Last week, we worked through our game’s first seven moves. This week, we’ll start at move eight. As I mentioned in the conclusion of last week’s article, we’d look at what White could have done differently in an effort to avoid the disaster that ensued. This week’s article is going to be short since it is the wrap up of a game that ended quickly. Let’s jump in
I want to look at what White could have done different first. With the exception of beginner’s games, in which tactical opportunities appear due to a lack of playing skills on the part of one or both players, tactics take a number moves to set up when players have stringer chess skills. It takes time to set up a successful tactic. This means that the victim of a tactic has an opportunity to discover their opponent’s tactical plan before it is fully executed. While you cannot anticipate every possible move made by your opponent, you can often spot a tactical weakness within your own position that can be taken advantage of by the opposition. Find the weakness, fix it, and you’ll stop a potential tactical play. How does the beginner do this? This week, we’ll look at stopping a specific type of fork that appears in beginner’s games, the Knight fork. Next week, we’ll continue looking at the idea of stopping forks from a variety of pieces.
There are four squares that become the target of beginner’s Knight forks, two on White’s side of the board and two on Black’s side of the board. The squares for White are c2 and f2 and for Black are c7 and f7. The geometric layout of the board allows a Knight to fork either Queen and Rook (f2 or f7), or King and Rook (c2 or c7). The c2 square fell victim to the Black Knight in our game, allowing the dreadful loss of material. Of course, the real problem is the arrangement of the King, Queen and Rook along their starting rank. Then there’s the Bridge square, in our example game the square between the c6 and c2 used by the Black Knight to prepare for the delivery of the fork. That square is b4. If White had noticed that b4 was a steppingstone to get to c2, perhaps White might have played 5. a3, denying the Black Knight access to b4.
The point is that White should have asked the early question, after Black moved his light-squared Bishop to f5, do I have that squared defended, since my King and Rook are on the same rank? White’s eighth move is devastating, 8. Kd1. What’s so bad about this move? The d1 square is light colored and the Black Bishop attacking c2 is a light-squared Bishop. If White isn’t careful, Black will strike with another fork! Black plays 8…Nxa1 and White blunders with 9. dxc6. In fairness to White, the plan was, after taking the Black pawn on c6, White would then capture the pawn on b7 with a discovered check by the White Queen on a4. This would allow White to then take the Black Rook on a8 and perhaps gain a second Queen. White failed to consider Black’s best immediate move prior to making plans for a future move, 9…Bc2+!
White further compounds his problems by moving his King. Why is moving the King wrong, after all it’s in check? Had White traded his Queen for the Bishop, followed Black taking the Queen with his Knight, ending with the White King capturing that Knight, White would have lost three points of material rather than a full nine points, which is what happened after 10. Ke1. Black then scoops up the Queen with 10…Bxa4.
Play through the rest of this game and you’ll see that White now fixates on getting his Queen back by capturing on b7. The real problem is that White isn’t taking care of the real issue, his beleaguered King.
Don’t fixate over what you want to do when it’s your turn until you consider what your opponent can do. Too many beginners fall victim to wishful thinking, assuming their opponent is going to make a dreadful move to support that beginner’s scheme. If you see that you have material lined up along a rank, file, or diagonal, look at your opponent’s closest material and see if that material has a pathway to the forking square. If it does, gain control of that square. Next week, we’ll dig into some forking situations with other pieces as well as how to deal with them if you’re the victim of the fork. See you then!