A Foundation for Beginners Fifty Three

Two weeks ago, we looked at a position that will form the basis for creating a combination that set up a tactic called a skewer. A combination is simply a series of moves that allow you to create a tactical opportunity. Since the majority of tactics don’t appear out of thin air, you need to create a situation in which they can be employed. This is what the combination is for. The problem beginners have is that they see a plethora of pawns and pieces strewn across the board and become mentally overloaded trying to figure out how to make sense of it all. In subsequent articles, we started adding pieces to our initial position. In doing so, we created a more complex problem to solve in terms of creating a combination of moves that would lead to a successful tactic. Last week, I showed you how to literally map out a game plan in regards to creating a successful combination. This week, we add two more pieces to the position and see if we can work out a longer combination of moves that lead to a winning skewer.

Creating combinations may be the most difficult challenge the beginner faces. However, strong chess players are constantly having to work out combinations of winning moves from the game’s start to it’s finish. If you wish to improve your game you have to do likewise. Set up the following position on the chessboard: Set up the Black Queen on f8, a Black Rook on a8 and the Black King on a6. Set up the White King on e1 and a White Rook on h1. This was our starting position. Now add these pieces to the game: Place a second Rook on h2 and a Black Bishop on e5. This is the position we left off with. Now we will add two more pieces to the game. Place the White Queen on e3 and a Black Knight on b4. This week, we’ll look at White to move and next week, we’ll look at Black to move. It’s White to move. What does the beginner do.

There is a lot going on in this position for both players. A stronger player would have no trouble determining what to do. However, we are looking at this position through the eyes of the beginner. How should the beginner look at such a position in terms of creating a combination of moves that will lead to a winning tactic (skewer or any other tactic)? It starts with an examination of Black’s position in terms of possible attacks. Wait a minute, isn’t this supposed to be all about finding a combination of moves for White that lead to a good tactical play? Yes it is. However, you’ll never get a chance to execute your tactic if your opponent is able to create an attacking series of moves in which all you can do is defend your King! Never, consider a tactic until you’ve looked at your opponent’s position.

You have to look at every single threat your opponent is making and determine whether or not those threats can be played out immediately and if those threats are stronger than yours. I have my students start by looking at the enemy material closest to their King. In our example, since we are playing White, we want to look at potential threats from Black. We start with the Black Knight on b4. Black’s Knight can move to c2, when its Black turn to move, and fork the White King and Queen. When the White King moves out of check, Black wins the White Queen. Now look at the Black Bishop on e5. That Bishop is attacking the White Rook on h2, meaning the White Rook needs to move. These two pieces could be problematic for White.

If White wanted to skewer Black Queen and Rook on the eighth rank, White would have to first force the Black Bishop on e5 off of the a1-h8 diagonal. White could simply play 1. Qxe5. This takes care of three problems. First, it removes the Black piece (Bishop) attacking the White Rook on h2. Second, it prevents Black’s Knight on b4 from forking White’s King and Queen (which would win the Queen). Lastly, it would allow White’s Rook on h2 to skewer the Black Queen and Rook on the eighth rank. This sounds great, except for one thing. Black gets to move next! This is where beginners get into trouble, forgetting that their opponent gets to make a move!

After the White Queen captures the Black Bishop with 1. Qxe5, Black can play 1…Re8, skewering White’s Queen and King. This is why you really have to consider moves your opponent can make before starting a tactical combination. What I want you to do is see if you can figure out a way in which White can avoid losing the Queen after 1. Qxe5…Re8. Think about the most forcing move you can make, check. Next week we will look over possible solutions. Really try to play around with this position because doing so will greatly improve your game. Speaking of games, here’s one to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

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Hugh Patterson

Author: Hugh Patterson

Prior to teaching chess, Hugh Patterson was a professional guitarist for nearly three decades, playing in a number of well known San Francisco bands including KGB, The Offs, No Alternative, The Swinging Possums and The Watchmen. After recording a number of albums and CDs he retired from music to teach chess. He currently teaches ten chess classes a week through Academic Chess. He also created and runs a chess program for at-risk teenagers incarcerated in juvenile correctional facilities. In addition to writing a weekly column for The Chess Improver, Hugh also writes a weekly blog for the United States Chess League team, The Seattle Sluggers. He teaches chess privately as well, giving instruction to many well known musicians who are only now discovering the joys of chess. Hugh is an Correspondence Chess player with the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation). He studied chemistry in college but has worked in fields ranging from Investment Banking and commodities trading to Plastics design and fabrication. However, Hugh prefers chess to all else (except Mrs. Patterson and his beloved dog and cat). View all posts by Hugh Patterson

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