the queen can
any of those moves also attacks anything else capture it and execute the double attack at the
and see that Qxe5+ aims the queen at the same time. Is there any other piece the knight
loose rook on a1. The only hitch is that the e5 protects that could be taken? No. Well, when
bishop (the e5 square, really) is protected by a in doubt, play with other checks you can give
pawn. Black has nothing he can use to capture and their consequences. Consider Rg5+. No-
the pawn, so ask another question: if the tice that White’s queen greatly constrains the
bishop is taken by another piece and White ability of the Black king to flee such an at-
recaptures with the pawn, will e5 become tack; indeed, the king cannot be moved at all.
available? Black’s only option is Ng6, interposing his
knight between the rook and king. With the
knight thus budged from f8, the way is clear
for White to play Qe6+ and win the bishop.

It's hard to overstate the value of looking at

checks and their consequences.

Dg116: Black to move

Yes, it will. Black thus plays 1. …RxB+, 2.

f4xR, Qxe5+, and then takes the rook, gaining
a piece and a pawn.

In the previous two positions we captured the Dg118: White to move

guardian of the needed square; here we cap-
ture the occupant of the square and invite re- Dg118: Search for loose Black pieces. Only
capture. The result in either case is the loosen- the rook at a8 is unguarded—but there is an
ing of the square. open diagonal leading to it, making it a prom-
ising target. To exploit the situation you need
a way to attack the rook while also attacking
something else. The queen is the classic tool
for such a purpose, but here White's queen has
no checks to give. So move to another ques-
tion: what mating threats does White have? A
simple way to search for mating threats is by
looking for pieces that attack squares next to
the enemy king; adding an attack by the
queen against such a square often creates a
mating threat that is as good as a check for
purposes of creating a fork. Here White’s d3
Dg117: White to move bishop attacks h7, next to Black's king.
White’s queen also can attack h7 by moving
Dg117: This one is harder. A scan for loose to e4 or h5; so the queen’s move to either
pieces turns up the bishop on e2. White’s square threatens Black with mate on the next
queen can attack the bishop and check the move. Of these two moves the interesting one
Black king by moving to e6; but e6 is pro- is Qe4, since it also attacks the loose rook.
tected by the knight at f8. White can’t capture Naturally you first ask whether the needed
the knight, and there is no way for him to
square is available and find it is not: e4 is 2.2.5. Loosening the Target by Exchanging
guarded by Black’s knight. It.

The procedures for handling this sort of prob- The studies so far in this chapter all have in-
lem are well-known to us now. We start by volved spotting a double attack waiting to be
asking whether the knight can be eliminated executed—and perhaps then perfecting it by
with an exchange, and it can; 1. BxN, BxB loosening the forking square to make it avail-
leaves e4 unprotected, after which 2. Qe4 able for the queen. Now we move to another
wins the rook after Black spends a move pattern: the target piece—that is, the piece
fending off the mate threat. you intend to capture—does not start out
loose; you have to loosen it with an exchange.
We will study this way of creating and using Or it has to be moved onto a square where it
mate threats in more detail soon. is loose and can be forked. The thought proc-
ess typically starts with the observation that
your queen can check the enemy king; then,
seeing no loose pieces it can attack at the
same time, you get to work to create one.

Dg119: White to move

Dg119: The key to this position is that White

has a check he can give with his queen by
moving it to e5—and from there the queen Dg120: White to move
also is lined up against a pair of Black pieces
on the fifth rank. Obviously Qe5+ isn't yet Dg120: We’ll start with a simple method.
feasible because Black’s rook protects the Look for checks your queen can give that also
square, but the potential for a fork should at- attack another enemy piece. If the piece is
tract your attention and cause you to focus on protected, ask whether you can capture it with
getting rid of the rook. There are standard one of your other men; perhaps when its re-
tools available for the purpose. A first re- placement recaptures it will be left unpro-
course is to capture the nettlesome piece, but tected and will be a suitable target for a fork.
White can't; a second is to take something the Applying this approach to the position on the
rook protects, but this, too, is impossible. left, we find two queen checks to consider:
There remains a third option, however: Qe4 and Qf5. Ask whether you can attack
threaten the rook with something less valu- anything else with those moves and you see
able than itself so that it has to be moved that Qf5 threatens the Black bishop at d7. The
rather than just protected. A pawn is best for bishop is an unsuitable target; it can hit back,
such purposes, so White plays the simple g3- and anyway it is protected. So ask whether
g4. If the rook moves to safety, White has the White can take the bishop with another piece,
queen fork Qe5+, winning a piece. forcing an exchange that will replace the
bishop with a better target. He can: 1. RxB,
NxR leaves a loose piece where there used to
be a protected one. Now Qf5+ wins the
knight, netting two minor pieces for a rook.
Another way to see this would be to start by Dg122: White has one queen check: Qxg6.
examining captures you can make and their This also attacks the bishop on f5; but the
consequences. One capture for White to con- bishop is protected, and can capture on g6
sider is RxB. You see that it provokes NxR. anyway. So the next question is whether
The critical step is to think about how the White has any other pieces attacking the
board would look after this exchange, asking bishop that he might use to force an exchange
what would then be possible. Note that the which will leave g6 occupied by a more suit-
knight would be left loose and so would make able target. The answer is 1. RxB, RxR. Now
a great target for a double attack. Might it be 2. Qxg6+ takes the rook left on f5 and so nets
attacked with check? Yes, with Qf5+. a piece and a pawn. (Black was required to
use his rook to recapture, of course, because
the g6 pawn was pinned.)

Dg121: White to move

Dg121: What checks can White give with his Dg123: White to move
queen? Diagonal moves won't work because
the queen is on a dark square and the king is Dg123: What checks can White give with his
on a light one. But White does have a queen? Four: Qa4, Qb5, Qe6, and Qxf7. Two
check—his only one on the board—in Qxf5. of those—Qa4 and Qb5—also attack the
So now you ask whether the move also would black bishop. The bishop is protected, so
attack anything else and notice that the queen naturally you look for an exchange that would
would be pointed at the bishop on d7. The leave a loose piece on a6. White can go after
bishop isn't loose, but it's attacked once and the bishop with his rook; after 1. RxB, RxR,
protected once. Thus consider a preliminary White has a good loose target to pair with his
exchange that might leave behind a loose check of the king. He plays Qb5+ and takes
piece: if White plays 1. RxB, RxR, the result the rook, again netting a piece.
is a loose Black rook on d7. Now Qxf5+ forks
the rook and nets a piece and a pawn.

Dg124: White to move

Dg122: White to move Dg124: Here's a similar position. What checks

can White give with his queen? One: Qa4.
Does the move attack anything else? Yes, the
bishop on a6, but the target is protected— double attack—is guarded by both the queen
until White takes it with his rook, causing a and the b6 knight.
recapture by Black’s knight: 1. RxB, NxR.
Now Qa4+ safely takes the knight.

2.2.6. Loosening the Target by Disabling

its Guards.

Now let's consider other ways of loosening a

piece that you hope to fork: capturing its
guard or luring the guard away with an attack
on something else it protects.
Dg126: White to move

But pick one of those problems and play with

it. The rook can’t be exchanged for a loose
target as in the previous section, but ask
whether either of its guardians might be taken
and with what consequences. Indeed White’s
rook attacks the Black knight, so walk
through the capture, recapture, and resulting
position in your mind’s eye. If 1. RxN, then 1.
… QxR—and now the rook at d7 is loose and
the e8 square is left loose as well. White takes
Dg125: White to move the rook with the queen fork Qe8+, winning a
Dg125: White has two queen checks in the
example to the left: Qa3 and Qb4. Both Notice how a single capture and recapture can
moves also attack the bishop on a5, but the have a terrific impact on the board, here creat-
bishop is guarded by the knight at c6. There ing a double attack where none had seemed
are two natural ways to deal with this: capture possible. It shows why looking at exchanges
the bishop with another piece, so that the is another good place to start your interroga-
knight recaptures and is then a good target tion of a position. Here, for example, you
(our previous theme); or take out the knight might have begun with a look not at Qe8+ but
directly. White has nothing attacking the at RxN. The important point then is to follow
bishop, so an exchange of the sort considered up by imagining the board as it would look
in the previous section is not possible. But aftewards and re-asking routine questions:
does White have anything attacking the e.g., might a check then be combined with an
guard? Yes: 1. BxN, d7xB leaves the Black attack on loose piece?
bishop loose; Qa3+ then takes it.
P.S. The White king was inadvertently omit-
ted from this one; until the diagram gets fixed,
imagine it on h2!
Dg126: (Here is another of those occasional
diagrams in need of a repair; until the fix is Dg127: What checks can White give with his
made, pardon the omission of the White queen? Only Qg4. Having seen this, dig for
king!) White has a queen check to explore in some way to attack a loose Black piece at the
Qe8. It might prematurely be dismissed as same time.
impractical, since the Black queen guards e8
and the rook at d7—the possible target of the
can’t allow this. And since he is unable to
move his king, he has no choice but to take
out the pawn with Nxh6. White asks what
would then be possible. Returning to first
principles, he looks for any checks he would
be able to give and any forks he might inflict
in the process. This leads to Qf6+, winning
the loose knight.

Soon we will look more closely at uses of

mating threats to create queen forks, but the
Dg127: White to move basic principle is clear enough: a mate threat
that doesn't at all work to create mate may
The cluster of pieces at c8, d7, and e7 looks work wonderfuly in other ways—viz., to cre-
promising, but as yet contains no suitable ate a loose piece. In this case the point of the
targets; so ask what the effects of an exchange mate threat created with h5-h6 had nothing to
would be. Look in particular for any trouble do with actually achieving mate. The point
you can start that will leave a Black piece was to force Black to rearrange his pieces in a
loose at the end of it. 1. RxR, QxR leaves the way that would lead to new tactical shots. Try
c8 rook unprotected, and thus makes it a good thinking about mate threats in this way: as a
target that White can reach from g4. 2. Qg4+ means to an end other than mate.
wins the rook after Black moves his king.

2.2.7. Moving the Enemy King into Posi-


Now consider a scenario opposite to the one

we have been studying: you see a loose en-
emy piece you can attack, but not the other
ingredient of a classic queen fork: a check
you can give at the same time. You need to
make the king move someplace where it can
be attacked simultaneously with the loose
Dg128: White to move piece. The most natural way to do this is with
a preliminary check from a different piece or
Dg128: And now a last related idea. We have perhaps from the queen itself. The check
seen that a first principle of tactical play is the forces the king to move, and once it reaches
importance of inspecting checks you can give its new square a fork may follow. Another
and your opponent's responses. A second and way to move the king is by initiating an ex-
related principle is the importance of experi- change, rather than a check, that draws the
menting with any mating threats you can cre- king onto a square where it can then be at-
ate—most typically by directing a second tacked—or pushed around some more. The
piece at a square next to the enemy king that practical point: if you need to move the king,
you already attack once. Here is a simple ex- ask what checks you have and what the king
ample. White’s queen hovers near the Black protects that you might be able to capture; if
king. The situation is tense because White’s the answers to those questions help move the
knight is pinned, but White does have one king but not far enough, then ask them again.
obvious offensive possibility: h5-h6, where
his pawn then is positioned to provide cover
for Qg7# next move (it follows the formula:
the pawn adds an attack against a square al-
ready attacked once by White's queen). Black
Dg129: Black to move Dg130: White to move

Dg129: In this first example, White’s rook is Dg130: Black’s rook is loose, but there is no
loose; that is a starting point for analysis be- way for White’s queen to attack it and give
cause it gives you a target to focus on. Ideally check at the same time. So look at the checks
Black would like a move that attacks the rook White can give and consider their conse-
and gives check at the same time. Presently it quences. There are five such possibilities:
can't be done, so look for any checks that Qa8, Qe8, Qh7, Qh4, and Qh1. A couple of
might force the White king into a position them—Qa8 and Qh7—can be dismissed
where it could be attacked along with the without any real thought. But then there are
rook. It turns out that Black has just one such the others: (a) Qe8+ forces the king to h7; this
check to examine: Rd1. White is required to almost works because it then allows Qe7+,
answer with Kh2. Now reassess the resulting attacking king and rook. But of course Black
board, again asking whether Black can attack replies RxQ. (b) Qh4+ forces Kg8 but leaves
the king and the loose rook at the same time. White with no good follow-up; from h4 there
This time you find Qb8+, winning the rook. is no way to attack king and rook simultane-
ously. (c) Qh1+ also forces Kg8. But this time
The other route to the solution is to look first White does then have a move that attacks
at Rd1. When your rook has a clear path to king and rook at the same time: Qg1+, win-
the enemy king's rank, it's natural to consider ning the rook.
moving it there and to ask what the reply
would be. Here you see that White's king es-
capes to h2. The crucial thing is to keep press-
ing then, asking what your next checks might
be and whether any of them can be turned into

This position is a nice study either way you

look at it because the idea of a fork does not
particularly suggest itself at the outset; it is
not a case where there are visual clues indi-
cating that the fate of White's king and rook
are linked. Producing a crushing, game- Dg131: White to move
winning fork in two moves thus might seem
magical to the uninitiated. But the magic is Dg131: Black’s bishop is loose, so White’s
the residue of method. energies turn to ways it might be attacked
while also giving check. It can't be done from
the current position on the board; White’s
only check with the queen, 1. Qc8, doesn’t
attack the bishop. But it does push the king to
h7—and then might a double attack be possi-
ble? Keep your eye on the loose bishop,
which you are working to capture; and exam-
ine every check that would be available after
the king moves, looking for a double attack.
2. Qf5+ wins the bishop.

Notice the importance of not rushing off to

examine checks with other pieces, such as
White’s knight, in order to help arrange a
queen fork; sometimes the queen can do all
the work by itself, as it does here. (With
Black’s queen poised to give check, White
wouldn’t want to go forward with this se- Dg133: White to move
quence without making sure his own king will
be safe at the end of it; the fork will cause Dg133: It all starts with seeing a loose piece.
White's queen to be taken far away from its Here Black has left his rook loose, so it's a
king and leave it out of position to supply target and the focus of operations. White can
defense. But White would have a decent reply attack it with his queen but can’t give check at
to Black's Qg1, Qe1, or Qc1, so the coast is the same time, and the check that is available
clear for the fork.) to the queen—Qe8—won’t change that. Yet
the fork seems so close: Qd3 attacks the rook
and would attack the king if only it were on
h7. Look for checks by other White pieces
that might push the king around, and you find
just one: Rb8+, which forces the reply Kh7.
Qd3+ follows, of course, winning the rook.

Dg132: White to move

Dg132: Our drill used to be looking for

checks. Now it's looking for loose pieces. (In
practice you want to do both, of course.) Here
Black’s bishop is loose, so look for some way
to attack it and give check. The queen can’t Dg134: White to move
attack the bishop with any of its available
checks: Qf8, Qh8, Qe3, and Qxg6. But exam- Dg134: Are any of Black’s pieces loose? Yes,
ine the consequences of those moves and you the rook. White’s queen can attack it from d4
find that Qh8+ forces Kg5. Remember the (and also from d7, but that’s unsafe), but not
goal: to attack the loose bishop and give while giving check, and the checks Qc2, Qd3,
check. Would that be possible from the new and Qh6 all lose the queen. So look for ways
position on the board? Indeed: Qe5+ then to draw the Black king into harm’s way by
forks king and bishop and wins a piece. Ide- checking it with another piece. White’s rook
ally you want to see this in one visual motion. has a check in RxB. If Black replies KxR,
Imagine checking the king with your queen then reconsider White’s attack on the loose
from h8, and see the king move to g5 in your rook—still the target. Now Qd4+ has become
mind’s eye; then see it aligned with the a working fork that wins back a rook and
bishop, enabling you to play Qe5+. leaves White up a piece.
nerable position, and find 1. BxB+, KxB.
Now Qd4+ forks and wins the knight. Since
White's move gives check, Black never has
time to carry out the knight fork he had been

This problem illustrates the importance of not

panicking when threatened with a knight fork.
It also is a reminder of why knight forks
against two non-kings often are so much less
effective than knight forks that give check.
Dg135: White to move Here White doesn’t have to move his king,
and so has time to mount a fresh threat of his
Dg135: Again Black has left a rook loose. own.
White’s queen has no way to attack it and
give check—yet; its two possible checks at a2
and d5 both are met by Black with QxQ. But
look for other checks on the board and see
that the White rook has two: Rd8 and Rxg7.
Examine each of them. 1. Rd8+ goes nowhere
decisive after 1. …RxR, 2. QxR+, Kf7. But
now ask what the board looks like after the
other possibility—1. Rxg7. Black replies
KxR. With the king moved, reexamine the
checks that would then be possible; see that
Qd7+ has been turned into a working fork that
wins the rook. Dg137: White to move

Dg137: Look for loose Black pieces and you

find both the bishop at b4 and the bishop at
g4. White’s queen has no checks that can be
paired with attacks on either bishop, so he
looks to his other pieces to help. The goal is a
check that will draw the king out where it can
be attacked at the same time as one of the
bishops. The natural check to try first is one
using White’s bishop, since that also vacates
c4 and makes it available for the queen.
Hence 1. Bxf7+; and then if Black replies
Dg136: White to move KxB, White has 2. Qc4+. This attacks the
king and both Black bishops, winning one of
Dg136: White is unhappy to see that Black them and gaining a pawn.
has hit him with a knight fork from e3. But
since the fork doesn't include a check, Dg138: This position is almost the same as
White’s response isn't tightly forced. He can the previous one but with an additional ex-
think about taking the offensive rather than change required at the beginning: 1. Rxf7,
attempting damage control. So ask one by RxR; 2. BxR+, KxB; and now Qc4+. Study
one: are any of Black’s pieces loose? Yes: the this example to see how the same basic
knight at e3 that is inflicting the fork. This is thought process still leads to the solution: the
the target. White’s queen can attack it, but not loose Black bishops are the targets;
while giving check; the Black king is hidden
behind the bishop at g7. So look for other
checks that might force the king into a vul-
Dg138: White to move Dg140: White to move

if White’s queen can move to c4 and give Dg140: Black has a loose bishop at c6.
check, it will win a piece. Bxf7 is ineffective White’s queen has one safe, plausible way to
here because of the rook on f8, so you keep attack it: Qc2. If the Black king could be
looking for more artillery you can bring to drawn onto g6, a fork of king and bishop
bear and find that the exchange Rxf7, RxR would be possible. White’s bishop can help
makes possible the bishop check and sacrifice by taking the pawn at g6, giving check and
that in turn leads to the queen fork. taking a piece that only Black’s king protects.
If Black replies KxB, the board is now ar-
ranged for a queen fork with Qc2+, gaining
White a pawn.

2.2.8. Clearing the Path to the Forking


Now we move to a slightly higher level of

difficulty. These are positions where there is a
square from which your queen might attack
Dg139: White to move the enemy king and a loose piece, but where
another piece or two blocks the way: blocking
Dg139: Are any of Black’s pieces loose? Yes, the queen’s path to the forking square, or its
the rook at a8; so that's our target. White’s path from the forking square to one of the
queen has two ways to attack it: Qe4 and Qf3. targets. Once you see such a situation, the
Neither move yet inflicts a check, but perhaps methods for resolving it are straightforward
the Black king can be drawn into position to enough; but often it can be hard to see in the
be forked on f7 or h7 with an initial check or first place.
capture by another of White’s pieces. White
plays Rxf7. If Black replies KxR, then Qf3+ Our first pattern consists of cases where the
wins the a8 rook. This is a good example of queen's path to the forking square is blocked.
using a capture rather than a check to attract You discover this situation by looking for the
the king onto a square where it can be at- ingredients for a double attack and finding a
tacked; White forces the king to move by tak- square from which it can be made; then you
ing something that only it protects. consider whether the queen’s path to the
square can be cleared with a threat or ex-
Dg141: White to move Dg142: White to move

Dg141: In the position, start by looking for Dg142: Again, start by looking for the ingre-
the raw elements of a fork. Why, look: with dients of a double attack. Black has a loose
Qa8, White can fork Black's king and his a7 rook at a8: a good target if you can take ad-
pawn. How splendid! Yet perhaps we can do vantage of it. So ask whether you can check
better. First, does Black have any loose his king and attack the rook at the same time.
pieces? Yes, the rook at d7. Ideally you want Well, you can't; but are there any squares
to check his king and attack the rook at the from which it could be done, whether or not
same time. Are there squares from which the they now are within reach? Yes: in principle
queen could do that? Sure: e6 or e8 (in princi- c6 would work, though at present it's pro-
ple d5 and f7 would work, too, but the rook tected and the queen's path to it is blocked.
protects those so they aren't worth worrying Look to see what stands in the way; ask what
about—and then there's c8, which is inacces- methods you have for clearing the queen’s
sible). So if the Black bishop on e5 were out path through—and especially what ex-
of the way, White would have a good double changes. The natural answer is 1. RxN, d7xR,
attack. Can the bishop be captured by some- 2. Qxc6+, recapturing the rook and winning a
thing other than the queen? No, and anyway piece and a pawn. Notice how the single blow
after any capture Black would recapture with (RxN) takes care of both of White's problems
a pawn on e5 and the White queen’s path still at once, getting his own rook out of the way
would be blocked. You want the e-file and forcing Black to replace the protected
cleared, so instead try threatening the bishop occupant of c6 with a loose pawn.
with a pawn that it will have to flee. White
thus plays f3-f4. If Black moves the bishop
out of the way to d6, Qe8+ wins the rook. (In
the alternative, of course, Black might choose
just to forfeit the bishop; his best reply to f3-
f4 is Qh5, allowing him to reply to f4xB with

The hard part here is seeing the potential for a

fork in the first place, since at the outset your
queen has no promising checks. The trick is to
go with the clues that are available: see the
loose piece, and realize there is a square from Dg143: Black to move
which you could give check—i.e., a forking
square—on e8. Dg143: The drill repeats. Start by looking for
the ingredients of a double attack and work
backwards. Does White have any loose
pieces? Yes, a bishop at b5 and knight at e5.
The question is whether Black can check
White's king and attack one of those targets at
the same time. The path from a5 to the king is
clear, and from a5 the queen also could attack
the bishop or knight (this is a classic pattern
in the opening; we studied it earlier in the
chapter). So you've found a forking square,
and now the question is how to get the queen
to a5. Black’s own pawn is in the way at c7.
Try to clear it in a threatening manner that
will require a response from White and give
him no time to defend against the coming
fork. The simple move c7-c6 attacks the
bishop, forcing it to move; wherever it goes, Dg145: Black to move
Qa5+ then wins the loose knight.
Dg145: The analysis here sounds almost the
same as in the previous frame. Start by look-
ing for the ingredients of a double attack and
work backwards. If you ask whether White
has any loose pieces, the answer again is “not
quite" — but the b2 rook is attacked once and
protected once, and by another White piece
(the queen) rather than a pawn. This means
the rook is underdefended; if Black can attack
the rook and give check, the rook will be lost.
But all this presupposes that Black can get his
queen onto a square where it can check
Dg144: Black to move White's king and attack the b2 rook at the
same time—i.e., d4. Only Black’s own knight
Dg144: Strictly speaking White doesn’t have already on d4 stands in the way. The trick is
any pieces that are loose, but his bishop at h6 to vacate the square in a threatening way that
is attacked once and protected only once, and requires a time-consuming response from
by another White piece (the queen) rather White; so you look for captures and threats
than a pawn. In a sense that makes the bishop the knight can make. Nxf3+ forks White's
as good as a loose piece: if Black can attack king and rook and requires the reply g2xN.
the bishop and give check, the bishop will be Qd4+ then wins the rook at b2 as described
lost; it will be attacked twice and protected above.
just once, so BxB will result (White wouldn’t
be able to recapture with QxB, because then A general point to take away from this posi-
Black would play QxQ). But all this assumes tion and the previous one is that when you
Black can get his queen onto a square where it examine your opponent’s pieces, you want to
can give check and attack the bishop at the note not just whether they’re protected but
same time—viz., h4. Black’s own knight at f6 how they’re protected and whether they also
stands in the way. The trick is to vacate the are also under attack from other directions
knight from the square in a way that forces a already. It's worth studying these two cases
time-consuming response from White; so look until it's clear that the targets (the rook on b2
for captures the knight can make. 1. …Nxe4 here, and the bishop on h6 in the previous
attacks White’s queen and can’t be ignored. position) are vulnerable to forks in the same
White responds with 2. f3xN or 2. NxN, NxN; general way that loose enemy pieces would
3. f3xN. Either way, Qh4+ then wins the be.
bishop and Black nets a pawn with the se-
Dg146: Black to move Dg147: White to move

Dg146: First, does White have any loose Dg147: White is behind in material and needs
pieces? Yes, the bishop at d3 (and also the to make something happen. Step 1: Experi-
rook at a1, but it’s inaccessible for now). You ment with checks, including a brazen gesture
would like to check White’s king and attack such as Rd7, which invites Black to play
the bishop at the same time, so look for a BxR. Step 2: Consider the board as it would
square from which the queen might do it. You look afterwards; ask what lines would have
see that e3 fits the bill, and that the queen been opened or closed as a result and what
could reach it directly if Black’s own pawn at new checks you might then have. Here
e5 weren’t in the way. So ask whether the e5 Black’s bishop would have evacuated the
pawn can vacate its square in a hostile manner sixth rank, permitting White to play the
that requires a time-consuming reply. Yes: 1. check, and fork, Qf6+ (taking protection from
…e5xd4; 2. exd4 (or cxd4), Qe3+ wins the the pawn on e5). The fork doesn’t quite work
bishop. You likewise might have seen this by because Black’s rooks are connected and
imagining the consequences of pawn trades guard one another. So persist and ask what
available to you in the center. You see that the move Black would make in reply to Qf6+. His
first round of captures just described leaves king would be forced to e8. Then Qxh8+
the queen with a clear path to a new check— works for White after all; it's made safe be-
and fork—at e3. cause the connection between Black’s rooks
has been broken by his king. More impor-
The likely payoff from seeing all this, of tantly, it’s a skewer that wins Black’s other
course, is the gain of just a pawn; for if your rook: Black has to move his king back to the
opponent sees the fork coming — and you seventh rank, and now White has QxRa8—
should assume he will—he will not recapture and a won game. Notice how goading Black’s
after exd4. bishop onto d7 removed d7 as a flight square
for Black’s king—and thus forced Black to
By the way, it also might have occurred to respond to 2. Qf6 with Ke8.
you to start with e5xf4 (instead of taking d4);
this likewise moves Black's pawn out of the So you have a winning idea if Black responds
way. What's wrong with it? The trouble is that to 1. Rd7 with BxR. But what if he doesn’t?
this time White can reply Nxf4, and then his Consider whether he has anything better. His
knight suddenly protects the bishop on d3 that only alternative would be to move his king to
you had counted on as a target: it's no longer f8 or e8. Think about what your next check
loose! would look like either way. If he plays Kf8,
you have QxRa8—mate. If he instead tries
Ke8, 2. QxRa8+ no longer works because
Black has KxR. That’s okay, though; instead
you play 2. QxBe6+, forcing Kf8; then 3.
Qf7#. So Black is required to play 1. …BxR
in the first place to avoid mate. (These trains
of thought are worth reinforcing until they are The most important general skill here is the
clear.) ability to see “jump checks”: moves that
would give check if some piece (perhaps an
Stepping back and looking at the original po- enemy piece, or perhaps one of your own)
sition, observe the open diagonals leading to weren’t in the way. These are important to see
Black’s rooks. See how they invite the idea of generally, and they are especially important if
a queen fork, especially with the king on a you have found a loose enemy piece. For then
center file and especially with a friendly pawn you turn all your efforts to looking for a way
in the center poised to protect your queen. to attack the loose piece and give check at the
The basic forking possibility (Qf6) is a little same time, and you don’t want to overlook a
elusive at first because the rook on h8 doesn't check just because there is a piece that would
become loose, and thus doesn't become a need to be gotten out of the way before it can
good target, until later. You might think like work. The best way to find checks like this is
this: if I could get my queen onto f6, it would to try just aiming pieces at the enemy king. If
fork Black's king and rook, and the rook pieces of your own are in the way, look for
would become loose if the king were forced time-consuming threats you can make by
by the check to step back onto the eighth moving them. If your opponent’s pieces are in
rank. So if only I could get my queen over to the way, try to force them off their squares
f6...) with threats or by taking pieces they protect.

The other lesson to take away is the value of

considering bold moves like Rd7+. The move
looks counterintuitive because it loses a rook
on the spot and you already are behind in ma-
terial. But this won’t stop you from experi-
menting with the move so long as you re-
member that the frequent purpose of such
checks is just to force changes on the board
that make forks or other tactics possible. That
probably is the easiest way to see the solution
here: not by spotting the forking idea from the
outset, but by experimenting with checks you Dg148: White to move
can give and then with new checks that be-
come possible after your opponent's replies. Dg148: In this first example, look first for any
This leads you to Rd7 as a first move and then loose enemy pieces. Here Black’s rook is
Qf6—at which point the fork comes into loose at d7. Can White’s queen attack it and
view. give check at the same time? No, not yet. But
if the queen moved to g4 it would be aimed at
both king and rook; thus only the Black pawn
at g7 prevents a successful fork. So ask
2.2.9. Clearing Paths to the Targets. whether White can draw that pawn out of the
way by taking something it protects. The g7
Now consider another variation on our theme: pawn guards the bishop at f6, which White
a potential fork is frustrated by a piece lying can take with his rook. So 1. RxB, g7xR; 2.
between the forking square and one of the Qg4+ gets the Black rook and wins a piece.
targets—the king or the loose piece. Again
much of our attention will be devoted to the Dg149: Almost the same. This time it is
process of noticing such situations; once they Black's turn to move, so first look for any
are found, standard tools—threats and ex- loose White pieces and find the rook at a2.
changes—often can be used to resolve them. Now ask whether Black’s queen can attack it
and give check at the same time.
check the king and attack a loose piece else-
where at the same time.

Dg149: Black to move

No, not yet; but if the queen moved to d5 is

would be aimed at both king and rook. Only Dg151: Black to move
the White pawn at g2 prevents this from being
a successful fork. So ask whether that pawn Dg151: A search for checks for Black turns
can be drawn out of the way by capturing up Qb1; a search for loose White pieces turns
something it protects. It protects the knight at up the bishop on b7. Qb1+ would indeed be a
h3, which Black can take with his rook. So 1. winning queen fork if the pawn on b3 weren’t
. . . RxN; 2. g2xR, Qd5+ wins a piece. in the way. So now the position becomes
easy: to move a pawn, take something it pro-
tects. Black plays RxN; White replies b3xR;
and Black then has Qb1+, taking the bishop
next move and netting two pieces for a rook.
Anytime you have long open lines available
to your queen, inspect them carefully for op-
portunities like this.

Dg150: White to move

Dg150: Are any Black pieces loose? Yes, the

knight at d7. Can White’s queen attack it and
deliver check at the same time? No, but Qg4
would aim the queen at both a loose piece and
the king; it would be a winning fork but for
the pawn at g7. White’s goal therefore is to Dg152: Black to move
draw that pawn out of the way. Ask whether
the pawn is protecting anything that White Dg152: It might look for all the world like
can attack, and you are led to 1. Bxh6; now if Black has nothing here; the lines to White’s
1. ...g7xB, then 2. Qg4+ takes the knight, king appear cluttered and inaccessible. The
gaining a pawn and wrecking the Black king’s trick is to notice that White’s rook on a1 is
pawn cover. loose, and then that Black’s queen is one
move from being able to attack it with Qg7.
These first three examples all are basically the (The open long diagonal should be conspicu-
same, of course; they involve creating holes ous.) The question is whether the attack on
in the king’s pawn cover so that the queen can the rook can be paired with a check to create a
fork. A line from g7 to White’s king would
need to be opened, so study the obstacles on Not directly, no, but from b4 the queen is
that line—the little cluster of White bishop aimed at the knight on h4, which is loose and
and Black pawn, with a White pawn on f5. therefore a target. The problem is the White
This cries out for a pawn capture that clears pawn on f4. Can it be eliminated?
both blockages out of the way: g6xf5—and
now White has to either move the bishop or Best would be to take something the f4 pawn
lose it. If he moves it, Black has Qg7+, win- protects, but that’s not going to work here; in
ning the rook. reply to Nxe5, White has QxN+. So toy with
more direct threats to see what they do. Thus
At first the g-file in this position looks impas- g6-g5 is natural to consider, and then you see
sible because of the two men that lie on it; that it does more than threaten the White
Black’s pawn capture is a very useful maneu- pawn. It attacks the knight, too, which has no
ver, worth a long look, as it creates an unex- safe place to flee—an occupational hazard of
pected open line in a hurry. a knight placed on the edge of the board. So
White is about to lose the knight unless he
Notice that this position is structurally similar takes the Black pawn that threatens it; yet if
to the previous one. In each, you start by see- he plays f4xg5 he loses the knight anyway to
ing that your queen is one move from being Black’s queen fork Qb4+. (White also can
able to attack either the enemy king or a loose reply to Black’s initial pawn push with Qd4,
enemy piece (half a fork); and you see that the preparing Qxa4. Or White can play 2. Nxf5,
queen also would be aimed at the other half of QxN. The material outcome is the same.)
the fork—whichever of those two pieces (the
king or the loose piece) it wouldn’t be attack- There is a matter of move order to consider.
ing directly. The hindrance in both positions Black could start with Qb4+, forcing Kc1.
was that one of the lines the queen needed Then comes g6-g5, and again White must lose
was blocked; the challenge both times was to the knight (in effect White’s f-pawn is now
get rid of the blockader; the solution in each pinned). Why not do it this way? Well, you
case was to start with a capture of something could. But now if White plays 2. Nxf5, Black
the blockader guards, forcing it to evacuate can’t recapture with his queen, for it is over
the needed line and leave it open. on b4. Instead Black has to recapture with his
e6 pawn, which in turn gives White a passed
Dg153: Black’s queen has a check that must pawn on e5 that he can push to e6, threatening
be seen (queen checks always must at least be to promote it eventually and menacing
seen!): Qb4. When you examine a queen Black’s knight right away. Black can deal
check you are looking in part for forking with this (one possibility is Qe7, pinning the
ideas; the question is whether Qb4 attacks pawn; another is Qc5, attacking White’s
anything else. queen), but starting with g6-g5 avoids these

Dg153: Black to move

Dg154: White to move
Dg154: Black has a loose rook at d7: a target. rook, isolated deep in White’s territory and
White’s queen can attack it by moving to h3, near the White queen, is a perfect target. Is
g4, or f5 (you attack rooks diagonally, and there a square White’s queen can reach that
bishops horizontally or vertically), but none would enable it to attack Black’s king and
of these moves attacks anything else at the rook at the same time? If the queen were on
same time; the path to the king is blocked by g4 it would be aimed at both targets. But its
the pawns in front of it. So consider what path to the king would be blocked by the
other resources White can bring to bear— pawn at g7, and of course the White knight
what forcing moves, and with what results. already occupies g4. What White needs is a
Experiment with the knight. It has an easy way for the knight to vacate g4 with a capture
fork with the check Nf6+; Black has to reply or threat that requires Black to respond, and a
g7xN, not only to avoid losing the rook but to way to remove the pawn at g7. Nxf6 and Nh6
avoid being mated with Qxh7. But then a line suggest themselves as ways to achieve both
to the king has been opened; now Qg4+ at- objectives at once. Nxf6 doesn’t quite do it
tacks both king and rook, winning the ex- because Black can reply QxN without moving
change. the g7 pawn. But Nh6+ forks queen and king
and so requires g7xN in response—after
which Qg4+ forks and takes the Black rook.

If you need to move an enemy pawn, whether

in front of its king or elsewhere, the most
common method is to take something it pro-
tects. But another technique to remember,
shown here, is to imagine sticking one of your
pieces en prise to the pawn and consider
whether it makes an interesting threat that
your opponent would feel obliged to extin-
guish, thus leaving you with an open line on
which to play a tactic. Or maybe he will de-
cide that he can't afford to extinguish the
threat by making a capture because its side Dg156: White to move
effects are too severe (i.e., the queen fork)—
so instead he has to let you push your first Dg156: This position illustrates a very useful
threat forward. principle. White has a queen aimed at h7. If
the queen had cover from another White piece
aimed at the same square, the result would be
a mating threat. A classic way to so aim a
second piece is by putting a bishop behind the
queen, as with 1. Bd3. There is then a stan-
dard way for Black to address such a threat:
he moves his g-pawn forward to g6, interrupt-
ing the queen’s path (and, in this case, threat-
ening it to boot). But the point of the mate
threat wasn’t to mate. It was to force this dis-
ruption of the pawn cover in front of Black’s
king. When pawns step forward as Black’s g-
Dg155: White to move pawn does here, lines to the king often are
opened that can then be used for other tactical
Dg155: This is similar to the previous frame. purposes—such as forks. In this case notice
What Black pieces are loose? The knight at a5 that Black has a loose bishop on d6; after the
and the rook at e2. It would be hard to fashion little sequence just sketched White takes the
a double attack against the knight, but the
bishop with 2. Qf6+, Rg7 (interposing to any checks Black can play—and not just the
block the check); 3. QxB. first check he can give, but strings of checks.
You need to satisfy yourself that you can es-
The pattern here is important to master: lining cape whatever mess he can create. Imagine
up pieces against the enemy king’s position so him replying to RxN with Qa2+. This forces
he is forced to move his pawns forward, then your king to c2; then comes Black’s next
exploiting the line he has opened with a fork check, b4-b3+. This time your king escapes to
or other tactic. d1, and Black is out of checks. He can play
Qxb2, but since that’s not a check it leaves
you with a move to take your rook on g4 out
of the danger it still faces from the pawn on

That last point is important. The purpose of

looking at Black’s counterthreats is partly to
make sure you aren’t leaving yourself open to
a mating trap, but it’s also to make sure that
Black can’t play any forcing moves (checks,
mate threats, or captures) that will force you
to move your queen; for remember that while
Dg157: White to move all this action is going on in the near left cor-
ner of the board, your rook still has been left
Dg157: See the loose rook on c8. See the ex- en prise to Black’s pawn on h5. The only
posed enemy king on h8. See that in one thing preventing your rook from being taken
move your own queen nearly can get into po- is the threat of the queen fork discussed in the
sition to attack both targets with Qh4. Neither first paragraph. If Black can find a way to
part of the attack works yet; the point is just distract your queen, your rook will be a goner
to recognize this as a common general pattern because Black will be able to take it without
for a queen fork: the check against the ex- consequence. But he can’t.
posed king down the side of the board, more
or less, and the accompanying diagonal attack There is yet one more possibility you would
against a loose piece on the back rank. The need to consider: Black can reply to Rxg4
question is whether it can be made effective. with b4-b3. Again, you are looking for major
The pawn on h5 blocks the queen’s path on counterthreats Black could launch; this counts
the h-file; and the fork would have to be exe- as one of them because once the pawn has
cuted from g4 anyway in order to reach the moved to b3 it is ready to support mate by the
loose rook (or else the rook would have to be queen on a2. The pawn move also uncovers
moved). Well, getting the pawn out of the the threat of QxQ next move. Black might be
way is no great challenge; just take what it thinking that this will force White to make the
protects with 1. RxN. After h5xR, White can preemptive strike 2. QxQ; then after Black
work with checks and thus is in the driver’s replies RxQ, the queens have been traded and
seat: 2. Qh4+, forcing Black’s king to the g- Black is ready to launch a mate threat of his
file; then 3. Qxg4+ (the fork) and 4. QxR. own with Rc8-a8, preparing Ra1#. But this
needn’t scare you, for White has another
So White gets a pawn, a knight, a rook for a move to play in the middle of that sequence.
rook—if Black bites by recapturing after If 2. QxQ, RxQ, then White goes with 3. Rc1-
White starts with RxN. He probably won’t, h1. This pins the pawn on h5, so now White’s
which is fine; it leaves you with a piece. But rook at g4 is safe; more to the point, with
you also have to make sure that he doesn’t rooks on both the g and h-files White sud-
have any killer threats of his own to play in- denly is ready to mate with Rxh5. Indeed,
stead, and at this point the position becomes Black cannot escape that result.
more demanding than at first appears. Look at
This position is worth a good look as a study loose piece on the fourth or fifth rank: the
in anticipating your opponent's counterplay. queen at least would be aimed at both pieces,
The reason the issue needs such close consid- with its path to the king blocked by the knight
eration here is that White's king is so exposed. at c6 and its path to the loose knight at e4
It's next to an open file on which Black has a blocked by its own pawn at d4. So White
queen and rook, and its only flight square (c2) looks for ways to get rid of those blockages,
is perilously close to being sealed off by preferably at the same time. He starts by mov-
Black's b-pawn. This means that White has to ing the obstruction he can control (his own d4
be very careful not to end up mated or other- pawn), and using it to threaten the obstruction
wise burned by operations against his king's controlled by the enemy. Thus d4-d5 attacks
position. It can happen at any time—even in the knight and forces it to move out of the
the middle of a tactical sequence White initi- way. Now Qa4+ wins the knight at e4.
ates elsewhere on the board.

2.2.10. More Complicated Cases.

Now let's try some cases where there is more

than one complication to address. Here we
will start to see some problems where none of
the ingredients of a fork is obviously in place
at the beginning. This makes spotting the po-
tential for a double attack harder. Instead of
looking for obvious tip-offs like loose pieces Dg159: Black to move
the queen can attack or available checks, we
have to use a little more imagination; we look Dg159: White has a loose bishop at a4 (and
for familiar visual patterns and we examine also two loose rooks which are less accessi-
checks, captures, and threats, searching for ble). Is there a square from which Black's
signs that a fork is coming into view. queen would be aimed at both the bishop and
White's king? Hmm: h4 is an interesting start,
as from there the queen could give check and
would win the bishop if the e4 pawn weren’t
in the way—always assuming Black's queen
could get to h4 past the knight at f6. So Black
begins playing with ways to move both the
knight and the e4 pawn out of the way. The
natural method is to use the knight to attack
something the e4 pawn protects—like the d5
pawn. 1. … Nxd5; and then if White replies
e4xN, 2. ...Qh4+ wins the bishop.

Dg158: White to move You might just as well have seen this by play-
ing with any captures you can make and ask-
Dg158: In the position pictured here, ask ing what would be possible on the board as it
whether Black has any loose pieces; you thus would look afterwards. This leads you to
are led to the knight at e4. White can’t attack Nxd5; after imagining the recapture e4xN,
it and give check at the same time; indeed, you look for any new checks you would be
White has no checks at all. But if White’s able to give and see the fork Qh4+.
queen moved to a4 it would be close to exe-
cuting the classic pattern seen at the begin-
ning of the chapter, attacking the king and a
after that exchange, and re-ask the important
questions: what checks now would be avail-
able, and what loose pieces? There are two
checks: Qd3 and Qc2. The interesting one is
Qd3, because it also attacks the Black bishop
on d5. The bishop is protected once, by
Black’s queen. But notice that now it would
be attacked twice, by the White queen and
rook. So Qd3+ wins the bishop after Black’s
king retreats.

Dg160: Black to move

Dg160: White has no loose pieces and

Black’s queen has no checks. But we examine
the consequences of every check as a matter
of course, and here Black has two of them:
NxB and Nf3. Nf3+ leads nowhere; White
plays g2xN. But what happens after NxB+?
White has to play QxN to recover his piece.
That little exchange would mean a significant
change in the position: Black’s knight and
White’s bishop both would be gone, and Dg162: White to move
White’s queen would be moved to e2. So re-
think what would then be possible, noting any Dg162: Here is a more challenging one. Black
lines that would have been opened, any has no loose pieces except his rooks, which
checks they would make possible, and any are tucked out of danger, and White has no
White pieces that would have been left loose. checks to give. The most likely way to see the
Black would be able to deliver a check with chance for a double attack here is to experi-
Qd4, and at the same time attack White’s ment with captures and their consequences.
newly loosened knight at c3: a perfect double There is just one possible capture here for
attack, winning a piece. White: Nxd5, which more or less requires
Black to play c6xN. Then how would the
board look? What checks would then be
available? Answer: Qb5, which would attack
the bishop at b4 as well as the king. The
bishop is protected by Black's queen. But it
also would already be attacked once by the
White bishop at d2 (remember that when you
think of Nxd5, you imagine the knight gone
from its current square and see the open lines
that result). So the Black bishop would be as
good as loose: after Black moves his king in
response to Qb5+, White plays BxB and
Dg161: White to move Black dares not recapture.

Dg161: White has no queen checks and Black The tricky part of this example is seeing the
has no loose pieces (except his queen, which potential for a double attack at all, since none
generally is not a suitable target for a queen of the ingredients are visible at the start. But
fork). Again, though, it is our practice to ex- even from the beginning you might notice a
amine every check of any sort, and here basic pattern that is familiar by now: by mov-
White has one: BxN, which leads to KxB. All ing to b5 the queen would be aimed at the
right; now examine the board as it would look
enemy king and would have Black’s bishop here, but the geometry of Black’s position
just underneath it. Double attacks by the should be provocative: QxR aims the queen at
queen often look like that. It doesn’t quite Black’s king and also attacks the bishop at a5,
work yet because the pawn at c6 blocks the which would then (i.e., with the rook cap-
check and protects the needed square, and tured) be left loose. So see if you can move
because the bishop is protected once and not your knight away from e6 with a threat. The
yet attacked at all. Still, if you can see the first type of threat to consider is a check.
rough outlines of the familiar pattern, you can Ng5+ is no good, as it gives Black a way to
then play with various forcing moves on the both extinguish the check, save the rook, and
board, like Nxd5, with a view to making the guard the targeted piece (the bishop on a5) in
queen fork effective. one stroke: RxN.

You also might see the tactical idea here by So now consider your other knight check: 1.
first observing that Nxd5 is a knight fork of Nd8+, in reply to which Black has to either
Black’s queen and bishop. Since the Black take the knight with his queen or else move
bishop would also then be attacked once by his king. If he plays 1. …QxN, White has 2.
White’s bishop, the knight fork is a real threat QxR, forking Black’s king and bishop and
to Black and must be met with c6xN. This winning a rook with the sequence. If Black
then becomes a problem similar to the knight instead moves his king to f8 or g8 in reply to
forks we already studied where you imagine the knight check, the results for him are even
playing the attack knowing that it will fail worse. If the king goes to g8, it still gets
when your knight gets taken; you ask what checked by QxR and mate follows soon for
would then be possible, and particularly what White; if Black moves his king instead to f8,
checks you would have available. Here that then after QxR White can hold off on QxB
inspection would turn up a check by the and instead move his own rook over to the h-
queen which also attacks the bishop for the file and prepare to drop it to h8, creating
second time. havoc there (likely in the form of a skewer).

For now, though, it is enough to have seen the

power of the initial move Nd8. The challenge
of this problem, a bit like the challenge of the
previous one, is that White ends up taking a
piece that was not loose at the start by inflict-
ing a check that also was not available at the
start. There are various ways you might have
spotted the idea: by recognizing the relation-
ship between Black’s bishop and king, which
looks like a lot of other double attacks we
have seen; or by examining every check from
Dg163: White to move the outset (standard practice), finding Nd8+,
and seeing that afterwards QxR wins the
Dg163: Here is another trickier position. bishop; or by seeing that even if the bishop at
Black has two loose pieces: the rook and the a5 is not loose, it would become loose as soon
knight. The knight is out of reach, but what as White played QxR with only the white
about the rook? It almost seems that it could knight standing in the way of a good fork.
be taken for free by the queen right now; then You look for ways the knight can evacuate its
Black plays QxN, attacking White’s queen, square with check, and there you have it.
and White has the exchange to show for his
trouble. But remain calm and see if you can Dg164: Again we begin with no possible
find something that is better still; don't as- checks for White and no loose Black pieces
sume the first good move you find is the best (except the queen, which makes a bad target,
one possible. The queen has no good checks
and bishop, against which nothing is possi- more exposed to brutal tactical shots. It shows
ble). how vulnerable a position can be when pieces
are protected by other pieces (rather than
pawns). A series of captures can force the
pieces all over the board and rather abruptly
leave one or two of them loose.

2.2.11. Using Mate Threats.

Often the queen can attack a loose piece while

at the same time not checking the enemy king
but threatening mate. The enemy has to ad-
Dg164: White to move dress the mating threat, so the loose piece is
lost just as it would be if the queen had deliv-
Still, we do have some familiar geometry: ered a check. To master this pattern it is im-
Qd5 aims the queen at both the Black king portant to understand a couple of principles
and the rook at a8. Neither side of the attack about mating threats and how to spot them. It
yet works, but the basic pattern is something usually takes two pieces to create a mating
to keep in mind. The next step is to experi- threat (or mate itself, of course). The threat of
ment with checks (White has none) and with a back rank mate is a prominent exception,
captures. The obvious spot for an exchange is but for now just think about a classic set of
f5, where Black has a knight that White at- cases that does follow the pattern: your queen
tacks. How many times is it attacked, and is poised to attack a square next to the enemy
how many times protected? Twice and twice. king that already is attacked by one of your
So White imagines 1. NxN, BxN; 2. BxB, other pieces. At the same time your queen
RxB. Here is the key moment in the exercise: attacks a loose piece. Your opponent has to
imagine the board after those exchanges, and defuse the mate threat just as he would a
re-ask what checks and loose pieces are avail- check, giving you a move to take down the
able. Now Qd5 looks quite different. It’s a target.
check (the only one White then has), and the
rook at a8 would be loose and so would be
lost to the double attack. This problem is a
good illustration of two things: how much a
couple of exchanges that don’t seem to do
much by themselves can change the board,
and the importance of asking simple questions
about how the board will look after such ex-
changes are complete.

Take the opportunity of this position to think, Dg165:White to move

too, about the coordination of Black’s
pieces—and White’s disruption of it. In the Dg165: The diagram illustrates the idea in
diagram Black’s pieces protect each other skeletal form. White has a bishop trained on
nicely: his rooks guard each other, and his g7. His queen can threaten mate by jumping
bishop guards both knights and prevents to d4 or g4 because either move creates the
White from giving check on d5. With a cou- possibility of Qxg7#. Those mate threats will
ple of exchanges White ruins this coordina- make a fine anchor for a queen fork of any
tion, suddenly leaving Black’s position much loose pieces Black leaves within range of d4
or g4. The White X’s in the diagram thus in- section: White’s bishop is attacking a square
dicate squares that White indirectly controls next to the Black king (h7).
because of the possible fork. (He already con-
trols d7 with his queen; but imagine a pawn
on d2 and the control again becomes indirect.)
If Black leaves a loose piece on any of them
(or even a piece defended once but also at-
tacked once by another White piece), White
may be able to win it by playing one of his
two mate threats, Qd4 or Qg4. Black will
have to respond to the mate threat by stepping
forward one of the pawns in front of his king
or in some other way, and then White will
win the target. In addition to taking Black
pieces left unguarded on those squares, White Dg166: White to move
also can carry out other operations there (ex-
changes, or putting his own pieces onto the If White’s queen moves in front of the bishop
squares) with more confidence than might on the same diagonal―i.e., to g6―then
appear to the untrained eye. White threatens mate on the next move:
Qh7#. So Black will have to address the threat
In real play the details of what White can do created by Qg6 by moving his king or bring-
here naturally will depend on which piece ing over his queen. Meanwhile Qg6 also at-
Black has left on those vulnerable squares, tacks the loose knight. So after Black makes
and of course on other pieces on the board one of the replies just described, White plays
that will complicate the picture. The e6 square QxN and takes the knight for free. Think of
is defended by a pawn; White wouldn’t be this as a double attack on the knight and on
able to use his queen to attack a bishop on a the h7 square.
diagonal; etc. Or suppose Black has a loose
bishop on b4 and White forks it with Qd4 or
Qg4. Black can save his piece by playing the
bishop back to f8; this both removes it from
danger and adds a defender to g7, thus defus-
ing the mate threat. But these are details. The
important thing for now is just to realize that
in this humble-looking formation White has a
strong forking threat waiting to be unleashed,
that it isn't related to any check he can give,
and that it gives him a measure of control
over many squares that appear not to be under
attack. Dg167: White to move

Dg166: Inspect the position for loose pieces Dg167: Here is the same principle in slightly
and you find the Black knight on c6. White different form. What Black pieces are loose?
has no safe way to check the king and attack The knight at a7 and bishop on d7. White
the knight at the same time (Qe8 would do it, can’t give check and attack either piece at the
of course, but Black’s queen guards the same time, so he asks whether he might attack
square). So next White looks for a way to one of them while creating a mate threat. He
attack the knight while threatening mate. looks for pieces he has trained on squares
Look for another White piece trained on a next to the king and sees that the bishop at a1
square near the king. Here we have a classic is aimed at h8. If White’s queen were to land
example that we will see several times in this on h8 the game would be over. So White just
needs a square from which his queen can (a)
attack one of Black's loose pieces, and (b) the same diagonal as the bishop—for exam-
attack the h8 square. Qd4, winning the knight, ple, by playing Qd4. But that doesn’t attack
is the answer. the rook, and anyway d4 is protected by
White’s queen.

Dg168: White to move

Dg169: Black to move
Dg168: By now this one should be easy. Be-
gin with the usual reconnaissance of enemy So Black looks for other squares his queen
pieces, looking for any that are unguarded or could reach that would allow it to attack b2.
underdefended; here it turns up the Black He finds Qb4, which threatens mate by Qxb2
knight on e3. White can’t give check and at- and also threatens, and wins, the loose rook at
tack the knight at the same time, so he looks e1. The point: there is more than one way for
for the makings of a mate threat: another the queen to attack a mating square already
piece that attacks a square next to the king. being hit by a bishop.
Once more his bishop answers the purpose; it
attacks g7. So he looks for ways his queen
might attack g7—the mating square—and the
loose Black knight. He finds Qd4, which wins
the piece.

As these first examples all show, a bishop

aimed at squares next to the enemy king can
be a valuable resource, as it creates a fertile
climate for double attacks with the queen. The
mating threats it supports may be simple to
defuse (here the simple pawn move f6 puts
out the fire for Black), but of course the pur- Dg170: White to move
pose of the exercise never was to deliver
mate. It was to take loose enemy material. Dg170: What Black pieces are loose? All of
them. White has no way to check the Black
Dg169: What White pieces are loose? The king and attack any of those pieces at the
rook at e1 (as well as the queen, but focus on same time, so he looks for a mating threat; he
the rook for the usual reasons). Black has no asks what other pieces he has attacking
safe way to check the White king and attack squares near the king. This time his bishop
the rook at the same time, so he looks for a isn't helpful, but his knight is: it attacks g7. If
mating threat. Here as before the bishop is the White’s queen were to land on that square, it
answer: it attacks the b2 square (and pawn) would be mate. So White looks to move his
adjacent to the king. Black would mate if his queen to a square that would allow it to attack
queen were to land on that square. If you fol- g7 and also attack one of the loose Black
lowed the pattern of the previous problems, pieces. This leads to Qg5, which wins the
you might look for a way to put the queen on
rook after Black makes a move to protect it in the usual way: look for loose enemy
against Qxg7#. pieces, checks, and mate threats. Black’s rook
is loose; follow this observation by looking
for a line the queen could use to attack it
while also being aimed at the king. Qh4 sug-
gests itself. The move seems to fail because
the h6 pawn blocks your queen’s path to the
Black king’s position. But there is more than
one way for a fork to “work”; if the move
doesn’t give check, it still is enough if it
threatens mate. Examine the Black king’s
position and you see that White’s rook on the
open g-file has the king trapped on the side of
the board, and you see as well that the king
Dg171: White to move has no defenders. The conclusion: Qxh6
would be mate. So after White’s 1. Qh4,
Dg171: The only loose Black piece is the Black doesn't dare move his rook; he has to
bishop at a1. White can’t attack it and give let it go. (Then again, no matter what Black
check at the same time, so he looks for mating does, White can force mate soon enough
threats. His knight attacks f7 and h7; the at- anyway. If Black plays 1. ...Kh7, for example,
tack on f7 is not powerful because Black pro- then White plays QxR and can't be stopped
tects the square with his rook as well as his from playing Qg8#; Black can only delay the
king, but h7 is only protected by Black’s king. move with useless gestures like Ne8 or
It follows that if White’s queen attacks h7 it Qxb3+.)
will threaten mate; the h7 square thus can be
treated a target in the same way a loose piece
or the king itself would be. So the question
for White is whether his queen can attack the
Black bishop and the h7 square at the same
time. It can; Qh1 threatens mate and so wins
the bishop. The long backward move of the
queen here is counterintuitive, and illustrates
the importance of methodically looking at
every way the queen can attack the vulnerable
points in the enemy position.

Dg173: White to move

Dg173: Black just played Bc5, adding a sec-

ond attacker against f2 along with his knight;
maybe he meant to threaten a knight fork
there. To see why this was a mistake, look at
the board from White’s standpoint and ask
some standard questions: What mating threat
can White make? His bishop attacks f7, a
square next to the king and unprotected by
any piece other than the king; so White asks
Dg172:White to move whether his queen can add to the pressure
against that square and attack any loose Black
Dg172: White’s best move obviously is the pieces at the same time. The answers are yes
free QxN. Or is it? This is a sterling example and yes: if White plays Qd5, he now has a
of the importance of looking beyond a good mating threat; and he also attacks the loose
move to make sure there isn’t a better one. Do
Black knight at e4. The knight can jump out what lines would then be open, and with what
of the way and help guard f7 with Ng5, but tactical opportunities then available to you or
it's no escape. White already has g5 under your opponent. One warning sign is that at the
attack twice. end of the sequence White’s knight on e5,
while not attacked, would be loose. Another is
So after 1. Qd5 Black is obliged to lose mate- that Black’s bishop already attacks f2, adja-
rial. He can play the check Bxf2+, so that his cent to White’s king. Nothing except the king
bishop takes a pawn with it on the way down; protects that square (a common state of affairs
but then White calmly plays Ke2, and now in the opening; this is why f2 and f7 often are
two of Black's pieces are under attack—his e4 considered defensive weak spots early in a
knight by White’s queen, and his bishop by game); so if Black’s queen were able to attack
White’s king. He will lose the knight next f2 as well, White suddenly would be con-
move. fronted with a mating threat. The threat could
be averted with various moves, but they
Lesson: leaving loose pieces around is dan- would take time, and meanwhile Black would
gerous business. Before putting his bishop on be able to take any loose piece his queen also
c5, Black should have noticed (a) that he al- attacked. None of this looks like an immedi-
ready had a loose piece in the middle of the ate worry in the position diagrammed here,
board, which always is cause for concern; and but after the exchange of pawns and the re-
(b) that White had a bishop attacking f7, capture Nxe5 by White, the stage would be
which is cause for additional concern since it set for Qd4, threatening mate at f2 and attack-
sets up a mating threat if White can aim his ing, and winning, the then-loose knight on e5.
queen at the square as well. Black would have
been better off making a move to address one
of those threats. Best is d7-d6, since then after
1. Qd5, Be6; 2. QxN, d6-d5 Black wins back
his piece with a pawn fork. (We will look at
pawn forks more closely in the later chapter
dedicated to them.)

Dg175: Black to move

Dg175: Here's yet another example of how

the prospect of queen forks can figure into
defensive thinking. The two sides are fighting
for control of the center and especially of the
e4 square. Black sees that the White pawn
Dg174: White to move there is protected twice but that he attacks it
three times. In his mind’s eye he plays 1.
Dg174: Let’s continue to look at the same …Nxe4, 2. BxN, RxB; 3. RxR, QxR. But
idea from a defensive standpoint. Here White before executing this sequence he must ask
sees that Black’s pawn on e5 is defended once the sorts of questions we have been discuss-
(by the pawn on d6) and attacked twice (by ing. First, would this liquidation of the posi-
the pawn on f4 and the knight on f3). So he is tion leave any open lines at the end that would
tempted to play 1. f4xe5; then if 1. …d6xe5, allow the enemy queen to attack the Black
2. Nxe5. But please don’t play an exchange king? Here Qg5 would be available to White,
like this until you have imagined what the and from there the queen would join the f5
board would look like afterwards—including knight in attacking g7—threatening mate.
Indeed, that move already is available. What of such a resource is that you can create a
prevents it from working is the absence of a mate threat by adding an attack by the queen
second target: the queen would be aimed at against the same square, as with Qg3; so the
the rook on d8, but its path would be blocked key question is whether you can make another
and the rook would be guarded. But after the threat with that move at the same time. You
exchanges Black imagines on e5, these obsta- see that from g3 your queen would be aimed
cles would be gone. Indeed, the resulting po- at the rook on b8. The position thus has the
sition would be one you saw about five makings of a classic queen fork, but there are
frames ago: it leaves a fork for White. So the a few problems in the way of its execution.
sequence Black imagines must not be played; The rook is guarded by the knight on d7; the
after it is complete it results in 4. Qg5, Kf8; 5. queen's path to the rook would be blocked by
QxR+, Qe8; 6. QxN. White's own rook on f4; and the forking
square (g3) is guarded by the knight on e4.
This example shows how a few precautionary Yet none of these difficulties need detain you
questions, asked as a matter of course before for long. 1. BxNd7, RxB is a simple exchange
entering into a series of exchanges, can save a that leaves the Black rook loose; 2. RxN, QxR
lot of trouble at the end. You carefully imag- loosens the forking square and opens the
ine how the board would look after the series, needed line; 3. Qg3 calls for Black to reply
including any new open lines and loose Bf8 to stop the mate threat; and then 4. QxR
pieces; and you then ask the same questions nets a piece. (4. …Qxg2 gets back a pawn for
about that resulting position that you ask Black.)
about positions in front of you: would either
side have any loose pieces that could be at- Now consider a few “why not” questions:
tacked while giving check or threatening
mate? If this seems like a demanding position, (a) Why not start with RxNe4 rather than
note again that the mate threat Qg5 is avail- BxNd7? The answer is that 1. RxN allows
able to White from the beginning. Both sides Black to recapture QxR and get his queen
should be conscious of this. It means that if onto e4—a powerful posting—too early in the
White’s queen were able to attack anything sequence. For then when you play 2. BxN,
loose from g5 he would have a working fork, Black doesn’t recapture RxB; he plays Qxg2.
so any sequences Black attempts have to be Now the forking square you want no longer is
inspected to make sure they don’t produce available (Black’s queen guards it). You have
that outcome. The moral: if your opponent is won two minor pieces for a rook and a pawn,
a move away from being able to create a mate and if you aren’t careful Black is about to take
threat, no matter how ineffectual, keep a care- another pawn with Rxe3. (Qxh3 also is avail-
ful eye on it as the potential basis of a fork. able to him.) You can win back a pawn with
3. Rxd5, QxR; 4. Qg3 (at last you get to play
the queen fork after all), f7-f6; 5. QxR+. But
the overall sequence isn’t what you had in
mind. Better to start capturing in the back of
Black’s board with BxN, and save the invita-
tion to Black’s queen until you’re ready to
take strong hold of the initiative next move
with a mate threat.

(b) That explanation also shows why, after

White starts with 1. BxN, Black recaptures
with his rook rather than his queen: he’s bet-
Dg176: White to move ter off keeping his queen where it can get to
the center of the board after White’s next
Dg176: Where is the idea this time? You have move, RxN. And it shows why Black uses his
a bishop trained on g7. One important effect queen to avenge that last White capture rather
than his d5 pawn: the queen is powerfully about, depending on what White does with his
positioned on e4 and in this case can grab the bishop....
pawn on g2 after White does his damage.
(a) Suppose first that White replies to Black's
(c) Finally, when White plays 3. Qg3, why Qh5 by moving his bishop back to b7. We
should Black fend off the mate threat with had been imagining that Black now would
Bf8? Why not, say, f7-f6 or g7-g6? Answer: play Qh3 (and we found that it didn't work).
those pawn moves would allow White to give But what other checks are possible for Black
check when he plays QxR+, thus forcing instead of that one? There is Qd5 (no good—
Black to waste a move saving his king when loses the queen to White's bishop), and there
he should be playing Qxg2. is Bh3. In response to Bh3 White would have
to play Kg1 or Kh1. You now ask what comes
next, and answer the question by examining
every check. There would be just one:
Qd1―which leads to victory! How? After
White plays RxQ, Black plays c2xR, promot-
ing the pawn to a queen and delivering

(b) Now let's imagine that after Black starts

with Qh5, White moves his bishop to f3
(rather than b7). The initial idea for Black is
the same: give check with Bh3. And again
Dg177: Black to move White is forced to move his king to the back
rank. But this time the follow-up for Black is
Dg177: A demanding position. Inspect for a little different. He can't play his queen to d1,
unguarded White pieces and you find the at least not in one move, because White's
bishop (and the queen, but focus on the bishop on f3 is in the way. So instead Black
bishop). Black has no safe way to check the does it in two moves. He starts with QxB.
White king and attack the loose bishop at the This gives him a bishop on h3 and a queen on
same time. Does Black have the makings of f3, with the obvious threat of mate via Qg2
any mate threats—any pieces already attack- next move. White's only way to prolong mat-
ing squares next to the king? Yes: the bishop ters is Qb7, so that his queen protects g2. But
at d7 attacks h3. Next: can Black’s queen at- now Black uses the same little sequence we
tack h3 and the loose bishop at the same time? saw in variation (a) above. He plays Qd1+;
Yes, with Qh5. and when White replies RxQ, Black recap-
tures with his pawn, promotes it to a queen,
That's the idea. But now Black plays through and mates.
this sequence mentally and finds a problem. If
White replies by moving his bishop (say, to Of course the point of seeing all this isn't that
b7 or f3), Black does not quite have mate with any of it is likely to happen. You simply are
Qh3+. Here, unlike in the previous problems, establishing that if White tries to save his
the king has a flight square at g1 or h1, and bishop after Black starts with Qh5, White
then there is no way for Black’s queen to ends up mated. So White's best play after
reach it while maintaining protection from his Qh5—and the thing you should expect him to
own bishop. do—is to abandon the bishop (e.g., with f2-f3,
which at least prevents Black's forthcoming
Still, the basic idea looks promising, so keep capture from also giving check).
at it. Where a combination doesn’t quite
work, experiment with move order and, above This is a harder problem than the previous
all, be thorough in examining every check and ones, but it can be cracked with persistence in
mate threat. We have two sequences to think examining every check and mate threat, and
then every check that would be possible in the a target as a loose piece. Consider it semi-
subsequent position. And of course you must loose; it's underdefended. The purpose of this
be alert to the possibility of promoting the batch of studies is to drive home the idea that
pawn on c2. A pawn on the penultimate rank pieces in such a position make fine targets.
(or indeed any passed pawn) always is a Naturally you could have started your thought
mighty tactical factor; it requires close atten- process here by noticing that the bishop was
tion after every adjustment to the board. vulnerable in this way and looking for ways
to attack it while simultaneously threatening

2.2.12. Mate Threats with Attacks on Un-

derdefended Pieces.

Dg179: White to move

Dg179: The pattern repeats. You are cultivat-

Dg178: White to move ing awareness of your mating threats, and for
White the pattern here is familiar: the bishop
Dg178: The type of fork we now are studying at d3 attacks h7; if White’s queen also were to
has two ingredients: a loose piece and a mat- attack h7, he would threaten mate and Black
ing threat. You can begin your search by would have to spend a move fending it off. So
looking for either ingredient, and here looking White plays Qe4, also attacking the bishop on
for the second one—the mating threat—might e7. Strictly speaking the bishop isn’t loose,
be easier. There are no loose Black pieces, but but it's attacked once (by White’s rook, then
White does have a mate threat of the type now sitting behind his queen) and protected once
familiar to us: his bishop attacks h7; his queen (by Black’s queen). So White wins a piece.
would threaten mate if it were aimed the same
way, and this can be accomplished with the
easy Qe4. That move also attacks the d4
bishop; too bad it isn’t loose. Or is it? Actu-
ally it's attacked once (by the White knight)
and protected once (by the Black queen). So if
White attacks the bishop again with his
queen, he wins it. Normally, of course, Black
would respond to such a threat by moving the
bishop or increasing its protection. The point
of the fork is that it deprives Black of time to
do those things.
Dg180: White to move
This problem is structurally about the same as
those in the previous set, but with the wrinkle Dg180: Here is a similar position with a bit
we saw earlier in this chapter: a piece at- more to see. What mating threats does White
tacked once and defended once—and by a have? The usual: he has the standard bishop
piece rather than a pawn—can make as good attack on g7; White will have a fork if his
queen can attack g7 and a loose piece at the RxR—and has lost his queen for a bishop and
same time. Queen moves to c3, d4, and g5 all rook! You have to attend to the values of the
are possibilities; the move to d4 looks promis- pieces involved. This pattern worked in the
ing here because it attacks the Black bishop previous frame because Black would have
on e4 while also still protecting the White had to sacrifice his own queen in the recaptur-
bishop on b2, which you see is under attack. ing process, but that’s not so here. All this
As for Black’s bishop, it isn’t loose but it is means, however, is that the bishop is an un-
protected once by a rook and attacked once by suitable target; it remains to be considered
a knight. So if White plays Qd4 and Black whether an exchange would improve it. What
replies with some move to fend off the threat if White starts by playing RxB? Then Black
of mate, White then will be able to play NxB replies with RxR. Now Qe5 safely threatens
with impunity. both mate and the rook, netting a piece.

Except that "impunity" is a little too strong.

For here is the new wrinkle to observe: after
White plays NxB, Black will recapture with
his rook and White will take that, too; the
purpose of Black’s recapture will be to attract
White’s queen away from the defense of the
bishop on b2. This way after White plays
QxR, Black has QxB. White still has gained a
bishop and a rook in return for a bishop and a
knight, and thus has won the exchange, but
it's important to see this side consequence of
the idea. The point: account for the defensive Dg182: Black to move
work your pieces are doing before you send
them off to make attacks. Dg182: The initial idea here is familiar. Look
for a mating threat for Black’s queen. Black’s
bishop at c7 is attacking h2. Qe5 thus sug-
gests itself, as it creates a mate threat against
h2 and also attack the knight on d4. The
knight is attacked once and defended once, so
as we have seen it is a good target for a dou-
ble attack. But we also have seen that it is
important to pay attention to move order.
Should Black play Qe5 and plan RxN on the
next move? Or should he try RxN first and
then play Qe5 after Black recaptures with
RxR? This time you find the answer by ask-
Dg181: White to move ing what replies White could make after
Black's initial Qe5. Don't automatically as-
Dg181: Again we have a familiar pattern with sume that White will move one of the pawns
a new wrinkle. White sees that adding his in front of his king; another possibility would
queen’s weight to the pressure his bishop al- be to play Nf3—shoring up the protection of
ready imposes on g7 would threaten mate. It h2 and also moving the target of the fork to
also would attack the bishop at d6, which now safety. (You always want to ask whether the
is attacked once and defended once by rooks target of a fork would be able to jump to
from each side. But simply playing Qd4 safety and block the check—especially when
would be a mistake. You have to think out the the target is a knight.) The preliminary ex-
resulting series of exchanges to make sure it change 1. …RxN; 2. RxR therefore is the way
works. After White plays QxB, Black recap- to go; then Black can play Qe5 and win the
tures with RxQ; then White answers with rook, as there is no way for White to move the
rook and protect against mate at the same Dg183: Start with the position. Scan for loose
time. Black material and you find the rook at c5
(and the queen; but focus on the rook). White
The previous few problems show the impor- has no way to attack it and give check at the
tance of thinking about various move orders. same time, but do not give up; study the
Sometimes, as in this case, these patterns are Black king’s position carefully. What are the
best resolved with a preliminary exchange constraints on its movement, and what are its
that puts a new piece on the target square; resulting vulnerabilities? It is stuck on the
sometimes it's best to just play the mate threat back rank with no defenders there. If White’s
and then perform an exchange afterwards— queen or rook were to land on the back rank,
especially if a preliminary exchange would it would be mate. So the back rank itself be-
put a new piece on the target square that comes a target in just the way that a loose
would be able to defend itself against a dou- piece would be; White’s goal is to attack the
ble attack. It all depends on how the ex- Black rook and the back rank at the same
changes would play out. The general lesson, time. What move threatens both? Qb4, win-
applicable here and elsewhere: don't take ning the rook after Black fends off the threat
move order for granted. of Qb8+ (and QxQ# after Black interposes his
queen) with a move like h7-h6.

2.2.13. Other Mating Threats.

The mating threats considered so far all have

involved a attack by the queen on a square
already attacked by another piece—typically a
bishop. That is the most common sort of mat-
ing threat to use as part of a queen fork, but
there are others as well; here we'll consider a
few examples. Many of them involve an ini-
tial move to set up the fork (a check, capture,
or threat) followed by a double attack that Dg184: White to move
includes a mating threat. Like the studies to-
ward the end of the chapter on knight forks, Dg184: White has no promising checks or
they require a willingness to play with the mate threats, and only Black’s rooks (and a
consequences of various checks and captures, pawn) are loose. Experiment with captures to
always asking about the next check that see how they and the responses they force
would be available and looking for familiar would change the board. White has an inter-
patterns to emerge. esting one available in Nxe5; Black would
reply NxN. Evacuating the knight from f3
would open the familiar line for the queen to
reach h5, and from there to check the Black
king. Qh5 also would attack the Black knight
that would then be at e5.

At first this looks like a perfect double attack,

but actually it isn’t; for consider as well what
move you then would make if you were in
Black’s shoes. As we recently saw, a common
hazard of making a knight the object of a
double attack is that it can jump out of harm’s
Dg183: White to move way and block the check at the same time.
That would happen here: Black would play
his attacked knight from e5 to g6. But just escape square. Yet as we saw most recently in
keep pushing, always asking what lines would the previous problem, this sort of possibility
then be open and what checks then would be should not discourage you. Ask what check
possible. With White’s queen on h5, Black’s would then be possible, and with what conse-
knight over on g6 instead of on c6, and the e5 quences. Black could play Qe1+, which
pawn off the board, White has another, more would force Kh2. And then what check could
effective attack: recall that the a8 rook is Black offer? Qxh4—checking the king and
loose; and now White has a fresh mating again attacking the rook, and this time win-
threat to create with Qd5, adding to the ning it. It's all about persistence with checks.
bishop’s existing attack on f7 (remember that
a bishop attacking that square early in the
game always is a promising setup for a double
attack). After Black fends off the mating
threat, White takes the rook with his queen.

If you look at the original position again you

might be able to see the outlines of a fork
waiting to happen: if White could get his
queen onto d5 and clear the c6 knight out of
the way, he would win the rook on a8 by cre-
ating a mate threat against f7. But making
those adjustments takes a couple of moves Dg186: Black to move
and requires the queen to take a circuitous
route. Dg186: The knight on c4 is the important
target here—important because it lies loose
on the same rank as Black’s queen. Black
wonders if he can find a way to attack the
knight and White’s king at the same time. The
idea would be to get the pawns out of the way
between the queen and knight, and to use the
g-pawn to support a mating threat by the
queen that keeps White busy. Clearing away
the White pawn at e4 is the first order of
business. Black attacks it with nothing, and
anyway capturing would not help because that
still would leave the fourth rank cluttered. No,
Dg185: Black to move the other standard route is a better way to re-
move the pawn: capture something it protects,
Dg185: White has a loose rook on g5. Black’s here the d5 knight. Black plays BxN, White
queen has no checks, and the mating threat replies e4xB, and now the c4 knight is more
Qd5 doesn’t work because White's rook vulnerable. Next Black needs to move the g4
guards the square (as well as g2). But there pawn out of the way and also create a threat
are other ways one can threaten mate. Study with it. The question suggests its own answer:
the constraints on White’s king. It is blocked g4-g3 gets the pawn off the fourth rank and
by its own pawns. Qe7 thus attacks the loose also attacks a weak square adjacent to White’s
rook and threatens mate on the back rank with king, creating a threat of mate with Qxh2+
Qe1. But this is another of those cases where followed by Qh1#. White easily parries all
you have to ask whether White might save the this with h2xg3, but this costs him a move,
target and defuse the mate threat at the same after which QxN follows.
time. The rook can’t do this by moving, but
White does have the simple resource of h2- After Black’s BxN, White also has the option
h4, guarding the rook and giving the king an of g2-g3, attacking Black’s queen. At first this
looks good; if the queen can be driven away, h3, Nh6; 2. Qe4 wins the rook. (Black would
maybe White will be able to take the Black be better off just forfeiting the knight.) The
bishop without the fork Black has planned as hardest part about this one is seeing that
a follow-up. But it turns out not to be advis- Black's knight would have to go to h6. Re-
able; for Black has the reply BxNc4, captur- member that a threatened knight often has
ing another piece, unmasking an attack by his limited options, and that when it is forced to a
rook on White’s queen, and aiming his bishop new square there may be interesting side ef-
at the White rook on e2. White has to respond fects.
by playing his rook to d2, giving it protection
and also protecting the queen on d1, giving
White a chance to move his queen out of dan-
ger with a gain of two pieces. Still, the idea of 2.2.14. Attacking Two Loose Pieces.
White's counterthreat (g2-g3) is valuable to
see, as is the discovered attack against the
White queen that makes Black's riposte
(BxNc4) so powerful. We will study discover-
ies in more detail later.

Dg188: Black to move

Dg188: Queen forks most often have the en-

emy king on one prong, but of course two
loose enemy pieces also can make fine targets
Dg187: White to move for a double attack. Thus diagram above, it is
easy if you take the time to ask the right ques-
Dg187: What Black pieces are loose? Just the tions. What White pieces are loose? Answer:
rook at c6, so White looks for ways to attack the bishop at a6 and the rook at h1. Of course
it while giving check or threatening mate. you might look for a way to give check while
Qe4 seems awfully close to working; it at- attacking one of them; but don't forget to also
tacks the rook and, along with White’s knight, ask whether Black’s queen might attack them
threatens h7 for a second time. The hitch is both at the same time. If the answer isn’t ob-
that Black’s queen also protects h7, and vious, look for a square where lines leading to
White has no way to drive the queen off. both loose pieces intersect, and ask whether
Once White sees that only the Black queen the queen can get there. Here Qc6 wins the
stops the winning fork, he focuses on how he bishop, since after it is played White only has
might get rid of it—perhaps by harrying it time to defend the rook.
with his pawns. White starts his kingside
pawns forward with a threat against Black's Dg189: Again, there is nothing difficult here
knight: h2-h3. Where would the knight go? It if you ask (a) which White pieces are loose
turns out to have only one safe square: h6. and (b) whether there is any way you can at-
Ah! The knight then would block the Black tack them at the same time. Here both of
queen’s route to h7. Suddenly there is no need White's rooks are unguarded (loose rooks in
to drive off the queen after all; now White's the corner of the board is pretty common, and
Qe4 would create a serious mating threat be- make nice targets if the pawns diagonal to
cause Black’s queen wouldn't be able to help, them—e.g., the g2 pawn in this example—
and the rook at c6 remains loose. So: 1. h2- have been moved).
Meanwhile the pawn on h3 is essential here,
too, since otherwise 1. Qe3 is met with the
knight fork Ng4+. You want to ask in any
position not just whether you have any forks
to give but also whether the enemy does—and
whether he will have any after the move you
are considering. This is particularly important
when, as here, Black already has a knight
check to give on g4. This means you have to
think twice about putting your queen on a
nearby dark square where it might get forked.
Dg189: Black to move Fortunately it's not a problem in this case be-
cause you have a pawn at h3 guarding the
Look for a square where lines leading to both forking square.
pieces intersect; see that Qe4 wins one of the

Dg191: White to move

Dg190: White to move Dg191: Which Black pieces are loose? Both
rooks and the knight. Can White’s queen at-
Dg190: Here is nearly the same pattern turned tack two of them at the same time? Yes, eas-
sideways. Black has two loose pieces: his ily via Qd4, winning the knight. Here the
rooks. Lines to them cross at several junctures queen is just behaving like a bishop; we will
(e.g., g1 and h6), but the only useful intersec- see lots of positions like this when we exam-
tions are those that allow the rooks both to be ine bishop forks.
attacked on diagonals, making it impossible
for them to defend themselves by going after By the way, Black has the option of replying
the attacker. So the winning move is Qe3, to Qd4 with RxNb1, thus limiting his imme-
picking up a rook a move later. diate material loss to the exchange. White
replies RxR; Black moves his queen to d8 to
This much is easy, at least if you are alert to guard the knight; and now White has e4-e5, a
loose pieces; but now notice a couple of finer little fork that wins a pawn. Meanwhile
points. The fork only works because of the White's b1 rook is now in a much stronger
pawns at b2 and h3. Do you see why? The position than before.
pawn at b2 is critical because otherwise Black
could move one of the rooks to protect the Dg192: Again both enemy rooks—this time
other. It always is important to ask whether the White ones—are loose. Black’s queen
your opponent would be able to break a fork can't attack them at the same time, but it can
by moving one of the pieces out of it to pro- go after one of them with Qd3; so if he could
tect the other, to check your king, or to other- create another target reachable from that posi-
wise create trouble. It's an especially impor- tion he would have a working fork. The rook
tant issue when you are forking two pieces
that both have mobility, as these rooks do.
on e1 cries out to be drawn forward with an
exchange—such as Bxe2.

Dg193: White to move

By asking the same question about your own

Dg192: Black to move pieces that you ask about your opponent’s:
which of them are loose, or will be after the
If White replies RxB, now both rooks still are move you are considering. And then you treat
loose and can be attacked with Qd3. (White’s every loose piece as a vulnerability. In this
best bet is not to recapture Black’s bishop; if position Black’s loose knight at h5 already
he does and then finds himself forked, his was unfortunate and was a reason to pause
most favorable option is Rxe6, at least using before also moving the bishop to an unpro-
one of his rooks to take a pawn on the way tected square.

By the way, notice the predicament faced by

Black’s g4 bishop at the outset here. It's under
attack and almost has nowhere to go. If it
were to retreat to h5, White would have g3-g4
and would win the piece a move later; if
Black instead were to play Bf5, White again
traps the bishop with e2-e4. Fortunately for
Black he has this other “out” of Bxe2, leading
to a queen fork. But you can learn from this
near-catastrophe for Black by studying the g4
bishop and the Black pawns behind it. This is Dg194: Black to move
a classically poor position for a bishop: its
lines of retreat blocked by its own pawns and Dg194: Another defensive study. Black has a
by the edge of the board. When you see an problem: his knight on c6 is pinned, and is
enemy bishop so positioned, realize that it attacked twice and guarded just once. He is
may be unusually vulnerable to attack. imagining 1. BxN, b7xB; 2. Qxc6+, forking
king and rook. So Black thinks about moving
Dg193: Look for loose Black pieces that his c8 bishop off the back rank to d7, shoring
might serve as targets and you come to the up the protection of the knight. It's a blunder.
knight at h5 and bishop at d6. Ask if the lines Remember to ask whether a move you con-
to those pieces intersect anyplace the White sider will leave anything unprotected. This
queen can reach and you are led to Qd1. Or happened in the previous position when a
now think about this position from a defen- piece was moved to a square that had no pro-
sive standpoint. Black just made the move tection. That isn’t a problem here, since the
Bd6, a mistake that turned out to lose him the bishop will be safe on d7. But you also want
game in the way just described. How would to look at any lines a move affects. The point
you avoid making such a move? is the knight on d5. It's protected by the
queen. The knight’s protection is cut off if
Black plays Bd7; it becomes loose.
Once you see this, it isn't enough to ask just to see is that from c1 White’s queen would be
whether the knight now is under attack. Loose aimed at the Black knight on h6.
pieces can be taken for free by forks. Is your
king also exposed to attack? Do you have any
other loose pieces? Where is your opponent’s
queen? Here your study of those questions
would show that you already have an unpro-
tected bishop at c5. So Bd7 would leave two
loose pieces right next to each other. And
White’s queen is close at hand: on a4, ready
to play Qc4 and win one of those two pieces a
move later.

Dg196: White to move

That knight already is attacked once and de-

fended once, which is to say that it’s as good
as loose. Adding an attack against it by the
queen amounts to a queen fork of Black’s
bishop and knight. Black probably responds
with the interposition Nc6, allowing White to
play BxN next move.

Dg195: Black to move We have seen many times the importance of

being aware of loose pieces. But it likewise is
Dg195: White’s rook at f1 is unprotected and important to be aware of pieces attacked once
so is a target, but there is no way for Black to and protected once; they often make targets
give check and attack it at the same time. for forks that are just as good as pieces with
Still, when you see any loose piece it pays to no protection at all.
think hard about ways to attack it and create
problems elsewhere with your queen. Here
Black’s queen can attack the rook with Qc4,
which also attacks the knight at h4. So exam-
ine the knight’s situation and notice that it is
attacked once and defended once, and de-
fended by a piece rather than a pawn—as
good as loose, as we have seen elsewhere
(you might just as well have spotted all this
by regarding White's knight as a good target
from the outset). Qc4 thus wins the knight,
because after White moves the rook Black
plays BxN and White dares not recapture. (If Dg197: White to move
White replies to Qc4 with Qf2, protecting his
rook, Black plays BxN just the same.) Dg197: A cursory look at White’s attacking
options turns up Rxb7, taking a pawn for free.
Dg196: A loose piece can make a fine target But even when you have a simple capture
even when it lies in its original position on the available it's worth asking whether you might
back rank. Here Black’s bishop on c8 is loose; have something still better. Standard proce-
White can attack it with Qc1. But this only is dure for the purpose, of course, is to experi-
interesting if the attack can be paired with a ment with any checks you can give; safe
simultaneous threat elsewhere. The key point checks with your queen are especially impor-
tant because they may in effect give you a
free move. Here White has one in Qd3. It
forces Black to move his king to the back
rank or play g7-g6. Either way, ask what
White could do next. Answer: fork Black’s
rooks with Qd7, taking one or the other of
them a move later.

Of course another way to see this is by scout-

ing for loose pieces on the board. Two loose
pieces, as Black has here—and on the same
diagonal, no less—beg to be forked. You see Dg198: White to move
that your queen needs two moves to get to the
forking square; so you ask whether you can Dg198: How many Black pieces are loose in
make the first move a check that will keep the position ? None (setting aside the pawn at
Black busy. This leads to Qd3 as a transitional e5). Nor does White have any productive
move. checks. But we also want to examine the re-
sults of every capture. RxB is the only one
A natural mental sticking point here is to start White has to consider; it results in RxR. Now
looking at the check Qd3 and then give up how many Black pieces would be loose?
when you conclude that you then have no Two: both rooks. The problem then becomes
good follow-up against Black’s king. The the easy one of finding a square—c6—from
trick is to be flexible enough in your thinking which White’s queen can attack the rooks
to move from looking at checks against the simultaneously. Ask what Black’s response to
king to looking at follow ups against other Qc6 would be; might it be possible for one of
pieces. In this case the power of the check the rooks to rush to the defense of the other?
Qd3 isn't that it forces Black’s king to change No, but only because of the placement of
squares; it's just that it gives White a way to some pawns: the b3 pawn prevents either rook
move his queen across the board while deny- from moving to a4, and the e5 pawn prevents
ing Black a chance to respond. Anyway, if Ra8-e8 from being useful. If either pawn were
you are conscious of the two loose rooks in missing, the fork wouldn't work.
this position you won’t overlook 2. Qd7, be-
cause you will be thinking all the time about That's one lesson of this problem: the impor-
how to get at them. tance, as we have seen elsewhere, of consider-
ing whether one forked piece can move to
protect the other. The other lesson is that a
single exchange—here, 1. RxB, RxR—can
2.2.15. Attacking Two Loose Pieces: More radically change the board; in this case it
Procedures. moved Black from having no loose pieces to
having two of them.
Forks that attack two loose pieces can run into
most of the same obstacles as forks that in-
clude checks on the king. There is no need to
catalogue them exhaustively here; once
you've found a forking square, the task of
loosening it for occupation by your queen
generally is the same regardless of whether
the fork involves a check, a threat of mate, or
an attack on two loose pieces. But here are a
few examples of how the familiar problems
discussed earlier look in this context.
Dg199: Black to move
Dg199: Black recently moved his bishop to camp: the rook on c8 and the bishop on h6.
a3; then White took it with his b-pawn. Now His immediate thought is to pair an attack
it’s Black’s turn again, and time to figure out against one of them with an attack on Black’s
why he let his bishop get taken. Look for king, or to attack the two of them at the same
loose White pieces and you come to his time. The natural weapon for either purpose is
rooks—and see that the diagonals leading to the queen. It's well-positioned for action on
them now are open on both sides. Black can't g3. White looks for a square from which his
attack them both at once, and he has no queen could take advantage of the loose Black
checks or useful captures to consider. But it's material and sees that Qh3 aims the queen at
important also to consider threats, since the both bishop and rook. The only hitch is the
replies to them tend also to be forced; they let pawn in the way on e6. The usual procedure
you hold the initiative and control the play. for removing a bothersome pawn is straight-
Here you ask which Black pieces can attack forward: take something it protects. Thus
either White rook. There is only one answer: White begins with RxB, inviting the recapture
Qd4. It doesn't win anything by itself, but ask e6xR; now Qh3 forks the loose Black pieces
anyway what will White play in response. and takes one of them next move, winning
Suppose he moves the rook to b1. Now ask two pieces for a rook (and leaving White
the same questions: you still are trying to ahead by a whole piece, as he already was up
make something out of the two loose Black the exchange).
pieces—and now you can attack them simul-
taneously, with Qe4. (White’s better reply to It all would be even better, by the way, if
Qd4 thus is Bb2, interposing his bishop; it White’s rook were on d1 instead of d2. In its
gets taken next move—for now it, too, has actual position here White’s rook is en prise
been left loose—but then White at least has a to the bishop on h6; so if White starts with
move to save his rook.) Qh3, Black has BxR. If the rook started on d1
there would be no such threat and White
This position is a good example of a point could make Qh3 his opening move. The move
made earlier: a rook frequently is unprotected isn’t quite a fork, but it threatens the loose
when it sits in the corner of the board, and so bishop on h6 and also pins the pawn on e6,
is vulnerable to a fork if its diagonal pawn thus creating a fresh loose piece on d5. Black
cover is blown. This is an unusual case where most likely would respond by moving the h6
both rooks are in that position. Think about it bishop to safety on f4 (Kg7 is another possi-
if you or your opponent moves the pawns at bility); and then White can play RxBd5, win-
b2, b7, g2, or g7 early in the game. ning a piece cleanly since Black won’t recap-
ture (if Black does play e6xR, White has QxR
and still has the piece). We will examine the
creation and use of this sort of pinning move
in a later section of this project.

Dg200: White to move

Dg200: It's hard to overstate the importance

of loose pieces in chess—noticing them, cre-
ating them, and exploiting them. Loose piece Dg201: White to move
= target. Here White sees two in the enemy
Dg201: How many Black pieces are loose?
Two: both knights. There is no way to attack
them at the same time, and no way to attack
either of them while threatening the king in
some way. Those loose pieces nevertheless
are tantalizing targets, so White starts digging
for ways to attack one of them and something
else of value at the same time. The simplest
way to do this is by just looking at squares
from which the queen can attack either
knight, and then seeing what else can be at-
tacked from the same squares: if not a loose Dg202: White to move
piece, then perhaps a piece that can be made
loose. White’s queen can attack the g3 knight The bishop and both rooks. (You might look
by moving to c3 or d3. From d3 the queen for ways White’s queen could attack any of
also would attack the bishop on a6. That piece them and also the king, and come up empty:
isn't loose, and anyway it can strike back at the needed squares—e.g., d4, d7—are pro-
d3. Since White has a target, but one that tected.) Since there is more than one loose
doesn’t work, he looks for an exchange that piece, try attacking two of them at once. Look
would improve it: he can play BxB, provok- for a square from which this could be done
ing RxB. Now d3 has been made safe for safely with the queen. You attack rooks from
White queen and Black has a loose piece— diagonals and bishops from ranks or files, so
the rook—on a6. Qd3 thus attacks two loose that the targets can't strike back. The h4 rook
pieces and wins the knight. and e6 bishop could be attacked from e1, or—
if the king weren’t protecting it―from f6.
You also could have found this by just exam- The queen can’t reach either square in one
ining every capture of a piece by a piece that move, so see if it can get there in two moves,
you can initiate: imagine 1. BxB, RxB; ask with the first one a check or other threat that
whether that exchange leaves behind any controls Black's response. Qc3+ requires the
loose pieces; see that the rook would then be Black king to move to h7; then Qe1 forks the
loose; look for ways to attack it along with rook and bishop. Black can't escape the loss
another loose piece; find Qd3. Either way, of a piece. (If White instead plays the forking
this problem resembles the earlier ones where move Qf6, Black can use the rook to protect
White’s queen had a clear path to a square the bishop: Re4.)
from which it could attack the king, but
needed to loosen the other target with a pre- You also could have found this by just exam-
liminary exchange to create a good double ining every check. The queen has checks at
attack. In other words, imagine that the g3 c3, d4, d7, and g6. Only c3 is plausible; all
knight in this problem is the Black king, and the others result in the queen being captured
the rest of the problem then becomes structur- without an adequate follow up. So you ask
ally the same as many we saw earlier in this what would be possible after the king is
chapter. The implication: if your queen can forced to move. You are mindful of (a) any
attack a loose piece and any other piece, start loose pieces, (b) the king’s new position on
asking whether the other piece can be loos- h7, and (c) the White queen’s new position on
ened (or replaced with something loose) as c3. Qe1 then is simple enough.
Dg203: White has no checks or captures to
Dg202: This position may seem elusive if you consider. There remains one other sort of
flail about at random, but it comes apart easily forcing move that at least partially dictates the
with methodical interrogation. Which Black enemy response: a threat, especially by a
pieces are loose? pawn; these tend to be very effective forcing
moves because your opponent generally can't
afford to lose a piece for a pawn. So try e2-e3.
Where will the Black knight go?

Dg204: White to move

Dg204: Two Black pieces are loose: the rook

Dg203: White to move at a8 and knight at h5. Look for a square from
which the queen might attack both. The lines
Look at the ring of eight light squares within to them intersect at e8 (way too hard to reach)
its range, and see that only two of them are and d5 (more feasible—White’s queen can
safe: b5 and f5. As usual after any sequence, get there in one move). The only problem is
you then ask what pieces would be loose, that the pawn on c6 both blocks the path to
what lines would be open, and what attacks the loose rook and protects d5. We handle this
would be possible. Here the knight and bishop with an exchange, of course, drawing the c6
both would be loose (surely you saw the loose pawn forward by capturing its protectorate. 1.
bishop from the start), and the movement of Nxd5, c6xN and now the problem is in sim-
the e pawn would have opened a line for the pler form; you see that d5 is occupied but
queen. It is urgent that White look for ways to unguarded and the paths to both rook and
take advantage of those two loose pieces in knight are clear. Qxd5 suggests itself as a
the middle of the board. If the knight moves working fork.
to f5, White can use the new open line to play
Qg4, attacking knight and bishop at the same But now pause and reflect on Black's reply to
time. If the knight moves to b5, White can Qxd5. One of his forked pieces, the knight on
attack both pieces with Qa4. h5, is positioned aggressively. Black might be
able to break out of the fork by using that
The most important things about this problem knight to do some damage. Indeed, he might
are (a) not to overlook threats by pawns; they play NxBf4; then if White carries out the fork
are forcing moves, and can cause big changes with QxRa8, Black has Nxe2+, a fork of his
on the board—loose pieces and open lines; (b) own. So to prevent all this White doesn't fol-
to remember when thinking about White's low 1. Nxd5, c6xd5 with Qxd5 right away. He
second move that the e-pawn would be out of first moves that vulnerable bishop off of f4,
his queen's way; and (c) not to just assume the and he does it with a threat that holds the ini-
Black knight will “move somewhere” if at- tiative: Bc7, attacking Black's queen. Notice
tacked, but instead to examine its actual op- that the bishop has protection on c7 from the
tions and patiently consider what you could rook back on c1, because Black's c-pawn is
play in response to each of them. If the posi- gone by that time. Black thus moves his
tion were slightly different the fork at the end queen—and now White can go ahead with the
might not have worked; the knight might have queen fork on d5, because Black can't use his
been able to retreat to a safe square. But the knight to make a capture in reply; the piece he
benefits for White if the Black knight does might have wanted to capture—White's
end up loose are great, so a careful study of bishop—is no longer there.
where the piece can go is fully warranted.
If Black is alert, of course, he will not recap-
ture on d5 in the first place; he will let the
pawn go rather than subject himself to all that no matter how short; likewise keep track of
has just been described. As often is the case, the open lines left behind by any forcing se-
the value of the threatened fork is that it per- quence you can find, no matter how short.
mits other, lesser gains by making it too
costly for your opponent to recoup his losses.
(Here Black can reply to Nxd5 with NxB,
removing his loose knight from the coming 2.2.16. The Enemy Queen as a Target.
fork; then White has Nd5xN, keeping the
pawn.) Usually your opponent's queen makes a poor
target for a queen fork because it can defend
It all starts simply: by noticing loose pieces itself by attacking the attacker. Part of the
and asking whether you can make a double beauty of the knight fork is that a knight, on
threat that includes at least one of them. If account of its unusual pattern of movement,
you do that, seeing the fork is reasonably can attack an enemy king and queen without
easy. If you don't, it's hard. being subject to capture by either of them; the
queen as an attacker generally does not have
that advantage. The exceptions are cases
where, if the attacked queen does defend it-
self, the result is mate—most commonly on
the back rank—or else another combination.

Dg205: Black to move

Dg205: Start with a routine inspection for

loose White pieces; find the bishop at c1 and
rook on e8—and then focus on the bishop.
Black has no checks that also attack the piece, Dg206: White to move
so he plays with other forcing moves. He has
only one capture to consider: BxB, to which Dg206: In this first example, start by examin-
White would respond KxB. When you ponder ing the Black king’s position and the con-
such an exchange, think about what pieces straints on its movement. It is stuck on the
would be left loose and what lines would be back rank. White can launch an attack there
opened by it. The answer to the question with his rook on the e-file; if the Black queen
about loose pieces is that the king’s move to weren’t in the way, Re8 would be mate. “If
h3 would leave a loose knight on h1; the an- his queen weren’t there, I could mate”—many
swer to the question about open lines is that combinations begin with a counterfactual like
taking the Black bishop off the board opens a this, which is why imagination plays such a
clean line for the Black queen to g1. Put these large role in chess. Here the point of the in-
points together with the loose bishop at c1 sight is that Black’s queen is unusually vul-
and we have an easy double attack against nerable to attack because of the crucial defen-
two loose pieces: Qg1 wins the knight. sive work it is doing. It also is loose, and so is
Black’s bishop, so White looks for ways to
Notice how the same principles emerge time attack them at the same time. Their lines in-
and time again: keep track of the loose pieces tersect at b4, so White plays 1. Qb4. If Black
on the board, but also the pieces that are left plays QxQ, then White ends the game with
loose by any forcing sequence you can find, Re8#.
We aren't quite done with the analysis. After But then White has 2. RxR, QxR; 3. QxN,
1. Qb4 Black will look for some other way to still winning a piece.
save his queen and avoid disaster. What will it
be? Moving the queen to c8 where it seems to Think of our current theme this way. We have
protect the bishop is no good, of course, since been studying double attacks; these are simul-
play then goes 1. Qb4, Qc8; 2. QxB, QxQ— taneous attacks on two vulnerable points at
followed, again, by 3. Re8#. Black might in- the same time. A loose piece is a vulnerabil-
stead move his queen to a safe square like g8, ity, as is the king. If you attack them at the
but his best reply to Qb4 probably is Nc6. Do same time, you generally win one or the
you see why? It opens a line from Black’s other. We also saw that even a mere square
rook on a8 to his queen, so that the queen no can be a vulnerability if the queen would de-
longer is loose. Now White has a choice of 2. liver checkmate by landing on it; attacking
QxB or 2. QxQ, RxQ; d5xN. Either way he such a square—and thus creating a mating
wins a piece, but the latter sequence is a little threat—can be as good as attacking the king
stronger because it also takes both queens off itself for purposes of creating a double attack.
the board, magnifying the significance of the Now we are adding still another point on the
advantage White gains. board that qualifies as a vulnerability: a queen
that is defending against mate. Once you see
this—once you identify a way that you could
deliver mate if it weren’t for the enemy
queen—then attacking the queen becomes
itself a kind of mating threat. The usual
worry, which is that if you attack the queen it
will bite back, is out of the picture.

Dg207: White to move

Dg207: The principle here is similar. Black’s

queen is loose. As a matter of course you also
study the constraints on the enemy king’s
movement and ask whether you have any sort
of mating threat in view. Again White nearly
has a mate on the bank rank: if the Black Dg208: White to move
queen leaves its post, RxR is checkmate. In
effect the queen is stuck where it is; the pro- Dg208: What Black pieces are loose? All of
tection it provides the knight is illusory, so the them: rook, bishop, and queen. What sort of
knight is as good as loose. Look for a square shape is Black’s king in? Not so good: once
from which White’s queen can attack the more it is stuck in the corner behind its own
knight and queen at the same time, taking pawns with no defenders on the back rank.
advantage of the queen’s paralysis. The Rd8 would be mate if it weren’t for the Black
search leads to Qf7. If Black replies QxQ, queen defending that square. This fact should
White plays RxR#. So instead Black plays ring a bell: the queen is preventing mate. So
Qc8 or Qb8, and White takes the knight. (If White looks for a way to build a double attack
Black then plays QxQ, once more White can against the queen and something else. The
play RxR#. Here as in the previous problem, natural second target is the loose rook. White
the queen is committed to guard duty on the can play Qe5 or Qe3, attacking both queen
bank rank.) Or 1.Qf7 can be met with 1. and rook; these moves look brazen, but if
...Kb8, which gives Black's queen a guard. Black plays QxQ White plays Rd8 and it’s
mate (after Black uselessly interposes his thing has to give, and it’s the Black queen.
queen and rook and White’s rook takes each Black plays RxR to avoid mate, but then suf-
of them). So Black responds to Qe5 by re- fers QxQ and the game is over anyway.
treating his queen to avoid mate—or, better,
by moving his bishop to e6 to block the at- The point, of course, is that once the enemy
tack. White then wins the rook. queen becomes a good target for a fork be-
cause it can't afford to move, you can com-
The initial step in all these positions is to see bine it with all sorts of other threats: attacks
if you are anywhere near threatening mate— against other loose pieces, attacks against the
and this includes mate threats that would exist king, or—as here—attacks against mating
if it weren't for the enemy queen. These can squares. To see this last option you need to be
be hard to notice because mate looks so im- alert to multiple mate threats you can make.
possible. The queen prevents it, and your By assumption you already see one—RxRf8;
mind stops there. But now you will be more that's how you realized that Black's queen
likely to spot such cases anyway because you couldn't move. The trick is to remember there
realize what they mean: the queen itself can might also be a different one that then can be
become a fine target. made the basis of a fork: you can add a threat
by your queen against g7.

Notice, finally, that the same effect could be

achieved in a more roundabout fashion by
pursuing that first idea—Qc2—a little farther.
We saw that Black can reply with Qd6; but
then if White plays Qd2 he attacks Black’s
queen again. Black moves it back to c5, creat-
ing the same position seen in the diagram but
with White’s queen now on d2 instead of e2.
White then can play Qd4, again forking
Black’s queen and the mating square g7. The
Dg209: White to move reason to bother noticing this is just to re-
member that sometimes there may be more
Dg209: Examine the Black king’s position. If than one forking square and more than one
White safely could play RxR on f8 the game way to get there. Since perfecting such a fork
would be over; but Black’s queen guards the ends the game almost as surely as checkmate,
rook and so prevents this. This makes the it is worth carefully studying all the ways you
queen vulnerable to attack, as it cannot afford might make it work.
to leave its post to defend itself. Consider
ways of going after it. If White attacks the
queen with Qc2, Black can reply by simply
moving it to d6 where it still does the same
defensive work. White needs a way to
threaten Black’s queen while also threatening
something else. Black’s other pieces have
guards or are inaccessible, so what else can
White threaten? Again, focus on Black’s king.
White’s rook not only threatens RxR; it also
attacks a square next to the king (g7). If
White’s queen were aimed at that square, it
would threaten mate. So White does have a Dg210: White to move
double attack: with Qe5 he can attack both g7
(a mating square) and Black’s queen (another Dg210: This position only sort of fits in this
vulnerability—it can’t strike back). Some- section, but it's instructive nevertheless. On a8
Black has left a loose rook with an open di- moves spent improving your position, rather
agonal running toward it. White has no good than attempting to win material—is to create
mating threats but his knight is in an intrigu- fertile conditions for tactical strikes on your
ing position: it attacks e7, from which square part and poor conditions for them by your
it would check Black’s king. Be alert for forks opponent. We have seen that a common form
anytime the knight is one move from attack- of one tactical idea—the double attack by the
ing the king. Meanwhile White looks for queen—involves a check of the enemy king
ways to threaten the loose rook and sees that coupled with an attack on a loose piece. The
one of them is Qc6, which attacks both rook defensive moral for strategic purposes is
and queen and requires a reply: perhaps QxQ. clear: beware any position that allows your
Ask how the board would look after that king to be easily checked. It is common for a
small sequence, and notice that Black’s king beginner to imagine that open lines to his king
and queen both would be on light squares— are not a big problem so long as the king eas-
ready to be forked with NxB, which wins the ily will be able to escape any threat that
bishop for White when the smoke clears. emerges, or so long as the opponent only has
one piece to threaten it. Not so; the check it-
Now don’t forget to ask whether Black’s self is a menace, no matter how easily it can
queen, when attacked by White’s queen, be escaped, because it requires a time-
could both move out of harm’s way and de- consuming response. The more ways your
fend the other attacked piece. Suppose, for king can be checked, the more ways there are
example, that instead of playing QxQ, Black for you to lose other pieces to double attacks.
plays Qb8. Now White’s queen can’t take This, and not just the fear of checkmate, is
Black’s queen or rook. But—aha!—the one of the reasons why it is important to cas-
bishop at e7 would be left loose by the tle early; it also is one of the reasons why you
queen’s movement, so White could play NxB should not casually disturb the pawns in front
with impunity. If Black instead had played of your king, since you then create open lines
Qd8 so as to protect both bishop and rook, that make checks and mating threats—each of
White again envisions NxB. Black could an- which may be half of a fork—easier to create.
swer with QxN; but then the rook would be
loose (Black can’t have it both ways), and To turn the point around, one of the general
QxR+ takes it. goals of this chapter and the others is to
change the way you think about checks. They
So the result is that Qc6 is a working queen are immensely useful weapons in the tacti-
fork of Black's queen and rook—though this cian's arsenal not because they annoy your
time without a mate threat in the background. opponent or necessarily lead to mate but be-
Instead it works because Black's queen is vul- cause (a) they require responses, thus leaving
nerable for a bunch of other reasons: it can your opponent no time to address any other
move only at great cost, because it is doing threats you have made at the same time, and
other defensive work (guarding the bishop (b) they require predictable responses, and so
and rook) and because if it captures on c6 it allow you to foresee and control the action on
lays itself open to a knight fork. the board.

2. Captures. Think of captures in a similar

way. Don’t look at a possible capture you can
2.2.17. Summary; Strategic Implications. make, see that your opponent can then recap-
ture, and then decide it’s not worth pursuing;
Now consider some strategic implications of rather, imagine the way the board would look
our study of queen forks, along with summa- after the capture and ask what you then might
ries of several repeating ideas: be able to do: what checks would be possible;
what pieces would be loose; what lines would
1. Appreciating the power of checks. An im- be opened; what further captures could be
portant purpose of many strategic moves—
made, and where they would lead—all the square not currently under attack. And from a
time searching for a double threat. defensive standpoint this suggests the value of
denying outpost squares—squares well-
3. Mating Threats. We have seen many times, protected by enemy pawns—to your oppo-
too, the power of mating threats. This points nent. If he wants to advance his pieces, make
up the strategic value of aiming your pieces in him put them where they will be loose, or
the direction of the enemy king. Directing where they only can be guarded by his other
them this way creates not only the possibility pieces, not by his pawns. Then maybe those
of actual checkmate, but also a favorable cli- guards can be exchanged or lured away, leav-
mate for threats you do not expect to carry out ing the first piece loose. (A pawn that protects
but that allow you to make trouble elsewhere a piece is harder to deal with; getting rid of it
at the same time. You also can see now that by exchanging it for a piece often is too great
exchanges or threats that open lines to the a sacrifice to be worthwhile.)
enemy king create promising conditions for
tactical moves because they make making 5. Defending the King. The tactical principles
mate threats easier to build. It doesn't matter we have studied also shed light on the value
that the mate threats are easily met. So long as of some basic ideas about good play, such as
your opponent has to spend time addressing the aforementioned importance of castling
them, they do their work, which is to buy you early, and of keeping a defensive piece or two
a free move to capture something loose else- near the king. Without any defensive pieces in
where. its vicinity, the king is left to defend its own
pawn cover, which means the squares where
All these points may amount to a new way of those pawns sit are weak, which means it is
thinking about the moves you make: treating easy to force the king to move by taking one
captures and attacks on the king as means to of those pawns and easy for a mating threat to
achieve other ends, not just as ends in them- be set up against them. Maybe the mating
selves. There are smaller examples of the threat can be thwarted easily once it arises by
same point, too. A beginner decides whether moving one of the pawns forward, but again
to move a piece from square A to square B by that may be too late to prevent another piece
asking what the piece will do on square B. from being taken if the mating threat was half
The experienced player knows that the move of a fork. Likewise, preventing the enemy
may be more important because it vacates king from castling by forcing it to move early
square A and any lines that ran through it, and in the game can be very damaging, because
blocks any lines that run through square B. after some exchanges in the center it may then
Those consequences may be good or bad. The become easy to throw checks at the king
important point is to grasp them. Make your- while also attacking other pieces.
self a student of indirect as well as direct con-
sequences of chess moves. 6. Shedding light on some openings. Still an-
other example of how tactical principles
4. Loose Pieces. We have seen as well the shape strategic decisions: now you can under-
immense importance that loose pieces have stand why formations like the King’s Indian
for the tactician. One of the strategic implica- Defense (or Attack) are so useful defensively.
tions of this can be analogized to military Think back to the many forks we saw that
strategy: it is dangerous to overextend your involved mating threats aimed at g7 or h7 (or
forces, letting them wander into enemy terri- comparable squares on White’s end of the
tory with little or no protection. Those pieces board). Mating threats against those squares
can be taken for free if the enemy can make often suggest themselves because those
them the subject of a fork. You therefore squares are so weak; as just said, after castling
should pause before sending a piece into your they often are protected only by the king, so it
opponent’s half of the board with no protec- is easy to line up a bishop and queen against
tion, or protection only from another one of them in a way that requires a move-
your pieces—even if you are putting it on a consuming response. In the King’s Indian
formations (look at the position of Black’s 2.3. The Bishop Fork.
king in the diagram to the left), mating threats
are harder to create. The h7 pawn has another
pawn in front of it at g6, insulating it from 2.3.1 Introduction.
attack on the diagonal. And the bishop at g7
makes it hard to set up a battery against that We have seen that if you want to spot and
square, either; unlike a pawn, the bishop can create double attacks for one of your pieces, it
lash out against an enemy bishop or queen helps to have a clear understanding of what its
lining up to attack it. Naturally these features natural targets are. In the case of a bishop fork
are just one advantage of the King’s Indian (pictured to the left), as with queen forks, the
formations, and depending how a game goes most common targets are the king at one end
they may not be important. The broad point is of the double attack and a loose piece on the
just that tactical insights often can help you other. There are exceptions, of course, and we
understand the purposes behind an opening. will consider them, but this is the most usual
pattern and the most important to master.
7. A style of thought. Finally, the studies in
this chapter are meant to help you develop a The reasons why this pattern is most common
more active and aggressive attitude at the are by now familiar from our other work on
board. Now that you see the usefulness of double attacks. Consider the impediments to a
open lines and loose pieces, you naturally will fork by the bishop—the reasons why attack-
be vigilant in searching for them and creating ing two pieces with your bishop might not
them: making exchanges that will leave un- work. One of the forked pieces might be able
guarded enemy pieces in their wake or create to capture the bishop if the bishop’s square
open lines to the king; making pawn moves isn’t protected; one of the forked pieces might
that open lines for your queen and other be able to break out of the double attack by
pieces and that close off lines for your oppo- making a separate threat of its own; the more
nent; coordinating your pieces to build mating valuable or less protected of the forked pieces
threats that you may or may not be able to might be able to move, leaving at the other
carry out but that might enable you to win end a piece that has protection (or moving to
material with a double attack. The chessboard protect it). But all these possibilities tend to
comes alive with these sorts of thoughts once be reduced when the king is one of your tar-
you understand how they can translate into gets: your opponent is required to address the
tactical payoffs. threat rather than saving the piece at the other
end of the fork; nor does he have time to use
the piece at the other end to make a counter-
threat; and because of the king’s limited mo-
bility, it usually cannot fight back itself
against the forking bishop or launch a coun-
terthreat of its own. And of course a loose
piece at the other end of the fork is ideal be-
cause it can be won for free. It just can't be a
bishop, for the same reason a knight is an
unsuitable target in a knight fork: it can bite
back against its attacker.

Dg211: White to move Our method of finding double attacks by the

bishop, then, generally will resemble those
we've developed elsewhere: searching for
checks the bishop can deliver and pieces it
can attack at the same time; and working to
expose the king and loosen enemy pieces to
create chances for those checks and attacks.
The methods will be easy enough if you have be important when creating a queen fork; if
read the chapter on queen forks. Whereas a your queen can be taken, the fork probably
queen sometimes may be able to check an won't be worthwhile regardless of whether
enemy king in four or five different ways that you can recapture the piece that takes it.
need to be considered, the checks a bishop Bishop forks differ from those types because
can make usually are limited to one and never sometimes a bishop fork will include the en-
can be more than two; and since each bishop emy queen at one end of it. Since queens can
runs on squares of just one color, only one of move like bishops, a queen always can cap-
your bishops can possibly give check at any ture a bishop that attacks it—unless the
given moment. Examining a bishop’s checks bishop is protected. So this is the last point
therefore is quick and easy. about the targets for double attacks by bish-
ops: the target can be a queen if the bishop
has protection.

To sum up, double attacks by the bishop gen-

erally involve some combination of these tar-
gets, listed in rough order of frequency: the
king; a loose knight; any rook; and the queen
if the bishop has protection. (Loose pawns are
fine, too, of course.) Since some of the tech-
niques for making a bishop fork work are
similar to the techniques shown in the chapter
on queen forks, the coverage of them here
Dg212: Black to move will be a bit more brief.

Indeed, you can think of a bishop as a little

like half a queen; it can make the same diago-
nal moves a queen can make, but not the hori-
zontal and vertical type. Every move we will
see a bishop make is a move a queen also
could make. But not necessarily a move a
queen would make; for the bishop has the
advantage of being worth less than the queen,
and thus easier to sacrifice. Giving up the
bishop to win a protected rook makes sense,
whereas giving a queen for the purpose does
not. We can use this point to add to our list of Dg213: White to move
targets for forks by the bishop: not only kings
and loose pieces, but also rooks whether they There are a couple of other variables to think
are loose or not. A rook always is a good tar- about as you study the bishop. The most im-
get for a bishop, because (a) it is worth more portant involve the geometries involved when
and (b) its pattern of movement makes it un- the bishop inflicts a fork and the visual pat-
able to strike back at a bishop that attacks it. terns that result from them. We didn't empha-
size this as much in studying queen forks be-
Some bishop forks require not only that the cause they can occur in so many ways that
forking square be available, but that the have little in common visually. But double
bishop be protected. Such protection gener- attacks by bishops require certain conditions
ally isn't important when building knight that often have a distinctive look.
forks because their targets (kings, queens,
rooks, bishops, pawns) don't move in ways A bishop fork most often occurs when your
that allow them to strike back at a knight. Pro- opponent has two pieces on the same diagonal
tecting the forking square also is unlikely to with nothing between them; when the bishop
moves into position, the three pieces all are in
a line (the position diagrammed in skeletal
form in the previous frame). It therefore is
important to train your eyes to spot any two
enemy pieces on the same diagonal—
especially if there isn’t anything between
them, but even if there is. This is a good habit
for other reasons as well: pieces on the same
diagonal may also be subject to a fork by your
queen, or may be prey to a pin or skewer
(possibilities considered elsewhere). The
same goes for enemy pieces lined up on the Dg214: White to move
same rank or file: they may be forked by one
of your rooks, as we will see in another chap- Dg214: Start with the simple case of two
ter; sometimes they may be forked by a pieces on the back rank separated by one
bishop, as we will see in a moment; and they square—the Black king and rook in the styl-
may also be subject to a pin or skewer. Di- ized diagram (the diagram is just meant to
agonals will receive a lot of attention in this illustrate how some different bishop forks can
chapter because that is where bishops travel, work; it doesn't call for consideration of what
but the general point is that pieces on a line of White should actually play). Black's king and
any type are important to spot. rook are arranged to be forked—by a knight
at e6, or by a bishop (or queen) at e7. In the
There is another type of bishop fork that looks bishop’s case there generally will be an en-
different and can occur when your opponent emy piece already on e7—here, the pawn;
has two pieces on intersecting diagonals. otherwise the bishop would be able to take the
When the fork is executed the pieces are ar- target piece—the rook—without need of a
ranged not on a line but in a triangle. A fork fork. Now spread the targeted pieces three
of this kind almost always results from a cap- squares apart (the White king and c1 rook in
ture by the bishop on the square that forms its the diagram). Again a fork is indicated—by a
corner of the triangle; before the capture, the Black knight at e2, or by a bishop or queen at
bishop was aimed at one of the pieces tar- e3.
geted by the fork, but an enemy piece blocked
the bishop’s path to the target (it might be a And a bishop (or queen) fork again is possible
pawn, as in the diagram to the left where if the targets are five squares apart, like the
White is about to play the fork Bxd6). An- White king and a1 rook. A queen can do the
other way to say this is that before the bishop job by moving in directly—say, from d5 to d4
captures, there are three enemy pieces in a (imagine the White pawn on d4 rather than
triangle, all on squares of the same color; the e3); a bishop can do it by taking an enemy
bishop captures one of them and forks the piece sitting on d4, and in this latter case the
other two. (Again, see the diagram.) These enemy pieces again will be arranged as a tri-
patterns are important to study because to the angle at the outset. And of course all this can
untrained eye they don't look like the makings happen on a vertical file as well as on a hori-
of a fork by a bishop. But they are; they are zontal rank. The horizontal formations just are
poised to be forked in triangular fashion. more common because the pieces start out
arranged that way on the back rank and often
The easiest and most common examples of stay there for a while.
the triangular pattern arise when two enemy
pieces are on the same file or rank, often the The types of triangles just considered are rela-
back rank, with an odd number of squares tively easy to see once you know to look for
between them. them because they have a regular, almost
equilateral appearance. But even the more
oddly-shaped triangles can be found by ha-
bitually looking at what the bishop already wins. Another way to have seen this would be
attacks—the line of enemy pieces that lie to ask which Black pieces are loose, which
ahead of it on any of the diagonals it com- leads to the rook; the only way White can
mands, and what else it can attack by taking attack it is with Bc4, which also checks the
one of them. (See the diagram, where the king. A final way would be to just see that the
Black and White bishops each have a fork via king and rook are on the same diagonal with
a pawn capture that creates an unorthodox nothing between them. This visual configura-
triangle.) tion cries out for a double attack by a bishop
(or a queen acting like a bishop).

Dg215: White to move

Dg216: White to move
What does all this mean for practical play? It
means you will want to scan the diagonals on
the board—and the ranks and files, too—for
pieces lined up on them. This is especially
important when one of the pieces is a king.
Also be alert for triangles, and relatedly for
enemy pieces scattered about the board on the
same color squares. A bishop can of course
fork pieces only if they travel on the same
color squares that it does; and almost any two
enemy pieces on squares of the same color
can, in principle, be forked by a bishop from
some other square on the board—“almost” Dg217: White to move
because there is no way to fork two pieces
next to each other on the same diagonal. The Dg217: What checks does White have with
general point nevertheless is useful, and rein- his bishop? Be4. Does the move attack any-
forces a lesson from the chapter on knight thing else? Yes, it attacks and wins Black’s
forks: pieces on squares of the same color rook, which is loose. This position looks easy,
tend to be most vulnerable to double attacks and it is; but again, absorb the look of it for a
of various kinds. Watch for them. minute. It is important to appreciate the use of
the fianchettoed bishop (on the square in front
Now on to some examples. of the king) to execute a fork. Later in the
chapter we will see this same position again,
2.3.2. Bishop Forks One Move Away. but two moves earlier.

Dg216: What checks can White give with his Dg218: Look for bishop checks and you find
bishops? Two: Be8 (resulting in KxB—not one: Bxc6. Ask what else the move attacks
very appealing), and Bc4, which at least is and you find the loose knight on e4. So Black
safe. Does the bishop attack anything else moves his king and White wins the knight.
from c4? Yes, the rook at a2—which White That is the target-based way of seeing the
solution; the pattern-based way would be to bishop, the fork only works if the bishop has
notice the triangular relationship between protection on d4. It does, from the Black rook
Black’s king, knight, and c-pawn, all on on d8. So Bd4 trades the bishop for White’s
White squares. Stare at the diagram; contem- queen. Now try seeing the pattern by scanning
plate its appearance. the geometry of White's pieces; it is important
in a position like this to notice right away that
White's king and queen are on the same di-
agonal. Again, it will help to take away two
types of lessons from these positions: concep-
tual points (trains of thought that lead to the
forks) and visual patterns that you will be able
to recognize in your games.

2.3.3. Loosening the Forking Square.

Dg218: White to move

Incidentally, what comes next after White

plays 2. BxN? Now his bishop attacks both
rooks—this time on the same diagonal—and
so wins one of them as well. Again, you could
see this by asking what the bishop attacks, or
you could see it by scanning Black’s pieces
for promising patterns and noticing that
Black’s two rooks are on the same diagonal,
just waiting to be forked if White can take the
Black knight with his bishop. He can best do Dg220: Black to move
that by advancing on the knight in a way that
also gives check (i.e., with Bxc6+), thus re- Dg220: What checks does Black’s bishop
quiring Black to address the threat to his king have? Bd4. Look to see what else the move
rather than defuse the coming fork of the two does and note that it attacks the loose rook at
rooks. a7. So there is a potential bishop fork at d4—
but the square is protected by the knight at b3.
So of course you look to take the knight and
thus play RxN. The response a2xR follows,
and after the exchange d4 has become a loose
square. Black safely plays Bd4+, White’s
king moves, and Black takes the rook. All this
is familiar from our prior work on double
attacks. But notice the different visual look of
this position; see the White rook and king
stretched out along the same diagonal, and
realize that this signals a forking possibility.

Dg219: Black to move As discussed earlier, a rook often can make a

good target for a bishop fork whether it is
Dg219: Inspect for checks Black can give protected or not. Here, however, the fork
with his bishop; this turns up Bd4. Does the worked only because the rook was unpro-
move attack anything else? Yes, White's tected. The reason, which is common, is that
queen at b6. Since the queen can attack the the fork required a sacrifice by Black in the
first place—here, a sacrifice of his rook for a Dg222: What visual pattern do you see?
knight. To justify that sacrifice, the fork that it Black’s king and knight on the same diagonal;
creates has to make a big score. Taking a rook this suggests that conditions may be right for
for nothing makes it worthwhile. Taking a a fork. Bd5+ almost does it, but the rook at d3
rook that had protection, and then losing the protects both the forking square and the tar-
bishop, would have made the combination a geted knight. White can’t capture the rook, so
wash. he proceeds by asking if he might capture the
knight with some other piece, thus attracting
the rook onto the knight’s square when it re-
captures and leaving it loose. He can. 1. RxN,
RxR both loosens the forking square and cre-
ates a loose target. Now Bd5+ forks and wins
the rook.

2.3.4. Loosening the Target and Forking


Dg221: White to move We now consider a common pattern that is a

variation on the theme just considered. Often
Dg221: Almost the same. White has a check a possible bishop fork has a pair of problems:
with his bishop in Bxd5. The move also at- the piece it would target is protected, and the
tacks the loose rook at a2. The d5 pawn is piece also guards the forking square. This
protected by the knight at b6, but the knight most frequently happens when the target of
can be captured with RxN, a7xR, leaving the the potential fork is a bishop or pawn. The
forking square loose. White plays 2. Bxd5+, solution then is to perform an exchange with
Kh8, and then 3. BxR. That is how the posi- one of your other pieces that trades the bishop
tion comes apart under interrogation about its or pawn for a better target—one that is loose
targets, but notice as well that visually it is and that cannot fire back at your own bishop
almost identical to the previous one; the only when it executes the fork.
difference is that a Black pawn lies between
the king and rook. It is important not to let an
obstruction like that prevent you from seeing
that the king and rook are on the same diago-
nal. Look through the pawn as you trace the
lines on the board with your eyes.

Dg223: White to move

Dg223: An illustration will make the point

clearer. Recall our current drill: look for any
enemy pieces lined up on the same diagonal,
and especially for pieces lined up on the same
Dg222: White to move diagonal as the king. Here Black’s king and
bishop are aligned. The bishop won’t work as
a target for a bishop fork; it is protected and it
can attack the forking square. But seeing the Dg225: Here is a position nearly the same as
geometry still can provide an idea to motivate the previous ones, but involving a triangular
your examination of forcing moves. A com- pattern rather than a single diagonal. Still, ask
mon way to deal with an unsuitable target is the same questions; get comparable answers.
by capturing it with another piece, allowing a Black plays 1. …RxB, 2. RxR, Bxf4+, fork-
recapture, and then executing the fork against ing Black's king and rook and netting a piece
its replacement. So the solution here is the and a pawn.
preliminary exchange RxB. If Black responds
with RxR, now the bishop has been replaced
with a rook that is loose and that cannot guard
the forking square. Bc5+ wins back the rook
and nets a bishop.

Dg226: White to move

Dg226: The salient visual point is that Black’s

king, bishop, and rook all are lined up on the
same diagonal. There is work to do before this
Dg224: White to move can be turned into an effective fork, but the
idea that will motivate your inquiry is clear.
Dg224: The initial visual clue here is about Bxc5 attacks the Black rook and aims the
the same as in the previous problem; see it, or bishop at the Black king. The Black bishop on
simply ask what checks White’s bishop has. e7 is the only obstacle to a winning fork: it
There is Bg6, attacking nothing else, and Bc6, guards the forking square and blocks the line
attacking the bishop at b7—an unsuitable to the king. As usual, the remedy is an ex-
target that also guards the forking square. So change of the bishop for a better target. 1.
again White exchanges the unsuitable target RxB, KxR; 2. Bxc5+ forks king and rook and
for a suitable one by capturing it and inviting again wins a piece and a pawn.
recapture by Black: 1. RxB, NxR, and the
bishop has been replaced by a knight that is
loose and that cannot defend c6. Now 2. Bc6+
picks up the knight, winning two pieces for a

Dg227: Black to move

Dg227: What checks does Black have with

his bishop? BxN+. The move also attacks a
pawn at b4, and a protected one at that; and
Dg225: Black to move the pawn guards the square anyway, along
with the White rook. So there is nothing here
yet, but if you at least see this much you will pleasures of attacking with the bishop, how-
have the idea in hand and can use standard ever, is that its list of good targets is longer;
techniques to build a little combination out of thus these positions require you to start by
it. Black takes the pawn with another piece: 1. considering carefully whether the bishop can
…Rxb4; and now if 2. RxR, Black plays threaten any loose pieces, or rooks, or queens.
BxN+ and wins back the rook with the gain of
a piece and a pawn. (In the actual game White These problems may require you to keep de-
replied 2. Ra5, BxN+; 3. RxB; Rf4+ (another veloping some new habits. If you are not an
double attack, this time against White's king experienced player you probably are accus-
and f-pawn); 4. Ke3, Rxf5 and Black was two tomed to asking what pieces your bishop (or
pawns ahead.) your other pieces) can capture on the next
move, but not what pieces your bishop can
threaten on the next move (and thus capture in
two moves). But that is the important question
2.3.5. Moving the King into Position, etc. here, as it often was in the earlier chapters. In
the bishop’s case the examination of possible
As you no doubt are noticing, the tools re- threats is pretty easy because the movements
quired to create bishop forks are the same the piece makes are limited and easy to fol-
used to create many forks by the queen and low. It also simplifies the task to remember
some by the knight. Here, as in those other that any possible targets of the bishop must sit
cases, there often may be a forking square that on the same color square that it does.
needs to be loosened; the techniques for loos-
ening it—e.g., a preliminary capture of the The visual patterns we used to set the analyti-
piece that currently sits on the square, or of cal process in motion in the last section may
the guardian of it—are the same regardless of be a little less helpful here, because at the
whether the goal is to put a bishop, queen, or beginning of these positions the king and the
knight on the square. It would be possible just target piece tend not to be on the same diago-
to leave it at that, but for the sake of building nal or triangle. You still may be able to see
pattern recognition skills it will be worthwhile that the king almost is aligned with another
to see at least a few examples of how these piece, and so have the idea of moving them
processes look in the context of double at- into alignment with each other. Even if you
tacks by the bishop. don’t see that, the key patterns emerge here
after an initial exchange or two; and much the
And in any event the thought process is not point of mastering the relevant visual patterns
quite the same. In this section we consider is to be able to recognize them not just at the
cases where the bishop has no way to give a beginning of a position but as they emerge
check, but where with some work you can after you have imagined initial forcing moves
build a fork that involves an attack on the and responses in your mind’s eye.
enemy king at one end. The crucial initial
question is how you would realize there is an
opportunity for such fork-building in the first
place. If the bishop has no checks, what
would cause you to try to create a fork involv-
ing one? The answer, of course, is that you
look for any other pieces the bishop can
threaten that would form good targets for a
double attack; having found one, you then go
to work to create a check at the other end. We
saw that in the queen’s case this generally
meant that you had to find or create a loose
piece to attack, because a queen can’t afford Dg228: White to move
to attack anything that is protected. One of the
Turning to the position on Dg228: What another study in the importance of remember-
Black pieces can White’s bishop attack? (We ing backward moves. Black would have to
do not just ask what Black pieces are loose, either move the king to g6, thus walking into
because a more valuable enemy piece may be the fork Bf5+ and losing the rook; or he could
a good target for a bishop even if it is pro- try his only interposition: Re3, blocking the
tected.) Answer: it can attack the rook by check. But then White plays BxR and wins
moving to d2 or d4. Threatening a rook is a the exchange. So 1. Bc1+ wins regardless.
nice start, but becomes really interesting only White starts out ahead in that he has two
if it also is accompanied by another threat in a pieces for Black’s rook; after winning the
different direction—i.e., if it is part of a fork. exchange he is ahead by a whole piece.
So what other threat can be engineered into
existence? Bd4 aims the bishop in the king’s
general direction; if the king could be moved
onto the same diagonal as the rook, White
would have a double attack. What checks
does White have that force the king to move?
Only one: f4-f5+. Carefully consider Black’s
options in response. He can move the king to
e5 or f6; there is nothing else. Either move
puts the king into the path of the White bishop
once it moves to d4+; and after the king then
moves again, BxR takes the rook. Black can
recapture with his other rook, but White wins Dg230: White to move
the exchange.
Dg230: What pieces can White’s bishop
threaten? Bxd5 attacks the rook on a8 and
aims the bishop at Black's king. Or a visual
way to assess the position is that it is a classic
example of a king-and-rook triangle that lends
itself to a fork at d5. Either way you look at it,
the trouble is that the pawn on e6 blocks the
way to the king and guards d5 as well. The
point is clear: the pawn must be vacated from
that square. Moving an enemy pawn off a
square is best done by capturing something it
protects. Here it protects the knight at f5; so 1.
Dg229: White to move RxN, 2. e6xR does the trick. Now Bxd5+
safely attacks king and rook, picking up the
Dg229: What Black pieces can White’s bish- latter next move and netting a piece.
ops attack? (Not what can they capture, but
what can they threaten by moving.) Bf5 at-
tacks the rook at e4. (The other rook is loose,
but the dark-squared bishop can’t reach any
squares from which to attack it.) The light-
squared bishop would have a fork if Black’s
king somehow could be moved onto g6. The
simplest way to move the king is with checks,
and White has two. The first is Rf5, but this
will not necessarily achieve the desired end
(Black can play Kh6 or Kg6; Kg6 sets up a
fork, but White can’t pull the trigger because
his own rook is then on the square that his Dg231: White to move
bishop needs). White’s other check is Bc1+—
Dg231: White’s bishop can’t give a check and Black king somehow could be moved onto the
can’t safely threaten anything. But it can diagonal leading away from the rook toward
make a capture: Bxd5. Don’t just reason that d8. The next step is to experiment with what-
it loses a piece to BxB; look for patterns that ever (other) checks White has available.
might form the basis of a tactical idea. On d5
the bishop would be aimed at Black’s king The only check White can give with another
and rook, though its path to each piece is piece is Rd1+. How would Black respond? If
blocked. Again, a visual way to see the tacti- he plays Ke6, White would be able to play
cal possibility is to note the classic king-and- RxB; the Black bishop would be the victim of
rook triangle that would lend itself to a fork at a skewer. To avoid this fate Black would need
d5 if only the white rook and black bishop to move the king not to e6 but to a square
could be cleared out of the way. Pick either where it can protect the bishop: either Kc7 or
obstacle and think about how to get rid of it. Ke7. Then what? Again, the pattern that
If you start with the rook at b7, you need it to would then exist probably would be easy
vacate its square in a violent fashion that re- enough to recognize if you encountered it as
quires a response and gives the enemy no an initial matter: With Bxb6 White has a dou-
time to regroup. The obvious solution is a ble attack against the a5 rook and against ei-
capture: RxB, to which Black replies KxR, ther the bishop on d8 (if Black moved his
which takes care of both problems. Now king to e7) or against the king itself (if it was
Bxd5+ wins the rook. Or start your thinking moved to c7). The fork still isn't quite there;
with the Black bishop at f7. The natural way White needs to perfect it by substituting the
to get rid of it is by capturing it; and the only Black king for the Black bishop with RxB, to
way to do so is with RxB, which again leads which Black responds KxR. Now Bxb6 at last
to KxR and the bishop fork from d5. wins the rook.

Dg232: White to move Dg233: White to move

Dg232: This one is a step up in difficulty. Dg233: What can White attack with his
What can White’s bishop do? Its checks don't bishop? Be4 attacks a knight, which might
seem to lead anywhere, but there are other make a good start for a double attack if the
attacking possibilities to consider as well: knight were loose; but it is protected by the
Bg5, attacking the Black bishop (barely worth rook at d8. Nor would the bishop then be at-
noticing because it's a useless target); Bd2, tacking anything else. Still, the sight of the
attacking the Black rook; and Bxb6, attacking bishop attacking an enemy piece while also
rook and bishop. This last move has the ap- aimed at h7 should stimulate your imagina-
pealing look of a double attack, but again the tion. If a loose piece could be substituted for
bishop is an unsuitable target. This may be as the knight, and if the king could be pushed
far as you can go with initial reconnaissance; onto h7 as it was in some earlier problems,
what you know is that (a) White has no dou- White would have a fork. So experiment a
ble attack as yet; (b) if he is to make one, the little with those possibilities.
most plausible place for it probably would be
b6; and (c) a fork there might be doable if the
When a target is protected, one way to loosen winning the rook without any need to force
it is to take it with another piece and allow for White’s king into a more vulnerable position.
a recapture; here, 1. NxN, RxN and White has
half of a bishop fork in place. Next White The lesson is to take notice if a bishop can
turns to any checks that would force the king attack both an enemy piece and a square next
onto h7 and finds Ra8 (remember that the to the king. It may be that a preliminary ex-
Black rook no longer would be on d8). After change will allow you to move the king and
2. Ra8+, Kh7, White plays 3. Be4+ and wins so then check with the bishop move, or that
the rook. aiming the bishop at that square will itself
produce a mating threat that works just as
This is a position we already saw early in the well as a check as an anchor for the fork.
chapter, where it was advanced to its last step;
the point of repeating it here is to enable you
to see what the same fork looks like a couple
of moves away. Notice, too, that the sequence 2.3.6. Bishop Forks of the King and Queen.
succeeds here only in the move order de-
scribed; trying to move the king first, and then When your bishop makes the queen the target
performing the exchange of knight for rook, of a double attack, you can't generally count
would not have worked. So remember to look on a fork or other nifty maneuver to save the
for your checks before and after you imagine day when your opponent replies QxB. So
captures you can make. typically a fork against the queen only works
if the bishop has protection. Here are a few
Dg234: What can Black’s bishop threaten? examples of how this looks.
The two White pieces on light squares: the
rook and knight, but not at the same time (the Dg235: In the position on the diagram, White
possible attacking moves are Be6, Be4, and looks at his checks and sees that Qd8 forces
Bxc2). Black's king to h7. He looks for his next
check and finds Bf5, which forks Black's king
and queen—but fails because Black simply
plays QxB; by then, White's queen no longer
is on the fifth rank to supply protection.

Dg234: Black to move

Attacking the rook with Be4 has the interest-

ing result of also attacking a square—h1—
next to White’s king. In the previous problem Dg235: White to move
this was exploited by forcing the enemy king
onto the targeted square with a check. Here The fork would work fine if only the bishop
there is a different possibility. Consider the had a guard. Ah, but White can have it both
White king and the constraints on its move- ways by giving the check with a different
ments. The back rank is owned by Black’s piece: Rb8. This likewise forces Black’s king
rook. If the bishop were attacking h1, Rh1 and queen onto the same diagonal, and this
would be mate. So no setup is needed. Be4 time White wins with Bf5+.
threatens the rook and threatens Rh1#, thus
Notice that the problem starts with Black amounts to nothing yet because the bishop
threatening checkmate by playing Qxg2. In wouldn’t be protected against QxB and be-
the face of this threat it would be natural for cause it has nothing else to attack at the same
White to think defensively, but as we know, time. But the king is not far away, and if it
sometimes the best defense is a good offense. could be moved onto h1 Black would have a
classic triangular fork with BxN. Consider
any checks Black can give and how they
might change the board. There's Bb6xf2,
which loses the piece, and then the more in-
teresting Qxg3+. Can White reply f2xQ? No,
because the f2 pawn is pinned. White there-
fore would have to play Kh1. Now BxN at-
tacks both king and queen—and thanks to the
previous move by the queen, the bishop now
would have protection at f3. So White re-
sponds to BxN with QxB, and Black replies
with QxQ+.
Dg236: White to move
And what then? White has to move his king to
Dg236: We start with an open diagonal to h2. (Moving it to g1 is also a possibility, but
Black's king, and a Black piece — the bishop eventually leads to mate for Black.) Black
— on the same line. Now look for checks keeps the offensive pressure on with Bxf2.
White can give with his own bishop, and find White has no appetizing options in reply.
Be5+. If the Black bishop could be swapped Black threatens to mate with Qg3+ followed
out for a better target, White would have a by Qxh3#; White can prevent this by using
nice double attack. So capture Black's bishop his rook to take the bishop on f2 or by playing
with another piece: 1. RxB, QxR and now the Rg1, but either way he loses the exchange.
scene is set for Be5+, forking Black’s king Seeing the initial forking idea here was the
and queen. The point of seeing the position key point, but playing through the rest of the
here is that since the queen is the target, sequence in your mind’s eye will be a useful
White’s bishop needs protection on the fork- exercise in extending your range of vision.
ing square; it gets it from the f4 pawn. One of
the many nice things about having a pawn in In summary, then, here is the most likely se-
or near the center is that it can provide a pro- quence: 1 …Qxg3+; 2. Kh1, Bxf3+; 3. QxB,
tective anchor for a piece delivering a fork. QxQ+; 4. Kh2, Bxf2; 5. Rg1, Bxg1+; 6. RxB.

Dg237: Black to move Dg238: White to move

Dg237: This time Black has no bishop checks Dg238: What checks does White’s bishop
(except the useless Bxf2+), so just ask what have? Bxe6. Does the move attack anything
else his bishops can attack. You see then that else? Yes, the bishop at d7, which is an un-
BxN threatens White’s queen. The threat
suitable target. Or see it visually: we have a by taking whatever the pawn protects and
classic triangle between Black’s king, queen, pursuing the consequences. Again, trains of
and e6 pawn; the bishop can be understood as thought like this will be the focus of our later
an inadequate target or as an obstruction. Ei- study of pins.)
ther way, the natural next step for White is to
capture the bishop with another piece — as
with RxB. Then if Black recaptures with QxR
the board is prepared for Bxe6, now with 2.3.7. Bishop Forks of Other Pieces.
Black’s queen as the target. Like the bishop
that it replaced, the queen is a problematic
target because it can fight back against the
forking piece; but unlike the bishop, the
queen’s value is enormous. So the fork works
as long as White’s bishop has protection when
it delivers the fork. It does; it will be guarded
by the White queen. Play therefore goes 1.
RxB, QxR; 2. Bxe6+, QxB; 3. QxQ+, and
now White has won a queen, a bishop, and a
pawn in return for a rook and a bishop.

Dg239: A quick look at checks White can Dg240: Black to move

give with his bishop turns up Bxd6. Does the
move attack anything else? Yes, the knight at Dg240: What checks can Black’s bishop in-
e5. The knight is protected by Black’s queen flict? None, of course, not least because the
(though also attacked once already by White’s bishop is on a light square and the king is on a
knight on d3), which also protects the d6 dark one. But the king is just the best anchor
pawn. for a fork, not the only one; you really are
looking for a square where your bishop might
be able to attack any two vulnerabilities at the
same time. Here the bishop can move to c6
and attack White’s b7 knight and h1 rook,
both of which are on the same light-squared
diagonal and both of which are loose. Black
wins the knight.

If you step back from the board and look for

visual patterns, the alignment of White's
knight and rook with nothing between them
should be conspicuous. Use these studies to
Dg239: White to move gain the habit of spotting enemy pieces like
these that are on the same line (not to mention
So play with exchanges White can initiate and loose).
with the move orders made possible by the
threat White already has against e5. A natural Dg241: Black has no bishop checks (Bc5 ob-
possibility to consider is 1. NxN, QxN. This viously would be unsafe, but it's irrelevant
upgrades the target of the fork; it also leaves because the bishop is pinned). Think more
behind an open line of protection from the broadly about threats he might make with the
White queen to the forking square. Thus Bxd6 piece. White’s bishop, knight, rook, and
now forks king and queen. (Another way to queen all are on light squares, and so is
see the idea here is to notice that the Black Black’s e4 bishop. The queen and rook are on
pawn on d6 is pinned to its king by the bishop a common diagonal and so can be attacked
at a3, and to look for ways to exploit the pin with Bc6. When a bishop forks the enemy
queen it requires protection, as we know; it which White replies RxR. Now Be5 picks up
has the needed cover here from its own queen the knight next move, netting two minor
at c1. pieces for a rook.

Or perhaps things play out differently (the

following sequence will take a bit of patience
to follow): White can reply to 2. ...Be5 by
leaving his rook on d6 and instead playing
Nf5, taking his knight out of the fork and us-
ing it to give the rook protection. If Black
replies e6xN, notice that White now has the
rook fork Rd5—attacking the loose Black
pieces that would then be on c5 (the knight)
and e5 (the bishop). The pawn on e6 was
guarding against this danger before it cap-
Dg241: Black to move tured (in this variation) on f5. So instead of
e6xN Black would want to respond to Nf5
Black thus wins the exchange: 1. …Bc6; 2. with RxN. Now White has the recapture
RxBf8+, RxR. Or perhaps he wins a queen for e4xR, but then Black has BxRd6, with the
a rook and a bishop, the result if play goes as fork at last paying off. He ends up with two
follows: 1. …Bc6; 2. QxB, QxQ; 3. RxR, Kg7 minor pieces against Black’s rook.
(protecting the bishop). (Or instead 2. RxR,
BxQ; 3. RxB+—same basic result.) Now for extra credit, do you realize that the
success of Black's fork here depends on his
Dg242: Black is confronted with a fork by knight at c5 and his pawns on b7 and e6?
White’s bishop; he is about to lose the ex- Let's consider why. First, once White is
change to BxRf8. But instead of reaching to forked he almost can move his rook both out
move the knight, think about Black's own of harm’s way and into position to protect his
offensive options. knight by playing Rd3. If this move were fea-
sible the fork would be foiled; it is not feasi-
ble only because d3 is attacked by Black’s
knight. This pattern nevertheless illustrates
once again the extra difficulties created by
double attacks against two ordinary pieces
rather than the king: you have to ask what
mischief either of them could make in break-
ing out of the fork.

And then notice, too, that the aforementioned

Black knight on c5 is loose. This makes it a
vulnerable target, so you need to worry that
Dg242: Black to move White might break out of the fork and make a
counterattack against the knight. This almost
Again he has no checks, but ask anyway what is possible; once White’s rook is baited onto
else his pieces can threaten. In this case his d6, it nearly can break out of Black's subse-
dark-squared bishop can fork the White quent bishop fork with Rc6 or Rd5, threaten-
pieces also on dark squares: the knight and ing the knight. But not quite, because both of
bishop. (Step back and scan the diagonals and those squares are guarded by Black pawns.
other lines for pieces lined up on them.) The The lesson: we know that when you fork two
knight is loose, but of course the bishop is enemy pieces (not the king), you need to ask
protected and anyway is an unsuitable target whether one of those pieces might spoil the
for a bishop fork. We handle this in the usual fork by rushing to the defense of the other;
way: Black takes the bishop with RxB, to
but consider as well whether one of the pieces
in the fork might go off and make a threat
against you elsewhere.

Dg244: Black to move

Dg244: The queenside cluster of White’s

pieces looks knotty, but there is nothing diffi-
Dg243: White to move cult about it if you ask the right questions. We
are focusing on attacking ideas with bishops,
Dg243: White has a bishop check with Bd6+. and for Black there is just one: BxN, forking
How would Black respond? Probably with White’s bishop and queen—a small triangle.
Ka8. Whenever you imagine a move that Of course the White bishop first needs to be
would force your opponent to move—and traded in for a better target through capture by
especially a move that would force him to another Black piece; hence 1…. RxB; 2. RxR
move his king—imagine the position that and now BxN forks White’s rook and queen.
would result and interrogate it with the same Targeting the White queen works because
questions you might ask if it were the board in Black has protection from its own queen at
front of you. What Black pieces would be c4.
loose? What pieces are aligned? Black's
queen and rook—which indeed are already Are you satisfied with this? You should not
aligned from the start, and would then be be. Remember that when you fork two pieces
forkable with Bc7. Since the queen is one of that aren’t the king, one of them can move to
the targets, naturally we look to make sure the protect the other. So think especially carefully
bishop will have protection. It will, from the about what your opponent’s best move will be
rook at c4. in reply. Here White can respond to the fork
with Qc1, protecting the rook. The sequence
This description suggests how looking at still would be profitable since Black would
every check might have led to the fork. An- have picked up the knight on c3, but keep
other way to see it, though, is to step back and pushing for ways to go farther; after White’s
notice first Black’s queen and rook on the queen moves to c1, rethink the board. White’s
same diagonal, especially since they have no rook is attacked once and defended once. If
pieces between them. That pattern is a set up Black could add his queen to the attack
for a double attack by the bishop. The ques- against the rook then on b2, he would have it.
tion then becomes whether you might maneu- He needs a way to do that without giving
ver the bishop into position, since it cannot White time to move the rook out of danger.
get to c7 directly. When you want to make a He therefore maneuvers the queen into posi-
preliminary move without giving your oppo- tion with a time-consuming (for White)
nent time to defend against the fork you are check: Qd4+. (This is safe because we're as-
creating, the preliminary move has to be forc- suming that White's queen has moved to c1.)
ing. A check is best. Conveniently, White’s White has to move his king; and now BxR
bishop can give a check on the way to c7 by wins the rook at no cost because Black’s
stopping first at d6. queen protects against a recapture. (White’s
better option after the forking move BxN is to
play Qxd6, at least taking a pawn rather than
making futile efforts to save his rook.)
Incidentally, at the outset of the position
Black might be tempted to play BxN; once
White recaptures on c3 with his bishop, the
way is clear for Black to take White’s loose
rook on b1 with RxR+. But the idea fails be-
cause that recapture by White—BxBc3—is a
check. You cannot be too alert to possible
checks your opponent can give in the midst of
a plan you are devising. A check has the
power to stop a tactical sequence in its tracks.

Dg246: White to move

Dg246: A position like this is best approached

visually. What do you see? Both of Black’s
knights, his rook, and a pawn are lined up on
the same light-squared diagonal. White’s
light-squared bishop can, in principle, inter-
vene at c6. Nothing can be done with this yet,
because pieces are in the way, squares and
pieces are guarded, etc. The point is just to
see the idea. Then you can play with ex-
Dg245: White to move changes, carefully visualizing their conse-
quences to see if they help clear the obstruc-
Dg245: This time start by looking for pairs of tions out of the way and improve the targets.
Black pieces that might be vulnerable to a
bishop fork. How? Look for pieces on squares White has two possible captures that might
of the same color, or on the same or intersect- help the b5 bishop to make trouble: NxNc6
ing diagonals. The c5 knight and e7 bishop and NxNe4. In effect those possible captures
are in the right pattern, but there is no way to are options you hold to make the board look
exchange the bishop for a suitable target. But different. If you play NxNe4, Black will play
now what about the pieces on light squares? RxN, and now the board will be changed;
Black’s rooks are on a6 and a8—on the same likewise if you then play NxNc6 and Black
file, one square apart, and arranged for a replies b7xN. (He can’t play d7xN because
bishop fork with Bxb7. White’s light-squared after White moved his d4 knight, Black’s d-
bishop is aimed the right way; the only trou- pawn became pinned to his queen. Black’s
ble is that White’s own pawn is in the way at rook no longer will be protecting the queen,
d5. If it is going to move, first the Black pawn either, having moved to e4 to recapture during
in front it has to be moved. You move a pawn the first sequence.) Notice how two ex-
by capturing something it protects; here it changes White can initiate so change the look
protects the knight at c5, so 1. NxN (capture of the board even if they don’t turn any profits
with the least valuable piece you can), leading themselves.
to 1. …d6xN, clears Black’s d-pawn onto the
c-file. Now White moves his own pawn for- And then what would be possible? If the posi-
ward to d6, making a threat against Black’s tion were set in front of you the answer would
bishop that requires a time-consuming re- be obvious: Bxc6, forking the rooks and win-
sponse. After the bishop moves (presumably ning the exchange. (Black plays RxBe3, and
with Bxd6), White is able to play Bxb7, fork- White recaptures RxR.)
ing both Black rooks and winning the ex-
change next move. Lesson: move order matters. There are a num-
ber of ways to look at White’s captures in the
wrong order here and find nothing; capture
with the wrong knight first and the sequence
is ruined.

2.3.8. Playing Defective Bishop Forks.

We conclude with a series of positions where

a potential bishop fork looks unplayable be-
cause the forking square is guarded—but
where the fork nevertheless is the winning
move because checkmate or some other deci- Dg248: Black to move
sive consequence results if the forking piece
is taken. We have seen that a parallel logic Dg248: Think visually. White’s king and a6
can make seemingly bad knight forks quite rook are on the same diagonal, inviting Bc4+.
productive; naturally the same is true of any Or again you could see this by asking what
other sort of fork that may not look feasible at checks Black can give with his bishop and
first. seeing that one of them—Bc4—also attacks a
rook. Either way the problem is that White
Dg247: A first example of the idea. Look for protects c4 with his other rook. There is no
a visual pattern; see that White has his king, immediate way to get rid of the rook, but be-
rook, and d4 pawn arranged in a classic trian- fore moving on ask what happens if Black
gle that calls for consideration of a queen or goes through with the fork and White plays
(here) bishop fork by Black. (You could also RxB. What checks could Black then play?
just ask what checks Black’s bishop has; the Rb8-b1, which is checkmate (after White use-
only answer is Bxd4.) Bxd4+ thus has the lessly interposes his rook from c4 to c1). So
potential to take the rook at a1, but the d4 Bc4+ wins a rook despite the apparent protec-
pawn is protected by White’s knight. tion of c4 by White’s rook, which really can’t
afford to move. The tipoff here is Black’s
other rook on the second rank; it traps
White’s king on the first rank, making it vul-
nerable to a back-rank mate if the rook on c1
leaves its post.

Dg247: Black to move

There's no good way to get rid of the knight,

but don't stop there. Imagine the sequence
failing and ask what it would make possible.
It then goes 1. …Bxd4+, 2. NxB. What lines Dg249: White to move
would then be open? What checks would
Black then have? The answer is Qe1—mate. Dg249: Whether you look for Black pieces on
So the bi-shop fork at d4 works after all, win- common diagonals or ask whether White has
ning a rook and a pawn. a way to attack two pieces at once, the same
answer appears: Bd7. The move seems point-
less because Black just plays QxB. But ask
what checks White then would have. There
are four: Qe8, Qe7, and Qb4, none of which Dg250: You can see the idea here visually by
are new and none of which works; and QxR, noting the dark-squared triangle between
which is new (well, the move itself isn't new, Black’s rook, king, and e-pawn, or by asking
but it didn't give check in the initial position), what checks White can give with his bishop
and which leads to checkmate a move later. and what else he can attack at the same time.
(If Black blocks the check with Qe8, White Either way White would like to play Bxe5 but
has QxQ# with protection from the rook on seemingly is prevented from doing so by the
e1.) Since Black can’t afford that, the initial threat of NxB. Ah, but what if that threat is
fork Bd7 actually works well, picking up the carried out? Lines would be opened by the
knight. moves of White’s bishop and Black’s knight.
White would have a new check with Rc7 — a
The key to seeing this, as ever, is to be thor- rook fork which also attacks Black’s queen. If
ough in examining checks and their conse- Black moves his king or blocks the check by
quences—not only on the board in front of moving his knight or bishop to d7, White
you but on the board as it would look after plays RxQ. If Black plays QxR, then White
whatever forcing moves you can imagine. plays QxQ+, and then (after Black moves his
You likewise want to be alert to how any re- king) QxR.
captures you can force would open lines or
leave things loose. Here the Black queen’s Dg251: White’s rooks are arranged on the
movement off the back rank opens a line to same diagonal and thus could be forked with
the king from a8, and turns out to be fatal. Bxb2. But that won’t do because White is on
the verge of mate with Qa8, Qxc7, or Ra8.
It is good to see the bishop fork in this posi- Black’s next move therefore needs to be a
tion, but there is another route to a similar check that forces White's reply. He has four.
result that is worth seeing as well. All sorts of Two can be dismissed quickly: Rd1 just loses
possibilities spring up once you realize that the rook and Qxg2 just loses the queen.
Black’s queen needs to stay on the back rank
to prevent White from mating with QxR; for
this means the Black queen itself is vulnerable
to attack. White therefore can play Bxa6, put-
ting Black in a pickle. If he plays QxB, he
promptly gets mated; so he moves his queen
to e8, where it is safe and continues to protect
the rook on a8—but now he has left his knight
loose, so White plays QxN. Black’s queen
was overworked, a theme we have seen before
and will study in detail later. There is more
than one way to take advantage of such a
situation, as this analysis shows. Dg251: Black to move

A third check, Bxh2, is a little more interest-

ing, as White wouldn't particularly want to
reply KxB; for Black would then have the
queen fork Qh6+, compelling White to trade
queens to get out of it. Instead White would
move his king to f1. Now Black has the queen
fork Qxc1, again forking White's king and
queen—but this time without protection. So
White plays QxQ. Black has taken a pawn
and a rook but has given up his queen for the
sake of disrupting the mate threat. So all this
Dg250: White to move is possible, and might even seem an appealing
reprieve from execution—but hold! For there
is yet one more initial check for Black to con-

Starting with this last remaining check,

QxR+, turns out to be most interesting of all.
White replies QxQ, letting go of his mate
threat. Now what would be possible? White’s
queen and rook would be on the same diago-
nal, so Black toys again with Bxb2. Of course
White could just play QxB. But again you
consider what lines would have been opened Dg252:
by all this and what checks Black would then
be able to inflict. As for open lines, Black’s Dg252: The first thing to understand is that at
bishop would have moved off of the e-file, any given moment your two bishops may dif-
creating a new path for the rook on e8; now fer greatly in their attacking potential. One
the rook could move to e1—which would be travels on the dark squares, the other on the
mate! So in reply to the forking move White light squares. Usually one of them turns out to
is obliged to move his queen and let his rook be more useful than the other, because either
on a3 be taken by Black’s bishop. Black the dark or light squares in the middle of the
emerges with two rooks and a pawn in ex- board—but not both—will be open. “Open,”
change for a queen—a slight material gain; here, means unoccupied by pawns. Notice
and meanwhile he has obliterated White’s that your pawns frequently are set up on
mating threat and reached a winning position. squares of the same color; that is how they
protect each other. If your pawns are arranged
It's yet another study in the importance of on light squares, those squares are “strong”
examining every possible check, both on the for you and the dark squares are weak—i.e.,
current board and on the board as it would unprotected by pawns. But it also means that
look after an exchange or two. your dark-squared bishop has room to run and
that your light-squared bishop is likely to be
less useful, at least until the pawn structure
changes. Thus we speak of a bishop as “good”
2.3.9. Strategic Implications. if it travels on squares unobstructed by your
own pawns; a bishop is “bad” if it travels on
A bishop’s power—its potential to execute the same colored squares your pawns do. In
double attacks and its usefulness in other the skeletal diagram to the left, both bishops
ways—generally depends on whether it has are fianchettoed (i.e., White has developed
open lines on which to move. A bishop placed them to the squares in front of his knights’
on one of the long diagonals with nothing in original positions). The dark squares are very
its way is a mighty force on the board; a strong for White because he controls them so
bishop blocked by its own pawns has rela- thoroughly with his pawns. But a side effect is
tively little use. It might seem to follow from that the bishop on b2, which travels on the
this that you should try to maneuver your dark squares, is bad; the bishop on g2 is good.
bishops onto open diagonals, and indeed that
generally is good practice. But there also are We focus on the pawns near the center be-
other, subtler steps you can take to increase cause the best diagonals pass through the
the power of your bishops and limit the power middle of the board. If you look back at the
of your opponent’s. studies in this chapter, you will see that the
attacking bishop usually takes advantage of
open paths through the center; it rarely is the
case that there is a center pawn on the same
colored square as the bishop that delivers the
fork. There may be an enemy pawn there that 2.4. The Rook Fork.
is captured by the bishop, but there generally
is not an allied pawn that blocks the bishop’s
way. Notice that even one pawn in the middle 2.4.1. Introduction.
can be significant, since it single-handedly
blocks long diagonals in two different direc- Double attacks with the rook are simple
tions. enough to understand, but they also are easily
overlooked because the rook is used so heav-
These points have several implications. First ily for other more familiar purposes. The suit-
and most obviously, you should think of your able targets for a rook fork are the enemy
two bishops as quite different pieces, and you king, the enemy queen (if the rook has protec-
should be much more willing to trade away a tion), or any loose piece. As a practical matter
bad bishop than a good one. Second, pawns the targets of a rook fork almost always in-
and bishops have an intimate relationship. clude either the king, a loose piece, or both;
Think of pawns as pylons that obstruct the this will be the guiding principle behind our
paths of the bishops; every time you move a target-based searching. The visual pattern
pawn you open one diagonal and block an- involved also can be stated simply: a rook can
other, and this may be the most important slide between two pieces on the same rank or
consequence of such a move. Whether lines two pieces on the same file.
are open or closed will matter for your other
pieces as well, of course, but all of the other
pieces have the option of moving back and
forth between light and dark squares if neces-
sary. Bishops cannot, so they are especially
sensitive to pawn placement; moving your
bishop often does less to make it powerful
than moving a pawn out of its way and onto a
different colored square. If that can't be done,
you need to maneuver your bishop outside the
pawn structure. In any event, try regarding
pawn moves as indirect bishop moves.
Dg253: Black to move
This principle is important from a defensive
standpoint as well. If you move a pawn and Dg253: The first pattern is more common; in
the move opens an important diagonal— the skeletal diagram, White’s rook has forked
especially a diagonal leading toward your Black’s king and bishop. The other type of
king or another valuable piece—you immedi- fork—the double attack against pieces on the
ately strengthen the enemy bishop that travels same file—occurs less often and can be a bit
on that diagonal. Conversely, a pawn move or harder to see because the rook then moves
exchange can have a powerful effect on the horizontally. The eye is more accustomed to
enemy if it creates an obstacle—or, even bet- tracing the rook’s path up and down the
ter, gridlock—on the squares where his board, rather than from side to side.
bishop wants to move. This is particularly
significant if he only has one bishop left. Another factor sometimes making rook forks
Locking your pawns with his so that his harder to see is that the enemy targets may
bishop can’t get through the center will tend begin with other pieces between them —
to make his bishop impotent for so long as the yours, his, or both—that have to be cleared
pawn structure remains in place. out of the way before the fork can work. The
solution to all these difficulties is to be habit-
ual and thorough in looking for enemy pieces
on the same rank or file, just as you are in
looking for pieces on the same diagonal—and
this regardless of whether there are other
pieces between them. The principle is general:
when you look at lines on the board and
pieces resting on them, follow all the way
through. Don’t let your eyes stop when they
hit an obstacle, because the obstacle may be
removable through an exchange or by other
means; if there are two enemy pieces on the
same line, you want to see that pattern every
time regardless of what lies between them.

Occasions for double attacks by a rook arise Dg255: Black to move

less often than forks with the other pieces we
have considered, and there are only a few Yes, it picks up the loose bishop on b2. Any-
special wrinkles that rooks present. This chap- time you see the enemy king and another
ter therefore is shorter than the previous ones. piece other than a rook on the same rank, an
instinct for a fork should be triggered.
2.4.2. Simple Cases.

Dg256: Black to move

Dg254: White to move
Dg256: What checks can Black give with his
Dg254: Let's begin with some simple rook rooks? None. What loose pieces does White
forks. Ask traditional questions: What Black have? Two: the bishop and knight (as usual,
pieces are loose? The knight and rook. What we’re setting pawns to one side), and they are
checks can White give with his rook? Rd1 lying on the same rank—the second, perfect
and Rb7. We seek a match between these pos- for a double attack by the rook. As this posi-
sibilities and find it in Rb7+, a move that wins tion and the previous one both show, rook (or
the knight after Black moves his king. Absorb queen) forks on the opponent’s second rank
the position visually. The spectacle of the are a fairly common pattern because pieces
Black king and knight both on the penultimate there often are loose: they frequently get no
rank should immediately suggest tactical pos- protection from their fellow rooks, which are
sibilities. They aren’t on squares of the same on the first rank, and they can’t be protected
color, so a double attack by a knight or bishop by pawns. Naturally this pattern lends itself to
won’t work, but they are easy prey for a rook double attacks by the queen as well; the
(or queen). rook’s moves, like the bishop’s moves, are a
subset of the moves a queen can make. In any
Dg255: Start by asking what Black can do event, Rd2 wins Black a piece.
with his rook; the first part of the inquiry is
whether it has any checks to give. There is Dg257: White has no checks with his rook,
one: Rc2+. Does the move attack anything but you want to be equally alert for attacks
else? you can make against loose pieces. Here the
bishop at h5 is Black's only loose piece, and be a little harder that the other type to see at
the rook can attack it with Rf5. first, as noted earlier.

Dg257: White to move Dg259: White to move

From that square you see the rook also can Dg259: The arrangement of Black’s king and
attack the knight at e5. The knight is protected knight seems almost perfect for a rook fork: a
by the Black queen—but it also is already king and a loose piece on the same rank with
attacked by the White queen. So the knight is nothing between them always should set off
a classic case of a piece that is threatened an alarm, and here White has a rook at the
once and protected once and therefore is as ready on e1. The problem is that the Black
good as loose. If Black moves the bishop after king guards the forking square, e7, and White
White plays Rf5, White then plays RxN and has no way to add protection to that square
Black dares not recapture lest he lose his that is safe and holds the initiative. Time to
queen to QxQ. White wins a piece. give up? No; time to imagine playing the fork
anyway and asking what would be possible if
Dg258: Scan for checks with Black’s rooks it fails. Thus 1. Re7+, KxR; and now Black’s
and you find two: Rh1 (losing the rook to king has moved, requiring a fresh look at the
KxR), and Rg3. Ask whether Rg3 attacks resulting position. The king’s move would
anything else, and find the White knight at g5, have left the bishop on g6 loose; plus the king
which is loose (so you would have been look- would be on e7, a dark square; and the rook at
ing for a way to take it anyway). Does Rg3+ h8 would be on a dark square as well. White
lose the rook to f2xR? has a knight in the vicinity, and on a dark
square. You get the picture: 2. NxB+ is a
knight fork that takes the bishop right away
and wins back the rook next move. White
gains a piece with the sequence.

This position illustrates a valuable instinct to

develop. The mind recoils initially at the
thought of Re7+ because it loses the rook; the
natural temptation is to abandon the idea and
search for something safer. Cultivate the op-
posite habit of mind: a willingness to persist,
imagining the loss of the rook and looking for
Dg258: Black to move what would then be possible on the board.
No; the pawn is pinned by Black’s bishop at 2.4.3. Creating a Target.
c5, so its protection of g3 is illusory. Rg3+
thus wins the knight. This is an example of a Now we turn to studies that involve creating
rook fork requiring a horizontal move; it may targets for rook forks, usually by forcing a
preliminary exchange. A common complica- first the e1 rook may look most promising,
tion is that at the outset of the position the but in fact the one on a5 has the more intrigu-
rook’s path to the forking square is blocked ing potential. Follow its path horizontally
by the piece that starts the exchange; you through the White knight (at e5) to a square
have to be able to see that the exchange not where the rook can give a check (g5). Again
only creates a good target but also creates an the question becomes whether the knight can
open line for the rook to reach the key square. vacate e5 in a way that creates a target on the
other side of the check. 1. Nxg4 is the answer;
if Black replies NxN, then Black’s knight
ends up loose and 2. Rg5+ wins it after the
king moves. This is almost identical to the
previous position, of course, except that the
rook’s move is horizontal rather than vertical.

Dg260: White to move

Dg260: Begin with the position on the left. A

customary way to start thinking about tactical
opportunities is to ask what captures White
can make and with what consequences. Here
he has just one: Nxb7; the recapture is BxN. Dg262: White to move
Obviously the exchange is unprofitable on its
face, but imagine the board afterwards and Dg262: What checks can White’s rook give?
ask what would then be possible. What loose Two: Rxf7 and Rd8. The interesting question
pieces would Black have? Both bishops. What about Rd8 is whether a Black piece can be
checks would White have? Re1 and Rc7, the moved elsewhere onto the back rank and thus
latter as a result of the line opened by the ear- turn that check into a double attack. White
lier exchange. These facts can be stitched to- only has one other piece to work with—the
gether into a fork: Rc7+ wins the bishop that bishop; so try attacking something with it.
would then be on b7. Bb5 threatens the Black knight and forces it
to move. Where can it go? Its only safe square
is b8—and once it’s there, Rd8 forks and wins

At several points in our studies we will see

this principle used: an attack on an enemy
knight that forces it to move somewhere use-
ful to you. The thing to remember about
knights is that their range of motion is inher-
ently limited; they never can make it to more
than eight squares, and where (as here) they
are near the edge of the board that number
Dg261: White to move gets even smaller. This often makes it easy to
figure out where a knight will have to go if
Dg261: This time try tracing the White rook’s attacked, and thus turns attacks on enemy
possible moves through any other pieces, knights into very useful forcing moves.
searching for interesting destinations for it. At
Dg264: What interesting visual pattern do you
see here? Black pieces lined up on the seventh
rank. The White rook on e1 is poised to attack
at e7, but Black's queen prevents this and isn’t
a feasible target anyway since it can bite.
Still, the idea suggested by the arrangement
of Black’s pieces is the important thing be-
cause it guides your thought experiments:
now you have in mind an attack with the rook
and can look for exchanges or other forcing
moves that might make it possible, particu-
Dg263: White to move larly by replacing the queen with a better tar-
get. White has a capture (and check) available
Dg263: What Black pieces are loose? Really for the purpose: QxQ+, to which Black replies
just the bishop on d1; notice how Black’s KxQ. Now comes White's Re7+, forking and
knight is protected by the Black rook against winning the now-loose bishop on f7.
capture by White’s rook. How can White at-
tack the bishop? With Rd3. To make that
move interesting, another loose piece needs to
be lured elsewhere onto the d file. The Black
knight is the only real candidate. Ask what the
knight protects on the d file that you might
attack. Seemingly nothing—but maybe you
can get the knight onto the d6 square by mak-
ing trouble there with a pawn advance toward
promotion (and the two exchanges that natu-
rally follow): 1. d5-d6, c7xd6; 2. c5xd6,
Nxd6; and now 3. Rd3 forks the bishop and
knight. Black might see this and postpone Dg265: Black to move
Nxd6, first playing RxR; Black is thinking
that after White recaptures with f2xR, Black Dg265: Again, start with the visual pattern,
can play Nxd6 without fear of being forked. this time from Black's point of view: White
But White doesn’t reply to RxR by recaptur- has two pieces — the two bishops — on the
ing. He moves his d-pawn to d7 and now it same rank. The one on a3 is loose. The ar-
can’t be stopped from promoting. Black is rangement suggests a possible fork by the
better off putting up with the fork after all. rook. Of course Black’s own knight is in the
way at d4, and would need to be vacated with
2.4.4. Moving the King into Position. a threat that forces White’s response; and the
other White bishop—the one at f3—is not yet
loose. But both problems can be addressed
with an exchange. Black plays NxB; White
replies KxN. In addition to bringing the king
onto the same rank as the loose bishop, the
exchange opened the d-file for Black’s rook.
Now Rd3+ wins the piece.

A general point: When you have a chance to

exchange minor pieces, as Black did here, as
a matter of course you should play through
the exchange in your mind’s eye to see how it
Dg264: White to move leaves the board—what lines it opens, what
becomes loose, etc.
Dg266: White to move Dg267: White to move

Dg266: What Black pieces are loose? The Here White has Rxg6+, which goes nowhere;
knight and rook. Focus on the knight, since it but then he also has Qd2+ (don’t overlook
makes a good target for an attack by your own backward moves!). Black is forced to move
rook. White’s rook can attack the knight in his king onto the same rank as his queen.
one move (either Rc3 or Rd6). If only the Rd7+ forks them, and a move later Black
Black king could be pushed onto the same wins a queen for a rook. Notice that attacks
rank or file as the knight; but how? White’s by the rook against a queen, like similar at-
bishop is no help because the king is on the tacks by a bishop, only work if the attacking
wrong color square. But White has pawns piece has protection; here White’s queen still
near Black’s king, and pawns are perfect for guards the eventual forking square (d7) when
pushing pieces around by threatening them. it delivers check from d2.
Put more simply, what checks does White
have? Answer: push a pawn to f4 or h4. Ei-
ther way the only legal move for Black’s king
is onto the sixth rank. When the enemy king
is forced to move, you reevaluate what would
be possible—what new checks. Answer:
Rd6+, winning the knight.

So that’s the forking idea. But actually White

has something even stronger. 1. Rd6 threatens
to mate next move with h3-h4. Blocking the
idea with h5-h4 doesn’t work for Black, be-
cause then White has f3-f4+ (forcing the king Dg268: White to move
to h5) and then Bd1#. Instead Black has to
reply to 1. Rd6 with Rxa4, using his rook to Dg268: Near the beginning of the James Bond
defend the fourth rank. But then White has movie From Russia with Love, a chess match
BxR and the threat of f3-f4#. Black can fend is depicted between the villainous Kronsteen,
off the immediate mate threat with f5-f4, but playing the White pieces, and one McAdams.
promptly loses his knight to RxN—and now The position is pictured here. Kronsteen plays
he is out of pieces. The sequence is worth 1. NxB, discovering check. McAdams replies
playing through in your mind's eye a few Kh7. Meanwhile Kronsteen has been sum-
times. moned away by a secret message from his
bosses at SPECTRE; so now he plays 2.
Qe4+—and McAdams resigns. Black’s best
reply move would have been 2. …g7-g6,
Dg267: Avoid doing anything without first blocking the check, but this creates a fork for
examining any checks you can give and their White with Rf7, winning Black’s queen for a
consequences. rook. The position was based on one that
arose between Boris Spassky and David
Bronstein in Leningrad in 1960, though in the White has 3. QxNg6, Kh8 (forced); 4. Nf7+
real game there were White pawns on c5 and (always look for the next check in these situa-
d4. Bronstein resigned after Spassky played 2. tions). Now if 4. …Kg8, then 5. Ng5+ (dis-
Qe4+. covering check by the bishop), and White is
about to mate. Or if 4. …QxN, then 5. RxQ
As a study in the rook fork the lesson of the and White again will mate soon; Black can
position lies in three events that make Rf7+ use his rook to throw some checks at White’s
possible: (a) Black’s king stepped forward king, but this is just desperation. Other replies
from the eighth rank to the seventh, a classic to White's 2. Qe4+ likewise end with Black
site for rook forks because the rank can't be getting mated. E.g., 2. …Kh8; 3. Rxf8+, RxR;
guarded by pawns and tends not to be pa- 4. Ng6+, Kh7; 5. NxR++, Kh8; Qh7#.
trolled (for defensive purposes) by rooks. (b)
One of Black's pawns stepped forward from Some of the ideas in these variations—as well
the seventh rank to the sixth, opening a line as the idea of the discovered check that starts
between the king and queen. And (c) White’s the sequence when White's knight steps away
Qe4 cleared a path up the f-file for his rook. from f7—will be easier to understand after
Each of these events is a type that can cause you have worked through the later parts of
new tactics to become available: pins and these lessons.
skewers, as we shall see later, and forks, as
we see here. 2.4.5. Clearing Paths.

That’s all you need to see about the position In the following positions there is a rook fork
for present purposes, but for the sake of com- waiting to happen: two enemy pieces on the
pleteness we can consider a couple of other same rank or file, one of them loose, or one of
variations. What, for example, is Black’s best them the king, or both. But there are pieces
reply to White’s initial 1. NxB? It’s 1. …Ne6, between them, or between the rook and the
which blocks the check and pretty well puts forking square, that have to be gotten out of
out the tactical fire. Suppose, however, that in the way for the double attack to work. Again
reply to 1. NxB Black plays 1. …Kh8. Now it is important to recognize the basic visual
White can’t play Qe4 with check to clear the patterns involved—enemy pieces on the same
way for the rook fork. But White still has a rank or file, suggestive of a fork—without
wonderful move: Qc4, aligning the queen being thrown off by obstructing pieces that
with the bishop on b3 and threatening to mate you might be able to remove.
next move on g8. Black has no good reply.
Kh7 doesn’t help at all. Qe6 blocks White’s Look for visual patterns on the diagram.
queen but now allows White to play RxN+
instead. If Black recaptures RxR, his queen is Dg269: We see a familiar layout of Black pie-
left loose and White takes it. If Black doesn’t ces, with the king and a loose knight — prime
take the rook he soon will be mated. So targets for a fork—on the seventh rank.
Black’s best move after 1. NxB+, Kh8; 2. Qc4
is Nd7, clearing a path for the e8 rook to use
to protect the mating square g8. But the
knight’s move leaves g6 loose, and White
uses it to play Ng6+, a fork that takes Black’s
queen next turn.

Finally, suppose that after 1. NxB, Kh7; 2.

Qe4+, Black declines to step his g-pawn for-
ward and instead plays 2. …Ng6. This blocks
the check without opening up the seventh
rank for the rook fork White would like to
play. But now Black is in bigger trouble, as Dg269: White to move
If White could get a rook between them, the attack with White’s rook: a king and loose
knight would be his. The Black pawn at e6 is bishop on the same rank with nothing be-
the only thing in the way. The natural method tween them. Can the Black rook be attacked?
for getting a pawn out of the way is to take
something it protects. Here it protects the
pawn on d5, so White takes it with Bxd5. If
Black replies e6xB, now Re7+ forks king and
knight. The net gain is a pawn.

Dg271: White to move

No. Can White attack something the rook

protects? What does it protect? The knight on
e4. So White takes the knight with NxN,
Dg270: White to move Black responds with RxN, and now with the
Black rook out of the way White plays Rd8+
Dg270: White has no checks that are immedi- and wins the bishop. That would be one way
ately productive (though Ne7+ is not bad), so to see the position; another would be to begin
he looks for any Black pieces that might be by experimenting with captures. White sees
loose. There is one: the bishop on h6. He has that he can play NxN. Automatically he imag-
no direct way to attack it, but since a loose ines it and considers what it would do to the
enemy piece is a big opportunity White con- board. It would cause Black to play RxN.
siders whether he might build a double attack Then what would be possible—especially
against it. Look for a visual pattern: the what checks? Answer: the fork Rd8+.
bishop is on the same rank as the Black
queen. If the pieces between them could be When the queens are faced off against each
cleared out of the way, White would have a other like this, exchanging them is an option
fork with Rc6; the rook would be protected both sides have to consider at every turn. A
from QxR by the pawn on d5. Of the two men capture by either player will require an imme-
in the way, White can control its own—the diate recapture, which may open lines, leave
knight at c6. Where can it move, and with loose pieces elsewhere, etc.
what results? The only capture it can make is
NxN. Black would reply d6xN; the pawn gets
pulled off the sixth rank. Now the way is clear
for Rc6, forking bishop and queen and thus
winning a piece. The initial capturing se-
quence here illustrates a pattern of general
interest: when two pieces need to be cleared
off of a path, sometimes moving one of them
also can force away the other.

Dg271: Look for a pattern; look for enemy

pieces arranged on the same line. Black’s
king, rook, and bishop are spread along the Dg272: White to move
back rank. If the rook were out of the way
there would be a classic setup for a double Dg272: Here White imagines QxQ and
Black’s compulsory recapture NxQ. This
simple sequence leaves behind loose Black the b2 bishop, which would have been left
pieces on c5 and f5 (whereas there were no loose by the exchanges that started the se-
loose Black pieces before), and a clear path quence. The rook fork Rd2+ then wins the
for White’s rook from e1 to e5 (whereas there bishop next move.
were two pieces in its way at the outset). Now
the rook fork Re5 wins a piece. The prospect of a rook fork is nowhere in
sight at the outset of this position. You would
This position is a good illustration of how a see it only by patiently imagining the exhaus-
single exchange can radically alter the tactical tion of exchanges on c4, then your next
opportunities on the board. The solution is check, then the resulting pattern with the king
easy enough to spot if you understand the and loose bishop on the same line. If the latter
significance of loose pieces—and probably position were set in front of you its solution
impossible if you don't. would be clear. It is worth studying this posi-
tion until its solution is equally clear because
you are able to visualize the consequences of
those initial moves. Notice that it involves
several of our major themes in constructing
forks: creating a loose target, loosening the
forking square, and moving the enemy king
onto a square where it can be forked.

Dg273: Black to move

Dg273: Start by seeing that the tension in the

position is focused on c4: Black has two
pieces attacking the bishop there; White has
two pieces defending it. This means Black
can’t win anything immediately with captures
on that square, but if you stop there you're Dg274: Black to move
thinking about the position the wrong way.
The important question when you have a Dg274: You might start here by looking for
chance to force a series of exchanges is how visual patterns for Black to pursue. The key
the board would look afterwards — what thing to notice is the spread of pieces on the
checks you then would have, and whether any second rank and especially the White bishops
of them would be (or could be made into) there. Of course there are pieces between
forks or other tactical devices. them, but if the queens were removed a dou-
ble attack would be possible; as usual the sec-
Okay, so imagine liquidating the pieces ond rank is a great place for a fork because it
trained on c4. Black plays BxB, and White can’t be defended by pawns. The bishops
replies RxB; Black plays RxR, and White there are especially nice targets because
replies RxR. The two sides have traded bish- unlike the White queen that also is there, they
ops and rooks. More importantly, one of the wouldn’t be able to strike back at a rook that
rooks in White’s battery is off the board and jumped between them.
the other ends up on c4, leaving White’s back
rank weak (bereft of defenders). The natural So Black goes to work to get rid of the ob-
thought for Black, then, is to drop one of his structions, starting with the obstructing piece
own rooks there with check: Rd1+. This that he can control: his own queen. Experi-
forces White’s king to f2—on the same file as ment with exchanges. If Black plays QxQ,
White plays RxQ. Now only the White rook ten with the rook than with the other pieces
would prevent a fork of the two bishops. Can we have considered because the rook less
it be taken? No. Can something it protects be often is in position to do both of those things.
taken? No. But can the rook be threatened We consider it here only briefly.
and perhaps driven away? Yes, with Bb4.
White moves the rook so as to avoid BxR;
and now Black plays Rc2, attacking both of
the now-loose bishops and winning one of

2.4.6. Working with Mate Threats.

Dg276: Black to move

Dg276: This time you might begin by inspect-

ing the enemy king (White's) and the con-
straints on its movement. Black’s bishop at-
tacks h2, and g1 is off limits because White’s
own knight is there. So the White king has
very limited mobility, and this vulnerability is
a tactical opening. If Black could just aim
Dg275: Black to move another piece at the king, he might have a
mating threat; even if it were easily thwarted,
Dg275: What White pieces are loose? The it might enable him to win material by serving
bishop at c3. Black needs a way to attack it as the anchor for a double attack. Best of all
and attack something else at the same time— would be to land an attacker on h2, since
preferably the White king. His queen is off Black already covers that square with his
the board, so what might he do with his rook? bishop. His rook can prepare to do this with 1.
He can attack the loose bishop with Rd3. That …Rf2. This creates multiple threats at once,
move doesn’t attack the king directly, but the which is your general goal as a tactician. The
opportunity presented by the loose piece is first threat is that White’s queen is now at-
important, so think harder; examine the White tacked twice and guarded just once (by the
king’s position carefully. The bishop at b6 knight on g1). If White’s queen moves, either
cuts off the g1 square. The bishop on e4 pins to play QxQ or just to get someplace safer,
the pawn on g2. So if Black could get a rook Black also threatens to mate with Rh2. If
onto the h-file, it would be mate. This idea White replies to Rf2 with QxR, then of course
can be put together with the previous one: Black plays QxQ. White’s best reply probably
Rd3 both attacks the bishop and threatens to is to play his own rook from d7 to d2, thus
end the game with Rh3#; after White fends preparing to recapture, with a loss, after Black
off the mate threat, Black plays RxB. The plays RxQ.
lesson is to always be aware of the enemy
king (not to mention your own) and any of
your pieces that constrain it.
2.4.7 Strategic Implications.
The motif illustrated by this position—the
fork that targets an enemy piece at one end Rooks do not need to be in the center of the
and threatens mate at the other—is familiar board to be effective. In principle, at least,
from the previous chapters. It occurs less of- they have the potential to attack the same
number of squares—a full rank, and a full this pawn push on the second move have to
file—no matter where they sit on the board. do with rooks?
They generally do need to be moved out of
the corners to gain power, however, and mov- Everything: once his f-pawn is gone, White
ing a rook toward the middle of the board has will have a half-open file onto which he can
the particular advantage of making it easier to bring his rook just by castling on the kingside
launch double attacks with the rook against a few moves later. That rook suddenly can
pieces on the same file (i.e., pieces aligned easily become a terror, bearing down on f7—
vertically). It stands to reason: double attacks typically a weak point in Black's position. Of
require rooks to get between two enemy course there are many other consequences of
pieces; the farther the rook is advanced into the King's Gambit; it's a complicated opening.
the center, the greater the opportunities for The point for now is just to see how gaining
enemy pieces to end up on both sides of it. an open avenue for a rook can be a part of the
Likewise, rooks on the four middle files are planning from the first steps of the game.
more likely to be able to get between enemy
pieces lying on the same rank (i.e., aligned In a sense all this is just another application of
horizontally). Glance at where the rooks that some principles given at the end of the chap-
inflicted the double attacks in this chapter ter on the bishop fork. Here, as there, pawn
generally were positioned at the start of the moves are significant in part because of the
sequence; ideally, that is where you want your lines they open and close. From an offensive
rooks to be: centralized. standpoint, a pawn capture that creates an
open line for a rook may be very valuable for
Whether they do their work out on the board just that reason; from a defensive standpoint,
or from posts on the back rank, what rooks think carefully about any capturing sequences
most generally require are open files ahead of that will have the effect of opening files for
them. They don’t do much good sitting be- your opponent’s rooks. And once a file does
hind their own pawns unless the pawn is on open, try to claim it by planting a rook at its
its way to promotion on the opponent’s back base.
rank. Make it a priority to get your rooks onto
open files (or half-open files—files where The positions in this chapter also underscore
none of your own pawns sit, even if your op- another point we have seen elsewhere: the
ponent still has a pawn in place.) Move your importance of creating open lines to the en-
rooks there or move pawns out of their way emy king and of avoiding open lines to your
by making captures with them. own king. In the rook’s case an “open line”
includes the back rank if it can get that far and
no defenders are there. Anytime an enemy
rook has an open path to your back rank, or a
path obstructed only by its own pieces, start
worrying. Anytime your own rook is in that
position, start experimenting.

Dg277: Black to move

Dg277: Indeed, there is a whole opening—the

King's Gambit—premised partly on this idea.
White offers to sacrifice his f-pawn on the
second move, as shown to the left. What does
2.5. The Pawn Fork. 2.5.2. Exchanges to Create Working Pawn

2.5.1. Introduction.

We now consider double attacks by the pawn.

This chapter, too, is shorter than the earlier
ones on forks because attacking patterns in-
volving the pawn tend to be simple. A pawn
can fork two enemy pieces that are on the
same rank and separated by one square.
(E.g., the Black rook and knight in the dia-
gram, which can be forked with f2-f4.) Any
two enemy pieces are fine, at least if the pawn
has protection; the joy of attacking with Dg279: White to move
pawns is that they are worth so little. A pawn
for a piece—any piece—almost always is a White looks for a promising geometric pattern
good deal, so every piece must fear them. and sees that Black has two pieces—the
And of course you start with eight pawns, and bishop and knight—on the same rank and
they often are near the combat zones of the separated by one square: the classic setup for
board. They can jump from their starting posi- a pawn fork. The only hitch is that the bishop
tion into the center in one move, and can is an unsuitable target because it can capture
move diagonally when they capture. We will the pawn. White asks whether he can take the
see pawns taking advantage of all these capa- bishop with another piece, causing it to be
bilities in the examples that follow. replaced by a better target; he can, with NxB.
Black recaptures with RxN, and now White
plays the fork f2-f4, winning the knight after
the rook moves.

Dg278: White to move

Dg278: By the way, what will happen in the

diagram after White starts with f2-f4? Black Dg280: White to move
might try a classic line of reply to a fork: he
can move one of his pieces out of it with Dg280: Here the concept is similar but harder
check by playing Re1. Now White can't play to see. White almost has a pawn fork with d5-
f4xN; he has to move his king to f2. But d6, but the move attacks a queen and a pawn,
White still will make his gains, because now an unsuitable target. If only the Black king
he threatens KxR and (still) f4xN. Black can't were on e7 rather than d7; and in that fantasy
escape both threats. lies the solution: draw the king onto e7 by
attacking the pawn there that only the king
protects. White plays Rxe7, Black replies
KxR (if Black moves the king, White skewers
the queen with RxQ), and now the pawn push
d5-d6 wins the queen (the knight on c4 pro-
vides the protection the pawn needs to attack

Notice, by the way, that White does all this

while threatened with b5xN. The usual lesson
repeats: when under even an obvious threat,
consider whether you can effectively go on
the offensive with a check of your own.

Dg282: Black to move

The knights on e4 and g4 are perfectly posi-

tioned. The only obstacle is Black’s own
queen at f5. When our own pieces obstruct
our plans, our first recourse is clear: try to
move them out of the way in a violent fashion
that requires a time - consuming response
from the enemy. What can Black attack with
his queen? White’s queen: 1. …QxQ, 2.
Dg281: White to move e2xQ, and now f7-f5 wins a knight.

Dg281: The same idea in different form.

White sees that his pawn on g3 is one move
from attacking the enemy queen on h5. The
move would be a lot more interesting if it also
attacked something else. There is not yet a
working fork because on f5 Black has a
pawn—an unsuitable target. So again White
asks whether he has anything he can use to
capture the pawn and cause it to be upgraded
to a target that will work. He finds one option
for the purpose: Bxf5+. Black’s only legal
reply is KxB, leaving his king and queen in Dg283: Black to move
position to be forked with g3-g4. Of course a
pawn fork of the queen only works if the Dg283: Where does White have pieces vul-
pawn has protection, and it does—from the nerable to a pawn fork? He has pieces on c3
pawn on h3. and e3, and Black has a pawn at d5, so the
makings of a fork are in view. There are two
Again, another way to have seen this would obstacles to its success: the White knight on
have been to examine every check. White has d4 is in the pawn’s way and will need to be
two: Rb6, which Black escapes easily, and cleared somehow; and if a bishop is going to
Bxf5, which looks improbable but requires be one of the targets of the fork, the pawn will
Black to move his king to recapture. You need protection so it doesn’t get captured.
imagine this response, see the telltale result- Once you understand that those are the prob-
ing position of Black’s king and queen, and lems you need to worry about, the solution is
take it from there. clear enough: play c7-c5. The threat drives
the knight away (every piece flees a pawn),
Dg282: Where does White have pieces vul- and also creates protection for the d5 pawn
nerable to a pawn fork? when it then moves to d4, forking knight and
It's worth having a good look at the starting pawn on d5 is a square away from being able
position here. It's important to see the poten- to fork them. The problem is that d6 is occu-
tial for a pawn fork in a situation like this pied by an enemy pawn. How do we get rid of
despite all the other distracting pieces in the it? In familiar fashion: take something it pro-
vicinity—particularly the knight on d4. tects, forcing it to move to recapture. So
White plays NxN; Black recaptures d6xN;
and now the fork d5-d6 wins Black’s other

Dg284: White to move

Dg284: What Black pieces are vulnerable to a

pawn fork? His knight and bishop, of course. Dg286: White to move
What are the obstacles? The Black queen,
which blocks the pawn’s path; and again the Dg286: It is White’s turn four moves into the
pawn will need protection if it is going to at- Four Knights opening. He is considering Bc4
tack a bishop. The problems here are the same to develop his pieces further. What happens if
as in the previous problem, and so is the solu- he plays that move? Picture it: his bishop and
tion: f2-f3 drives away the queen and also e4 pawn will be in the classic position to be
provides protection to support the fork e3-e4 forked by Black’s d-pawn, and Black would
that follows. (Note that after 1. f2-f3, Black be able to replace the pawn on e4 with a suit-
has to move his queen somewhere; pay atten- able target by playing Nxe4, inviting the reply
tion to where it will go, as its options are very NxN. Now White’s knight and bishop would
limited. Black likely will play it to h4. Now be forkable with d7-d5. True, White could
White pauses to play the exchange 2. QxQ, then take Black’s pawn with his bishop
g5xQ; he plays this first because his own (Bxd5), but then Black plays QxB. When the
queen is unprotected. Then he plays the fork smoke clears, Black will have won no mate-
in the middle of the board.) rial but will have a better position: a pawn in
the center and both bishops ready to move.
The point of the position is not the precise
outcome, though; it is the importance of hesi-
tating before leaving one of your pieces one
square away from any of your own pieces or
pawns on the same rank. Consider whether
your opponent could start an exchange that
would create a working pawn fork at the end.

2.5.3. Forcing Pieces into Place with

Threats and Checks.

Dg285: White to move So far we've dealt with cases where your op-
ponent began with two men ready to be for-
Dg285: By now the idea here should be easy ked by a pawn. One of them may have been
to spot: Black’s rook and c7 knight are a an unsuitable target—e.g.,an enemy pawn that
square apart on the same rank, and White’s
needed to be upgraded with an exchange — A loose end remains. When we went over
but the basic geometric motif already was White's checks, we left one out: Re1. It looks
present. These next positions differ because good; indeed, it forces the same initial result
the geometry for a pawn fork needs to be cre- as Qe7: Black has to play KxN, and now
ated; enemy pieces have to be forced onto White has that same pawn fork. But there is a
squares where they can then be forked. How grave difference in what follows from there.
do you force a piece onto the empty square After White plays g2-g4, Black naturally
where you want it to go? Sometimes a threat moves his king away with Kxf4, and then
will do the trick. Normally your opponent will White has g4xQ (the execution of the fork)—
move a threatened piece someplace safe, but but now notice the state of the g-file. White's
if it has a limited range of motion because pawn no longer is there; the only things left
some of its escape squares are blocked or at- behind are White's king and queen: a perfect
tacked, a threat may force it where you want chance for a pin by Black, which he exploits
it to go. Consider this section a general set of with Rg8. White can't move his queen, and
lessons in paying careful attention to where will lose it next move. White's better starting
threatened pieces will move. move, Qe7, avoids this calamity by getting
the queen off the g-file right away.

The general lesson of this last variation is to

be careful to study all of your checks. Some-
times one looks as good as the next for a pur-
pose on first inspection, but turns out to have
quite different side effects. The more specific
lesson is to be alert to one particular type of
side effect: lines that get opened by a tactical
sequence, such as the g-file in this case. This
last possibility may seem startling and worri-
some if you haven't studied pins; but once you
Dg287: White to move get through that part of this project, you will
know that the sight of White's queen and king
Dg287: In this first example White has a on the same line is something to notice from
pawn that can jump into position to attack the the beginning here.
Black queen with g2-g4. The threat is of lim-
ited interest by itself, but it would make a
terrific first half of a double attack: if Black’s
king could be goaded onto f5, White would
have a pawn fork. Of course White's knight is
there now, and Black's king will want to avoid
capturing it precisely because of the fork that
then results. But whether these thoughts occur
to you or not, on principle you would want to
examine every check White can give and its
consequences. White has a check at d4 with
his knight that achieves nothing. He has
checks with the queen at d7 and f7 that lose Dg288: Black to move
the queen right away, but another check at e7
where the queen enjoys protection from the Dg288: Look for patterns in the layout of
knight. How would Black respond? He would White’s pieces or for threats you can make;
have to move the king with KxN. White the result either way should be to see Black's
imagines the board as it would then look and potential pawn fork d4-d3. The problem is
realizes that Black's king and queen would that once the pawn arrives on the forking
then be forkable with g2-g4. square it would be attacked twice — by
White’s queen and rook—and protected only White gets interested in threats he can make
once, by Black’s rook at d8. So the pawn gets against the bishop and their consequences,
taken if it steps forward. Yes, but let that se- and looks at a2-a3. Study the bishop’s flight
quence play out in your mind’s eye: 1. …d3; squares and you see that if it moves any
2. Rxd3, RxR; 3. QxR, and now what would deeper into White’s territory it gets taken, so
be possible on the resulting board? White’s it has to move instead to a5. Now Black’s
queen and knight would be arranged for the bishop and knight would be a square apart on
fork e5-e4, winning the knight at f3. In effect the same rank, so b2-b4 would fork them; the
the initial fork was just another threat that pawn on a3 gives the b4 pawn the protection
drew the White rook, then (after an exchange) it needs to be able to attack the bishop.
the White queen, into position for a different
fork. The general lesson: keep an eye out for en-
emy pieces that are hemmed in by their own
Incidentally, note the importance of Black pieces or by the edge of the board; often they
playing the exchange RxR, QxR before exe- have few options if they are attacked, making
cuting the fork at the end. If Black plays the the consequences of the resulting sequence
pawn fork against White’s rook and knight easy to predict and sometimes making a tactic
after the rook has moved to d3, White breaks easy to execute.
out of it with RxR+. Once the rook has been
replaced with White’s queen, however, White
has no good way to break out of the fork. The
general points are (a) to always ask whether
you can improve the target of a double attack
with another exchange, and (b) to always con-
sider what your opponent’s best reply to the
fork would be; he may have a check or threat
that would enable him to break it—especially
if his king is not one of the parties to the fork.

Dg290: White to move

Dg290: The same idea. Again observe that

that Black’s bishop has limited motion (look
behind it; it can’t retreat toward a7). So White
considers threatening it with b2-b4. Here as
before, Black’s bishop gets taken if it tries to
escape by moving farther into White’s terri-
tory. Instead Black might play Bd6—putting
the bishop one square away from the knight
Dg289: White to move on the same rank. Now White forks the two
pieces with e4-e5, with cover for the pawn
Dg289: Sometimes a threat by one pawn will supplied by the bishop at f4. (Or Black replies
force an enemy piece into position to be to b2-b4 with the suicide run Bxf2; after
forked by another. The previous position was White replies KxB, Black has Nxe4+, and
one example; here is another that works a bit White ends up winning a piece for two
differently. White sees that Black’s bishop pawns.)
has limited opportunities for escape, as the
knight on c5 cuts off its main line to the rear. Dg291: This time White's bishop on b5 is the
(A bishop with so little room to retreat is a piece with a limited ability to retreat. When
vulnerability you want to spot in your oppo- you see a piece trapped in this way, think
nent's position and avoid in your own.) So about threats against it. For Black that means
considering Rd5 here. The bishop then gets simply pushed it again.) So d5-d6 then wins a
taken if it moves to e2, d3, c6, d7, e8, or a6. knight, with the bishop on g3 providing nec-
Its only safe move—and it's only temporarily essary protection against Qxd6.
safe—is Bc4. (If White tries Be8, Black plays
Kf8 and now the White bishop is attacked That is the idea, anyway. Against an alert
twice and defended once with nowhere good player the outcome would be favorable but
to go. Remember that Black's rook would be not quite so simple. As usual you need to con-
on d5....) What then would be possible? sider whether he might seize the offensive.
Here Black’s best reply to d4-d5 is not to
move his knight to c7; it is to play Ne7xd5.
Then when White plays e4xN, Black has the
recapture Qxd5. White still gains a piece for
two pawns, but Black has reduced his losses
nicely. There is a valuable defensive lesson in
this for occasions when you find yourself the
target of an unavoidable fork. If you are des-
tined to lose a piece, you might as well do
whatever damage you can with it (or with
another piece you can sacrifice in its place). A
doomed piece that has this odd sudden liberty
Dg291: Black to move to go on a suicide mission is known not as a
kamikaze but as a desperado.
White’s queen and bishop would be set up for
the pawn fork b7-b5, with Black’s rook at b2
furnishing the cover.

Dg293: Black to move

Dg293: The drill: look at any threats you can

Dg292: White to move make with your pawns and ask what conse-
quences would follow. It is especially impor-
Dg292: No Black pieces are poised to be tant to consider this when the threatened piece
forked. But again it is good practice to exam- has little room for escape. Here Black has the
ine the consequences of threats you can make simple g7-g6, putting pressure on the queen.
by advancing your pawns. White has just one The queen’s freedom of movement is limited;
such threat to consider: d4-d5. The Black it has to move to h4. Now what? Well, Black
knight would flee, but don’t stop with that can attack it again: g6-g5, and now White is
observation; ask where it would go. It has in a jam. To see why, consider his king; for it
only one safe square: c7. Re-evaluate the is affected by these movements of your g-
board as it then would look and notice that pawn, which now seals off f4 and h4, and also
Black’s knights now would be a square apart protects those squares if you want to occupy
on the same rank. (Alternatively, after push- them yourself. So look for your next check
ing forward a pawn to threaten something, find Bxf4—mate.
you can always ask what would happen if you
This means that after Black's second push of In the game this position came from, between
the g-pawn, White wouldn't want to play Qh5. Tal and Botvinnik, it was White’s turn to
He would need to try f4xg5. Too bad about move. Tal played Nc3-d5. Now if Black plays
that f4 pawn of White's. But put this together g6-g5, White plays NxNf6+. Since this
with the earlier point about f4—its vulnerabil- checks the king, Black can’t play g5xQ; he
ity to Black's bishop—and a new idea comes has to capture White’s knight. After that ex-
to mind: if the pawn at f4 first could be re- change gets rid of the knight on f6, White’s
placed with the White king, Black could fork queen has plenty of flight squares and the fire
White's king and queen by putting his pawn is out. But of course the first important point
on g5. So Black reconsiders that check we in all this is for White to recognize that he is
mentioned: Bxf4, which he plays early: before in danger. The tipoff is the immobility of his
or after White’s queen has retreated (naturally queen.
you could have found the whole idea here by
starting with the check Bxf4). Whether White
plays KxB or moves his king to h4, Black’s
marching g-pawn then wins the queen. 2.5.4. Forks By Marching Pawns.

A similar result can be reached by skipping

Bxf4+ at the beginning and just playing 1.
…g7-g6; 2. Qh4, g6-g5; 3. f4xg5—and now
3. … Bxg5 attacks and wins the queen. The
bishop has protection against capture, and if
White tries to move the queen to safety on h5,
Black has f5-f4. This forces Kh2, which in
turn allows Black to play Rh1#.

Dg295: White to move

Dg295: White looks for promising patterns

and sees Black’s queen and knight in a vul-
nerable position: a square apart on the same
rank. White has no way to get a pawn onto c5
in one move, but perhaps he could march it to
c5 by threatening something with it along the
way. The small push c3-c4 threatens Black’s
Dg294: Black to move knight; after it flees, c4-c5 then forks queen
and knight—with the necessary cover sup-
Dg294: This time White’s queen is the piece plied by White’s own knight on b3.
that is cramped: it’s up against the side of the
board with little room to retreat. Black con- When you find a sequence like this, of course,
siders a threat against it with g6-g5. Where you understand that it is the ideal sequence.
will the queen go? It gets captured if it moves Your opponent may make sacrifices to pre-
to h5 or to anywhere on the fourth rank (look vent it from playing out quite as you imag-
and see). So it has to move to h3. Yet now its ined. Thus after White plays 1. c3-c4, Black’s
relationship with the knight on f3 calls for a best option is not to move his knight and al-
pawn fork: g5-g4 wins the knight, with low the coming knight fork. It is to launch a
Black’s own knight at f6 supplying the counterattack with 1. …Bf5, attacking
needed protection for the pawn. White’s rook. It's a nice attack; for if White
moves his rook to a1 or c1, Black then plays
Bxb2 with his dark-squared bishop and now
the rook has no escape. So White's best reply no checks in the picture), because he may
to Black's Bf5 is to forget the rook and play 2. then be able to buy time by making similar or
c4xN, BxR; 3. QxB, Nxd5. White has won a worse threats of his own elsewhere. In this
knight and a bishop for a rook and a pawn. case it's not an issue, however, White has no
effective way to derail the fork.
Notice that in this sequence the pawn fork
never actually gets played. It has to be seen,
though, because the threat of it causes every-
thing else that happens instead. In good play,
forks and similar tactical devices frequently
do their most important work in this indirect
way: they are seen and avoided, but the effort
to avoid them forces material or positional
sacrifices that end up being decisive.

Dg297: White to move

Dg297: The same idea once more. The first

thing is to train your eye to see two pieces
lined up with a single square between them,
as Black's queen and knight are arranged in
this case. White can’t get a pawn to e5 in one
move, but he can do it with a two-step push:
e3-e4 forces the bishop to move because the
Dg296: Black to move pawn is protected three times (count 'em).
Now e4-e5 wins the knight after the queen
Dg296: Here is a similar position. What moves; this time the rook on e1 provides the
White pieces are poised to be forked by a needed cover.
pawn? The bishop and knight on f3 and h3 are
in the classic position. Black can’t get a pawn Black has no effective counterplay here, but
onto g4 in one move, but he can march it as an exercise imagine the position with
there, and leave White no time to defend it- White’s pawn on h3 moved back to h2. Can
self, by playing g6-g5, threatening White’s f4 something so subtle make a difference? It
bishop. The bishop runs away, and now g5-g4 does: for then after 1. e3-e4, Black has 1.
wins a piece. (The Black pawn on f5 provides …Ng4—threatening mate with Qxh2. The
the necessary cover, of course.) mate threat can be evaded in various ways
(e.g., with 2. BxN, BxB; or with the simple 2.
Here as in the previous position your oppo- e4-e5, forcing Black’s queen to retreat), but
nent can thrash around a bit; after the initial now the forking threat is over because Black's
pawn push, White can throw in a capture knight has left f6.
elsewhere like c4xd5. In this case Black just
recaptures with his e-pawn and the forking There are a few lessons to take away from the
threat is both renewed and unavoidable for variation just discussed. Again, especially
White, but the point is that you always want when you are not operating with checks you
to make sure you have considered what coun- have to ask what threats (particularly what
terplay your opponent might be able to offer checks and mate threats) your opponent might
elsewhere on the board. This is especially be able to make as an alternative to playing
important when the sequence you contemplate into your hands. In this case you would want
doesn’t threaten the enemy with anything to be especially wary of moves he can make
more than the loss of a piece (i.e., you have by either of the pieces being threatened, and
wary as well of threats against your king's moving is what it used to protect that may
position. If an enemy queen already is aimed now be loose.)
at a square next to your king, as Black's is
here, remember that your opponent may be Now let’s think about counterplay for a mo-
able to create a mate threat by simply adding ment. After c2-c4, is it clear that Black has
another attack against that square. Maybe the nothing better to do than move his knight out
mate threat can be defused easily, but it will of the way and allow the fork on c5? What
cost you time. Finally, you can treat this as a attacks of his own does Black have as op-
little study in the value of a well-placed pawn. tions? He can play BxB, freeing one of the
In the position as actually diagrammed, the pieces to the potential fork with a capture; the
pawn on h3 is doing quite helpful work by question is whether, after White recaptures
keeping Black's f6 knight from jumping to g4. h2xB, Black has bought time to rush his
This is an important office of pawns: guarding knights to safety. Almost, but not quite. For
squares where you don't want enemy knights when Black played BxB, the knight on d5
planted. became pinned to its king and thus cannot
now be moved. So after White recaptures on
g3, the best Black can do is take the c4 pawn
with his other knight (Nb6xc4), thus allowing
White to play RxNd5 next move. White wins
a piece for a pawn, but again the sequence is
not quite as simple as it might look at first.

Dg298: White to move

Dg298: White sees that Black has left two

pieces—his bishop and his b6 knight — a
square apart on the same rank, inviting a
pawn fork. White’s c-pawn needs two moves
to get there, which is fine so long as the first Dg299: Black to move
move is a threat that requires a time-
consuming reply: after c2-c4, the knight Dg299: Black experiments with the effects of
moves, and then c4-c5 wins a piece by fork- advancing a pawn and finds that e4-e3 moves
ing the knight and bishop. But wait; where is near to forking White’s queen and rook. Of
the cover the pawn needs before it can attack course White wouldn't allow that; but go far-
a bishop that has the power to capture it back? ther and ask precisely what he could do to
There is none, but none is needed because prevent it.
after the knight on d5 moves the bishop is
pinned to its king by White’s rook on d1. Re- (a) White won't be playing d2xe3 because the
call that even if a target looks unsuitable be- d2 pawn is pinned to his queen. (In other
cause it can defend itself, it is powerless to do words, Black would have QxQ; if White then
so if it is pinned; thus whenever a piece replies RxQ, Black plays RxR#.)
moves, as the d5 knight does here, consider
whether the move creates any open lines, any (b) If White responds to e4-e3 by moving his
pins, etc. (If Black were to reply to the initial queen out of the way (say, to c2), Black plays
pawn push with Nb6xc4, he would be leaving QxR#.
his other knight exposed to RxN; another
question to ask when you imagine a piece
(c) If White moves his rook to g1, Black can't compensation. But Qd3+ forces White to play
quite play BxR, because his own pawn would QxQ, to which Black replies e4xQ. Now re-
be blocking the way on e3. But he can use examine how the board would look: the pawn
that pawn to take White's pawn on d2, and on d3 would be attacking the White knight on
thus threaten to take the c1 bishop next move; c2; and if the knight moves, the pawn ad-
once White avoids that threat (with Bb2), then vances to d2, forking both rooks. Could it
Black has BxR after all, winning the ex- then be taken by the king? No, because the
change and a pawn after White recaptures. knight formerly on c2 will have moved, creat-
ing an open line for the Black rook on b2 to
(d) So suppose White instead plays Re1. This, provide cover for the pawn. So White is better
too, fails—to e3xd2, forking rook and bishop. off letting his knight on c2 get taken by
White plays Bxd2, and then Black has QxB, Black’s pawn rather than letting the pawn
winning a piece. march farther and take a rook.

The important thing to notice is how a pawn Think of this as a case where a pawn again
can march not only forward but also diago- marched diagonally with a capture, enabling it
nally by making a capture, expanding its po- to deliver (or threaten) a fork that would not
tential to inflict forks. And then there is a lar- have been possible on its original file. But in
ger point to observe: the pressure on White’s order to move over a file, the e4 pawn needed
king that indirectly drives the tactical se- White to put something on d3 that it could
quence here. The king is stuck in the corner; take; the something—White’s queen—was
the Black queen’s threat to mate on White’s drawn into place with a check (Qd3+).
back rank (QxR) effectively freezes White’s
queen in place, as it must defend against this
possibility. These pressures on White’s king
do not enable Black to mate, but they do con-
strain his other pieces severely enough to
make a capture of material possible. It is im-
portant to appreciate how such accumulations
of pressure against one point—especially
though not only against the king—can end up
paying off with gains elsewhere as your op-
ponent has to make sacrifices for safety’s
Dg301: Black to move

Dg301: Another extension of the principles in

this chapter. Black’s possible checks (Nc3,
Qf1, Qxc2) don’t seem to go anywhere, so he
experiments with captures and their conse-
quences. Nxb2 is interesting because White’s
only way to recapture would be with his king;
any exchange that causes the king to move is
interesting. Now what do you see in the re-
sulting position? The king and d2 rook are left
a square apart on the same rank, in position to
Dg300: Black to move be forked by a pawn on c3. Black has no
pawn on the c-file. He does, however, have a
Dg300: Here is a nice extension of the princi- pawn on the b-file that is close by; if that
ple we are studying. Black examines every pawn could capture something drawn onto c3,
check as a matter of course, and finds two: it could execute the fork. One way to get an
Qe2 and Qd3. Qe2 loses the queen without enemy piece onto a square, as we have seen,
is to put one of your pieces on the square in a threatened in ways that force them to move
threatening way that requires the enemy to onto squares where they get forked.
recapture there. Best of all is a check. So
Black plays Qc3+, a move that attacks both There is additional reason to worry whenever
White’s king and queen; White has to play you see pieces being used as defenders of
QxQ (White’s king can’t capture the Black other pieces—or of pawns. For then if the
queen because the queen’s square is guarded man under attack gets taken, it is replaced by
by a pawn; and if White moves his king, his a new valuable target that may be loose or
queen gets taken with QxQ). After White’s underdefended. When you do protect your
QxQ, Black plays b4xQ+—forking king and men with other pieces, remember that as soon
rook with cover from Black’s own rook on c8. as the protectorate gets taken,you will be
Black in effect has traded a knight for a rook. forced to move the guarding piece onto a
Again, see how the pawn was able to move square of your opponent’s choosing. There it
over to deliver a fork on a different file after may become a target. It may be loose; it may
Black drew a White piece onto that file that lack the defensive powers of the piece it re-
the pawn could capture. placed; it may have greater value than the
piece it replaced. Thus we saw a number of
Now remember that all this assumes White examples in this chapter of exchanges where
replies to Black’s initial Nxb2 with KxN. pawns were taken and pieces performed re-
White doesn’t have to do that; he can skip the captures—and then the pieces got forked.
recapture, and indeed is better off doing so— Lesson: when you press a piece into service
in which case Black wins a pawn rather than protecting a pawn, give thought to the danger
the exchange. It is another case where the that it can be drawn onto the pawn’s square
threat of an eventual fork, if appreciated by with a capture.
both sides, leads to indirect gains.
Since pawn forks often are the residue of ex-
changes initiated by pieces (a bishop takes a
piece and gets recaptured; then comes the
2.5.5. Strategic Implications. pawn fork), it follows that you can expect
better success with pawn forks when you have
Now a few thoughts on the strategic implica- a well-mobilized army—pieces on open lines
tions of our work on pawn forks. attacking lots of enemy squares and putting
pressure on enemy pieces. Those are the posi-
An easy way to get nailed by a pawn fork is to tions that give rise to exchanges that make
allow one of your pieces to get trapped on a pawn forks and other double attacks possible.
square where it has limited motion. Bishops
and knights near the side of the board are es- Notice generally, too, that victims of pawn
pecially vulnerable to this type of trouble; a forks often do not have good control of the
knight has a maximum of eight flight squares center of the board. For a pawn to fork two
when it is well-placed, but when it’s on the pieces it often has to pass through the center
side of the board it may have only four or or be operating in a sector where it is more
even fewer, and then it is easy for some of advanced than the pawns on the other side
those squares to be occupied by its fellow (otherwise the enemy pawns interfere with its
pieces or to be under attack by the enemy. attacking movements). Pawns established in
Likewise, a bishop in the middle of the board the center are most likely to be in a strong
may be able to move in four different direc- position to make or threaten forks because it
tions; but a bishop on, say, a5 with one of its is easy for enemy pieces to gather on the same
own pawns behind it on b6 can only go one rank in their own territory where enemy
way, and has a maximum of four escape pawns in the center can reach them.
squares. There are lots of ways for pieces
stuck in this way to be taken by pawns, either
directly (they simply get trapped) or by being
Chapter 3:
The Discovered Attack.
3.1. Bishop Discoveries. like when it is poised to do this, how the germ
of such an opportunity can be created, and
3.1.1. Introduction to Discovered Attacks how such ideas can be perfected and executed
Generally. once they come into view. We will identify
the visual patterns that signify the possibility
In a discovered attack, or “discovery,” one of of a discovered attack and practice identifying
your pieces moves out of the way of another, them until it becomes habitual.
unleashing attacks on two enemy pieces at the
same time—one by the unmasking piece and Mastering discoveries means learning new
one by the piece unmasked. The enemy only ways to think about the pieces and the rela-
has time to protect one of the threatened tionships between them. You may be accus-
pieces. You take the other one. The diagram tomed to thinking of bishops as pieces that
on the left shows the idea in skeletal form. If attack diagonally and to regarding rooks as
White plays his knight to f6, it gives check pieces that attack back and forth and from
while unmasking an attack by his queen side to side. That’s not wrong, but it’s incom-
against Black's queen. Black only has one plete. Bishops attack diagonally and unmask
move to respond to these two threats, and he vertical and horizontal attacks by rooks and
has to spend it moving his king to safety. queens. Rooks attack vertically and horizon-
Then White plays QxQ. This at least is one of tally and unmask diagonal attacks by bishops
the patterns (a knight discovery) in its classic and queens. Make it one of your goals to
form; there are many variations on the theme think of your pieces not just as individuals but
that we will consider in due course. as partners—as parts of a team whose efforts
need to be coordinated. Discovered attacks
Discovered attacks always involve two offen- are an example of coordination, as each part-
sive pieces: an unmasked piece and an un- ner makes the other more powerful; a bishop
masking piece. Every piece has the power to and rook on the same file, with the former
unmask attacks by others by moving off of masking the latter, often has far more destruc-
lines that it occupies. Not every piece has the tive power than either piece by itself.
power to be unmasked, though; a knight, for
example, can't be unmasked because it can't Every discovered attack starts with a kernel
be masked in the first place: it jumps rather consisting of two pieces: the piece to be un-
than slides, so it doesn’t move along a line masked and the piece that will unmask it.
that can be temporarily blocked by a fellow Once found, a kernel can serve to organize the
piece. But the knight is a magnificent masker rest of your thinking about what to do: you
and unmasker of attacks by other pieces. start looking for targets for each piece or
Conversely, the queen is a great piece to un- ways to clear the lines between the pieces and
mask, but not a good masker of other pieces. their targets. We will be studying discovered
It can’t hide an attack by a rook or bishop attacks one kernel at a time: first the one
because a queen can make all the same moves where the bishop masks a rook or queen on
that either of those other pieces can; if a the same file or rank; then the kernel where
queen masks a threat by a rook, it already the rook masks a bishop or queen on the same
makes the same threat the rook would. The diagonal; and so forth. We will emphasize
essence of a classic discovered attack is that spotting the kernel of a discovery because the
before it is executed, neither piece directly practical importance of training your eyes in
threatens anything. After it is executed, both this way is so great. If you don’t see the basic
of them do. pattern when it's there, all the skill in the
world at perfecting it won't be of much use.
The plan of this section will be to take each of
the major unmasking pieces—the bishop, the
rook, the knight, and the pawn—and study
one by one how they can unveil attacks by
other pieces: what the unmasking piece looks
3.1.2. Introduction to Bishop Discoveries target needs to be an unguarded bishop or else
a protected piece that is more valuable, such
as the enemy queen (whether it's guarded or

But now we're getting a little ahead of our

story. Let’s start by studying some positions
involving discoveries by the bishop in sim-
plest form.

3.1.3. The Classic Pattern.


We begin with discoveries where the bishop

unmasks an attack by a queen or rook running
up the board or from side to side. The position
on the left is a skeletal illustration. If White
moves his bishop to c4, it checks Black’s
king; the bishop’s move also unmasks, or
“discovers,” an attack by the White rook on
Black’s queen, which White will win next
move. The job of the piece in front is to give Dg303: White to move
check and thus keep your opponent busy; the
piece in the rear then has its chance to carry Dg303: We start with simple positions where
out a capture. This is the typical pattern, a discovered attack is ready to be executed:
though there are others we will study later. one piece masks another, and both have good
targets. Visually most of these positions will
Before a discovered attack is unleashed there take a common form: a bishop moves from
always are three pieces in a line on a rank, the middle of the board to the edge near the
file, or diagonal: the masked piece, the piece enemy king, where it gives check or makes a
about to unmask it, and the target. When the capture; in the process it unmasks an attack
bishop is doing the unmasking, the three up the board by a rook or queen, usually made
pieces always are on a file or a rank. That is from the back rank.
the kernel to look for in the positions that fol-
low: a bishop blocking the path of a rook or In the diagram to the left, notice the position
queen. Then we'll follow up with standard of White’s rook and bishop on the d-file—a
questions: whether the two pieces in the ker- classic kernel of a discovered attack. The
nel both have good targets, or whether targets bishop masks the rook; if it can vacate the file
might be created for them; whether the in a forceful enough manner—e.g., with a
needed lines are clear or can be cleared; etc. check—White will have the capture RxQ a
move later. So White plays Bxh7+; Black is
We also can work toward discovered attacks forced to spend a move protecting his king
by thinking about the suitable targets for with KxB; and now White takes Black's
them. Bishop discoveries always unmask at- queen with his rook. After Black recaptures
tacks by queens and rooks. It follows that the with RxR, White has traded a bishop and rook
target of the unmasked piece usually needs to for a queen and a pawn.
be a queen or a loose piece for the attack to
turn a profit. Unmasking an attack by your Dg304: Find the kernel of a discovery for
rook against a protected bishop, for example, Black. His bishop on d6 masks the Black
isn't going to scare your opponent; the rook's queen’s path up the d-file.
pawn on h2 or h7 and thus giving check to the
castled king as we saw in the previous cases;
but as this position shows, you want to look
for every possible check you may be able to
give with the unmasking piece.

Dg304: Black to move

Meanwhile White’s queen is loose on d3. If

Black can use the bishop to give check, he
will be able to play QxQ afterwards. Black
thus finds and plays Bxh2+. White is forced
to play KxB (or NxB), and now Black takes Dg306: White to move
White’s queen. There were lots of ways to see
this move: the three pieces aligned on the d- Dg306: The relationship between White’s
file were a tipoff; or you might have set out to bishop and rook on the b-file should jump out
examine every check, found only Bxh2, and at you: never fail to notice when pieces are
noticed that as a consequence of that move paired like this, as it signals a possible dis-
the d-file would be opened—and also seen covery. Here White has a good target in
that White’s queen is loose. Above all, how- Black’s loose queen, so he looks for a check
ever, study the relationship of the Black he can give with his bishop and finds Bxf7+.
bishop and queen here. The most important Of course the move is useless as a serious
thing about the bishop in this position is what threat to Black’s king, but its purpose is just
it masks. to create a distraction. Black has to capture
the bishop or move his king, and now White
plays RxQ.

Dg305: White to move

Dg305: An almost identical pattern seen from Dg307: White to move

White’s side. You notice that the bishop
masks the queen on d1; the queen otherwise Dg307: The most important purpose of these
would be able to take Black’s queen, which is first positions is just to train your eyes to see a
loose. So White clears the bishop from the d- single pattern: a bishop masking an attack by
file and creates a distraction at the same time a rook or queen on the same file. Here the
with Bg6+. Black has to address the check; pieces are farther apart than before, but the
after he takes White’s bishop, Black’s queen pattern is structurally the same. White’s job is
is lost. The more common checking move in to move the bishop out of his rook's way vio-
this sort of position has the bishop taking the lently—preferably with a check. Bg8+ does
the job: another example of a less usual for a check or other violent move to give with
check, as the bishop attacks the king from the the bishop, and plays Bxf7+. However Black
rear. White will play RxR next move, winning responds to this check, White next plays RxR
the exchange. and wins the exchange.

3.1.4. The Unmasking Piece Makes a Cap-

ture or Threat.

It isn't always possible for the unmasking

piece to deliver a check, nor is it always nec-
essary; any move that creates two threats at
once has winning potential. Here are some
positions where the unmasking piece makes a
capture or threat that serves the same dis-
Dg308: White to move tracting purpose as a check.

Dg308: Where does White have a possible

discovered attack? On the side of the board,
where we find the familiar kernel of bishop
masking rook on the same file. There is an
easy target: again Black has a loose rook, this
time on a7—a valuable enough piece to jus-
tify sacrificing the bishop if necessary. White
looks for a check the bishop can give as it
moves out of the way. He finds Bc4+, a nice
backward move that wins the loose rook
without need of a sacrifice.
Dg310: White to move

Dg310: In this first position, White's bishop

and rook on the c-file are in the characteristic
formation for a discovery, with Black’s loose
knight providing a suitable target. White just
needs to vacate the bishop from the file force-
fully. The types of moves considered in the
previous section won’t work here because
White has no checks. But he has another vio-
lent move at his disposal: BxN, taking a
knight and threatening the rook on f8. Black’s
Dg309: White to move king isn't threatened, but he nevertheless must
redress his loss and protect his rook with
Dg309: White has a bishop with a rook— KxB—after which White can play RxN, win-
indeed, two rooks—behind it on the same file. ning a piece.
The arrangement signals the possibility of a
discovered attack. White has a fine target for Dg311: Black's bishop masks an attack by his
the rooks on c8. True, the rook there is pro- queen against White’s loose knight on the e-
tected by Black’s other rook at f8; but since file. Black looks for things he can do with his
White has two rooks trained on the square, the bishop that will keep White busy and allow
target is attacked twice and protected only QxN a move later. The bishop has no checks
once and so is as good as loose. White looks and no good captures; so Black considers eve-
rywhere the bishop can go, searching for a against Black’s loose bishop. To unleash it
threat. White needs a violent and distracting move
for his own bishop to make. As the piece can't
give check or make a good capture, White
looks for threats the bishop can make and
sees that it can attack the rook on b6. There
are two ways to do it: Bc5 or Bc7. Which is

Answer: Bc7 is better. In reply to Bc5 Black

could play Rb7, both moving the rook to
safety and using it to protect the bishop on d7.
Bc7 not only threatens Black’s rook and
bishop at the same time, but also makes Rb7
Dg311: Black to move an ineffective reply. White wins the bishop.
Notice the general point, though: you always
He finds Bh3: not a check, but a threat against want to be mindful of any way the enemy
White’s rook. White either loses the knight or might be able to move the target and address
trades a rook for a bishop, forfeiting the ex- your other threat in one stroke.

When you launch a double threat without a

check at either end of it, as Black does here,
you have to be especially careful to think
about your opponent’s options in reply. Since
you haven’t given check he will have a freer
hand than he otherwise would; maybe he can
give check, wrest away the initiative, and es-
cape your attack. In this case Black needs to
notice that White has a check available in
Qa4. Is this trouble? No, because Black can
meet it with b7-b5. But the point still holds: Dg313: White to move
don’t go forward with a tactical sequence —
especially one that doesn’t give check — Dg313: You see White’s bishop masking his
without considering checks your opponent rook; you see that the rook would attack
can throw at you in the middle of it. Black’s queen if unmasked; you look for a
move by the bishop that would take advantage
of the situation. The bishop's only capture,
Bxh6, would be of no great concern to Black.
But look as well for threats White can make
that would have to be taken seriously. Again
White can use the bishop to threaten Black’s
rook, this time with Bf4. After Black moves
his queen to avoid RxQ, White takes the rook
and wins the exchange.

Most often the point of a discovered attack is

that the unmasking piece—the bishop in these
Dg312: White to move examples—is sacrificed or creates a time-
consuming threat so that the unmasked piece
Dg312: The same idea in slightly different can capture an enemy target. But here the
visual form. White's bishop and rook on the d- unmasked piece (the rook) creates the time-
file, of course, create a possible discovery
consuming threat, effectively allowing the Note that you want to consider all the ways
unmasking bishop two moves: one to line up White could reply to the mate threat—and
against Black’s rook, and the other to take it. especially any replies that also take the White
Whichever piece plays the primary attacking queen out of harm’s way and thus blunt both
role, the logic of the tactic is the same: you ends of the fork. Here White could respond to
launch two attacks at the same time, leaving Bg1 with Qh3; suddenly neither part of the
your opponent time to deal only with the fork works. But Black still wins because now
more pressing of them. Soon we will give the d-file is clear for him to play RxR.
more detailed consideration to the most im-
portant positions where the stationary piece This position involves an important type of
does the distracting and the unmasking piece threat to remember: a threat not against a
does the attacking: the discovered check. piece, but against a vulnerable square next to
the king. When you have a piece aimed at a
square adjacent to the enemy king, aiming
another piece there may create a threat of
mate; and if it does, that square can become a
target just as sensitive as the king itself.

3.1.5. Drawing the Enemy King into Place.

What do discoveries look like when they lie

two or three moves away? For openers, con-
Dg314: Black to move sider that a working discovery requires two
enemy targets: one for the unmasking piece to
Dg314: Black’s bishop masks his rook on d7, threaten to create a distraction (ideally the
and the rook is aimed at White’s queen. What king), and one for the unmasked piece to cap-
can he do with the bishop that will require a ture after the distraction does its work. In the
time-consuming reply from White? He has no positions to this point both of those targets
checks or captures, so he looks for threats have been in place from the beginning. Now
(and of course you would want to look for let's see some cases where one of the targets
threats even if there were a capture to make; needs to be drawn onto place.
the threat might be the better move). With no
White pieces on dark-colored squares, the The best target for a piece that unmasks a
bishop’s prospects for threatening anything discovered attack is the enemy king because a
may seem dim. But your assessment of a posi- threat to it must be addressed by your oppo-
tion always should include an inspection of nent and his options will tend to be limited
the enemy king and the pressures bearing on and safe for you. The king usually can’t es-
it—the constraints on its movement, and its cape the check by running off to protect the
exposure to checks. Black has a single check: other piece you are threatening or by inflict-
Qxh2. By itself that move wouldn't be pro- ing a threat of its own. It moves too slowly.
ductive, because the queen would have no So when you have some of the ingredients of
protection against KxQ. If the bishop could a discovery in place, it’s worth some trouble
add pressure to the h2 square, though, the to try to get the king into position to be
possibility of Qxh2 would become a mate checked by the unmasking piece. The most
threat. Is there a way for the bishop to attack common ways of moving an enemy king are
h2? Yes, with Bg1. Of course White escapes by checking it with another piece or by cap-
mate with KxB, but mate isn't the goal; the turing a piece that the king protects.
goal is to require Black to address the threat
of mate and thus create time for the point: Dg315: In the example, White has the queen-
RxQ. behind-bishop kernel of a discovery in place,
with Black’s queen ready to be taken on d5 if els on the light squares and the king is on a
White can find a big enough threat to make dark one. Again, try handling this by checking
with the unmasking piece. Since White is the king with another piece, thus forcing it
going for Black’s queen (and since moving onto a light square where it can be checked by
the bishop exposes White to the risk of QxQ), the bishop. Black can give check with his
the threat the bishop makes needs to be rook in two ways: Rd2 and RxB. After Rd2+
against Black’s king to be effective. Can the White can move his king to, say, g1 with
bishop give check? nothing accomplished for Black. But in reply
to RxB+ Black has to recapture KxR —
moving his king onto a light square. (If White
instead moves his king, Black plays RxQ — a
skewer.) Now Black checks with Bd3+, un-
veiling a threat against White’s queen that
White has no time to fend off.

Dg315: White to move

No, not yet; White’s bishop travels on the

dark squares, and the king is on a light one.
So the first thing to consider is giving check
with another piece in hopes of forcing the
king onto a square where it can be checked by Dg317: Black to move
the bishop. White has one check he can give
without ruining the discovery he is planning: Dg317: Black has the kernel of a discovery on
Rh8+. Black would be required to play the d-file: his bishop masks his queen, which
KxR—moving his king onto a dark square. otherwise could take White’s queen. White’s
Now White can check with BxR+; and after queen is defended by its king, however, so
Black plays KxB, White has QxQ. QxQ would not yet be profitable. And there is
another problem: What unmasking move
could Black play? We look first for a check
the bishop can inflict and find Bb4, but one
always must consider what the reply to such a
move would be; sometimes your opponent
will have an answer that fends off the check
and the unmasked threat. This is such a case:
Bd2 would stop both of Black’s threats. (An-
other possible sequence would be 1. …Bb4+;
2. a3xB, QxQ; 3. KxQ, Nxf2+ (a knight fork);
4. Ke1, Nxh1; 5. Bg2 (where the knight has
no escape)—and White is okay, as he has won
Dg316: Black to move a queen and two pieces in trade for a queen,
and pawn, and a rook.)
Dg316: Black has the makings of a discov-
ered attack on the f-file, where his bishop Still, for Black to have the kernel of a discov-
masks the capture QxQ. If only the bishop ery in place like this, with the enemy queen at
could vacate f5 and attack White’s king. At one end of it, is an opportunity not to be
the moment it can’t be done; the bishop trav- abandoned lightly. Black looks for ways to
move the White king by checking it with his The discovery would work better, and would
other pieces and finds none. But there is an- indeed look like many good discoveries we
other way to force a king to move: capture have seen, if a more valuable piece—i.e.,
something on a square next to it—a square Black’s queen—could be made the target of
only the king protects, so that it has to move the unmasked rook. The method for arranging
to recapture. Nxf2 comes to mind, as it not this is simple: when you are confronted with
only captures a pawn but forks White’s queen an unsuitable target like the d7 knight here,
and rook. Suppose White then plays KxN. ask whether you can first take it with another
Now how would the board look? The bishop piece and what the consequences would be.
on d6 would have a check with Bxg3+, and Here White can capture with BxN; Black’s
this time there would be no way for White to only recapture is QxB. If Black goes through
defend against it while also protecting the with that move, the exchange has caused the
queen—which would have been left loose bad target to be replaced with a good one.
when the king moved away. So now the dis- Now Bxg7+ unmasks a classic discovered
covery works. attack against Black’s queen, which is lost
after Black fends off the check.

3.1.6. Drawing the Target into Place.

Suppose your unmasking piece is one move

away from giving check or inflicting some
other terrible threat; the problem is that the
masked piece has nothing suitable to attack.
Perhaps the target at the other end of the file
is protected, or not very valuable. Again,
there are some standard ways to try to draw a
good target into the path of the discovery.
Dg319: Black to move

Dg319: Black has the kernel of a discovery on

the d-file: the bishop is poised to give check
with Bxh2 and unmask an attack by the rook
at the same time. But an attack against what?
The only target on the d-file is White’s pawn,
which anyway is protected. Again, in this
situation consider whether you can take the
bad target with one of your other pieces, and
so cause it to be replaced by a valuable one.
Here Black can take the pawn with his bishop,
Dg318: White to move which after Bxd3 threatens both White’s
queen and his rook on f1. White has to play
Dg318: In the diagrammed position here, QxB if he wants to avoid losing the exchange
White has the kernel of a discovered attack on to BxR—but after QxB, the board is arranged
the d-file. The bishop has a good threat to for the discovered attack Bxh2, sacrificing a
make: Bxg7 gives check. But the rook behind second bishop to win the queen.
it lacks a good target once it is unmasked. It
can take the knight on d7 (and avoid being Dg320: Spotting the kernel of the discovery
recaptured because it would have cover from for Black on the d file should be habitual by
the bishop on b5); but meanwhile the White now. The challenge is to diagnose and cure
bishop would have been sacrificed, so the net the impediments to its success. The first is
gain for White would only be the pawn on g7. that the bishop on d6 lacks a good threat; it is
aimed at h2, where it could give check, but its think about what it would take to make the
path is blocked by its fellow knight. The sec- tactic work. (a) First, the pawn on c7 would
ond problem is that the rook on d8 lacks a need to be replaced by a better target. So con-
good target. sider taking the bad target with one of your
other pieces (like the White knight on b5),
and ask whether your opponent would have to
recapture with a more valuable piece. (b)
Second, it would help to have a better target
for the unmasking bishop to threaten—
preferably Black’s king, which unlike its
queen would not be able to move and cause
trouble when attacked. Black’s king is behind
its queen, but the queen protects the same
pawn on c7 that we are trying to trade for a
better target. The solution to the problems at
both ends becomes obvious: White plays
Dg320: Black to move Nxc7; if Black recaptures QxN, White has a
check for his bishop with Bxe6 and a target
If the bishop were vacated from the d-file, the for his queen in the loose Black queen on c7.
rook would be directed at White’s bishop, The lesson repeats: be clear about what obsta-
which is guarded. Once you clearly under- cles prevent your idea from working; often
stand these obstacles, ideas for getting rid of two problems can be solved with a single
them at the same time suggest themselves: stroke.
move the Black knight out of the bishop’s
way, and in the process use it to capture the
unsuitable target on d3 and cause it to be re-
placed by something better. Thus NxB, and 3.1.7 Clearing Needed Lines.
now if White wants to avoid the loss of the
piece he has to recapture QxN. Now both In the last two positions the discovered attack
problems have been solved. The Black required a preliminary exchange that both
bishop’s path to h2 is open, and Black’s rook improved the target the unmasked piece
has a good target in the queen on d3. would attack and opened a line for the un-
masking piece to use to make a threat against
the enemy king. We now look more closely at
this last principle: identifying lines that need
to be opened to make a discovery work, and
clearing them with exchanges and threats.

Dg321: White to move

Dg321: Where does White have the makings

of a discovered attack? On the c-file. But once
more only the queen-behind-bishop kernel is
there; the queen lacks a good target, and the Dg322: White to move
bishop has no checks to give, although it can
attack Black’s queen with Bxe6. So again
Dg322: In the diagram position, start the stan- plays 2. BxR; Black replies with QxB; but
dard identification of the kernel discovery. now the queen ends up in cramped territory,
Here it's on the d-file, where White's rook is which should worry Black. What happens if
aimed at Black’s queen at the other end of the White throws an attacker at the queen with
board. The difficulty—both in seeing the ker- Ra1? The queen turns out to have nowhere
nel and in perfecting it—is that White has two safe to go. So Qa8 as a first response for
bishops in the way. If one of the bishops Black doesn’t work out. Again, though, the
could be cleared from the file in a manner that important lesson is general: if you attack an
is time-consuming for Black, the board might enemy piece as part of a double threat, realize
be set up for an effective discovery by the that he might be able to reply by adding to its
bishop that remains. Each bishop has a possi- protection as well as by moving it. If he does
ble threat (try imagining the board with one of add to its protection, imagine going ahead
them removed, then the other): the d3 bishop with the capture and permitting him to recap-
can go to c4 and threaten Black’s rook on a2, ture, and ask how the board would then look.
and the d4 bishop can capture Black’s knight Obviously this practice would be just as im-
on f6 and threaten to take another piece from portant if you were playing the Black pieces
there. So first White plays Bc4, requiring here; else you might lose your queen.
Black to respond by moving the rook to a8 or
perhaps a5; and now the way is clear for Finally, let’s return to the initial diagram to
White's other bishop to play BxN. Black has emphasize the most basic point of the posi-
to spend his reply move saving his queen (this tion: if you see the skeleton of a discovered
is one of those discoveries where the threat by attack but with extra pieces in the way, think
the unmasked piece is greater than the threat about how you might clear the obstructions in
by the unmasking piece). a forcing manner that cuts down your oppo-
nent’s choice of replies—i.e., with checks,
Notice that after White plays BxN, Black captures, and threats. Here a simple one-move
could try to take the offensive by playing his threat by the d3 bishop forced Black’s reply
e7 bishop to c5—a move that seems to expose and made possible a classic discovered attack.
his queen to capture, but actually is quite safe More broadly the position shows the impor-
because it gives check (when White played tance of seeing the kernel of a discovery even
BxN, he created an open diagonal to his own when there are other pieces also cluttering the
king). Now if White moves his king, Black line.
can play QxBf6; in other words, the Black
bishop's move to c5 was another discovered
attack. But White has an answer: he can block
the check and save his piece by simply re-
treating his bishop to d4, having already won
a piece. We see again a recurring point: don’t
forget to look for checks you opponent might
be able to throw into the middle of the se-
quence you are planning. They can ruin your
plans by buying him time to move his pieces
out of harm’s way. It’s not a problem here,
however, because White has an excellent an-
swer. Dg323: White to move

Now think about one other way things could Dg323: White’s bishop masks an attack up
go. Black could respond to the initial move 1. the d-file; this time the potential attacking
Bc4 by moving his queen to a8 to protect his piece is White’s queen. White’s bishop has an
rook; his plan this way would be to lose just obvious place to go that will cost Black some
the exchange rather than a whole piece. But time: Bxh7+. The problems are that Black’s
play it through in your mind’s eye: White queen—the natural target of the operations—
is guarded by a knight, and that the Black it important to understand what would happen
pawn on d4 blocks the d-file. Start with the if all those potential captures and recaptures
second problem; examine how the pawn is were played out.
threatened and defended. It is attacked by
White’s c-pawn and two knights, and de- Dg324: White has the makings of a discov-
fended by a knight, a bishop, and a queen. ered attack on the g-file, of course, where his
Play through the liquidation of those pieces in rook and bishop are in the standard formation.
your mind’s eye and see what is left at the White looks for a violent, time-consuming
end: 1. c3xd4, Nxd4; 2. NxN, BxN; 3. NxB, move he can make with the g2 bishop and
QxN. With the board thus simplified, what finds—nothing. BxB is met by QxB with no
would be possible? The c and d pawns would gain; Bf3 just loses the bishop.
be gone; both of White’s knights would be
gone; Black’s knight and bishop would be
gone; and Black’s queen would be loose on
d4, in front of White’s bishop—a classic
setup for a discovered attack via Bxh7. After
Black plays KxB, White plays QxQ, winning
Black’s newly loosened queen.

This position looks a little complicated be-

cause it involves several exchanges, but its
structure is simple. Once you see the forma-
tion for a discovered attack, you just methodi-
cally work through all the exchanges bearing Dg324: White to move
on the obstructions that prevent it from work-
ing. This example illustrates a particularly Still, a discovered attack pattern with a rook
useful version of the idea: when an enemy aimed at the enemy queen is an important
pawn blocks a discovered attack against a opportunity, so White looks for other moves
piece that lies behind it, perhaps the piece you he could make that would create a target for
want sooner or later can be made to replace the g2 bishop. It would be ideal if the bishop
the pawn if the pawn is taken. That is what could check Black’s king. Where would it
happened here: the d4 square never was emp- need to go to do that? To d5. What stands in
tied; rather, the pawn eventually was replaced the way? Black’s bishop at e4. That bishop
by the target of the exercise—the queen. But cannot be captured, but it can be threatened
to get to any of this you first have to see the with Qc2, Qd3, Qd4, or Qd5. Qd5+ is most
basic pattern for a discovery on the d-file interesting because it checks Black’s king and
without being blinded by the obstacles in the so requires immediate attention. Black would
way. have to either move the king or take White’s
queen. If he moves the king, White plays QxB
Of course if Black sees all this coming he will (and if Black then plays QxQ, White has
simply forfeit the pawn at the beginning BxQ). So Black will play BxQ. Reconsider
rather than head down the road toward larger the board as it then would appear: the same
losses by making a recapture; he will notice potential for a discovered attack would exist,
the kernel of a discovery for White and will and now the White bishop’s path to d5 would
realize that d4 is a square of danger. not be blocked by Black’s bishop; Black’s
bishop would be on d5. So White plays
This position is a good study in the value of BxB+, and Black replies Kh8; and now White
playing through a series of liquidations in has RxQ. He has exchanged queens and won
your mind's eye. The particular type of liqui- a bishop.
dation shown here is fairly common: a pawn
near the middle of the board often will be You might also have considered starting with
protected and defended several times, making Qd4. It looks safer because it doesn’t expose
your queen to capture by Black’s bishop, but that qualify as interesting? It should, for then
still attacks the bishop a second time; and it the position begins to look a lot like one we
creates the threat of mate with Qxg7. But Qd4 saw a few frames ago; the bishop would be
has the major disadvantage of not giving attacking a square adjacent to White’s king at
check. A key difference between giving check which his queen also would be aimed.
and creating a mate threat is that a mate threat
doesn't force such a narrow range of replies An idea thus emerges: if Black could get his
on your opponent. He may be able to address queen aimed at h2 and get the f2 pawn out of
it by giving a check of his own that seizes the the way, then Bg1 would threaten mate and be
initiative. In this case Black can respond to an effective discovered attack. The Black
Qd4 with Rxa2+. White has to reply KxR— queen’s path is blocked by the Black knight
and then comes another check from Black: on h5, but the knight can evacuate its square
Ra8. Since White has nowhere safe to move with check: NxB+. If White replies f2xN (the
his king, he has to interpose his queen on a7 h-pawn can't be used because it's pinned),
and lose it next move to RxQ. Then White has now Bg1 is possible and threatens both
the recapture BxR, but that wasn’t exactly Qxh2# and RxQ.
what he had in mind at the outset. Remember:
if you resort to threats that don’t give check, By the way, notice that White can reply to
you have to consider any checks (and any Bg1 with Bc4, limiting his immediate losses
successions of checks) your opponent might to a piece. White’s queen then protects h2
be able to use to interrupt your plans. against a mating attack, since the White pawn
and piece on the second rank suddenly are
both gone. After Black plays RxBc4, White
slides the queen over to e2, where it is safe
and still foils the mate threat.

In a later chapter we will study knight discov-

eries like the one that unmasked the Black
queen’s attack on h2, but already you can see
how the train of thought might have started
there just as easily: the knight in front of
Black’s queen can move out of the way with
check (NxB+). Black imagines the board as it
Dg325: Black to move would look after the recapture f2xN, and rec-
ognizes the same sort of idea we saw earlier:
Dg325: Where does Black have the makings his bishop can unmask an attack against
of a discovered attack? Actually in two White’s queen, and at the same time add a
places: on the c-file and on the h-file, where second attack on the pawn in front of White’s
his knight masks his queen. Since we are fo- king by moving to g1.
cusing here on discoveries by bishops, start
by working with the threat on the c-file. The
rook on c8 is poised to take White’s queen if
the bishop can be vacated from c5 in a force-
ful enough way. But where can it go? The
first thing to consider is whether the unmask-
ing piece can give check. That’s not possible
here, both because the king is on a light
square and because the pawn on f2 blocks the
bishop’s path to the back rank. But when you
see an obstruction like the f2 pawn, ask what
you could do if it were gone. If the pawn
weren’t there, Black could play Bg1. Does Dg326: White to move
Dg326: White's bishop and queen are charac-
teristically arranged for a discovered attack,
with Black’s loose queen making a fine target
on d4. Everything is prepared except a good
threat for the bishop to make when it vacates
the d-file. It would like to give check, natu-
rally, but its lines to the king from b5 and g6
are blocked. What to do? When your goal is
to clear a line, consider attacking pieces that
are guarded by the pieces you need to move.
Here the lines that White's bishop needs to
give check are blocked by Black’s d7 bishop Dg327: Black to move
and f7 pawn. If White can capture something
that one of those pieces protects, then the It is important to visualize such sequences and
piece will have to move to recapture, a line consider what would be possible on the board
will be cleared, and perhaps White can win as it would look afterwards. Picture 1.
Black’s queen with a discovery. As it hap- …Nxd4, 2. NxN; QxN. The implications of
pens, both of Black's blockers protect the the resulting position are clear if you notice
pawn on e6, and White can take it with the kernel for a discovered attack that White
Rxe6+. Now if Black recaptures by any has on the d-file all along. That kernel is rea-
means, he opens a diagonal leading to his son for Black to act with great care in any
king, and White has a discovery that does win operations on that file; taking the d-pawn is
the Black queen on the next move—either asking for trouble, because it creates a target
Bb5 or Bg6. Obviously Black can capture the for White’s queen after it is unmasked. In this
bishop easily either way, but you don't care; case the bishop on d3 would end up able to
you just want to make him spend a turn that give check with Bxb5, winning Black's queen
way so you can take his queen. on d4 next move. So Black dares not play
Nxd4 in the first place after all.
In practice, seeing all this just gives White a
way to take a Black pawn for free (and im- Notice how those quick exchanges on d4
prove his position a bit), since Black would of ended up leaving White with a new way to
course rather lose the pawn of e6 than his check Black's king and also with a great new
queen; if he is attentive—and you should as- target for his queen to take once it's un-
sume he will be—he will reply to the capture masked. An earlier point repeats: when a con-
by moving his king to f8, not by recapturing tested pawn lies in the center, don't just ask
and setting himself up for the discovery. who has more pressure against it. Ask what
Many of the positions we are studying work the board would look like after those pres-
that way. In practice they yield a payoff, but sures are spent.
not necessarily the first and best one you say;
for your opponent may see the coming disas-
ter and choose to make some lesser sacrifice
to avoid it. 3.1.8. Horizontal Discoveries.

Dg327: Now consider how these ideas can Thus far we have been considering positions
look when you’re playing defense. The two based on a single root idea: a bishop masking
sides are fighting for control of the center; an attack by a queen or rook on the same file.
Black would like to get rid of one of White’s The masked piece travels vertically up the
central pawns. He attacks the pawn on d4 board after the bishop vacates its square. But
twice (with his queen and knight), and it is of course bishops also can unmask attacks by
defended just once (by White’s knight). So pieces on the same rank—attacks that are
should he take it with Nxd4? horizontal, with the unmasked piece running
sideways across the board. These are some-
what less common than vertical bishop dis-
coveries; it is easier to arrange a vertical dis-
covery because it's easy for a queen or rook to
move from their starting positions on the back
rank onto open files where bishops sit—and
then to travel up the files once the bishops
move out of the way. A horizontal discovery
usually requires that a rook or queen get out
toward the middle ranks of the board first so
that it can then travel sideways productively.
At any rate, the logic and mechanics here are
no different than in the positions we already Dg329: White to move
have studied. The main new challenge lies
just in spotting a new kernel: the rook or Bh6+ doesn’t work because the queen can
queen alongside the bishop on the same rank, both dissolve the check and take itself out of
rather than behind it. danger with QxB. Be5+ is better because it
threatens Black’s king from a square the
queen can’t reach, so the queen is lost one
way or the other. If Black plays f7-f6, White
replies RxQ; if Black plays Qf6, White has

Dg328: White to move

Dg328: In the example, where does White

have the makings of a discovered attack? His
bishop on c2 masks nothing on its file, but on
the second rank it masks an attack by the Dg330: White to move
White queen against Black’s rook. From here
the thinking is familiar. The bishop must va- Dg330: This time the search for the basis of a
cate the rank violently, and this it does with discovery leads you to the first rank. Black’s
Bxh7+. After Black fends off the check with queen appears to have pinned White’s bishop
KxB, the way is clear for White to play QxR. to his rook; but if the bishop can vacate the
White wins the exchange and a pawn with a rank forcefully enough, White can turn the
simple discovered attack turned on its side. tables and play RxQ. Indeed, everything is in
place for a discovered attack except a suitable
threat for White’s bishop to make. It can’t
now threaten Black’s king; the bishop travels
Dg329: Find the kernel of a horizontal dis- on dark squares and the king is on a light one.
covery for White. He has his rook "behind" But you see that by moving to h6 the bishop
(i.e., masked by) his bishop on the fourth could line up behind the White queen already
rank; he has a good target for the rook in the aimed into the king's territory. This cries out
Black queen on h4; and he has a check to give for consideration of QxR, both as a climax
with his bishop—two of them, in fact: Bh6+ later and as a preliminary table-setting move
and Be5+. Which is better? now. Or you might come at the position from
the other direction by just looking for checks
you can use to move the king into a vulner-
able position. White has two: Qxf7 and QxR.
Qxf7 still leaves the king on a light square
after KxQ. But if White instead plays QxR,
the recapture KxQ leaves the king on f8. Now
the c1 bishop would be able to give check
with Bh6+; White next plays RxQ, taking the
queen and netting a rook with the sequence.

Dg331: Find the kernel of a discovered attack

for Black. He has the queen-behind-bishop
pattern horizontally on the sixth rank. He has
a target, too; he could play QxQ for free if the Dg332: Black to move
bishop on b6 were out of the way.
Dg332: Where does Black have the makings
of a discovered attack? On the fourth rank.
This pattern is easy to overlook during a game
because of the pawn that lies between the
Black queen and bishop. It's still important to
see the kernel; teach your eyes to hop over
pieces or pawns in the way of the pattern,
since it may be possible to get rid of those
obstructions, as is our challenge here. Black
has a target in White’s queen on a4, and he
has a check for the bishop in BxN+. All the
ingredients are in place save one: the pawn on
Dg331: Black to move c4 must be removed. The usual way to clear
an enemy pawn from a line you need is to
Again we have a clear view of the problem; capture something it protects, forcing it to
we need something violent and distracting for move to recapture. Black does this with Nxd5.
the bishop to do—probably a check, but at the White can’t recapture with his c3 knight be-
moment the bishop can’t threaten White’s cause it’s pinned; and if he plays c4xN, the
king, which is on a light square. We need to way becomes clear for BxN+, discovering the
move the king. We even can see where: if it fatal attack QxQ. Of course White should
could be forced onto g1, Black could play prefer just to forfeit the pawn.
BxB+ and win the queen. The methodical
way to pursue this is by experimenting with There remains one complexity to consider:
checks using Black’s other pieces. There is White could reply to Nxd5 with QxB. (Don’t
just one to consider: Rxh2+. How would automatically assume that a capture will pro-
White respond? He has two legal moves: voke a recapture; it might provoke a fresh
Kg1, which is what we want, or KxR, which capture by your opponent elsewhere.) Of
is more likely and doesn’t immediately help course this would leave White’s queen open
us. Okay; but imagine the position after KxR; to capture by the knight now on d5, but it also
look for you next check. The only piece that would unpin the knight on c3 and thus ready
would have the power to check would be the it to capture Black’s queen next move. So
queen. Qh6+ gives check while still staying does White’s QxB ruin Black’s plans? Not
on the sixth rank and preserving the kernel of quite. Imagine it playing out: 1. …Nxd5; 2.
the discovery. White’s only legal move this QxB, NxQ; 3. NxQ. When considering a little
time is Kg1, and then the discovered attack sequence like this that would reposition either
BxB+ works to win White’s queen. or both of your knights, pause to consider
whether there might be a kicker at the end in
the form of a knight fork. Here the exchanges
just described would leave a Black knight on
b4—and able to drop next move to c2, where ery on the sixth rank, setting up the board for
it forks White’s king and rook. Bxh2+—a discovered attack that takes
White’s queen. Black ends up exchanging two
bishops for a queen and a pawn. (Moving the
queen, and enduring the loss of the exchange
with BxR, would have been better after all for

Seeing this idea will be easier after you have

studied skewers, for then your attention would
be attracted from the beginning by the align-
ment of White’s queen and f1 rook. You
imagine running a piece through them with
Ba6, see that this results in QxB, and then
Dg333: Black to move recognize the three-piece pattern for a discov-
ery that would result on the sixth rank.
Dg333: Here is a demanding position. A ha-
bitual scan for discovery kernels for Black Notice what has been involved in each of the
makes the lineup on the d-file obvious, but positions we recently have considered: (a)
nothing productive can be made of it because Identification of the basic kernel for a discov-
the target (the d4 knight) is secure. Less obvi- ered attack by the bishop. (b) A precise grasp
ously, though, Black has a kernel of sorts in of the elements of a discovery that are in
horizontal form on the sixth rank. There are place and those that aren’t—a suitable target
no pieces blocking the path between queen for the unmasking piece, a suitable target for
and bishop, and the bishop has a check with the unmasked piece, and clear lines between
Bxh2. The missing ingredient this time is a all the relevant pieces. (c) Methodical thought
target: Black’s queen has nothing at all to about how any obstacle or missing element
attack once it is unmasked. How might Black might be remedied. If the problem is that the
somehow force or attract a White piece onto unmasking piece lacks a good target, we con-
a6, b6, or c6? Consider Black’s other pieces sider ways of drawing the king into its range:
and what moves they can make that might checking the king with other pieces, some-
help. The rook can’t force anything useful, times repeatedly, or capturing something next
but now have a look at the bishop on c8. One to the king and thus forcing it to move to re-
way to attract an enemy piece onto a square is capture. If the problem is that the unmasked
to put one of your pieces there in a manner piece lacks a good target, we consider ways of
sufficiently threatening to make your oppo- creating one: if there are unsuitable targets
nent capture it. Here Black can put the c8 already in place, we might capture them with
bishop onto the sixth rank with Ba6, where it other pieces and invite recapture by more
attacks White’s queen. What response could valuable enemy pieces; if there is no target in
White make? Moving the queen seems out, place, we think about putting our own pieces
because that would expose the rook on f1 to where we want an enemy piece to go and in-
capture; and letting the queen be captured viting capture of them there by making a
likewise is out. Another option would be Nb5, threat. Or perhaps we can threaten an enemy
where White interposes a piece between his piece that has limited movement and force it
queen and Black’s bishop. But then Black has to jump onto the rank and file where the ker-
c7-c6, attacking the knight and winning a nel for a discovery is in place.
piece. (Once on b5 the knight is pinned to the
queen.) Finally, if the problem is that there are pieces
blocking the needed lines to make the discov-
That leaves White with one other reply to ery work, we have methods for dealing with
Ba6: capturing the bishop with QxB. But this that as well. If the obstructing pieces are our
completes the three-piece kernel of a discov- own, we look for ways to vacate them from
their squares that are violent and time- stationary, unmasked piece. After the king
consuming for our opponent: checks, cap- avoids the check, the unmasking piece gets to
tures, and threats. If the obstructing pieces make a second move—perhaps a capture or a
belong to our opponent, we may be able to retreat after a capture already made. This rear-
capture them and cause them to be replaced rangement of power between the masking and
by the targets themselves. Or we may be able unmasking pieces makes the discovered check
to draw them out of the way by capturing especially devastating, because it means that
pieces they protect, or by making threats from the unmasking piece in effect gets to make
squares they protect. two consecutive moves unmolested.

That is not a complete catalogue of problems This section starts with simple one-move dis-
that arise in creating discoveries and options covered checks, then shows how the methods
for dealing with them, but it is a summary of examined earlier in the chapter apply in this
the most common types. You want the setting. In addition to discovered checks, we
thought processes involved in those sorts of also will be looking at a few other patterns
sequences to become second nature so that where the unmasked, stationary piece pro-
you see them right away and can spend your vides the distracting threat (even if not with a
tactical time thinking about more complicated check) and the unmasking piece does the
things: how these ideas might be combined, damage. In all cases you still are looking for
or combined with other tactics; and how they the same kernel: a bishop masking a rook or
might come into view after a series of pre- queen. What’s new here is that you may need
liminary threats or exchanges. We will return to draw the king into position to be attacked
to all of these patterns, and explore and rein- by your stationary piece rather than your mo-
force them further, when we examine discov- bile piece; and when you create a target for
eries by other pieces in the following chap- the mobile piece, you think a little differently
ters. because you have greater liberty: you look for
ways to exploit the special opportunity to
make two unfettered moves with the same
attacker. The examples will make all this
3.1.9. Introducing the Discovered Check. more concrete.

Think of how pleasant it would be if you were

allowed from time to time to make two con-
secutive moves without interruption by your
opponent. You could use the first one to bring
your bishop in position to attack the enemy
queen, then on the next move play BxQ. Or
you could use the first move to capture a pro-
tected enemy piece, and then use the second
move to retreat before being recaptured.
These marvelous possibilities are realized in
the form of attack known as the discovered
check. Dg334: White to move

We have seen that in a usual discovered at- Dg334: In the skeletal position we have the
tack the unmasking piece is sacrificed or oth- idea in simplest form. White has the kernel of
erwise creates a time-consuming threat — a discovered attack on the c-file. If the bishop
often a check — so that the unmasked piece moves, Black’s king is in check and will have
can capture something on the next move. A to move, allowing the bishop to make a sec-
discovered check reverses the pattern: the ond move. The bishop’s target, of course, is
move by the bishop or other unmasking piece Black’s queen. The bishop has two ways to
exposes the enemy king to a check from the attack it: Bg8 and Bd3. Either way the queen
is lost. If Black moves his king, White plays It’s a light-squared bishop, so look for a threat
BxQ; if (in reply to Bg8) Black plays Qc2, against something on a light square. The
White has RxQ. choice target turns out to be Black’s bishop
on b7, because it's loose; if White can reach it
in two moves he will take it for free. White
thus plays Ba6+. After Black fends off the
rook check, BxB wins the piece.

Dg335: Black to move

Dg335: The kernel of the discovered attack

for Black on the f-file should be evident
enough. It also should be plain that this is a Dg337: Black to move
setup for a discovered check. Black can ex-
ploit the pattern by plotting a two-move Dg337: Notice the kernel of a discovered at-
course for his bishop. Look for White pieces tack for Black: the bishop in front of the rook
that, like the bishop, are on dark squares. The on the f-file. If the bishop moves, the rook
queen always is a preferred target. Bd4+ at- attacks White's king; that makes this a case of
tacks it, and BxQ takes it a move later after discovered check, giving the bishop two
White moves his king out of check. moves to make trouble. It’s a light-squared
bishop, so look for a good White piece on a
light-colored square that it could attack—and
find the queen. The bishop needs to attack it
in one move and take it with the next. The
answer thus is Bxc2, again winning the queen
either by BxQ, or (if the queen moves to
block the check—an important possibility to
remember) with RxQ.

Dg336: White to move

Dg336: You first see the bishop-in-front-of-

rook pattern on the e-file, and then that once
the bishop moves Black will find himself in
check. This means the bishop in effect can
have a free move, because after it moves
once—and almost regardless of where it
goes—Black will have to address the threat Dg338: White to move
against his king by moving it or interposing
something in front of it. So think about where Dg338: Here the kernel is on the h-file; if the
the bishop could go on its next move that bishop moves, White’s queen gives check and
would allow it to inflict damage a move later. Black’s king has to move. What to do with
the bishop? It travels on the dark squares, and
the only Black piece on a dark square is the hind the bishop. If Black unmasks the rook it
queen, which the bishop can’t reach in two will attack the pawn at g2, adjacent to White's
moves. But wait: think more carefully about king; if the king were moved over a square,
the first part of the attack—the part against Black would have a far more potent possibil-
the king. Where would the king go? Its only ity: a discovered check. How to move the
escape would be to g7. If White could attack king?
that square with his bishop, the king would
have no place to go. So Bf8 is mate: a case of Look for other pieces Black can use to check
discovered checkmate. The important lesson it, capture pieces next to it, or both. There is
is that when you think of where you might one option: Qxg2+. White’s only legal reply
move the unmasking piece, don’t overlook is KxQ. Now that the king has been lured
pressure it can exert against squares, and es- onto the g-file, all that remains is to find a
pecially against squares next to the enemy good target for the unmasking piece—the
king. bishop on g7. It travels on dark squares.
White’s queen is on a dark square. So Bxe5+
takes a bishop, puts White’s king in check,
and wins back White’s queen after Black’s
3.1.10. Removing Impediments to Discov- next move.
ered Checks.
By the way, if you have studied the chapter
We have seen how to deal with obstacles that on bishop forks, another idea for Black should
may stand in the way of a normal discovered cry out for attention here as well: BxB+, fork-
attack—how to create good targets for each ing White's king and queen. What makes it
piece, and how to open blocked lines. The especially interesting is that if White takes the
same methods come in handy when building bishop, Black then appears to have mate:
discovered checks, so there is no need to re- Qxg2#, with cover provided by the rook on
hearse them here in detail; but since their use g8. Indeed, Black seems ready to mate soon
here sometimes looks a little different, a few no matter how White replies to BxB. But not
examples may be useful. First, discovered quite; for the surprising actual result of
checks often have to be created by making a Black's bishop fork is that it permits White to
threat or sacrifice that brings the king within mate! The point to notice is that when White
range of the stationary piece. And since an replies to the fork with QxB on e5, he checks
unmasking bishop can go after enemy pieces Black's king and seizes the initiative. Black
that sit on the same color squares where it has to play Rg7 to block the check. Then
travels, you sometimes have to force a target White plays Rg3; this not only blocks Black's
onto one of those squares. mate threat against g2, but allows White to
mate a moment later on g7 with QxR. There
is nothing Black can do to stop it; his queen is
too far out of position to help. The moral: you
must be especially careful to observe whether
any of your opponent's replies to your ideas
will put you in check. It can ruin everything.

Dg340: White has the kernel of a discovery

on the c-file, but it's not yet in working order.
The rook on c1, if unmasked, has nothing but
Dg339: Black to move a protected rook as a target, and the unmask-
ing bishop likewise is unable to threaten any-
Dg339: In the frame, Black has the kernel of a thing more valuable than itself.
discovered attack on the g-file: the rook be-
Dg340: White to move Dg341: White to move

But with the kernel in place, think hard about Dg341: Here is a small study in how the
what it would take to make it succeed. Try threat of a discovery can influence other mat-
saying “if only…” If only Black’s king were ters on the board. White has the makings of a
on the c file, White would have a discovered discovered attack on the e-file. What could
check and could take Black’s loose bishop the rook on e1 attack if the bishop in front of
with two moves. So now think about ways to it were moved? Just the pawn on e6. But no-
move the king by attacking it with other tice that behind that pawn lies Black’s king.
pieces. The only useful piece for the purpose It’s another “if only” point: if only the pawn
is White’s rook on d2. Can it give check? on e6 were gone, White would have a discov-
Yes, with Rd7+. Examine the move. Criti- ered check with Ba6+, winning the queen
cally, it’s a fork of Black’s king and his loose after Black moves his king. This means that
bishop; if Black moves his king, he loses a the Black pawn on e6 in effect is pinned in
piece. His only way to stop the check and also place. White is free to play d4-d5 if he
protect the bishop is by moving his rook onto wishes; if Black captures with e6xd5, White
the seventh rank: Rc7. Now what checks replies with his discovered check. So if he is
would White have, and with what results? alert Black will instead reply with a move like
RxR+, leading to KxR; and then—aha!—the Bd6 (preparing to castle) and allow White to
king has been drawn onto the c-file. White play d5xe6 next move, planning to respond
unmasks a discovered check with Bf8+, win- with f7xe6—but now Black’s position for
ning the bishop on g8 after Black's king castling is not quite so strong. Indeed, notice
moves. that Black’s position overall is rather poor. He
is behind in development (too many pieces
You could have seen all this as well by notic- still on their original squares), and he has
ing that the bishop on g7 is loose and thus an weak light-colored squares on his queenside
important target. You look for forks that (“weak” in the sense that White can put
would attack it and find one in Rd7+; you pieces on them and Black can’t chase them
imagine the reply Rc7 from Black; this invites away with pawns)—made worse by the fact
an exchange of rooks on c7; put this together that Black’s light-colored bishop, which he
with the kernel of the discovery on the c-file might have used to protect those squares, is
and you are led back to the g7 bishop as a off the board, while White’s still is available.
target—but this time as the target of a discov-
ery rather than a fork. In any event, the general point of the study is
just to see how the possibility of a discovered
Please excuse the absence of the White king check in the background can influence other
from g1. He's having a break. features of the game. The threat of it can para-
lyze those pieces that prevent its execution
and so permit advances that would not other-
wise be feasible. Here it ultimately causes
Black to end up with an isolated pawn and
bad castling position.

3.1.11. The Bishop and Rook Mate.

Since we have been considering positions

where a bishop unmasks check by a rook or
queen, let's look at one especially important
application in detail. The unmasking bishop
need not always go hunting for an enemy Dg343: White to move
piece to capture; it also may be able to move
to a diagonal where it can contribute to Dg343: Where does White have the kernel of
checkmate. The key mating pattern we will a discovered attack? On the g-file. You look
examine is this: a rook attacks the enemy king for a target for the rook once it is unmasked
along its file, with a bishop (a) providing pro- and find none. If only the king could be
tection for the rook, and often (b) helping to drawn onto the g-file, you think; and so you
seal off the king’s flight squares. Here we will look for ways to make it happen. What checks
look at some examples of how the pattern are available? Qg8+. Black’s only legal reply
looks in practice. is KxQ, moving his king onto the sensitive
line. Now if White moves his bishop he gives
check with his rook, so the question is what
move to make with the bishop. It had better
be good, since White sacrificed his queen to
get here. A combined attack against the king
is indicated; Be6++ checks the king with both
bishop and rook. Black’s only move is to re-
treat the king to h8. Now comes mate: Rg8#,
with the rook attacking the king and its only
flight square, and getting cover from the

Dg342: Black to move

Dg342: In the position Black has the makings

of a discovered check on the f-file. He can go
looking for White pieces to take with his
bishop, but the better plan is to move the
bishop to a diagonal where it, too, can be
brought to bear against White’s king. Hence
Bd3++—a case of double check where two of
Black’s pieces attack White's king at the same
time. In response to a double check the only
legal reply is to move the king. Here it must Dg344: Black to move
go to e1. Now comes the classic mate: Rf1#.
See how the rook makes the first rank and the Dg344: Black has the kernel of a discovered
f-file impossible places for the king to be, attack on the f-file. The potential target for his
while the bishop on d3 (a) protects the rook rook is White’s rook on f1—which is pro-
and (b) closes off the king’s other possible tected, however, by the enemy king. Black’s
flight square, e2. queen is trained on the rook already, so the
solution is an exchange: Black plays QxR+,
requiring the reply KxQ. Now the king is on
the f-file, so when Black moves his bishop he
has a discovered check. But instead of look-
ing for White pieces to attack with the bishop,
think first about ways to give check with it—
i.e., double check—and go for mate. Bd3++
forces the king to move. This time it can go
two ways: back to g1 or on to e1. Either way
Black executes the now-familiar mate pattern
with Rf1#.

Dg346: Black to move

Dg346: Black’s queen is about to get taken by

the rook on d4, so it would be natural to think
about moving it to safety; but Black can do
better. Think about offense and notice the
kernel of a discovery on the e-file. What tar-
get would the rook have if it were unmasked?
It would be aimed at White’s king, and the
check could be made a double with Bb4—if
Dg345: White to move only the White pawn on e3 weren’t in the
way. With the obstacle identified, be me-
Dg345: White has the kernel of a discovered thodical in getting rid of it. Try capturing
attack on the d-file, where the bishop masks something the pawn protects. It guards the
the rook. What prevents this from being an rook on d4, which Black can take with QxR.
effective discovered attack, or indeed a dis- Now if White replies e3xQ the e-file has been
covered check? First, White’s own queen opened for the double check Bb4++. White
blocks the rook’s path up the file; second, then has to move his king to d1, permitting
there is not yet a Black target on the file. The Black to execute the standard mate: Re1#,
solution to these problems becomes clear cutting off the king’s flight squares on the
enough when they are viewed together: use first rank and on the e-file while the bishop
the queen to bring the king into range. Thus protects the rook and cuts off d2.
Qd8+ forces KxQ. Since White will have sac-
rificed his queen, he will be interested in
mate; can he get it? Bg5++ gives check with
both bishop and rook; Black must move his
king. He can take it two places: back to e8 or
to c7. If he plays Ke8, White follows with
Rd8#, using our current pattern. If Black
plays Kc7, look for White’s next check: he
plays Bd8#, using something like the reverse
of the current pattern. The bishop attacks the
king and cuts off the flight squares on its di-
agonal; the rook protects the bishop and cuts
off the Black king’s remaining flight squares. Dg347: White to move
(White could have made a different second
move, of course: Ba5+, giving the double Dg347: Now let us tilt the pattern we are
check from the other side of the board. But it studying on its side. White has the makings of
doesn't work; Black's king soon can escape to a discovered attack on the h-file, where his
e6.) bishop masks his queen. Naturally you ex-
periment with moves that take the bishop out
of the way and allow the queen to give check.
But before getting too far into the bishop's while the mobile, unmasking piece remains
possibilities, ask what the king would do once free to make two attacking moves.
checked and whether the bishop might aid in
the creation of a mating net. The king is stuck
on the side of the board and so could only be
moved to g7. The bishop might cut off this
possibility with Bf8+. So then what would
Black do? Since moving the king would be
impossible, he would interpose his bishop on
h5. This way if White plays QxB he loses the
queen to g6xQ.

Don’t give up, though; always ask what

checks would have become possible at the
end of the sequence you are considering. Here Dg348: White to move
the answer lies in White’s d6 rook that also is
trained on the same sector. Imagine 1. Bf8+, Dg348: In this first position, White’s bishop
Bh5; 2. QxB+, g6xQ, and now notice that and rook are in the natural position for a dis-
with the g6 pawn moved out of the way, covery. The rook is aimed at Black’s queen, a
White has a fresh check to offer: Rh6—mate! threat so powerful that unmasking the rook
The rook and bishop operate the same way works much like a discovered check: White
here as they have in the previous examples; will get to make two unfettered moves with
the only difference is that they do it on the his bishop while Black saves his queen. White
side of the board rather than along the top or doesn't quite have the same flexibility in at-
bottom. tacking the queen that he would have with a
discovered check, because unlike a king the
The keys to the position are, first, to be ag- queen sometimes can move out of harm’s way
gressive in imagining 2. QxB, even though on and guard against whatever threat the mobile
its face it looks suicidal; and, second, to con- piece has made. But that doesn't spoil White’s
sider how your rook can get in on the act. possibilities here. He looks for a two-move
Once your mind becomes focused on a pat- attack he can launch with his light-squared
tern, such as the business here with queen and bishop, and sees that Black’s rook is loose
bishop, it it easy to forget how your other and lies on a light-colored square. Ba6 thus
pieces might be able to rush in and assist once attacks the rook on move one and wins it on
the board has changed a little. Many a se- move two (unless Black plays QxRe1, prefer-
quence is salvaged and then made crushing by ring to lose a queen for a rook rather than los-
adding new, unexpected firepower after the ing a rook outright).
pieces which first start the combination are

3.1.12. Other Large Threats By the Sta-

tionary Piece.

The logic of the discovered check sometimes

can arise in positions where the unmasked
piece doesn't give check but makes a different
threat—perhaps a threat of mate, or a threat
against the queen—that nevertheless is so Dg349: Black to move
powerful that it must be addressed; mean-
Dg349: One way to start a tactical assessment from White’s stationary piece, so White’s
is by just considering what each of your bishop—the unmasking piece—will get a free
pieces can do. This includes an automatic second move. White thus plays Bd5, attacking
glance not only at the diagonals where your the queen.
bishops sit but also at their ranks and files to
see if they contain allied pieces that might be Indeed, follow the possible resulting moves
able to deliver discovered attacks. Here and you find that White need not be satisfied
Black's bishop on d7 hides the rook on d8 with the queen; mate soon follows no matter
with nothing otherwise blocking the rook’s what Black does. If Black plays QxBd5, for
path to White’s queen. The setup is perfect for example, he might seem to have created a
a discovery—not quite a discovered check, defense against mate: if White plays RxR+,
but an attack based on the same model where Black can play Qg8, blocking the check—yet
the unmasked piece creates a distraction that then White mates with RxQ. If Black instead
the enemy must address while the unmasking tries to extinguish the mate threat by replying
piece is given two moves to inflict harm. So to Bd5 with RxRf2, White can skip BxQ and
Black looks for violent moves to make with just go straight for Black’s king with Qg8#;
his bishop and thus finds BxN. Since White the queen gets cover from the bishop on d5.
will be confronted with a threat to his queen, Black's "best" reply to Bd5 (it hardly matters)
he won’t be able to recapture with e4xB; is Rd6-f6; all this does is throw a blocker onto
Black therefore will be able to withdraw his the f-file. White's rook plows through it and
bishop to safety on his next move and will Black soon runs out of stalling maneuvers.
have gained a piece.

Dg351: Black to move

Dg350: White to move
Dg351: The crucial square to focus on this
Dg350: Here’s a variation on the current idea. time is g2. Black has a knight already attack-
Where does White have the kernel of a dis- ing it, and his queen is aimed the same way; if
covered attack? On the f-file. (The f7 bishop he could get his queen onto g2, it would be
and f2 rook are separated more than is usual, mate. The queen’s path to g2 is blocked by
but it’s no less important to see their relation- his bishop. He could try attacking g2 by first
ship.) Having found the kernel, ask what the moving his queen to c6, but this gives White a
rook could do if the bishop were out of the move he can use to defend g2 with Qg3. So
way. It could attack Black’s rook on f8. focus instead on the g-file, where Black has
That’s something, but on inspection of the kernel of a discovery. If the bishop were
Black’s king there is more: the king has no gone the queen would threaten to mate, so
flight squares and not many guards; so if Black looks for mischief he might make with
White could play RxR it would be mate. This his bishop—or, better, some way it might help
means that if the bishop vacates f7 it creates a with the queen's landing on g2. He finds no
discovered mating threat in RxR that func- checks or captures for the bishop but identi-
tions like a discovered check: Black will have fies a move that nevertheless is effective:
no choice but to fend off the threat to his king Be3, which attacks the bishop on f2 and pins
it to White’s king; it also cuts off the path of can do is advance his h-pawn. The first possi-
the White queen along the third rank toward bility, 3. ...h7-h6, doesn’t help: it results in 4.
any possible defense of the g2 square. White Rxh6+, BxR; 5. Qh7#. Black's second option,
is doomed: 3. ...h7-h5, is a little better as it avoids mate.
Play goes 4. Rxh5+, g6xR; 5. Qxh5+ (always
(a) If he captures Black’s bishop with his looking for the next check), Kg8; 6. Qh7+,
own, his queen remains blocked; Black mates Kf8; 7. Ne6+ (forking Black’s king and
with Qxg2. queen). The net: White gives up a bishop and
a rook to gain a queen, three pawns, and a
(b) If White instead uses his queen to take better game (his offensive continues; there are
Black’s bishop, he likewise is mated immedi- various ways he might win still more mate-
ately by Qxg2. rial).

(c) If White advances his g-pawn to g3, Black Assuming you follow all this (it's worth a
plays Qxg3+ and mates a move later. patient look), what does it prove? Just that if
Black replies to 1. Bc7 by playing QxB, he
(d) If White advances his g-pawn to g4, he gets hurt; so Bc7 does indeed give White a
effectively blocks the descent of Black’s working discovered attack. But what will
queen down the g-file, but Black plays Qc6 Black do about it? Obviously he doesn’t want
and again mates soon on g2; for the third rank to simply forfeit his queen; does he have any-
still is impassable to White’s queen. thing better? Ideally he would like a move
that makes a good counter-threat against
White while also defending against mate.
Black almost has such an option in 1. ...Ne5,
attacking White’s queen and guarding f7. Of
course it loses the piece to BxN, but it’s still
Black’s best reply.

This position contains a couple of natural

“stuck points”—places in the analysis where
it’s easy to hit a wall. The first comes after
you see 1. Bc7, QxB; 2. Qxf7+, Kh8—and
now it needs to occur to you to bring the rook
Dg352: White to move over to h4, which is tricky to see for several
Dg352: This is a rich, difficult position that
will reward some study time. Presumably you (a) Rh4 brings a piece into the action that had
see that White has the kernel of a discovery not initially appeared to be part of the plan.
on the f-file. You also see a natural way to It’s natural when you begin playing with a
execute it: 1. Bc7, attacking Black’s queen tactical idea to focus on the principal pieces
and also threatening 2. Qxf7+. But you won- involved—here, White’s queen, bishop and
der how formidable the latter threat really is. knight. But as we recently had occasion to
Suppose Black replies to 1. Bc7 with 1. ... note, many a sequence turns out to depend
QxB, allowing White to carry out Qxf7. Now precisely on the clever addition of an unex-
Black’s king is forced to h8—and then what? pected piece or pawn to the attack. This is a
Your queen can do no more by itself from f7. key reason why developing your pieces (i.e.,
The key move to see is 3. Rh4—a fresh mate getting them off of their original squares) is
threat (Rxh7#) against Black’s king on its important before launching an offensive.
new square. Black has a move he can spend They all may have the potential to perform
responding to it but there is nothing he can do supporting roles. The repeating moral: think
to avoid trouble. He can’t get any of his about all of your pieces and how they can
pieces to h7 to defend the square. The most he help when planning a tactical sequence.
(b) Rh4 requires you to remember that the along a file. Here are a few examples of what
bishop now on f4 would be gone after the first the horizontal patterns look like.
move and that this would open a line for your
rook to use to reach the h-file. This is a stan-
dard sort of cognitive challenge at the chess-
board. The only cure is to be careful about it
when you practice visualizing these se-
quences: every time you make a move, think
not only of the piece on its new square but
also of its absence from the old one.

(c) Rh4 is not a forcing move in the strong

sense associated with a check or capture, so it
might not spring to mind as quickly as those
other possibilities would. But it still requires a Dg353: White to move
look because it creates a mate threat: it aims a
piece at a square next to the enemy king that Dg353: In the diagram White has the makings
you already have under attack. It therefore of a horizontal discovered check on the eighth
forces Black’s reply; it make him advance his rank. The Black king is in place; the only
h-pawn, which ends up having other conse- question is what the bishop should do to take
quences as well. Moves of your heavy pieces advantage of the check that will occur once it
(your queen or rooks) to the h-file against the moves out of the rook’s way. It could take
castled enemy king are common sources of Black’s knight, of course, with Be7+, but it
good, forcing threats. would be a mistake to settle for so little. Con-
sider first the king’s response to the discov-
A second natural stuck point comes after 3. ered check; ask whether the unmasking piece
Rh4, h7-h5; 4. Rxh5, g6xR; 5. Qxh5, Kg8; 6. might add to a mating net. In this case the
Qh7+, Kf8. At this point you need to see 7. king would be forced to move to g7. Can
Ne6+—the knight fork. You might overlook it White’s bishop attack that square when it un-
by thinking in a rut. You have been trying to masks the rook? Yes: 1. Bf6# is mate.
chase down Black’s king with your queen;
now you have run out of ways to do it. The
earlier point repeats: when your idea hits a
wall, remember to ask afresh how your other
pieces might help, and whether some new
tactical idea might make an unexpected ap-
pearance. This is especially important when
you have a knight in the vicinity and the en-
emy king is moving; the potential for a knight
fork may pop up at any time during a se-
quence. (And of course you have to remember
as well that at this late stage of the sequences
Black's queen still sits on c7, where it went on Dg354: White to move
Black's first move.)
Dg354: Where does White have the kernel of
a discovered attack? Not on any file, of
course, but along the sixth rank. It isn't easy
3.1.13. Horizontal Discovered Checks. to see because at present the rook has no tar-
get once unmasked; but White would have a
Naturally a discovered check can occur hori- discovered check if Black’s king could be
zontally along a rank as well as vertically drawn onto h6. Experiment with any checks
White can give using other pieces—or pawns.
Here h5-h6+ checks the king; it also puts a for an attack along the h-file; if White could
pawn on the square where we want Black’s get one of his heavy pieces (the queen or a
king to go, inviting a capture there. rook) onto h3, it would be mate. Therein lies
the winning idea, for White’s queen already is
Black has two options: take the pawn or move aimed at h3. If the bishop moves out of the
the king to the back rank. If he goes the latter way, White’s threat against that square thus is
route, consider first what checks would be a mate threat, and requires a response from
possible and you find Re8—which is check- Black just as a check would. So now all
mate. (See how the pawn on h6 and the White needs is a dark-squared target that his
bishop on g6 together seal off all the king's bishop can reach in two moves. The queen is
flight squares on the seventh rank.) So instead the target of choice; Bxb6 wins it after Black
Black will have to play 1. ...Kxh6. But now plays Nf8 (preparing to fend off the mating
he has put his king on the same line with threat with his knight).
White’s bishop and rook and has made it prey
to a discovered check. White merely needs to
find something good for his bishop to spend
two moves doing, and he finds it in Be8+.
After Black moves his king out of check,
White plays BxR, winning the rook.

Realistically, the most likely way you would

see the tactical idea here is to start by examin-
ing the h5-h6 check as a matter of course;
then you see that after Kxh6 you have a dis-
covered check arranged—and that if the king
instead retreats you have mate. Dg356: White to move

Dg356: The kernel of the discovery here

should be obvious enough: White is poised to
give check on the seventh rank by moving the
bishop out of the rook’s way. He needs a
good target for the bishop. It’s on a light
square; what Black pieces are on light
squares? None. But that is no reason to give
up. White’s task is clear: get a Black piece
onto a light square—probably by forcing one
of them to move there with a threat. Pawns
are best for this purpose, since in the face of a
Dg355: White to move pawn threat a piece usually must move; the
threat can't be dealt with by just adding pro-
Dg355: Where does White have the makings tection to the piece. A threat against a knight
of a discovered attack? On the third rank, is especially useful here because every time a
where the bishop masks the queen. Well, in knight moves it switches to a different colored
practice you probably would not think quite square. So b3-b4 forces the knight to move,
like that, since the queen so plainly has no and wherever it goes it gets taken—either
target on its rank if the bishop moves out of right away by White’s bishop or rook, or (if
the way. The real key to seeing what can be the knight moves to c6) by the discovered
done here is to examine Black’s king and its check Bd5+. After Black moves his king,
vulnerabilities. It is stuck in the corner; BxN then takes the piece, which is defended
White’s bishop on b3 covers g8. And the file by Black’s rook but also attacked a second
leading to the king is open. The king’s lack of time by White’s rook.
pawn cover and constricted movement cry out
3.1.14. Two-steppers: Building the Kernel.

The first step in our usual studies of the dis-

covered attack has been to find the kernel of it
and build from there. But what if the kernel
doesn't yet exist? Then a bit more imagination
is required: you need to experiment with
moves — here, moves by bishops and the
pieces they can mask—that create kernels;
you learn to notice when a move or exchange
you might make will bring the kernel of a
discovery into existence. Here are some illu- Dg358: Black to move
Dg358: Black faces the threat of mate with
RxR, so if he’s going to take the offensive
elsewhere he will need to work with checks
that force White to play defense. The checks
he can give with his queen—Qxh2, Qf1, or
moves to the g-file—don’t quite work; but
how about 1. …Bxh2+? White’s only legal
reply is 2. Kh1, retreating into the corner. But
now the full kernel of a discovered check has
been completed: Black’s queen is behind his
bishop and aimed at White’s king. This al-
most enables a mating sequence with 2.
Dg357: White to move …Bg3+ 3. Kg1, Qh2+ 3. Kf1, Qxf2#. That
last move won’t succeed here because of
Dg357: In the study White sees that he has a White’s knight on d1, however, so Black
rook on the open e-file. He has a bishop that needs something else for his bishop to do as it
can reach the same file with Be7, masking the clears the h-file and discovers check. It can’t
rook. Look at the position of the bishop and attack anything; it’s on a dark square and all
rook here; see how they thus are one move of White’s pieces are all on light squares. But
away from being in the classic formation for a consider whether it usefully might block any
discovery. The question is whether the move lines. With 2. …Be5, Black severs the protec-
that creates the kernel also forces a target into tion White’s queen had provided to the rook
place. Here the bishop’s move to e7 would on e8. Again White must move his king to g1;
threaten Black’s rook on f8. Black’s reply and now Black plays RxR.
would be forced and thus easy to foresee: the
rook would have to move to e8. This little
sequence would create a working discovered
attack: a masked piece, a masking piece, and
a target all along the e-file. Now the bishop
just needs a good place to go next. Bb4
threatens Black’s queen; if the queen defends
itself in any way, White plays RxR#. So the
queen must be lost. Notice how easy this posi-
tion would be if it started with the kernel in-
tact (i.e., with 1. Be7, Re8 already played).
The challenge is just to think of White mov-
ing his bishop in front of his rook and to care- Dg359: White to move
fully consider the result.
Dg359: Start by examining every check.
White has two: Rh8, which loses the rook
without a good follow-up, and Bh7, which moving his queen to d8 Black thus defends
checks the king and (since the bishop is pro- his knight on e2: he creates a discovered at-
tected against capture) requires the king to tack that will be unleashed if his knight is
retreat to h8. And now—aha!—we have the taken.
kernel of a discovered check: White’s bishop
masks the path of his rook toward Black’s
king. So where should he move the bishop? It
has no good Black targets on light squares,
but the more important possibility to consider
is that the bishop might help finish Black's
king. The best piece to involve as a help to-
ward that end is his queen. White would mate
if it could be placed on h7; and what keeps it
from being placed there is the presence of
White’s own bishop on the needed diagonal.
So we remove the bishop from the line with 2.
Bg8+. Black has to move his king out of Dg361: Black to move
check with KxB or Bh6; either way, White
has Qh7#. (The queen takes protection either Dg361: Again White’s king can take Black’s
from the rook on h1 or the bishop on g8, de- knight on e2. Black has a bigger problem, too,
pending where Black's king moved.) for White threatens to mate by playing Qf7+,
forcing Black’s king to h8 and then mating on
f8 (his queen goes there and gets taken by
Black’s rook; then White has RxR#). Yet
Black can address both problems with the in-
genious Qe8. See what this does: now Black’s
queen is on the e-file, ready to defend the
knight once his bishop on e5 has moved out
of the way. In other words, the kernel of a
discovery has been created expressly to pro-
tect a fellow piece at the other end of it. In-
deed, this does better than protect the knight
and defend f7 against mate. It means that if
Dg360: Black to move White plays KxN, Black then has a discove-
red check with Bb8+, attacking White’s queen
Dg360: Now a defensive use of our current as well as his king.
idea, and in a horizontal setting. Black is
ahead a piece. He has to address the threat We aren’t finished; don't forget to consider
against his knight now made by White’s king. what White would do about the check you are
How? With offense: Black has a bishop on imagining when Black moves his bishop out
the eighth rank and can move his queen be- of the way. White could interpose his rook
hind it with Qd8. That move creates the ker- with Re3, not only blocking the check but
nel of a discovered attack against White's attacking Black’s queen. So then what? Black
queen. To make the threat really interesting looks for another check that would then be
the bishop would need somewhere good to possible; so long as he keeps White busy with
go. Can it reach White’s king? Not quite; it checks, the capture BxQ will still be waiting
can move to a6, though, at which point it is for him afterwards. Here Black’s next check
aimed at—the threatened knight. Now the is Qb5+. White again can interpose the rook,
defensive idea comes together: if Black plays but this time it only blocks the check; it can
Qd8 and White then plays KxN, as he now pose no threat against a queen attacking along
threatens to do, Black would be able to win a diagonal. Now it's safe for Black’s bishop to
the queen with Ba6+. Odd as it may seem, by take White’s queen.
3.2. Rook Discoveries.

3.2.1. Introduction; Simple Cases.

We turn now to a different pattern: the rook

that blocks and then unmasks an attack along
a diagonal by a bishop or queen. In a way the
pattern is the reverse of a bishop discovery;
this time the unmasker moves vertically or
horizontally while the attacker runs on a di-
Dg362: White to move agonal. Since the mechanics involved are fa-
miliar, we won't spend quite as much time on
Dg362: You might start this one by observing the rook as we did on the bishop or as we will
that White's f5 bishop can give check with Bx on the knight. Still, there are some differences
h7. By itself this doesn't achieve anything, but between the patterns that are worth a few
it's something to know as you think through moments of special attention and visual ab-
your options. Okay, now look at your other sorbtion.
forcing moves — your possible captures —
and what they do. There is 1. NxN, inviting First, an unmasking rook usually has a harder
Black to retake with QxN. The interesting time giving check than an unmasking bishop
thing about this exchange is that it puts does. The bishop can act as a dive bomber,
Black's queen on a line with the White bishop, coming in on a diagonal to attack the king
which we know can give check. from above or below; the rook has to deliver
check by moving straight down onto the
Maybe now you begin thinking about slipping king’s rank, or (less often) over onto the
White's queen onto h5 to create the structure king’s file. Either of these moves can unmask
of a discovered attack on the fifth rank; you an attack, as we shall see, but they are less
wonder how you might do it in a violent man- common than the bishop’s strike against, say,
ner that forces Black's reply and keeps the h7. The significance of this is that when the
discovery intact. Or maybe you just keep rook discovers an attack, the distraction it
looking for other captures you can make. Ei- creates more often is not a check but instead
ther way you come to inspect 2. Bxg7. Black is some sort of mating threat, typically against
has to reply BxB or else lose the rook on f8. the back rank. And discovered checks—i.e.,
But after Black plays BxB the way is clear for moves where the piece behind the rook gives
White to play 3. Qh5, threatening mate with the check, rather than the rook itself—also
Qxh7. The mate threat is easy for Black to make up a relatively large share of rook dis-
defang, of course, with h7-h6, but it serves its coveries. Finally, discoveries by the rook also
purpose: White gets his queen onto line with look different than discoveries by the bishop.
his bishop and with Black's queen, and Black The rook kernel isn’t as easy for the untrained
has had no time to fend off the discovered eye to see as the bishop kernel; the eye is ac-
attack that now has been set up on the fifth customed to looking up and down the files but
rank. White pulls the trigger with 4. Bh7+, not so accustomed to scanning the diagonals
requiring Black to play KxB and unmasking in the same way. The positions in this chapter
5. QxQ. White wins Black’s queen and pawn are meant to build that visual habit.
in return for his two bishops.
Dg363: Let’s begin with positions that are
comparable to the first studies in the chapter
on bishop discoveries. There, a bishop mas-
ked a queen or rook that was ready to attack
an enemy piece along a file; here, a rook
masks a bishop or queen that is prepared to lar to the last one and is offered mostly for the
attack an enemy piece along a diagonal. sake of pattern reinforcement. They differ in
trivial respects: the White pieces comprising
the kernel of the discovery are another square
apart, and this time it’s the queen rather than
the bishop that is unmasked. But the execu-
tion is about the same. Black’s queen starts
out as a bad target because it has protection
from the knight on g7. White can eliminate
the guard while unmasking the queen—and
can do it with check: RxN+. After KxR,
White plays QxQ and wins a queen and a
knight for a rook.

Dg363: White to move

There, the bishop unmasked the attacking

piece with a diagonal move that checked the
enemy king; here, the rook unmasks the at-
tacker with a “vertical” move—a move down
a file—that checks the enemy king. In either
case, the unmasked piece has time to make its
capture after the check is fended off.

Where does White have the makings of a dis-

covered attack in this first example to the left? Dg365: White to move
The answer presents a new pattern: it’s on the
diagonal f1-h3, where the rook masks an at- Dg365: The general idea here is the same as
tack by the bishop against Black’s queen. The before: see the queen-behind-rook pattern for
questions about the idea's execution are famil- White, this time running in the other direc-
iar: what violent move can the rook make that tion; notice the Black queen, poised to be
will require a time-consuming response from taken by White’s queen if the rook can move
Black, giving the bishop time to take Black’s out of the way with check. Here the rook’s
queen? The answer, of course, is a check: check probably is of its most common type:
Rxg7+ requires Black to play KxR (or move the move to the back rank, in this case with
his king); and now White plays BxQ. Re8+. The check easily is defused with RxR,
but then White wins the queen with QxQ.

Dg364: White to move

Dg366: Black to move
Dg364: Where does White have the makings
of a discovered attack? This position is simi- Dg366: Where does Black have the makings
of a discovered attack? There is nothing on
the files or ranks, but along the g1-a7 diago- what large threat can White create with the
nal Black has a bishop masked by a rook. rook?
Does the bishop have a suitable target if the
rook moves? Yes, in White’s unprotected
knight. As discussed in more detail in our
work on forks, an unprotected or “loose”
piece always calls for a look at whether it can
be taken with a tactical maneuver. Here the
question is whether Black can vacate his rook
from c5 in a manner that is time-consuming
enough to allow him to take the knight a
move later—and that doesn’t lose the rook.
(Since the payoff of the discovery is just go-
ing to be a knight, Black can’t afford to sacri-
fice his rook the way he did in the previous Dg367: White to move
positions.) So Black looks for safe rook
checks and finds Rc1+, where the rook is Rxf6 is its only capture, but the move is more
covered by Black’s bishop at e3. The move than that: it aims the rook at f8, where it
forces the king to move to a2 and then allows would mate the trapped Black king with
Black to play BxN safely. RxR#. So in reply to 1. Rxf6 Black has to
capture White’s rook, which of course creates
time for White to play QxQ on his next move.

3.2.2. Threatening Mate. Now notice that if it were Black’s turn to

move he would have Qa1+. White would be
In the positions just seen, the attacking player forced to reply KxQ—after which Black has
used his rook to give check. The opponent’s the knight fork NxB, winning a piece. This
need to defend against the check gave the should worry you a little for the reason
piece that had been uncovered by the rook sketched a couple of paragraphs above. The
time to win material on the next move. Some- first move in White’s planned sequence
times the rook can achieve much the same (Rxf6) is a capture and mate threat, but not a
effect by threatening mate, as this puts the check; so you have to consider whether he
enemy under pressure similar to that created can give checks of his own that will derail
by a check. A rook most commonly can your plans. In this case Black could respond
threaten mate by offering to drop onto the to Rxf6 with two consecutive checks, as just
back rank when the enemy king is trapped discussed: Qa1+, and then NxB+, forcing
there. This theme is worth our independent White to move his king. So are White's plans
attention for two reasons. First, seeing a mate foiled? No; for then Black is out of checks
threat often is harder than seeing a check; it that hold the initiative: the next move he
takes some practice. Second, when you work wants to play is NxQ, but he can’t afford it
with mate threats you have to be especially because Black mates with RxR. White thus
careful to consider what trouble your oppo- holds onto the queen.
nent can make in reply. Since by assumption
you haven't put him in check, you may have Dg368: A similar idea. First find where White
left him with latitude to respond with checks has the makings of a discovered attack. The
of his own that seize the initiative. kernel lies on the long a1-h8 diagonal, where
White’s rook masks his queen in familiar
Dg367: In the current position White has the fashion. Look for a target for the queen once
kernel of a discovered attack along the g1-a7 it’s unmasked and see that Black’s queen is in
diagonal, where his rook masks his queen— the line of fire—and that it's loose.
which otherwise would be able to take
Black’s queen. Now think about execution:
Dg368: White to move Dg369: Black to move

The challenge now is straightforward: vacate On the long a8-h1 diagonal. As usual the rook
the rook from d4 in a way that compels a re- masks the queen, and if it were moved Black
sponse from Black. The rook has no checks, could play QxQ. The important question in-
so examine the Black king’s position for vul- volves what to do with the rook. Again it has
nerabilities. It is trapped on the back rank; no checks, so consider the White king and its
although it isn’t entirely sealed in by its vulnerabilities. Here as in the previous posi-
pawns, White’s bishop closes off the flight tion it is stuck on the back rank, as Black’s
square on g7. The same idea we saw in the bishop on h3 cuts off its escape. And once
previous position thus works here. An attack more the king has a single guard: the rook on
by White’s rook against Black’s rook on e8 e1. If Black threatens that rook with his own,
would be a mating threat, because if White he threatens mate. So he has two possibilities,
can play RxR the game ends. White makes either of which works: 1. …Rd1 or 1. …Re5.
the threat with Re4. Black has to eliminate
White’s rook to stay in the game. He has two There is a little more to say, because you al-
ways to do it. The first is BxR, to which ways must ask whether your opponent has a
White replies QxQ and mates soon. Black way to both move the targeted piece out of
also has the option of replying to Re4 with danger and spoil the mating threat. White's
RxR. How should White reply? queen can't move to the east because Black
then threatens to mate with Qg2. But in re-
This time the answer for White isn't quite sponse to either of those rook moves we have
QxQ, since Black then uses his rook to mate sketched, White can play 2. Qxh3, avoiding
on e1. White instead needs to work with QxQ and preparing to interpose the queen on
checks to prevent that possibility. By moving f1 if Black plays RxR. But then he still loses
his rook off the back rank, Black has made the queen—and also both rooks. It goes 2.
this easy: White plays Qc8+, which requires …RxR+, 3. Qf1, RxQ+, 4. KxR, QxRh1+.
Black to interpose his queen on d8. White Black has a queen left and White has nothing.
takes it (QxQ+); then we go through the same
process with Black's rook; then it's mate.

Black's best reply to 1. Re4 is probably 1.

...Qe5, which avoids the mate just shown but
loses his queen and then his bishop.

Dg369: Another variation on the same idea,

this time from Black’s side. Where does
Black have the makings of a discovered at-
tack? Dg370: Black to move
Dg370: Observe the offensive tension on the Dg371: First note the kernel of a discovered
board. Black would like to use his queen to attack spread along the long h1-a8 diagonal.
take White’s rook on f5, but then he would If unmasked, the Black bishop could take
lose his own rook to White’s queen. How to White’s queen. Can the rook be vacated from
break the jam? By use of the queen-rook- f3 with check? Yes; Black can play Rf1+, and
queen alignment on the e1-a5 diagonal—the White would have to reply RxR (his queen
three-piece kernel of a discovery. White’s would then be pinned). Then Black could play
queen is ready to be taken if the rook can va- BxQ, to which White replies KxB, and Black
cate c3 with sufficient violence. The rook has has won a queen for a bishop and a rook.
no way to give check, but study White’s king:
it’s trapped on the back rank. If Black could Don't settle for this, though; think through all
land a rook there he might have a mate of your options. How else could the rook va-
threat—except for the protection furnished by cate f3, and with what results? He could
White’s rook on b1; if Black could take that threaten mate with RxN, looking to play
rook with his own, he would indeed threaten RxR# next move. RxN therefore has about the
mate. So the threat by Black of RxR is almost same effect as a check but picks up a knight
as good as a check, and Black can achieve along the way. Now what would White do?
this with 1. ...Rb3. Stay aware of every piece bearing on the en-
emy king’s position. Here Black has a second
What next? White is confronted with multiple rook he can involve, this one on the open e-
threats, so he might naturally look for a way file. So if White replies to RxN with RxRd3,
to defuse them both—a square where his Black plays his other rook to e1—and it’s
queen would be safe and would defend mate. White instead needs to create a flight
against RxR#. One possibility is 2. Qc1. This square for his king, and therefore replies to
takes care of those two problems, but not a RxN with QxB. It avoids checkmate but loses
third one: Black now can play QxR with no the queen. The key thing for Black now is not
worries, because White’s queen no longer is to play the tempting RxQa8, but to instead use
in position to retaliate by taking the rook on RxR+. It wins a rook, and since it's a check it
c3. (But before playing QxR Black has to effectively is a free move; White has to spend
exchange rooks on b1; otherwise White meets his reply saving his king, and so can’t move
Black’s QxR with c2xR.) White is left with a his queen out of harm’s way on the eighth
queen against Black’s bishop and queen. A rank. When Black has finished giving checks
better reply idea for White would be 2. and doing whatever damage he can in the
a2xRb3. Black then plays QxQ next move, so process, White’s queen still will be on a8 for
this time White has lost a queen for a rook; the taking.
but at least he ends up with two rooks against
Black’s queen and bishop. Capturing the rook on d1 first with check,
then taking Black’s queen later, is an example
of using the priority of check—the principle
that a check must be addressed before any
other threat pending on the board. It is a valu-
able idea that we will revisit often and study
in detail later.

Dg372: By now the queen-and-rook kernel

for Black on the long diagonal no doubt is
obvious. Look for a target for the queen if
Dg371: Black to move unmasked, and see that White’s queen is
loose and ready to be taken on c3.
3.2.3. The Rook Discovers Check.

Dg372: Black to move

Black just needs a threat to make with his

rook on e5. The rook can’t directly threaten
anything at the moment, but the key fact Dg373: Black to move
about the piece is that it is part of a battery of
rooks aimed at White’s back rank. Play Dg373: We turn to the power of the rook to
through the first rook capture in your mind’s discover check. The position on the left illus-
eye: 1. ...RxR+, to which White replies 2. trates the pattern in simple form. Scan the
RxR. Now what? The answer is tricky. Are diagonals and you see Black’s queen behind
you inclined to play 2. ...RxR+, checking the his rook, with White's king at the other end of
king? Not so fast: White’s queen protects e1, the line. The stage is set for a discovered
so White would be able to play 3. QxR, taking check; Black just needs a good target for his
the queen out of danger and dissolving the rook. Best would be either White’s queen
check at the same time. Any other ideas? (because it’s more valuable than the rook) or
any unprotected White piece (because then it
Consider the surprising 2. ...Re2, which puts doesn’t matter whether the rook is more valu-
pressure on a square next to White’s king (f2) able). White’s queen can be attacked with
that Black already attacks with his queen. Rc4+; after White protects his king (Kh1 is
This allows Black to threaten mate with 3. best), Black plays RxQ. It would be different
...Qxf2; White must do something to prevent if White could take his queen someplace
it. If he plays 3. QxQ, Black doesn't recapture where it had protection and blocked the
right away with g7xQ; rather, he first plays check, but there is no such square. If White
RxR+, winning a rook and checking White’s plays Qe3, for example, Black has QxQ+; this
king (the priority of check again). After the renews the check and thus gives Black time to
king moves to h2, then Black still has g7xQ— save his rook on his next move.
and only Black’s rook is left on the board. If
White instead plays something other than
QxQ on the second move of the sequence,
Black plays QxQ on his next move.

The hard part of this position is seeing the

value of Re2 for Black. The key point to re-
member is the sensitivity of squares next to
the king, especially when they already are
attacked by a queen. Adding another attacker
against such squares, as Black does here with
his second rook, can create a crushing threat
even if no check or capture is made with the Dg374: Black to move
Dg374: Here is another way it can go. Black’s
rook masks his bishop, which otherwise
would have an open line to White’s king. should go. It will have two moves to inflict
What should Black do with his rook? The damage, and unlike the bishop it can reach
queens are off the board, so Black looks for squares of either color. Naturally White
pieces he might attack. There are two: would like to go after Black’s queen, and he
White’s knight and rook. Which is the better can. But another critical feature of the rook’s
target? The knight, because it is unprotected; powers is that it can move both horizontally
if Black plays Rb2+ and then RxR, he just or vertically, so there still is a decision to
ends up exchanging rooks after NxR. The make: White can attack Black's queen with
winning move thus is Ra2+, followed by RxN Rc5+ or Rd6+. Choose carefully. Your chief
after White saves his king. worry in executing a discovered check is that
the targeted piece—here the queen—will be
able to move out of harm’s way in a manner
that also blocks the check. So start by consid-
ering Rd6+ and ask whether Black’s queen
would have any such moves. It would; Qc4
would block the check and also lend the
queen protection against QxQ from the pawn
on b5. Now try the other move: Rc5+. This
time the only way Black’s queen could block
the check is by moving to d5 or e6—but on
those squares it gets no protection and so is
lost to e4xQ or QxQ. Rc5+ thus is the win-
Dg375: White to move ning move for White.

Dg375: White’s rook masks the path of his

bishop toward Black's king, so White’s task is
to find a destructive role for the rook. Again
the queens are off the board, and again White
is picking between attacks against Black’s
rook (with Re6+) and a lesser piece (with
Rxb6+, attacking the bishop). Both targets are
unguarded at the moment, but Black can reply
to the check with Kf7, protecting the rook. So
Rxb6+ is better; it wins a pawn and a bishop
for nothing.
Dg377: White to move

Dg377: White has a tempting attack against

Black’s back rank: Black’s king is trapped in
the corner, and White’s queen is poised to
move to c8. Should it? The crucial thing to
recognize here is that the kernel of a discov-
ery lies on the board—for Black. His rook
masks his bishop, which will check White’s
king as soon as the rook vacates f2. This is the
dominant tactical fact of this position, and it
makes Qc8+ a disaster for White; for then
Dg376: White to move Black plays Rf8+—not only blocking White’s
check, but winning his queen with RxQ as
Dg376: It starts with identification of an idea: soon as White takes his own king out of
the kernel of a discovered attack. Here you check. White had better play Kh1 instead.
find White’s rook blocking a check by his
queen. The only question is where the rook
Dg378: Black to move Dg379: White to move

Dg378: Now a reminder that a discovered He looks at any captures he can make and
mate threat can be formidable, too. The considers their consequences—what lines
alignment of pieces on the d1-h5 diagonal they would open and so forth. There is just
cries out for consideration of a discovered one: BxB, resulting in RxB. The interesting
attack; if Black moves his rook from e2, his feature of this exchange is that it not only
queen will threaten not only to take White’s extinguishes the threat against White’s a1
rook on d1 but to mate there—almost; rook but also leaves that rook and White’s
White’s queen presently guards the square. king with nothing between them—and an
The question for Black is the best use he enemy target on b2. White therefore can dev-
might make of his rook as it unmasks the astate Black by castling: 0-0-0. Suddenly
threat, and the natural answer is to go after the Black’s king has been checked by White’s
White queen that protects the rook. He ex- rook, while Black’s rook is about to be taken
periments with Rb2. If White plays the cap- for free by White’s king. Castling into an at-
ture QxR, Black mates as just noted. Nor can tack is not something you have a chance to do
White move his queen to any other square very often, but when the opportunity arises it
where it will prevent mate. The best he can do is memorable.
is Qxd5, taking a pawn and guarding against
immediate mate by protecting the d1 square.
But then Black takes the queen with his c6
pawn (or with his own queen—it doesn’t mat- 3.2.4. Manufacturing Discovered Check.
ter) and White has nothing left but Rf1. Black
is ahead by a queen and has a won game. Now let's look at a few positions where some
element of the discovered check—open lines
The discovered attack here seemed at first to or appropriate targets—has to be manufac-
be foiled by White’s queen, which appeared tured. The ideas behind the methods used here
to guard the targeted piece. Consider in such a will be familiar; only the context is any dif-
case whether the discovered attack might be ferent from what has come before, but seeing
turned against the very piece that seems to how the old ideas look in new settings will
frustrate it. make them easier to see in real time.

Dg379: This position is not an especially

good fit for the current section because it does
not involve a discovery in the usual sense, but
it goes here as well as anyplace. White has to
do something about Black’s threat of BxR.
Dg380: Black to move Dg381: White to move

Dg380: Find the makings of a discovered at- Dg381: First find the kernel of a discovery;
tack for Black in the position to the left. His you are trying to learn to see them every time,
rook blocks his bishop along the g1-a7 diago- even when they don't appear to lead anyplace.
nal. The bishop is aimed toward White's king White’s rook masks the path of his bishop
but is blocked by the pawn at f2. Black can't toward Black’s bishop—and, behind it, his
capture the pawn and cause an interesting king. If Black’s bishop could be replaced
recapture, so try another idea: capturing with his king, White would have the makings
something the pawn protects and thus forcing of a discovered check. Capturing the bishop
it to move on the recapture. Viz.: Black plays would be one way to achieve this, but again
QxB, inviting f2xQ. If White plays the recap- White has no way to do it; and yet again, too,
ture, Black's discovered check has been nicely there is the alternative of capturing something
prepared. All that remains is to find a good the bishop protects—the knight on h5. White
target the d4 rook can reach in two moves. can take it with QxN+. If Black recaptures
Rd8+ unmasks check; then after White saves BxQ, the bishop is out of the way and White
his king, Black has RxQ. can unmask a check by moving his rook. He
looks for damage the rook can inflict with two
Take a moment now to appreciate the threats moves and sees that Black’s queen is within
that Black faces in this position and how the reach. Rd6+ attacks it; RxQ takes it after
sequence just described would bear on them. Black saves his king. White wins a piece.
White has three pieces aimed near Black’s
king: his queen, rook, and bishop. Look at Well, but wait: how does Black save his king?
White’s checks and you see that he is poised He can move it (say, to g7); but he also can
to play Rxc7+. Black would have to play save it with a threat by playing his bishop
BxR. Now comes the follow-up check QxB+, from h5 back to g6, where it blocks the check
forcing Black’s king onto a8; and finally and also throws a counterattack at White’s
White mates with Qb8. Fortunately it’s not bishop. Now after White plays RxQ, Black
White’s turn to move! The beauty of QxB for can play BxB. This would mean White traded
Black is not only that it wins a piece by away a queen and a bishop to win a queen and
threatening a discovered check; it also defuses a knight—but we aren’t quite done yet. After
White’s threat against c7 by adding a guard to Black’s BxB, White recaptures with NxB and
the square (Black’s queen) and by taking out still wins a piece. So the modest-looking
one of the attackers against it (White’s knight on e1 is necessary to make the whole
bishop). sequence work. (If that knight were off the
board, the sequence just described still would
be worth a pawn, though; after Black plays
BxB, White would have Rb5, forking the
loose pawns on a5 and c5.)
The lesson of this last note is to take time to in the last position, the queen can be sacri-
consider how your opponent will reply to the ficed to force the needed result: Qh1+, requir-
checks you make. If it's clear that he will have ing KxQ.
to move his king, it may not matter too much
where it goes (though then again it might!).
But if he has interpositions, you need to an-
ticipate what they would make possible for
him on offense.

Dg383: Black to move

Now the rook’s job again is to both unmask a

check and add to the pressure on White’s
king. This it does with RxN++, putting the
Dg382: Black to move king in double check and so requiring it to
move. Its only flight square is g1. Now Black
Dg382: Black’s rook masks his bishop on the goes in for the kill with Rh1#. The bishop
long h1-a8 diagonal. This might be easy to protects the rook and also cuts off the king’s
overlook because there is no White target at flight square to the north—a classic mating
the other end; but with the bishop aimed into pattern we considered in the chapter on dis-
the corner next to White's king, you readily coveries by the bishop.
should appreciate the potential for a discov-
ered check here. The question is whether the
king can be drawn into the line of fire. One
way to so move a king is to check it with an-
other piece. This is especially forceful when
the queen simply moves up next to the king,
requiring it to capture to survive; thus here
Black can play Qg2+, requiring KxQ. Since
this involved sacrificing a queen, you're look-
ing for mate as a payoff; so Black wants to
move his rook where it can add to the pres-
sure on White’s king (now on g2) that will be
created by the unmasked bishop on b7. The Dg384: Black to move
rook can go two places to do this, both in-
volving a capture: Rxf2 and Rxg3. The move Dg384: The kernel for Black again is the
to f2 is unproductive since White just replies bishop behind the rook, and again the
KxR. Rxg3, however, is checkmate: the rook bishop’s path leads toward the position of
has protection from the other Black bishop on White’s king but not yet quite at White’s
d6, and it cuts off the only squares the king king. How can the king be drawn onto the
could use to escape the diagonal. bishop’s diagonal? With the same sacrificial
idea considered in the previous positions:
Dg383: A similar idea. Black has the familiar Qf2+, requiring White to play KxQ. Now
kernel of a discovery on the long diagonal what? Again, with the queen sacrificed and
leading toward White’s king. First the king White’s king vulnerable, Black thinks in
needs to be drawn onto the diagonal; here as terms of mate; this means using the rook to
add to the pressure on the king’s position by
making a check of its own or cutting off some able to go, and with what results, especially
flight squares. Black could try a double check where the enemy king is as exposed as it is
with Rd2, but trace the consequences: the here. Black’s queen would have some great
king returns to the back rank with Kf1, and if threatening squares to land on: think of c3 or
Black follows him there with Rd1, the rook a1, where it would attack the king and cut off
gets taken by White’s knight. most of its flight squares. And then remember
to consider the significance of other Black
So what else might Black do with his rook? pieces trained on the king’s sector—including
The key here is to be mindful of all the Black the bishop on g6, which slices off two more
pieces bearing on the situation. After his of the king’s escape squares. The idea comes
queen is off the board, Black still will have into view: if Black’s rook unmasks his
another bishop at g4 cutting off the square queen—playing, presumably, Rxe2 and at-
above White’s king (f3) and to the side (e2); tacking White’s queen—Black’s queen would
Black also has a pawn at f4 that cuts off e3 not give check, but might threaten to mate.
and g3 (well-advanced pawns can serve very
valuable purposes in closing off squares; do
not overlook them). This means that once
White’s king is drawn onto f2 it will have no
escape squares to the north, east, or west; the
third rank and the e2 square might as well be
filled with White pawns. So the really useful
thing Black’s rook can do is cut off the king’s
escape to the south by occupying the back
rank: Rd1+ unmasks check by the bishop and
leaves the king nowhere to go. White can in-
terpose his bishop with Be3, but this just de-
lays mate by a move (Black plays BxB#, with Dg385: Black to move
his bishop getting cover from the f4 pawn).
Now nail down the details, imagining the par-
Here’s another way to have seen the idea. As ticular moves and replies that would be possi-
Black you notice that your queen and bishop ble. After playing Rxe2 Black is ready to take
both are aimed at f2, adjacent to White’s king. White’s queen. If White plays QxR, then
You might naturally consider Rd1+; this re- what? Black plays Qc3, which has become
quires a reply from White (NxR) to save his safe now that White’s queen has moved over
king; and in the meantime the bishop has now to take the rook—and it’s mate (after White
been unmasked and is ready to support mate uselessly interposes his queen), since White’s
with Qf2. But then you see it doesn’t quite king has no place to go.
work because once White’s knight is on d1 it
controls f2. So you play with the move order In reply to Black's initial Rxe2, White’s pref-
and see that if you start with Qf2 it works erence would be to move his queen someplace
after all. where it both is safe and prevents mate, but
no such square is available; in fact there is
Dg385: Last, consider a case not of a discov- nothing at all he can do with his queen to
ered check but of a discovered mate threat. avoid mate. Instead he has to play RxBg6,
First find the kernel for Black; it’s on the long extinguishing the mate threat—but surrender-
a1-h8 diagonal, where his rook masks his ing his queen next turn (or the turn after that
queen. The queen's line would pass next to if Black first plays Qa1+).
White’s king without directly attacking it.
Black has no way to force White’s king onto,
say, b2, where it would be directly vulnerable
to a discovered check. So what to do? Think
carefully about where the queen would be
3.2.5. Two-steppers: Building the Kernel.

Dg387: White to move

Dg386: Black to move Look for queen moves that continue to protect
the rook and also add pressure against Black.
Dg386: Here Black does not have the kernel One such move is 1. Qd5, since it not only
of a discovered attack; the point of the posi- attacks Black’s bishop while still protecting
tion is that when you see a configuration like the rook but also creates the three-piece ker-
this—bishop and rook coordinated, with both nel of a discovered check, enlarging the
trained on squares near the king—it pays to power of both queen and rook. Indeed, this
experiment with creating the pattern for a move wins the game:
discovery by bringing one piece into the path
of the other and examining the consequences. (a) If Black plays 1. …Qc1+, hoping to divert
Here an obvious way would be Rc2+: the White’s energies by taking the offensive,
rook moves into the bishop’s path and gives White executes the discovered check with 2.
check; White’s king has to move. If it goes Rf1+, blocking the check against his own
anywhere but d1, it leaves the knight loose king and preparing to take Black’s queen after
and Black takes it with his rook on the next Black moves his king out of check. (Actually,
move. (Always ask whether an opponent’s after 2. Rf1+ it goes 2. …Kg7, 3. QxB+, and
forced move would leave anything loose.) If then White plays RxQ. Black’s queen will
White moves the king to d1 to protect the remain en prise to White’s rook so long as
knight, he completes the pattern for a discov- White keeps checking Black’s king with his
ered check by putting it on the same diagonal queen and doing other damage with it in the
as Black’s bishop. Now Black would think meantime. The priority of check.)
about what he could do with his rook in two
moves. Don’t obsess over the knight. Think (b) If Black instead plays Qc6 as his initial
broadly about the opportunities created by a response, pinning White's queen, he of course
discovered check; look for any White piece loses his own queen to QxQ. Yes, this capture
Black could attack with his rook in two allows Black to play KxR, but then White
moves. Rc7+ would unmask check by Black’s plays Qd5+ and wins Black’s bishop with a
bishop, and attack—and then win —White’s queen fork. White’s queen is the only piece
rook on h7. left when the smoke clears.

Dg387: White is nervous; his king is trapped

in the corner with Black’s queen and bishop
trained on its general position though not per-
fectly coordinated. Plus White's rook may be
lost if he removes his queen’s protection of it.
What to do?
and the bishop on g2 still has protection. The
king’s only legal escape is to h2—and then
play proceeds as described a moment ago,
with Bf3+ discovering check and then win-
ning White’s queen.

Dg388: Black to move

Dg388: Black is closing in on White’s king. A

key feature of the position is the kernel of a
discovery on the diagonal leading to g1; keep
it in mind as you go through your thought
experiments. The natural moves to consider Dg389: Black to move
first are any checks. Black has two: Rh2,
which loses the rook without compensation; Dg389: The kernel of the discovery for Black
and Bg2, which is a lot more interesting be- no doubt is obvious: the rook on d3 masks the
cause the bishop enjoys protection from the queen on e2, which otherwise would take
rook on f2, forcing White’s king to move. White’s queen. The question is what threat
Where would it go? It would have two op- the rook can make when it moves. Since it has
tions: h2 and g1. Consider them both: no checks, think about other ways it can put
pressure on White’s king—always keeping in
(a) If White plays Kh2, notice that the king mind any other pieces you have that also bear
would have made itself the target of another on the king’s position, since pressuring the
discovered check—using the kernel Black king usually requires a team effort. Here
created when he moved his bishop in front of Black has a bishop aimed at White's king on
his rook. Black would be able to unmask a the long diagonal, blocked just by the pawn
check by moving his bishop from g2, and so on f3. What would it take to create checkmate
can think about targets the bishop might reach from here? If the f3 pawn were eliminated
in two moves. The natural candidate is and the rook were added to the assault against
White’s queen. Hence Bf3+; and after White the king, that would do it. So Black plays
moves his king, Black has BxQ. Rxf3. This unmasks QxQ, of course; it also
leads to mate when the rook next drops down
(b) Now suppose that in reply to Bg2 White and plays RxN#—a case not only of discov-
plays not Kh2 but Kg1. Again the king would ered check but of double check. White has a
have walked onto the target square of a dis- move to make after Rxf3, but no way to pre-
covered check, this time the one whose kernel vent the result.
was in place from the beginning. It would be
tempting now to play Rf5+, unmasking check Notice here that when Black unmasks one
and then winning White’s queen in exchange discovery he also uses the unmasking piece to
for a bishop after White plays KxBg2. But set up another one; he moves the rook out of
don’t jump to conclusions; there may be a less the queen’s path and into the bishop’s path,
costly way to achieve the result. It would be creating a mating threat. The point: when you
preferable to first force White's king to h2 and have multiple pieces aimed in the enemy
then use the discovered check described in the king’s vicinity, don’t just look for existing
previous paragraph. How? With another discoveries. Think, too, about how various
check: after White plays Kg2, Black replies checks, captures, and threats you might make
Rxe2+. The bishop on e3 now gives check would create new kernels and new potential
discoveries. Indeed, anytime you move your check of its own. The simple Rf8 is mate,
pieces you want to be careful to notice with the rook getting cover from the bishop
whether you are bringing one into the path of on a3—another study in the importance of
another, for now you appreciate the power remembering how all of your pieces may bear
conferred on pieces when combined in this on a position. Once again, too, we see how a
way. piece can unmask one discovered check while
also moving into position to unmask another,
as White's rook does here.

(b)From the initial diagram we also can con-

sider the double check Re8++. Black is forced
to play KxR. White’s attack might now seem
to be out of gas—if you overlook the rook on
b1. But it can add decisively by sliding over
to the open e-file and giving check. Notice
that Black’s king has no safe moves; each of
its flight squares is under attack. All Black
can do is throw his bishop and then his queen
Dg390: White to move into the White rook’s path, but they are use-
less interpositions; White plays RxB and then
Dg390: Where does White have the makings RxQ#.
of a discovered attack? On the a3-f8 diagonal,
where the bishop is masked by the rook—and
otherwise would check Black’s king. Natu-
rally White thinks about moving the rook out 3.2.6. The Windmill.
of the way, not only to do damage elsewhere
but perhaps also to create checkmate by start- And now one of the most exquisite of all tac-
ing with a double check. How can the rook tical motifs: the windmill. A windmill gener-
both unmask the bishop and give check itself? ally involves a series of discovered checks in
With Re8++ or with Rxf7++. Let’s consider which the masked piece and the unmasking
each of them: piece take turns checking the enemy king; the
masking piece, on its “off” turns, captures one
(a) Rxf7++ might seem more appealing be- enemy piece after another. (This will become
cause the rook is safe there, enjoying protec- clearer in a minute.) Although a windmill can
tion from the queen on d5. There is an addi- in principle occur with other pieces, the ones
tional point: with Rxf7++ the rook moves into you are most likely to see involve a rook dis-
the queen’s diagonal path, creating the kernel covering check by a bishop; that is why the
of another discovery—a potentially useful motif is included in this chapter. These also
pattern. Follow the king’s path in response. It typically are cases where the kernel of the
would have to go either to e8 or g8. If Ke8, discovery does not exist at the outset of the
White would have the new check Qd7#, with sequence. It has to be built, and in the build-
the queen and rook protecting each other and ing of it the enemy king is forced into position
cutting off all the king’s flight squares. for a discovered check. This, too, will be eas-
ier to grasp once it is seen.
Now suppose Black plays not Ke8 but Kg8.
He would have completed the pattern for a
discovered check—the new one that White
started to create with Rxf7; the king would be
on the same diagonal as White’s queen. So
White moves his rook out of the way, un-
masking another check, and once more he
looks for ways the rook can add another
path with check via Rxg7+, forcing Black’s
king to move to h8. Notice how the position
of Black’s king parallels the position of
White’s king in the previous example: it is
about to be hit by a discovered check, and it
has just one flight square. White unmasks a
bishop check and at the same time takes
Black’s bishop with RxB. Black has to move
his king to g8. Then White returns his rook to
g7, forcing Black's king back to h8—and re-
setting the pattern. Again White unmasks the
Dg391: Black to move bishop, and this time he takes Black’s knight
with RxN+. Black moves his king back to g8,
Dg391: Begin with the simple and modest use and so forth. White just slides his rook back
of the idea to the diagram. Black has the ker- and forth, alternately putting Black’s king in
nel of a discovered check: his rook masks his check and cleaning out Black's holdings on
bishop’s path to White’s king. Black just the seventh rank. Since every White move
needs a good target for his rook. White’s rook puts Black back in check, he has no time to
won’t do; for after Rf2+, White moves his stop the carnage. After White finally reaches
king to g1, protecting the rook as well as Black’s second bishop with RxBa7, and Black
evading the check. Black needs a target far- moves his king yet again to g8, White this
ther away. The bishop and pawn on the other time does not return to check the king; he
side of the board protect each other; does it instead administers the coup de grace with
matter? No. Black plays Rxa2+, taking the RxQ.
pawn; White is required to play Kg1 (the
king's only flight square); and now Black
brings the rook back to g2 with check. Now
the key point: White has to move his king
back to h1, and suddenly the position has
been reset to the beginning with Black ready
this time to go after a fresh target—White’s
bishop, now left unprotected. Black plays
Rb2+, and after White moves his king back to
g1, Black plays RxB. A simple instance of a

Dg393: White to move

Dg393: Start by noticing the same rough start-

ing pattern here as in the previous position:
White has vertical pressure against g7 and a
bishop pointed at the same square. He can
give check and form the kernel of a discovery
by capturing there with a heavy piece. This
time White can’t just take the pawn on g7 and
start rolling; the pawn is guarded by the
knight on f5. But White has a piece he can
Dg392: White to move sacrifice to the cause: his queen. So 1. Qxg7,
NxQ and now the pattern here more precisely
Dg392: Now a more dramatic use of the same resembles the previous one. White plays
logic. Does White have the kernel of a dis- RxN+, accomplishing two things: the move
covered attack? Not yet; but he can form the checks the king, forcing it onto its only flight
kernel by moving his rook into his bishop’s
square—h8; and it sets the pattern for a dis- now can move his rook to and fro, repeatedly
covered check by moving White’s rook into giving check and inflicting terrible losses as
his bishop’s path and forcing Black’s king he goes. He starts with the customary liquida-
onto the same diagonal. A windmill is in tion of Black’s seventh rank, discovering
place. If White moves his rook, the king will check with 3. Rxf7. From there the moves
be in check and move back to g8; then if went 3. …Kg8; 4. Rg7+, Kh8; 5. RxB+, Kg8;
White brings his rook back to g7, the king 6. Rg7+, Kh8; 7. Rg5+, Kh7; 8. RxQ, and
will be in check again and will move back to White won.
Usually windmills occur with the king on the
How to exploit this? White first explores the back rank and a rook discovering check
usual destructive options on the seventh rank against it while roaming back and forth on the
with RxB+, discovering check. Black plays next rank forward. But they also can run in
Kg8; White plays Rg7+; Black plays Kh8, the other direction, with the rook running
and the pattern is reset. After White has taken amok up and down a file.
both Black pawns on the seventh rank, White
will use the two rook moves made possible by
his discovered check not to return to g7 but to
reach Black’s queen, just as in the previous
problem: he plays Rb7+; Black plays the
compulsory Kg8; and now White plays RxQ.
White nets two pieces and three pawns with
the sequence.

Dg395: White to move

Dg395: In this position there again is no ker-

nel of a discovery yet in place for White. But
Qg7+ is a natural move to consider; it’s close
to checkmate, as it moves a protected queen
up next to Black’s king. Black’s only legal
response is RxQ. Now the stage is set for the
Dg394: White to move creation of a windmill: White has a rook and
bishop pointed at the square in front of
Dg394: Here is the most famous of all wind- Black's king, which has little room to move.
mills, delivered by Carlos Torre against Thus RxRg7+ leaves Black’s king only one
Emanuel Lasker in 1925. Again a short setup place to go—h8—and also sets up discovered
is necessary. White plays 1. Bf6, dramatically check by masking White’s b2 bishop with his
sacrificing his queen to 1. …QxQ. The sacri- rook. By sliding his rook back and forth be-
fice is justified by the pattern the move cre- tween g7 and various Black targets, White
ates: his bishop and rook are trained on the can create havoc while Black stays busy fend-
square in front of Black's king, which has a ing off checks. It starts with RxBg6+; Black's
small range of motion. The windmill is ready king is forced to h7. White plays Rg7+, and
to turn: 2. Rxg7+, and Black has to play 2. Black has to move his king back to h8, reset-
…Kh8; meanwhile White has moved his rook ting the pattern. Now what? White plays
into his bishop’s path, readying a discovered Rxh6—and it’s checkmate. A familiar lesson
check against Black’s king in its new posi- repeats: never forget that your first objective,
tion. We have seen this before. Since Black’s where possible, is not to take material but to
king has no squares except g8 and h8, White mate.
Now note a possible wrinkle. After White’s ant opportunity. He starts with the familiar
first exploits the windmill with RxB+, Black destruction of the seventh rank: Rxd7+ (Black
has another option besides moving his king plays Kg8), Rg7+ (Black plays Kf8). Now
back to h7. He can interpose his f8 rook at f6, what? Rb7+ (Black plays Kg8); and now
blocking the check from White’s bishop. The RxR+, winning a rook and applying another
interposing rook is guarded by its queen, but check from a different angle. Black has no
that is not security enough because at this escape from it; all his flight squares are at-
point White attacks f6 twice—with both his tacked. All he can do is interpose Nf8, but
bishop and his rook. Thus White replies BxR; then RxN#. We see again the importance of
Black recaptures QxB; and now Black loses remembering to look not just for material but
his queen to RxQ. Black has no pieces left, for mate.
while White still has his rooks and can force
mate soon. But it’s worth seeing the general
point, which is that when Black interposes
rather than playing into White’s hands by Knight Discoveries.
moving his king, he may unexpectedly disrupt
the flow of the windmill. In another game this 3.3.1. Diagonal Patterns.
sort of interposition might save a game rather
than just forestalling doom. The knight is without peer as an unmasker of
attacks. The reason is that a piece generally
cannot unmask an effective attack if it moves
in the same direction as the piece it is un-
masking. Hence rooks can unmask attacks by
bishops, but not by other rooks; and a queen
usually can’t unmask any sort of attack, be-
cause it can move in all the same ways as any
of the pieces it might uncover. But the knight
doesn’t move like any other piece on the
board. It jumps rather than slides. Knights
therefore are equally able to unmask diagonal
attacks by bishops, vertical or horizontal at-
Dg396: White to move tacks by rooks, and attacks of either sort by
the queen. Plus the knight is a piece with a
Dg396: White does not yet have the makings relatively low value, enabling it to be sacri-
of a discovery, but he can create the kernel of ficed readily for other gains. If you don’t
one by moving his rook into his bishop’s path. know how to use your knight to unmask at-
Both pieces are aimed at the square in front of tacks by other pieces, you don’t know how to
Black's king, so the rook's move to g7 gives use your knight.
check and may create a windmill. May, and
does. In the previous positions the trapped
king had to shuffle between two squares be-
cause all others were blocked by the side of
the board or by its own pieces. Here Black’s
king is hemmed in by White’s knight on d6,
which cuts off e8 and f7. So when White
moves his rook from g7 and discovers check,
Black’s king will have to go to g8; and when
White moves his rook back to g7, Black’s
king will have to return to f8.

The only question is what White should do Dg397: White to move

with his rook to make the most of this pleas-
Dg397: We begin with the knight's power to Dg399: See how White’s f4 knight masks his
uncover diagonal attacks. In the position to queen. See that Black’s queen is loose. See
the left, the sight of White’s knight in front of how the knight can give check in one move
his queen (as well as his rook) should cause (Ne6+). All the ingredients of a discovery
immediate thoughts of a discovery; Black's thus are in place. The check looks harmless
queen is loose, so White will be able to play because it is so easily defused with BxN or
QxQ if he can find a time-consuming move f7xN; but by then it has served its purpose,
for his knight to make. The classic time- which was to gain time to allow White to play
consuming move—and usually the necessary QxQ+.
one when you hope to win the queen—is a
check. White has two with the knight: Ne7,
which ruins everything as Black plays QxN,
and Nh6, which requires Kh8 and thus wins
Black’s queen a move later.

Dg400: White to move

Dg400: You want to spot the kernel of a dis-

covery every time it exists. Here White’s
knight masks his queen (don’t be distracted
Dg398: White to move by the queen's backward path of attack).
Black’s queen is loose, and so makes a perfect
Dg398: Find the kernel of the discovery. The target; White’s knight will give check, and
pattern of knight-masking-bishop triggers then White will play QxQ.
thoughts of a discovered attack. If unmasked
by the knight on g4, the bishop has an ideal But which check sh