Chess Tactics for Intermediate Players

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These intermediate level tactics are slightly less common than the ones covered in the section “Chess Tactics for Beginners”, but they are very important none the less.

7 Tactical Patterns That Intermediate Level Players Should Know

On the intermediate level the majority of chess games are won or lost by means of tactical combinations. That is why it makes sense to study intermediate level tactics. Here’s examples of 7 important tactical motifs that an intermediate level chess player should know.

Advanced Pawn Tactics

Advanced pawn tactics are based on the fact that you will probably win the game if you can find a way to promote your advanced pawn. This often implies a sacrifice that will help you achieve the objective.

intermediate chess tactics advanced pawn
If black now plays 1… h2, then white would play 2.Rb1 and prevent a successful promotion. Instead, black plays 1… Rd1! If white plays 2.Kxd1, then black will play 2… h2! and the pawn will promote.

Attraction

Attraction tactics are when you lure (or force) an enemy piece onto a square where it will become vulnerable to another tactical ideas. This often involves a piece-exchange that “attracts” an enemy piece to the square where it becomes the subject of your follow-up tactic.

intermediate chess tactics attraction
Black plays 1… Rxf4+. This move wins the white bishop because if white takes the rook, 2.Kxf4 (attracting the king to a vulnerable square), then black plays 2… Bh6+, followed by capturing the white rook on c1.

Double Check

The interesting thing about a double check is that the only way to get out of check is to move the king. It’s not possible to capture or block two checking pieces with one move. The diagram below illustrates the fact:

intermediate chess tactics double check
White plays 1.Re7! (double check). Two white pieces checks the black king! (The rook and the bishop). Notice that black can’t capture either the rook or the bishop because their king would then still be in check! Black’s king MUST move and then white will capture the black rook on the next move, 2.Rxb7.

Pawn Tactics

The majority of tactical patterns involve the larger pieces and therefore it’s easy to overlook the tactical potential of the humble pawn. That is why it makes sense to pay special attention to pawn tactics.

Here’s an example:

intermediate chess tactics pawns
Black to play. What would you do?

Solution

intermediate chess tactics pawns 2 solution
The simple 1… f5! forks the white knight and bishop.

Trapped Piece

When a chess piece becomes severely limited in it’s mobility, such piece is often vulnerable to tactics, particularly to being trapped.

intermediate chess tactics trapped pieces
Black’s queen is surrounded by numerous pieces, which severely limits her mobility. White can take advantage of this fact and trap the queen by playing 1.Bc4! bxc4 2.bxc4, followed by capturing the queen.

Weak Back-rank

A weak back-rank refers to the situation where is a castled king is trapped behind their own shield of pawns and rely on a rook or queen to defend the back rank. This means you can sometimes overload the piece that is supposed to defend the weak back-rank.

intermediate chess tactics weak back rank
Black plays 1… Ne2+!, forking white’s king an queen. If white captures the knight, 2.Rxe2, then black can exploit the weak back-rank by playing 2… Qb1+ 3.Re1 Qxe1#

Zwichenzug

A zwichenzug or “in-between-move” tactic, refers to the situation where you achieve an objective by playing a intermediate move (usually a threatening move such as a check, threat or capture). It’s best explained by means of an example:

intermediate chess tactics zwichenzug
Black can’t play 1… fxg2 because the pawn is pinned to your queen. Instead, black first plays the zwichenzug, 1… Qe5+, to break the pin on the f3-pawn. White must get the king out of check–which will then give black the opportunity to capture the bishop on g2.

NEXT: Intermediate Chess Puzzles

Once you’ve worked through these tactics, it will be a good idea to try the 14 intermediate level chess puzzles. (It’s only through practice that you can further develop your tactical skills!)