Understanding “En Prise” Can Lead to Decisive Advantages

Understanding “En Prise” Can Lead to Decisive Advantages

Dec 17, 2017, 8:34 PM |

“En prise” is such an important concept in chess. Unfortunately, it’s a term I learned much later after I began to play chess competitively, although the simplicity of the concept is easy to grasp and obvious: don’t leave an unprotected piece in position to be captured.

The French term “en prise” translates literally “in take” and means a piece “can be taken.” The term applies not only to an unprotected piece but a piece attacked by a piece of lower value and a piece defended insufficiently. When a piece is under attack and not adequately protected, it is “en prise.”

In blitz games particularly, I try to be alert when an opponent places a piece “en prise,” so that I can gain a decisive advantage. When an opponent begins to develop pieces without adequate protection or launches a high-value piece (such as a rook or queen) early, I look for opportunities to pick off the unprotected piece or attack with a lower value piece.

In a recent five-minute blitz game, my opponent, playing Black, moved the queen early (on his second move) and left her exposed and continued to develop minor pieces. As I moved to attack the minor pieces, I also sought an opportunity to win his queen. The following diagram shows the board position after nine moves by both sides, when Black had just blundered by placing a knight on e5 to attack my queen.

After I moved Nxe5, I began to simplify by trading other pieces, when Black blundered again by capturing with his unprotected knight on h5. The following diagram shows the board position after 11 moves, when next I can move Qh3 to attack the knight and place his king in check. (Meanwhile, Black’s queen remains unprotected on a5.) 

After taking the knight, I continued to simplify and attack Black’s pieces and earn a decisive advantage by chasing Black’s king into the open as well as winning a rook with a knight fork. The following diagram shows the board position after 18 moves.

When Black moved the remaining rook back to d8 to attack my queen, I had to move her. The obvious move for me was Qe5+ to force a trade of queens, which would leave Black with only a rook, bishop, and five pawns against my now overwhelming advantage. Black rushed the next move and blocked my queen’s check with Bd6 without seeing that his queen was “en prise.”

After I moved Qxa5+, Black resigned – a tough blitz loss because once too often he had left a piece “en prise.” Keeping your pieces from being “en prise” is important. Equally important is finding an opponent’s piece not adequately protected and turning that mistake into a strategic advantage -- and a win.