# A Foundation for Beginners Eighty Four

Last week we looked at some further concepts regarding the fork. This week, we’re going to look at a single example of a fork and work through the possible outcomes for both players. Specifically, we’ll look at the possible recourse the victim of the tactic has when hit with a fork.

Set up the following position on your chessboard: The Black King on g8, Black pawns onf7, g7, and h6, a Black Rook on g6 and a Black Rook on b7. Place the White King on g1, White pawns on f2, g2, and h2, and the White Queen on c4. This is the position we’ll work through this week. It is simple enough, yet can help demonstrate a number of key points. We’ll look at this position with White moving first and then Black Moving first.

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is only considering their position and prospects when it comes to making a move. In this position, with White to move, there are two immediate forks. One fork will win material and the other would cost White the game! The beginner, knowing that a fork requires enemy pieces to be lined up along ranks, files or diagonals, spots two possible squares from which to attack one or both of the Black Rooks, e4 and c8. Moving the Queen to one of these squares wins a Black Rook, while moving the Queen to the other square costs White the game. Not all target squares are equal!

Let’s look at e4 first. If White moves the Queen to e4, it’s true that the Queen attacks both Black Rooks simultaneously. However, the Rook on g6 is protected by the pawn on f7. Since the White Queen is worth more that the Black Rook, there’s no point considering that Rook (g6) as a target. What about the Black Rook on b7? Well, certainly, the White Queen on e4 attacks both Black Rooks at the same time. Unfortunately, this fork would only work if both Black Rooks were undefended. Yet, this isn’t the worst of the problem with this fork. Since the Black Rook on g6 is protected, Black doesn’t have to worry about it. Instead, it can simply move the Rook on b7 out of the line of fire. Black moves the Rook on b7 to b1 and mates White after 1…Rb1+, 2. Qe1…Rxe1#! This type of fork and subsequent loss happens more that you would think in beginner’s games. Beginners become so focused on their own attack that they miss a gapping weakness in their own position. You need to take a long hard look at your own position before considering an attack or tactical play. White’s tunnel vision cost the game. What about moving the White Queen to c8?

This is a winning move because it’s a fork involving a check. Forks involving checks are extremely forceful because the checked King has to get out of check before anything else can be done. In this position Black has no choice but to move the King to h7, after which the White Queen can capture the Black Rook on b7 free of charge (1. Qc8+…Kh7, 2. Qxb7)! Now, if it was Black to move first, The game would end in checkmate after 1…Rb1+, 2. Qc1…Rxc1#. This brings up a crucial point regarding setting up any tactic.

Before making any move, and I mean any move, examine your own position. Whenever you have a castled King with pawns blocking that King’s escape, beware the back rank mate. Look for enemy Rooks and/or Queen lurking on the board on a square that would allow them to cut off your King’s escape immediately. Yes, it’s exiting to see a potential tactic and think that your opponent will be impressed by your tactical skills. However, if you get mated before you can deliver that tactic, your opponent will consider you more of an easy to beat opponent rather than tactical genius.

Next week, we’ll look at how you can defend your forked pieces should you fall victim to a fork. We’ll also look at the concept of reducing your losses when being forked. Play around with the position we just worked through. Move the pawns and pieces to slightly different squares and see if you can create any forks. The more practice you put into honing your tactical skills, the better tactician you’ll become. See you next week!

Hugh Patterson