Tactical combinations : Using a threat to create new target

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In this free chess lesson you get a simple exercise that demonstrates a few very important tactical ideas.

White to move. What would you do?

White may be tempted to play 1.Qe5+ but it doesn’t lead to anything useful. Black could simply block the check by playing 1… Qe7.

1.Qe5+ Qe7 gives nothing special to white. White has a much better move.

Scroll down to see the solution.

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Solution

1.Qd5 threatens Qxa8

Notice how white makes use of a “intermediate threat” (Qd5, threatening Qxa8) in order to force the black rook to a square where it can be exploited in a tactic.

1… Rb8 is the only safe square for the rook.

Any other move black could make would also lose material, but black will soon discover that the rook is not safe on b8 either.

2.Qd5+ forks the black king and the undefended rook on b8.

This exercise also demonstrates two other important ideas:

  1. You can see why you should keep your king safe. A king that is exposed to checks is often vulnerable to tactical combinations.
  2. You can see why it is important to protect your pieces and to not leave them hanging (undefended).  Even if the undefended piece is not vulnerable to a tactic yet, your opponent gets the opportunity to gain an important tempo by making a threat against the undefended piece. (The point is that gaining a tempo in this way can be useful in preparing for a tactic on the next move.)

Even though the solution to this exercise is fairly simple you can easily miss it in your own games if you are not familiar with the idea. In fact, building your familiarity with tactical ideas is why it’s so important to study tactics if you want to improve your game.

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