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The First Time I Learned About the X-Ray Motif

A number of years ago I was paired to play against one of the strongest players at the local chess club and I was highly motivated to win.

The diagram below captures the moment I played 1… Rd2. At this stage I felt good about my position. I had extra material and active pieces. I thought I was close to winning:

In response, my opponent played 2.Qf6, threatening Qxf7+, followed by Qxh7#

At first I thought “okay no problem, I’ll just defend against the threat”. But, to my surprise, I couldn’t find a good defense against the obvious threat. This was embarrassing, I really should have been more careful!

What would you have done if you were black?

In the end I couldn’t find the way to deal with white’s threat and I lost the game. When I got back home, I immediately uploaded the game to my computer engine to see if I missed something.

And sure enough:

The computer revealed that 2… Qf5 is totally winning for black. The point is that the black queen defends the f7-pawn through X-Ray. This was the first time I realized how the X-Ray motif can be used as a defensive resource.

In hindsight, the defense seems pretty simple. However, in the heat of battle it is easy to miss ideas that you’re not very familiar with.

I have since made a collection of 20 exercises that feature X-Ray tactics. You can get it here or, you can get it included in my tactical patterns bundle deal:

Tactical Patterns Bundle Deal

If you’re keen to make an in-depth study of specific tactical patterns, then you may be interested in my TACTICAL PATTERNS BUNDLE DEAL:

(The TACTICAL PATTERNS BUNDLE DEAL is a large collection of tactical exercises, conveniently sorted by motif, which makes it the perfect tool to study and master all the important tactical patterns in chess.)