Tactical Patterns Everyone Should Know: The Queen's Duel
The pattern that we are going to discuss today is extremely common in the Sicilian Defense (the Dragon variation in particular). Therefore, if you play this opening for either color, you might want to memorize this useful tactical pattern.
The requirements of the pattern are:
- a protected queen on d2 for White;
- unprotected queen on a5 for Black;
- The queens are separated by a white knight on c3.
The tactic begins when the knight jumps to d5 and attacks a piece or a pawn on the e7 square. Black cannot protect the hanging piece or a pawn because the white queen attacks the black queen after the knight on c3 is gone. So Black captures the white queen and the white knight captures the piece or a pawn on the e7 square with a check (in some cases it is a checkmate!). After the black king moves out of the check, White recaptures the black queen keeping the extra material. Here is a simple example:
This is a very beautiful game of Mikhail Tal where he executed one of his signature attacks. But why did he play 15...Qc7 moving his queen from the active a5 square to the less active c7 square? Couldn't he castle queenside right away? Let's see:
Even though this pattern is very common and simple, even very strong chessplayers sometimes fall for it. Just look at the next game where the victim is one of the strongest Soviet GMs of the time:
But of course it is lower rated players who miss this tactic very frequently, like in the next example:
And here is a slightly more complicated version of the same combo:
And in conclusion a word of caution. When this pattern happens in your game (and I am sure it will happen sooner or later!), you'll get very excited that finally there is a chance to demonstrate your chess knowledge. Please remember, that no pattern works in all possible situations and sometimes even a very reliable combination can backfire. Just look at the next game from the World Championship match. Could Kasparov possibly miss this simple tactical shot? Not in a thousand years! Of course Anand easily spotted the trap and avoided it. Do you see why 17.Nd5 wouldn't be a good idea for White?