Lessons in Chess Tactics: Attacking a castled King

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Alekhine is regarded by many top level chess players as the most versatile among the greatest players of chess, being at home in different styles of play. He knew the openings and contributed to opening theories, had a great positional sense about situations on the chessboard foreseeing things beyond the grasp of most players, and had a consummate end game skill. But he was really in his elements in very complicated positions because of his combinatory (or chess tactics) skills. This made him one of the greatest attacking players in chess and some of his combinations were so complex that even now experts disagree in their analyses of those moves.

In the following game, he plays with White pieces against Emanuel Lasker, another world champion and one of the greats in chess history. Alekhine shows how to read the position and deploy tactical play to bring down his opponent.

Position after Black’s 17th move when he has just played Qb6.

Position after Black's 17th move

White has a Knight menacingly posted at f5, his Q is ready to move along the open d-file and d1-h5 diagonal (after taking care of the Knights), KB is strongly positioned controlling the a2-g8 diagonal, R on semi-open c-file via which it can go to the 4th rank to move to h-file etc. – everything points towards a possible action against the Black King.

You may remember the general principle of not putting the most powerful piece, in fact any active piece, away from where the action is brewing. What purpose the Black Q is serving at b6?

We also know the principle of attack being the best defense. Were Black Q posted at c7, it would be ready for defense and would also target Black’s RP at h2. If the Black Knight could occupy g4, White would have to pay some attention to his castle and might even need to advance NP to g3 to block the Black Q, but at the cost of creating weaknesses in his own King’s position. As you have understood, you may not be able to visualize all that could happen but any weakness could be a target for counterattack. Any counterplay prevents White from having a free play for his attacking moves.

But even after studying the position, can you find the right chess tactics to utilize the advantages? Follow the moves of Alekhine to see how.

1. Qd6 Ned7  
2. Rfd1 Rad8  
3. Qg3 g6  


Black had to suffer the weakness to prevent check by Q at g7. The Knight of course cannot be taken so long as White Q and Black K are facing each other.

4. Qg5 Kh8  
5. Nd6 Kg7  


Black’s KBP was under attack, so the King had to move to support it.

6. e4 Ng8  
7. Rd3 f6  
8. Nf5+ Kh8  
9. Qg6 Resigns  


Was White’s Queen move something you could see? White is threatening mate by Qg7+ and if Black’s RP captures Q, Black is still helpless against Rh3+ with mate to follow.

Position after White’s Qg6.

Position after White's Qg6

You will find similar situations, so make a note of the position. This game can be an illustrative chess lesson to show how the Queen, Knight, and Bishop can combine and the maneuvers to bring the Rook to h-file for the final punch!