X-Ray Tactics

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What is an X-Ray Tactic?

An X-Ray tactic occurs when two of your pieces defend one another “through” an enemy piece. The diagram below illustrates an X-Ray tactic:

X-Ray Tactics Example 1
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.

5 Examples of X-Ray Tactics

Study these examples of X-Ray tactics to help you better understand the pattern. The first examples are easy, but I’ll add a few harder ones too.

X-Ray Tactics | Example #1

The first example is a simple illustration of how X-Ray works.

White to play. How can you use an X-Ray tactic to your advantage?
White to play. How can you use an X-Ray tactic to your advantage?

Scroll down to see the solution.

Solution

1.Rxd8 Bxd8 2.Bxd8
Comment:

White wins a bishop in the process.

X-Ray Tactics | Example #2

This one is pretty easy too–but can be tricky to find if you’re not familiar with the X-Ray motif.

X-Ray Tactics Example 3
Black to play. What would you do?

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Solution

X-Ray Tactics Example 3 solution
1… Qe1+ 2.Rxe1 Rxe1# is a forced checkmate.
Comment:

X-Ray tactics are often combined with a back-rank weakness.

X-Ray Tactics | Example #3 (X-Ray Defense)

This example illustrates how X-Ray can also be used as a defensive resource.

X-Ray Tactics Example 2
Question: Can white simply play Qxe4 or is there a hidden danger?

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Solution

X-Ray Tactics Example 2 solution
Yes! White can play 1.Qxe4 because if black tries 1… Qd1+ then white plays 2.Qe1! The rook on c1 will defend the white queen through X-Ray.
Comment:

Black expected that 1.Qxe4 Qd1+ would lead to a back-rank checkmate after 2.Rxd1? Rxd1+ 3.Qe1 Rxe1#, but missed white’s defensive resource based on the X-Ray motif: 1.Qxe4 Qd1+ 2.Qe1!

X-Ray Tactics | Example #4

In the next example black appears to be in a lot of trouble, but an X-Ray tactic saves the day. Can you find it?

X-Ray Tactics Example 4
White is threatening to play Rxe8#. But if black now plays Rxd8? then Qxd8# is checkmate. What should black do?

Solution

1… Qd1+ 2.Kc3 Rxd8! makes use to the X-Ray effect to win the white rook on d8.
Comment:

After 1… Qd1+ 2.Kc3 Rxd8 the black queen and rook will defend one another through the white queen. (Note that 1… Qd1+ 2.Kc3 Qxd6? 3.Rxe8+ Qf8 4.Rxf8+ gives white a winning endgame position.)

X-Ray Tactics | Example #5

This one is a bit harder to find!

X-Ray Tactics Example 5
Black to move. What would you do?

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Solution

X-Ray Tactics Example 5 solution
1… Rh2+ 2.Kg3 Qc7# is a forced checkmate.
Comment:

After 2… Qc7# the black queen defends the rook on h2 through X-Ray.

The Difference Between X-Ray Tactics and Pins (or Skewers)

The X-Ray tactic should not be confused with a pin, skewer or discovered attack. These tactical ideas appear visually similar, but the concept behind an X-Ray tactic is unique.

X-Ray refers specifically to the situation where two of your pieces are connected “through” the presence of an enemy piece.

I hope you enjoyed these X-Ray tactics and that you will soon get the opportunity to use it in your own games!

End of X-Ray Tactics | Go Back to Important Chess Tactics Patterns