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The Misunderstood Knight Fork - Part 2: Attack

  • IM Silman
  • | Jan 29, 2013

In Part One of the Misunderstood Knight Fork, I compared the Knight fork’s raison d’être as “leaping into an unapologetic orgy of material gain.”

In Part Two we take the chains off those well fed horses (after all, they gorged to their hearts content in Part One) and let them demonstrate what mankind has reveled in since time immemorial: Slaughter! That’s right, a fork isn’t just about eating stuff, it has also been a major motif in many violent attacks.

To paraphrase Bette Davis in the movie, All About Eve (way back in 1950), “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”

Paul Keres - Alexander Tolush, Moscow 1957

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Nfd7 12.Bc4 Be7 13.Rb3 Bxg5 14.Qxg5 Qe7 15.Qxg7 Qf8 16.Qg5 Rg8 17.Qf4 Nc5 18.0-0! Qg7 19.Rf2 Nbd7 


Threatening our usual fork on c7. 


The following variations demonstrate how forks often play a large part in a successful attack:

* 20...exd5 21.Bxd5 Nxb3 22.Bxf7+ Kd8 23.Ne6+ forking the King and Queen.

* 20...exd5 21.Bxd5 Nxb3 22.Bxf7+ Ke7 23.Nf5+ with a completely different King and Queen fork.



21...Kd8 is met by the game-ending 22.Ndxe6+ 

Of course, 22...fxe6 allows the other Knight to take up fork-duty with 23.Nxe6+.

22.Bxb3 Qxe5

22...Rb8 also fails: 23.Ndxe6! fxe6 24.Qh4+ Qg5 25.Qb4+ Kd8 26.Nxe6+ with yet another fork.

23.Qxf7+ Kd6 

23…Kd8 24.Ncxe6+ bxe6 25.Nxe6 mate.


24.Nxa8 was sufficient for the win, but the text, keeping the Knights on as attacking units, is far more interesting.

24…Nf6 25.Rxf6 Qe1+ 26.Rf1 Qe3+ 27.Kh1 Bxe6 28.Nxe6 Rac8 29.Qxb7, 1-0.

Sometimes the action is so heated and pieces are flying about in such a frenzy that one expects some sort of fork. In this case - an evergreen game where the victim was no less a player than Tartakower - the fork eventually appears with crushing effect, but it was just a small part of a epic combinative effort:

Vincenzo Castaldi - Saviely Tartakower, Stockholm Olympiad 1937

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Be2 Be7 6.0-0 h6 7.b3 c6 8.Bb2 Qc7 9.Qd2 g5?!

It’s clear that Tartakower didn’t have any respect for his opponent. However, even small dogs can bite.

10.Rfd1 Nf8? 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Nxe5!!



12...Qxe5 13.Nd5!! would leave Black helpless:

* 13...Qxb2 14.Nc7 mate (a fork mixed with a mate – the juiciest kind!

* 13...Qb8 14.Nxf6+.

* 13...Nxe4 14.Bxe5 Nxd2 15.Nc7+ (a basic fork that wins everything) 15...Kd8 16.Nxa8 followed by 17.Rxd2.


The offer of the two Knights in succession makes a combination of rare beauty. Tartakower refuses again.



Threatening Nc7+.


15.Rxd8+! Qxd8

We’ve had forks in the analysis, but now it’s time for a fork to actually appear on the board!

16.Nc7+ Ke7 17.Ba3+, 1-0.

Okay, we’ll continue our exploration of the “fork as death machine” concept in the following puzzles. After trying to solve the puzzle, PLEASE click “solution” followed by “move list” for variations and explanatory prose.


  • 3 years ago

    IM Silman

    @Graham000, who thought he found a better continuation to the final puzzle. However, though the variations he gave are clearly crushing, Black doesn't have to be so kind. Thus, after Graham's 1.Rc7+(??) Black can simply play 1...Bd7 (blocking the check and threatening white's Knight) when White's advantage has suddenly evaporated.

  • 3 years ago


    A better move in the last puzzle?
  • 3 years ago


    great article!

  • 3 years ago


    well done chess . com

  • 3 years ago


    The puzzles were a bit too hard for me but i still found them useful.Thank you!

  • 3 years ago


    Hi Simran_Pereira..   me Oren.

  • 3 years ago


    good games

  • 3 years ago


    Great article!

  • 3 years ago


    Now, that's a fork! :)

  • 3 years ago


    WOW kaufmann marco

  • 3 years ago


    I enjoy Silman's "over the top" kind of commentary. He is always fun to read.

  • 3 years ago


    Nice i learn a lot

  • 3 years ago

    NM RichKasa

    wild puzzles, took some thought to get to the end of them

  • 3 years ago


    Very Helpful :)

  • 3 years ago


    Great work and much appreciated.

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    The Kaufmann vs Marco Puzzle is amazing!

  • 3 years ago


    Extremely helpful!! Thanks alot and keep the articles coming... Smile

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