Monthly Archives: April 2009

Chess Endgame Tactics: some fine points

Filed under Beginner Chess Tips, Chess Basics, Chess lessons, Chess tactics, Chess Tutorials, Endgame Tactics, Forks
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In the article suggesting the best way to learn endgame tactics, we laid more stress on endgame plays by top players than on chess problems and chess studies. But at the same time, we pointed out that some of these problems and studies could benefit you in developing ideas on some finer endgame tactics like “underpromotion”, gaining tempo etc., some of which may appear in the same problem or study.

Here we will show you some creative ideas that can stand you in good stead in your actual endgame plays.

importance of tempo in endgame

In this study by Moravec, White is required to play and win. To decide on your tactics, you should analyze as follows:

  1. Even with the first move applied to White K to chase the Black RP, it will remain two moves outside ‘the Square’ for that pawn. So if Black continues to push RP, White K will only be on rank 3 when RP reaches h1 to get promoted.
  2. If White so wants, his K can capture the Black NP in its stride towards the RP
  3. When White K reaches g3 (after Black RP has reached h1 to become a Queen), Black on his next move cannot deliver a check by his Q with support from his K because of the White R controlling rank 2. Black thus loses a tempo!
  4. White on the next move can deliver check by Ra1 and because of his K on g3, will cause checkmate! If on the previous move, Black tried Kf1, then check by Rook will result in his loss of Q!
  5. At step 3, Black Q could go to h8 to control a1-h8 diagonal and the square a1 preventing Rook’s check (and thus retaining the tempo) – provided there were no Black P on g7 blocking that diagonal!
  6. The conclusion is: White K must not capture the NP at step 2 so as to deny Black any tempo after pawn promotion, which in turn gives him the tempo for delivering checkmate or capturing Black Q!

Once you have understood the idea, the sequence of moves become clear.

1. Kh7 h4   not 1. Kxg7
2. Kg6 h3  
3. Kg5 h2  
4. Kg4 h1=Q  
5. Kg3   White wins with 6. Ra1+


But Black had a resource that would make White’s win extremely difficult. This comes out of an attempt to gain tempo as shown below!

4. Kg4 g5   unblocks the a1-h8 diagonal
5. Kg3 h1=N+   The under-promotion to Knight gains tempo for Black as White K has to move. White’s K and R against Black’s K and N gives difficult theoretical win for White.


use of opposition and zugzwang

The above is a study by Lasker but this type of Rook and Pawn ending may come up in actual play. So you should note in the following moves how White combines ‘opposition’ by his King and check by his Rook to push White King away from Black’s QBP while not allowing Black to give check along any row.

1. Kb7 Rb2+  
2. Ka7 Rc2  
3. Rh5+ Ka4  
4. Kb7 Rb2+  
5. Ka6 Rc2  
6. Rh4+ Ka3  
7. Kb6 Rb2+   If 7. … Kb3 8. Kb7. If 7. … Ka2 8. Rxh2
8. Ka5 Rc2  
9. Rh3+ Ka2  
10. Rxh2   White gets Queen giving up his Rook and wins


Chess Tactics: The role of memory

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In our article 7 ways chess is beneficial to your mind, the first point was related to memory. We explained how the mental exercise to remember openings and their varitions or tactical issues in middle and endgames and so on help to build up our memory. How about the reverse? Obviously, the better memmory you have, the more you can recollect moves played by you or others in certain situations. These ultimately constitute your experience and we all know that experienced players tend to have an edge over the amateurs.

But the problem is: how much can you remember of all the games that have been played over centuries? So our aim is to understand the pattern or position on the chessboard where certain tactics can be employed. To give a more specific example, let us consider the subject of ‘pins’. These may come in all ‘shapes and sizes’ meaning that they may be along ranks or files or diagonals, the pieces involved may be different in different situations etc. but you do not have to remember all those specific situations. Once you understand how it occurs, you can detect the possibility of a pin by looking at the pieces on the chessboard. The same thing holds good for other tactical weapons in chess.

You may therefore wonder how very experienced players even of Grandmaster level still fall prey to such tactics like a pin. So most likely reason could be a partial blindness arising out of intense focus on one’s own plans or on a particular area of the chessboard, which prevents one from seeing what else is happening on the board. And this is something that affects the Grandmasters also, if you take a look at the following positions.

two similar positions

In this diagram, we will refer to the situation on the left as position 1 and that on the right as position 2.

Position 1 occurred after Black’s 26th move in a game played in 1906 between Mikhail Chigorin (or Tchigorin) as White and Akiba Rubinstein as Black. Chigorin was one of the top players from Russia in later part of 19th century and was a contender for World Championship against Steinitz (but remained unsuccessful). Rubinstein was a Polish Grandmaster of high ranking and regarded as one of the best endgame players of all time.

Position 2 occurred after White’s 39th move in a game played in 1946 between Erik Lundin as White and Vasily Smyslov as Black. Lundin was a Grandmaster who was Swedish champion ten times. Smyslov was a Russian Grandmaster who became World Champion in 1957.

Do you find some similarity between these two positions separated by a period of 40 years? No? Compare the top right half of Position 1 and bottom right half of Position 2 – do you see it now after reversing the colors of pieces and squares? I presume you do.

What was the outcome of these two games after reaching almost identical positions? In Position 1, Chigorin played 27. Rf7 whereupon Black resigned as he has to give up his Queen against Rook to avoid checkmate.

In Position 2, Smyslov could not find(!) this move and played 39. … Nf2+ (instead of Rf2 that would win) after which both players agreed to a draw!

So a future World Champion missed a winning line that was shown 40 years earlier by another World Champion aspirant! If you ever overlook a winning line, analyze what made you do so to guard against future mistakes.

Chess tactics: Which masters to study?

Filed under Attacking tactics, Beginner Chess Tips, Chess Basics, Chess lessons, Chess Strategy, Chess tactics, Chess Tutorials, Defensive strategy, Forks
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There is no doubt about the necessity to become familiar with the elements of a combination which we understand as chess tactics. In the article gameplan part2, we have listed the elements for you to find examples on each item and study those thoroughly to build up your repertoire. However good you may be in chess strategy and planning your game, you need to employ tactics to give effect to those.

So the question in any beginner’s mind will be: how do I learn to use chess tactics? My answer will be: after you know the elements, study the games of chess masters who excel in combinational play and chess tactics. That is why we have already shown you many such games where the tactics reigned supreme. There are quite a good number of articles at this site and trying to put a link to all those will clutter up this article. You have to search those out through the site map.

The next question obviously is: which masters to study? There are hundreds of Grandmasters and International masters, past and present, and it is true that all of them deploy chess tactics in their games. If you have to study all those, when will you get the time to use those in your play? That is why we need to be selective and choose games from players who excelled in the area of chess tactics and complex combinations. Different people have their own favorites but I am quite sure that some of the names we suggest will occur in every such list! Their names are given in chronological order

Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879)

No one has ever played chess like Adolph Anderssen, nor won as much fame and glory for his charismatic style. Anderssen’s hallmark is the direct (and often spectacular!) Kingside attack.

Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941)

The main contestants of his time like Tarrasch and Janowski complained that they could not understand his play and implied that Lasker’s success was due to dubious tricks. Fact is, Lasker was much ahead of his time in his style of play, which found acceptance with later generation of players.

Frank J. Marshall (1877-1944)

He earned a lot of brilliancy prizes by virtue of his daring gambits and sacrificial play. One of his moves is held as one of the top three best moves ever played on a chessboard! Though spectators enjoyed his slash-bang techniques, purists held that some of his moves produced results by virtue of their shock value and not because of deeply calculated combinations. That may be the reason why he never became a world champion but managed to defeat all top players of his time.

Rudolf Spielman (1883-1942)

He was a master of attack with beautiful ideas and brilliant daring play full of sacrifices.

Alexandre Alekhine (1892-1946)

He is one of the greats among world champions and was at home in different styles of play. He was a master of complex positions and well-calculated combinations. Many of his games are still analyzed and experts have not reached a common verdict because of the complexities involved.

Mikhail Tal (1936-1992)

He is one player who probably earned the maximum admiration from the contemporary greats in chess. Tal used some self-derogatory comments about his own play by saying that there were two kinds of sacrifices – the sound ones and those used by him! Botvinnik, a world champion, said that it was not possible to tackle Tal if his pieces were mobile and active with some space and that is why he used to play close positions against Tal. He went on to say that if Tal could have some self-control, it would be impossible to play against him. A player of the stature of Kramnik went so far as to say that analyzing Tal’s game was like discussing what God looked like! When you play through his games, you will wonder if those bolts from the blue were results of intuition or pre-calculated combinations!

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008)

He was a chess genius and many experts believe that had he not gone into self-exile, he could have been the undisputed top player in chess history! He has produced many beautiful games with a long combination the results of which were not easy to see even by top masters. Boris Spassky who played Fischer in the famous championship match commented that playing Fischer was not a question of your win or loss, it was a question of your survival!

Garry Kasparov (1963- )

Another chess genius and holds the highest ELO rating among chess Grandmasters. He is also a versatile player and can play well-calculated combinations.

Alexei Shirov (1972- )

Among the mew generation players, he is noted for his attacking style and creating complications that remind one of Tal, not surprisingly, because he studied under Tal.

Now you know the names of some of the chess masters who have consistently produced great combinations in their plays. But many of them have played hundreds of games, so which ones to study? Go for their best games, some compiled by other chess authors or chess masters and some by the players themselves. These books generally include about 50 to 100 of the best games in their career and studying those few is not a very massive task! Keep a note of the basic principles that have been applied or violated in these games (many brilliancies arose to exploit mistakes by the opponents). These types of controlled study will not only help you to improve your play, but will also provide enjoyment for many years to come!

Chess Strategy and Chess Tactics: How they go hand in hand

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In chess, a notional value is attached to all pieces other than King (which of course is priceless!) ranging from 1 for a Pawn to 9 for a Queen. In this system, Knight and Bishop are considered at par, and the other conditions prevailing on the chessboard at any point are supposed to dictate which of them has a superior value, if any. In Basic chess strategies Part 2 and Beginner’s game plan Part 2, we have discussed what conditions or factors determine the preference for one or the other.

All said and done, the balance seems to be slightly tilted in favor of Bishops. But the following game will show that with a proper supporting pawn structure, a Knight can really become a pain in the neck for the opponent.

It is also interesting to note that while Black’s pawn structure enables his KN to take up a menacing role, it makes White’s KN an impotent piece as it cannot find a proper foothold to operate effectively! While enjoying the game, you should make it a point to study how you can make your Knight to show up in shining armor!

1. e4 e6  
2. d4 d5  
3. Nc3 Nf6  
4. e5 Nfd7  
5. Qg4 c5  
6. Nb5 cxd4  
7. Nf3 Nc6  
8. Nd6+ Bxd6  
9. Qxg7 Bxe5  
10. Nxe5 Qf6   Forcing Queen exchange to worsen Black’s game
11. Qxf6 Nxf6  
12. Bb5 Bd7  
13. Nf3 Ne4  
14. 0-0 f6  
15. Bxc6 bxc6  
16. Nxd4 c5   Note Black’s pawn dominance in the center
17. Ne2 Kf7  
18. f3 Nd6  
19. b3 e5  
20. Ba3 Rac8  
21. Rad1 d4  
22. Nc1 Nf5   The Black KN starts its prancing
23. Rf2 Ne3  
24. Re1 c4   Black captures the QBP after 25. bxc4 Rxc4 26. Ree2 Rc8


Position after Black’s 24th move

pawn and knight move

25. b4 Ba4  
26. Ree2 Nd1   If 26. c3 Nc2 wins a piece
27. Rf1 Nc3  
28. Ref2 Nb1  
29. Bb2 c3   30. Ba1 Nd2 31. Re1 Bxc2 wins for Black
30. Nb3 Bxb3  
31. axb3 Nd2   Other alternatives would be 31. cxb3 c2 with … d3 to follow or 31. Rxb1 Bxa2 32. Ra1 cxb2
32. Re1 Rhd8  
33. Bc1 d3  
34. cxd3 Rxd3  
35. Bxd2 Rxd2   With its job done, the Knight now lays down its life
36. Ra1 Ke6   36. Rxd2 loses
37. Kf1 Rxf2+  
38. Kxf2 c2  
39. Rc1 Kd5  
40. Ke3 Rc3+  
41. Kd2 Kd4   If 42. Rxc2 Rxc2+ 43. Kxc2 Ke3 44. Kc3 Kf2 gives winning position for Black
42. h4 Rd3+  
43. Resigns   If 43. Kxc2 Rc3+ 44. Kd2 Rxc1 45. Kxc1 Ke3 or 43. Kxe2 Kc3 followed by 44. … Rd8 and 45. … Kb2 gives a win.


From start to finish, a perfectly executed game by Black

Chess Endgame tactics: learn from master play

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In the previous article, we suggested that by analyzing notable endgames as played by chess masters, you keep learning the finer points of endgame tactics. We are showing you two positions where you can see how sacrificial attacks can be launched against the King’s position.

In the first game, both Kings are relatively exposed but one player took advantage of it. While his opponent got a pawn promoted to Queen, he got his pawn promoted to a knight after making some sacrifices to create the opportunity! Though relatively rare, the use of under-promotion may be the only technique to win in some tight situations and you should keep this in mind as a possible tool to use. In the second game, one player used threats on both wings to pry open a fairly locked position, taking advantage of ‘overload’ on an enemy piece, the King itself!

The first game

attacking tactics in endgame

1. Rxc3  
2. g8=Q Nd2+  
3. Ka1 Rc1+  
4. Rxc1 b2+  
5. Ka2 bxc1=N+   5. … bxc1=Q would only produce a draw
6. Kxa3 Nc4#   If 6. Ka1 Ndb3+ 7. Kb1 a2+ 8. Kc2 a1=Q wins


What a beautiful combination! And does it violate the premise in endgame tactics that King and two Knights cannot deliver checkmate to a lone King (here it has a Queen and two pawns!)?

The second game

endgame tactics

1. b4  
2. axb4 Rxh4  
3. gxh4 g3  
4. fxg3 c3+   if the g3 pawn were not taken, Black would play 4. … g2
5. bxc3 a3  
6. Resigns   White King had too much on its hand! If it moves to block Black’s RP, Black captures the Bishop and promotes his f3 pawn. If White King does not leave its post, Black’s RP queens!


In the following game, in an equal position, White noted Black King’s cramped position. He exploited it by a remarkable Queen sacrifice followed by a quiet positional move that brings about opponent’s downfall!

a remarkable endgame combination

1. g4+ fxg4  
2. hxg4+ Kh4  
3. Qxh6+ Qxh6   The Queen offer had to be taken as otherwise Black would lose his own Queen!
4. Kh2   The checkmate by Bf2+ will follow soon