Tag Archives: attacking chess

Chess Tactics: The King’s role in attack – part 1

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“The King is a fighting piece. Use it!” is a remark ascribed to Wilhelm Steinitz who is regarded as the first World Champion in Chess. Nevertheless, your common experience may make you think of your King only as a liability, which needs to be protected at any cost and the cost sometimes becomes so high that you give up your efforts! Only when you have been able to survive till an endgame with only pawns around that you possibly appreciate the thoughts behind the remark of Mr. Steinitz!

But a search through chess archives will show you many games where a player did use his King as a fighting piece who traveled all the way into the opponent’s territory to capture pieces and pawns and to provide support to his own attacking forces for delivering checkmate!

I have picked up six such examples and divided those into two groups. In this article, we present three games with a little ironic twist because it was the opponent who was mostly attacking but the fighting King took opportunity of these checks to move where it wanted to go without loss of tempo! The opponent ultimately realizes that he has brought the doom upon himself by his failure to see the intention of the King taking a walk!

In the second article Chess Tactics: The King’s role in attack – part 2, we show another three games where the King boldly stepped out on his own by taking advantage of opponent’s constricted position and took the battle to the enemy King to create a winning position.

First game –

position after 31 moves:


32 Bc4+ Kg7
33. Re7+ Kg6
34. Bb3 Rg2+
35. Kh1 h3
36. Rd1 Rc8
37. Rd6+ Kf5
38. Rxa7 Rc1+
39. Bd1 Ne2
40. Ra5+ Kf4
41. Rf6+ Ke3
42. Re5+ Kf2
43. Rxe2+ Kf1 White looked at 44. … Rg1# or 44. Rxg2 hxg2# and resigned.


Position at the end of Black King’s journey:



Second game –

position after 19. … Qa3+:


20 Kd1 Nb2+
21. Ke2 Qa6+
22. Ke3 Nc4+
23. Kxe4 gxf6
24. Qxf6 Qb6
25. Kf4 Qc7+
26. Kg5 Bd5 26… Rfe8 27.Kh6 Kf8 28.Qh8+ Ke7 29.Rxe6+ Kxe6 (29… fxe6 30.Qg7#) 30.Nc5+ Ke7 (30… Kf5 31.g4#) 31.Re4+ Kd8 (31. … Ne5 32. Rxe5+ Qxe5 33. Qxe5+ Kd8 (33. … Kf8 34. Nd7+ Kg8 35. Qg7#) 34. Qd6+ Kc8 35. Qd7+ Kb8 36. Qxb7#) 32. Qxe8#
27. Kh6 Resigns Black cannot prevent Qg7#


Position at the end of White King’s journey:



Third game –

position after 23. … Rd1+:


The analyses are as given by Shashin himself, who considered this as the best game of his life.

24 Kh2 Qd6+ Shashin considered this as the losing move and according to him White could force a draw here by repetition of moves with the following line of play. (But if Korchnoi thought he was winning, he would not go for this!)
24. … Ng4+!! 25. hxg4 Qd6+ 26. Qg3 Nxg3 27. Rd7+ Kf8 28. Bxg7+ Kc8 29. Rxd6 Nf1+ 30. Kg1 Nd2+ 31. Kh2 Nf1+ 32. Kg1 Nd2+ etc.
25. g3 Ng4+
26. Kg2 Nh4+
27. gxh4 Qh2+
28. Kf3 Qxf2+
29. Ke4 Qe2+ Not 29. Kxg4 because of 29. … Rg1+ 30. Kh5 g6+ 31. Kh6 Qxh4#
Black’s 29. … Qe2+ is a losing move. After 29. … Re1+ 30. Kd5 Rd1+ 31. Kc4 Kxf7 32. hxg4 Ke8, the game is still open.
30. Kf4 Rf1+
31. Kg5 h6+
32. Kg6 Ne5+
33. Qxe5 Rg1+
34. Qg5 Qxb2
35. Rxg7+ Resigns 35. … Kf8 36. Rg8#


Position at the end of White King’s journey:



In Chess Tactics: The King’s role in attack – part 2, you will see examples of one King stepping out to approach and corner his opponent.


Chess Combinations: beauties from lesser known masters – 4

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Before starting on this fourth article in this series on chess combinations, please read the boxed note at the start of Chess Combinations: beauties from lesser known masters – 3 to make the best use of the moves and comments in the chess game covered here.

The game was played in the tournament at Bad Woerishofen in 1989. The game employs Ruy Lopez opening about which you have read in Chess Opening basics: Ruy Lopez (or the Spanish opening) and saw another example in Chess Combinations: beauties from lesser known masters – 3.

However, the present game follows the line of Marshall Gambit (ECO code: C89) where Black offers his KP in return for opening of diagonals b7-h1, d8-h4 and the e-file, hoping to use those at opportune time, and removal of White’s KN which normally acts as a defensive piece. The first diagram shows the position after 17 moves which were all played in line with the theories. In fact, you will find identical position in Euwe-Donner game played at Amsterdam in 1950 where the line changed track from move 18 and White won after 42 moves.

Let us see how it goes in the present game.

Position after 17. … Kh8:
18. Qf1 Qh5   Black had to avoid Queen exchange as it did not leave him with any compensation for his sacrificed pawn
19. Nd2 g5  
20. Bxd5 cxd5   White removed the Knight to reduce pressure on f4 pawn to avoid the need to break up his castle.
20. fxg5 f4 21. gxf4 Nxf4 (threatening 22. … Nh3+) 22. Bxf4 Bxf4 with all kinds of threats.
Position after 20. … cxd5:
21. a4 bxa4   White is desperate to open some lines for movement of his pieces.
22. Rxa4 Rae8   White’s pawn structure totally immobilized his QB which also had to support the f4 pawn. Black exploited this to place his Rook on the open e-file (one of the objectives of his opening strategy).
23. Raa1 Re6    
24. Rxa6   White hoped to pin the Bishop to safeguard his f4 pawn ………
Position after 24. Rxa6
24. gxf4   ……… but Black timed his exchanges perfectly to quash White’s ideas.
25. Bxf4 Rxe1  
26. Qxe1 Bxf4  
27. gxf4 Be2!   White was ultimately forced to break up his castle and open the g-file. Black was prompt in utilizing this advantage.
The position after 27. … Be2
White resigned as he has no defense against coming 28. … Rg8+ without giving up his Rook. If the Rook moves, then 28. … Rg8+ 29. Kf2 (29. Kh1 Bf3+ 30. Nxf3 Qxf3#) Qxh2+ 30. Ke3 Re8+ 31. Ne4 Rxe4+ 32. Kd2 Bc4+ 33. Kd1 Rxe1+ 34. Kxe1 Qe2#


Chess Combinations: beauties from lesser known masters – 3

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Please note:

The best way for beginners to get better at chess and learn these ideas is to setup the position on a chessboard and go through the moves instead of trying to picture it. At this stage, understanding the ideas is more important than taking the burden of memorizing the positions.

As you keep gaining in experience, you do need to develop your power of visualization as without that, you won’t be able to work out deep combinations in your actual play.

In fact, in these articles on chess combinations, that is the purpose behind showing the positions after every few moves as the game progresses. Starting from one diagram and noting the moves till you reach the next one, check if your mental picture of the board tallies with that next diagram.

Continuing our theme on creating chess combinations, played out at a tournament at Bad Pistyan in 1922. Black chose the Neo-Steinitz defense which enhances Black’s chances in the Ruy Lopez opening that normally tends to be more in favor of White. But Black went one step further to take up initiative for a King side action based on his center control of e5 and d4 squares. White’s last move 12. Qd2 indicated his intention to bring a Rook to d1 for increasing control on d4. Black intended to undermine it by attacking the White Knight at f3 with 12. … Bg4. The Bishop would also pin the Knight against the Rook when it came to d1. Because if Black’s initial center control and King side pawn actions, White pieces have been somewhat restricted in their movement.

You should examine how Black continues his campaign from this point onwards.

Position after 12. … Bg4:
13. Rfd1 Nd4   The threat is 14 … Bxf3 15. gxf3 Nxf3+ attacking the Queen also.
14. Bxd4 exd4  
15. Ne2 c5   Knight retreated as 15. Nxd4 Bxd1 would lose the exchange. Black brought more support for the pawn which further strengthened his hold on the center..
16. Ne1 Ng6    
17. f3 Be6   White was able to drive away the irritating Bishop but at the cost of weakening his castle. Black immediately shifted attack from flank to center.
18. Rac1 Ne5    
19. Bb3 b5   Black keeps raising the ante!
Position after 19. … b5
20. cxb5 c4   Black was not wasting time to restore his pawn balance. He pressed home his attack expanding his center control
21. Ba4 Qb6!   Black again used one of his central pawn as bait to create a pin on the King.
22. Nxd4 axb5   White obviously could not capture with his Queen because of 22. … Nxf3+ which loses the Queen. Black timed his pawn capture to maintain his tempo though it meant losing another pawn.
23. Bxb5 Rfd8   Now Black creates a two-way pin on the Knight! It is an exemplary chess tactics on how to use the center control by pawns to launch attacks and then giving them up to bring the pieces into attack.
24. a4 White is still unaware of Black’s plan to exploit the pin.
Position after 24. a4
24. Nd3!   With one move, Black cuts off all the support for the Knight at d4. 25. Rxc4 Bxc4 26. Bxc4 Qxd4+ 27. Kf1 (27. Kh1 Rf2+) Qxc4 28. Nxd3 renews two-way pin on Knight and a solid Rook extra for Black
25. Bxc4 Qxd4+ 26. Kf1 Bxc4 (27. Nxd3 Bxd3+ 28. Qxd3 Qxd3+ 29. Rxd3 Rxd3) 27. Rxc4 Qxc4 28. Nxd3 gives same position as above
25. Nxd3 Qxd4+  
26. Qf2 cxd3  
27. Rxd3 Qxd3!   27. … Qxf2+ 28. Kxf2 Rxd3 29. Bxd3 Rxa4 leaves White with two extra pawns against a Bishop – still a fighting chance. But Black’s move takes away a Rook against two extra pawns as shown below and White resigned.
28. Bxd3 Bd4 29. Qxd4 Rxd4 30. Bb5 Bb3 loses the a4 pawn also.
The position after 27. … Qxd3


Analyzing a position to create combinations

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In Working out Chess Combinations, you could work out an eight-move combination by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and to some extent worked your way backwards to find the moves that created the winning combination. But in the previous examples, there were quite a few pieces on board and the mobility, at least for some pieces, was restricted so that you could eliminate a good number of possibilities.

In the problem that we are posing now, there are only a few pawns and some heavy pieces on the board which is open to both sides for moving respective Queen and Rook. In fact, many beginners get daunted by such positions because they think that there are too many moves possible for their Queen and Rook and taken together with the responses from opponent’s Queen and Rook, the number of combinations may be overwhelming! Let us now examine if we risk getting bogged up in the maze of moves!

finding combination in an open game

I do not have to say who has got the move because if it were White, this discussion would not be necessary. With Queen and Rook on the seventh rank, it is only a matter of two checks by the Queen to checkmate the Black King. But Black having the move, you have to be acutely aware that Black cannot let go of checks if aforesaid action by White has to be stalled. You should also note that in absence of Black Queen and Rook from their base rank, Rb8+ by White is enough to checkmate Black King.

If you consider Qc4+, you know that White Queen cannot interpose by Qe2 as in that case Rd1+ mates the White King (the Queen being pinned cannot capture the Rook). So only option for White is to move the King and e1 is the only escape square available for that. But then Black’s only move is Rd1+ and after Kxd1, he can try Qd3+. Of course White cannot play Kc1 (you work that out), but Ke1 allows still one more check by Qd2+. The White King has to move to f1 but further check by Black at d1 or d3 allows White to interpose with his Queen (by Qe1 or Qe2). After this, Black soon runs out of checks and that puts paid to further resistance by Black. So this line is not tenable.

That leaves Black with only Rd1+ when White’s only option is Ke2. If Black now tries Rd2+, White King can retreat to previous position and Black has nothing left but a draw by repetition of moves. But will you be that desperate for a draw before exploring other options?

You can see that Qg4+ supports the Rook and allows White only two options:
(i) move King to e3 (i.e., Ke3)
(ii) interpose with pawn by f3

It may look that Ke3 is not viable as Black can play Re1+ to capture White Queen. But can Black do that? As soon as Black plays a non-forcing move like Rxe7, White’s Rb8+ leads to checkmate of Black King!

On Ke3 by White, Qd4+ forces the King to move to f3, as Ke2 allows Qd3# mate by Black. With King at f3, Black’s Rd3+ forces King to e2 (you should think why interposition by White Queen at e3 is now futile) but next check by Rd2+ brings King back to f3. Now Black’s Qxf2+ drives the King into the wide open and it should be possible for you to keep checks going with Queen and Rook for a checkmate if King remains on e-file, but if it moves towards g-file, a pawn check at appropriate time ends the White King’s journey!

What about the other option of interposing by pawn move f3? Trying to guard the diagonal, White exposes the King along rank 2 and Black can play Qxg2+! White cannot take the Rook as that would allow checkmate by Qd2#. So the only move for White is Ke3. On Qd2+, the King is forced into the open by its only move Ke4. Black keeps pressure on by Qd4+ and King is driven into the hands of the Black pawns and Black Rook can also attack by Rg1+ when King moves to g-file. You can certainly work out the rest.

So you are now sure that after Black’s first move of Rd1+ in the diagram position, White King cannot avoid checkmate whatever it may do.

In the actual game, played between Heinrich Wolf and Jacques Mieses at Monte Carlo in 1902, White chose the option (ii) at his 30th move and Black delivered checkmate after another 5 moves.

So far as this and the examples in related previous articles on chess combination are concerned, we could find the way by following a methodical approach. But I also told you that such system may not work universally. Situations where a combination came out of the sheer brilliance of a mind and could not be seen even by a Grandmaster opponent, such analysis may not show the way beyond a certain step. This is particularly true where a move makes sense only when seen in context of subsequent moves and the brilliancy is realized by taking all these moves together. The following example is a case in point.

a famous combination

The position shows that Black has one Bishop less but he has two passed pawns extra, one being only two moves away from promotion. Black Rook at a5 is in a position to capture the Bishop at e5 and also to move to a1 for capturing the Queen. Obviously, it is White’s move now and he has to tackle these threats, possible only by forcing moves on Black King to retain a tempo. On the plus side, White has Rook and Queen lined up on f-file and if the line can be opened, he can plan his assault on Black King, possibly with help from his Bishop attacking the g7 pawn and the Rook at c3 moving up to 7th or 8th rank when it can do so. But while working out the attacking plans, White cannot afford to lose a tempo, otherwise Black will launch his counter-attack as described above.

It is easy to see that White can play Ng6+ creating a fork on the Queen and White will be obliged to capture the Knight with f-pawn. White in turn can play fxg3 thereby opening the f-file and the discovered check retains tempo with White. It is apparent that Black cannot play Ke8 (because of White’s Rf8+ and Qf7#) or Ke7 (due to White’s Rf7+ / Qf5+ / Bg3+ / Qd3#). So the only possible move by Black that does not lose immediately is Kg1.

If White plays Rf7 with intention to play Rxg7 leading to mate, Black can counter this by capturing the Bishop with Rxe5 and threatening Re1 next, when White’s plans fall through. Were White’s Rook not standing in his Queen’s way, Qf7+ would be possible but as it stands now, White cannot afford to lose tempo by playing Rf7.

This far could be analyzed through a systematic approach, but can White take his initiative forward beyond this point? It is very difficult to imagine and needed real brilliance by White to make this a famous combination because of his next two moves!

You may give it a try before going through the following moves.

From the diagram position, the game proceeded as follows:

1. Ng6+ fxg6  
2. fxg6+ Kg8  
3. Rc8! Rxc8   The move by White together with his next move were difficult to anticipate
4. Rxc2! Rf8   White’s move cleared f-file for Queen while retaining the tempo.
White’s Rook cannot be captured because of the threat Qf7+ leading to mate.
5. Rc8 Qe7   White keeps attacking the f7 and f8 squares and Black tried to counter these threats
6. Qc4+ Kh8   6. Bd6 can be countered by 6. … Ra1+
7. Qh4 Ra1+   Black has nothing better to do as 7. … Qxh4 allows Rxf8#
8. Bxa1 Qe3+   desperation!
9. Kh1 Rxc8   While starting on his combination, White must have seen that Black has no more check after his King moved to h1.
10. Qxh5+ Kg8  
11. Qh7+ Kf8  
12. Qxg7+ Ke8  
13. Qf7+ Kd8  
14. Bf6+ 1-0   Checkmate is inevitable on White’s next move


Working out Chess Combinations

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In the first article on Chess Tactics: Method Approach to Calculating Combinationson, we shared our ideas on how to proceed systematically for analyzing a situation for its inherent possibilities. The subsequent step is to work out our next sequence of moves which comprises a chess combination. The whole game of chess is expected to consist of many such nodal points where each node is planned (hopefully!) to yield some advantage, however microscopic it may be. In accumulating these advantages as we proceed from node to node, we expect at some stage to have enough to give us a win – well, that is the general idea!

While describing some suggested methods, we showed a simple example on how to put the ideas into practice. Continuing on the theme in Looking to find the best chess combination in a middle game position, we took up two slightly more complex positions and tried to apply the method for finding out the actual moves that were played over the board.

We will now examine another position and see how far our methods can help to reach the goals we seek. In the position shown below, Black has the move and we will try to figure out his best course of action.

a Morphy combination

You notice that in terms of material, White has a huge advantage because of his Queen against a Bishop. But look where the Queen is! Excepting for a support to the Rook at f1, a defensive role, it serves no useful purpose and could as well be not there on the board! White QB has become a bad Bishop, being blocked in by the White pawns in front and the QR position is no better. Only the KR has scope of some activity but, for now, it has taken away one escape square for the totally exposed White King in case of a Rook check from g6 along the open g-file. In such event, the King perforce has to move to h1.

You also realize that Black’s Rook at e8 can freely move to e1 when necessary to attack the White King on its base rank, provided the White Rook can be made to leave its present rank. Black’s KB can also join the battle any time by capturing the f2 pawn under certain situations. In a nutshell, Black should be able to force White’s surrender – all it needs is to find the sequence of moves!

When White is forced to move his King by Kh1 because of Black’s Rg6+, a check by Black’s QB from g2 (i.e., Bg2+) would force White to play Kg1. The Bishop then captures the f3 pawn (i.e., Bxf3) to deliver a discovered check from the Rook at g6 and White King has nowhere to go (assuming his Rook remaining at f1).

To enable Bg2+, Black needs to play Bh3 after White’s Kh1 and this, inter alia, attacks the Rook at f1 also. White has only two options:
(i) play Rg1 for capturing the Black Bishop when it comes to g2, or
(ii) play Rd1 to vacate the f1 square for the King’s escape from the discovered check.

We can disregard White’s move like Qd3 to attack the Rook at g3, as it can easily be nullified by Black playing f4 (White could still try Qc4+ but Black’s Kh8 puts an end to it), and then Black can continue with original plans.

If we probe further, we can see that if White plays Rg1, Black could still play Bg2+. This is because, as we noted earlier, the move Rxg2 makes the Rook leave the base rank allowing Black to play Re8+ which becomes decisive!

So the first option (Rg1) is ruled out and we have to consider White’s Rook move to d1. Black can go ahead as before but now White King can move to f1. In this position, Rook at g6 can move to g2 for playing Rxf2+ on next move. White King cannot go to e1, so it has to go back to g1. Black then plays Rg2+ which creates double check by Rook and Bishop and irrespective of King’s move to f1 or h1, it is checkmate by Rg1#.

But what if White plays Qxb6 to stall White’s Rxf2+? No problem, Black captures Rxh2 and White cannot prevent the coming Rh1#.

We can now write down the moves:

1. …        Rg6+
2. Kh1     Bh3
3. Rd1     Bg2+
4. Kg1     Bxf3+
5. Kf1      Rg2
6. Qd3     Rxf2+     (6. Qxb6   Rxh2   7. any   Rh1#)
7. Kg1     Rg2++
8. Kf1      Rg1#

See how you could work out a combination comprising 8 moves! Only thing is that the actual player of Black pieces did not have to think this long to work it out. I am quite sure of it, seeing that he was none other than Paul Morphy! I come nowhere near Morphy, so I can be excused! However, Morphy played the moves a little differently and you can play through the game at any online archive to see how he did it.

Louis Paulsen, who played as White and was among the top five players of that period, propounded the idea that any brilliant attack would fail against correct defense. This idea found acceptance with Steinitz, a future World Champion. But the curious point is that Paulsen failed to prove his idea in this game played at New York in 1857!