The Dreaded Discovered Attack

  • IM Silman
  • | Mar 3, 2013


A discovered attack is a very common, and often very strong, combinative strike based on one piece getting out of the way and allowing a connection to occur that, ideally, leads to a decisive gain in material. Here's a very basic example:

This worked due to the fact that the “middleman Bishop” was able to sacrifice itself with check (thus leaving white’s Queen hanging out to dry), and also to the hugely important detail that white’s Queen was undefended.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, if we add a pair of Bishops (a White Bishop on h3 and a Black Bishop on e7) then the sacrifice would be insane, or an admission that the player with the Black pieces is a masochist.

As you can see, two of the most important “details” in a successful combination are a vulnerable King and/or an undefended piece. In our first position (repeated in the diagram) we saw both in play: The check on g2 made use of the fact that all other things come to a standstill when one’s King is in check, which left us with the decisive fact that white’s Queen was completely undefended. But defend the white Queen and suddenly we’re facing a different kind of ballgame.

Once these basic forms of Discovered Attack are mastered, you can make use of the theme in far more complex forms:

Other than the usual combinative duo of vulnerable King and undefended piece, another key to a winning combo is simply having a weaker piece go after a stronger one. In the next position black’s Queen is the target, and though it’s protected by its Rook, that fact has no bearing on the result (decisive material loss for Black):

The potential connection (discovered attack) between the white Rook and black Queen was decisive in the example we just looked at. But sometimes the threat of that connection can lead to simple positional gain:

Okay, it's clear that the concept of a discovered attack is pretty simple and easy to grasp. But actually spotting it in a game is often anything but easy (as proven by the fact that the puzzles are rather difficult). Are you ready to show your “Discovered Attack IQ”? If so, it’s puzzle time! 

Oh, keep one more thing in mind: any piece can initiate a discovered attack. You've been warned!

In our next puzzle, it seems like Black is going to win the game since white’s King is in the middle of the board and Black is two pawns up. However, something shocking occurs: 


  • 4 years ago


    That was cool..... thanks

  • 4 years ago


    Please Flip the board when you play black

  • 4 years ago


    The discovery attack is the most effective attack against the computer on android. In my level, I can't win against it except when there is a discovery attack. :-)

  • 4 years ago


    In response to jandrm, I don't think you necessarily plan something like "a very cool puzzle." However, it isn't outside the realm of possibility to find yourself in that kind of situation that looks hopeless, but with the right play can turn the tide. 

  • 4 years ago


    quite instructive,  thank you!

  • 4 years ago


    Holy cow... please don't tell me that someone can actually actually plan something like "a very cool puzzle" in the game. You can't do that... geez, i should just give up chess now, stick to go-fish...

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  • 4 years ago


    i agre with ElKitch.  It's not necessarily seeing a discovered attack, but setting one up that is an issue at some times.

  • 4 years ago


    Nice article.

  • 4 years ago


    The discovered attack is nice, but I find it quite hard to set up a good one.

    In most cases its so easy to see that it is coming. But what I learned from the puzzles is that a discovered attack can be the end result of a set of moves. I guess I dont look deep enough yet to set up such attacks.

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