4 Major Tricks Of Tactics Used in Chess

4 Major Tricks Of Tactics Used in Chess

All tactical motifs are related to the value of pieces

Soumya SwaminathanUpdated: Saturday, January 20, 2024, 10:19 PM IST
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Pic: Freepik

“Chess is 99% tactics!”

This famous quote, often attributed to Grandmaster Richard Teichmann, is an exaggerated version of the truth. While planning and strategy are a big part of the game, it is pivotal to be good at tactics to seize and convert advantages.

‘Tactics’ are a move, or a sequence of moves, that bring you an immediate advantage or help you accomplish a specific goal. ‘Threats’, ‘Captures’, ‘Checks’, and ‘Sacrifices’ are a few examples of tactical motifs. Players use tactics to exploit weaknesses in the opponent’s position, gain material, deliver checkmate, or achieve other strategic objectives.

Simply put, strategy will tell you what to do, planning will help you organise it, and tactics will show you how to do it!

‘Pins’, ‘Skewers’ and ‘Double attacks‘ and ‘Forks’ are some of the most often seen tactical motifs. All four of them are related to the value of pieces, something we have discussed in earlier articles.

1. Pin

Pin

Pin |

Pins involve restricting or immobilising an enemy piece. In case of a restricting Pin, if the piece that is pinned is moved, then it exposes a more valuable piece behind it to a direct attack, and subsequent capture.

In case of a Pin that immobilises the opponent’s piece, that piece cannot move as it would lead to their King being exposed to a direct attack.

Here we see an example of both types of Pins. First, the white Bishop on g5 pins the Black Knight on f6. Moving this Knight will expose the Black Queen on d8 to a direct attack by the Bishop. For Example, if black moves the f6 Knight to e4, white will simply capture the Black Queen on d8 (value: 9 points) with his Bishop (value: 3 points), and gain a huge advantage. So, the f6 Knight’s movement is restricted by this pin. Secondly, the Black Bishop on b4 pins the White Knight on c3. It is an immobilising Pin – the c3 Knight can’t be moved as doing so would expose the White King to a direct attack of the Bishop which is against chess rules.

2. Skewer

Skewer

Skewer |

Skewers are tactics where a piece attacks a more valuable piece, and if the latter moves, a less valuable piece behind it is exposed and can be captured. The concept is parallel to that of a pin but works the other way around. The White Bishop on f3 attacks the Black Queen on e4. The Bishop is supported by the white pawn on g2, so the Queen has to move away from the attack. This will allow white to gobble up the Black Bishop on b7 which is on the same diagonal, and unsupported!

This is a “Relative skewer” where the 1st piece that is attacked has the option to move away or not, depending on the material value. Now imagine a Black King on e4 in place of the Black Queen, which can now be placed on g8 maybe? In this case, it would be an “Absolute Skewer” as the King would necessarily have to move out of the check.

3. Double attack

Double attack

Double attack |

Double attack is a tactical motif when one piece attacks two (or more) of our opponent’s pieces simultaneously. The opponent must then choose which piece to save, as the attacking piece will capture the other on the next move. Even a King or a pawn can implement a double attack. The white pawn on d4 attacks both the Black Bishop on c5 as well as the Black Knight on e5. One of the pieces will surely be captured on the next move.

4. Fork

Fork

Fork |

The stem concept of a Fork is Double Attack! When a Knight carries out a double (or triple or quadruple!) attack, it is called a Fork. Knights are particularly effective in creating such motifs due to their unique L-shaped movement and ability to jump over pieces. A Fork that involves a lone Knight attacking more than two of the opponent’s pieces is often referred to as a “Family Fork”, all in good humour!

Our brave Knight has entered the opponent’s territory via f7 from where it attacks three pieces at the same time. Since the Black King is under check, it must move to g8, allowing us to capture the Black Queen with our Knight and get a winning advantage!

Now the question of implementing these during a game, how do we accomplish that you say? Dutch Grandmaster Dr. Max Euwe, the 5th World Chess Champion, and Doctorate in Mathematics, explains it brilliantly:

“Strategy requires thought, Tactics require Observation”

(Soumya Swaminathan is an International Master and Woman Grandmaster in Chess. She has been World Junior Champion and Commonwealth Gold Medalist)

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