Sep 27, 2009, 4:41 PM |


Okay, so I'm playing chess with one of my favorite online friends via Skype. I love playing with him, not only because he's a cool opponent who doesn't laugh at my mistakes, but also because he teaches me things. Like last night. I thought I had set up an excellent way to capture his rook on h8 with my bishop on h1, which I did. "Enjoy the rook," he hastily typed into the Skype chat window.

I was elated. That was the first time I'd even begun to set up a trap like that!

However, speaking of "trap"...

...he then typed, "and now taste your fork".

Fork? Huh? WAIT A MINUTE--Then I saw.



He'd put my king in check with his knight, threatening to capture my queen as well. I was reminded of Macaulay Culkin as Kevin in Home Alone, and I went:

"AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" At least, that's what I did in my imagination.

What went wrong? Why did my brain start having a meltdown then and there?

You see, a "fork" is when one of your opponent's chess pieces threatens to capture two or more of your pieces at the same time (or vice versa). It's an excellent trap, a fundamental chess tactic that one of my fellow players says even Grandmasters use. I couldn't believe that a) I hadn't seen his knight sneaking up on both my king and queen and b) I had been so distracted by that yummy rook on h8 that I didn't see the immediate threat and its outcome:

Namely, I was forced to move my king out of check while he got my queen!

Another lesson learned: I now know what Knights are for. Once upon a time, not so very long ago at all, I thought knights were only good for jumping over other pieces and having that weird, counterintuitive way of moving ("OK, if a knight jumps over a pawn, for instance, why can't it move to the square directly OPPOSITE that pawn?!?") Knights were good for annoying me, and that was that.

Au contraire. Knights are good for FORKS. So I discovered in last night's game!

So, this is The Shakhmatist, signing off and saying: I'M TOTALLY FORKED!!! Tongue out