You can greatly improve your understanding of chess tactics by studying the important motifs that appear in the list below.
Table of Contents
- Double Attack
- X-Ray / X-Ray Attack
- Remove the Defender / Remove the Guard
- Motif/Patterns vs Themes
Here’s the definitions and examples of all the important tactical motifs/patterns and themes.
Pin tactics occur when an attacked piece cannot move without exposing an even more valuable piece (or target) behind it.
Example of a Pin Tactic
Diagram above: Black’s bishop pins the knight on c3. If the knight moves, black will capture the rook on a1.
Skewer tactics in chess occur when an attacked piece must move to safety but will expose a lower-valued piece (or target) behind it. A skewer tactic is sometimes referred to as a “reversed pin”.
Example of a Skewer
Diagram above: White intends to play their bishop to c4. This move will skewer black’s queen on g7 since the queen has a higher value than the rook on g8.
A fork is a tactic whereby a single piece makes multiple threats at the same time. Even though a fork is sometimes referred to as a double attack, they aren’t quite the same thing.
Example of a Fork
Diagram above: White plays 1.Qd4 and makes two threats at the same time: 1) Qxg7# and 2) Qxb6 – a fork tactics.
A double attack is when you create multiple threats with one move. Although a fork and a double attack are often used interchangeably in chess, it’s technically not the same thing.
Example of a Double Attack
Diagram above: White can play 1.Ng5! threatening 1) Qxh7# and 2) Nxf7# at the same time, creating a double attack.
In chess, an X-Ray tactic occurs when two of your pieces defend one another “through” an enemy piece.
Example of X-Ray
Diagram above: White plays 1.Bxd7. Note how the white queen and bishop defend one another “through” the black queen (X-Ray). The X-Ray tactic can surprise your opponent because it’s easily overlooked that your pieces can defend one another even though an enemy piece obstructs their line-of-sight.
When a piece or pawn performs an important defensive task we refer to that piece as a defender. And since the piece is defending something important, the piece itself becomes vulnerable. Removing the defender is one of the most important tactical motifs you should study.
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