Classic Combinations

Classic Combinations

| 48 | Tactics

This new series is all about attacking chess, combinations and fun. And all of them are in puzzle form (some easy, some difficult) so you can see how your tactical IQ stands up to the old, sometimes forgotten greats. And, if you learn a tiny bit about chess history as we go along, you’ll be all the better for it.

You may ask, “How can chess history help me?”

Well, imagine you have gone on a date and, while eating dinner at Spago Beverly Hills your date asks, “I heard you play chess. Tell me something about chess history!”

If you are able to wow your date with your historic acumen, things will go very well indeed. But if you look at her/him and say, “Uh, chess is old. That’s all I know,” it’s likely that your date will treat you like you should be treated and walk away forever.

That’s how important chess history is, and it’s also why you MUST read all of Batgirl’s articles.

Finally, after you try to solve a puzzle, don’t forget to look at the notes! 


Puzzle 1:

We have all heard of the legendary Lucena (think rook endgame), but few have actually seen any of his games. The game before you started out in boring fashion, and Black was fine throughout. However, Quintana went wrong and is now a pawn down, though he must have thought that his seventh-rank rook would quickly lead to material parity. He was wrong.

White to play and win

Puzzle 2:

Polerio is another legendary name, and one of the best players of his day. I decided to give this game since it offers several very instructive attacking themes (mentioned in the notes) AND it also features the Fried Liver Attack, which is a fan favorite.

How would you continue White’s attack?

Gioacchino Greco (1600–1634) was an extremely strong player who not only was master of combinations but also had some serious positional skills, though he didn’t get to demonstrate them too often since his opponents were not close to his level. Greco also discovered or created many of the opening traps we take for granted today.


Usually each generation of chess players is stronger than the next, but I have always believed that Greco would have spliced and diced Philidor, who was born 92 years after Greco’s death. Of course, it’s a matter of opinion, and I might well be the only person in the world who thinks this!

Puzzle 3:

Mate isn’t the only way to win a game

Puzzle 4:
Crush, kill, destroy!
Puzzle 5:
White to move and win
Puzzle 6:
Sharp and precise
Puzzle 7:
A king chase!
Puzzle 8:
Deep and brilliant
Puzzle 9:
Sometimes only mate will do


Puzzle 10:

After Philidor became the guru of chess from the mid-to-late 1700s, the game became a lot more boring as masses of players tried to use their pawns in strange plodding ways, leaving all those crazy attacking dudes to wonder what in the world happened. However, not everyone went “positional.”

Testosterone-fueled males were still walking the earth, and they kept the flame of insane attack flickering. After all, what was that pawn stuff really all about? No, no, to these anachronistic creatures, pawns and pieces were there to be sacrificed for attack. “Kill, kill!” was their motto, and those few singlehandedly kept the chessboard in flames.

The largely unknown D. Bowdler was one of those “Sac it all for the sheer joy of it!” guys. I’ll give the first part of the game to show you how little Bowdler thought of material.

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