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Advanced Tactics

FM Thomas Wolski Avg Rating: 1767 Tactics

"Level X: Advanced Tactics" contains tactical problems that will challenge a player rated Elo or USCF 1700 or higher if attempted without using any of the hints.

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  • Bellon-Garcia

    Black's pieces are well coordinated, but he must be careful that his pieces don't become targets for White's queen. The queen loves double attacks on an open board, however White's king is not protected by a pawn wedge and looks somewhat vulnerable at the edge of the board. The key to this problem is to maximize the interaction of the Black rook and Black knight, utilizing both the position of White's king and White's queen.
  • Tal-N.N., Tbilisi Simultaneous 1965

    Mikhail Tal was born in Riga, Latvia in 1936. He learned to play chess at the age of eight.
  • The Weak Back Rank

    Material is even in this middlegame position, yet White has achieved a few slight advantages. His knight is on an ideal square in the center, securely protected by a pawn, whereas Black's bishop could be on a better square. Black would like to advance the e4-pawn to e3 in order to weaken White's king position, but the d5-knight protects that square. White also has the better pawn structure. His three passed pawns on the queenside represent what is commonly called a queenside pawn majority (3 vs 2)...
  • Alenius-Droet

    This position is a good example of the artificial back rank mate. It occurs when fellow pieces near the king block its escape route (usually, but not necessarily pawns), and/or when opponent's pieces take away potential flight squares of the king when the king is checked along the back rank. The second condition is already given. The White pawn on f6 and the White bishop on h3 control all of the king's potential flight squares from the back rank (g7, e7, d7). Yet, this by itself is not enough as...
  • Klyatskin - Yudovich: A Powerful Bishop

    Material is even with Black having a dark-squared bishop for the White knight. When a bishop has no counterpart that acts on the squares of the same color, it can exert tremendous pressure. In middlegame positions with a knight against a bishop, it is therefore common for someone playing against the bishop to place all of his pieces (the queen, rooks, the king, and even knights) on squares of the opposite color of the bishop to reduce its influence. In this position, however, White has four of his...
  • Minor Pieces Against Rooks in a Closed Position

    In this ending, Black's pieces occupy good squares and he has a knight and a bishop for the rook. The position is still quite closed with six pawns on each side, and White's rooks have no useful entry points in the Black camp. That's why the Black minor pieces are much stronger than the White rooks. Therefore, Black is in essence a piece up. Black's knight at c5 is especially well placed and pressures the backward e4-pawn. How can Black most effectively convert his positional advantage?
  • Deadly Pin on the h-file

    White has proceeded with an attack against the Black king before even castling. This is correct in this position as the center is closed and Black lacks active counterplay. You usually don't want to start a kingside attack until the situation in the center is clarified. If the center is closed, the player who has better control of the wings, the kingside or the queenside, will try to move most of his pieces there in order to ?out man? the defending side. All the action in this position is on the...
  • Tactical Pawn Promotion

    White has achieved an overwhelming advantage against a world class player, Grandmaster Geller. White is especially proud of the passed pawn at d6 which is currently blockaded by the Black bishop at d7. This problem illustrates how the power of a passed pawn can greatly be enhanced if it is properly supported by a few pieces.
  • Makagonov-Chekhover

    In this late middlegame position, White is up a pawn, and looks to have some positional advantages. His pieces are nicely centralized and are currently attacking the Black g6-pawn. The Black e4- and c5-pawns are also quite vulnerable as they are both isolated, and both sides have an outside passed pawn at the third rank. Yet White's king position is not very secure. The White king would be quite happy at e1, where the doubled pawns would provide a good shield. White also controls both the d- and...
  • A Najdorf Knight's Dream

    What started as a regular Najdorf defense quickly become a sharp game when Black, not having castled yet, chose to intimidate the knight on g3 with the h5-pawn push. After a few inaccuracies, we reached the following position. It presented a unique situation that I could actually attack the White King at such an early stage when the Najdorf is mostly known for its ability to give White attacking chances.
  • A French Nightmare

    Material is even, yet White enjoys a clear advantage. The two rooks dominate the open c-file while White's knight is well placed at b5. Black, on the other hand, has maneuvered his knight to the perfect square against a passed pawn (e6), directly ahead of it. Is Black successful in erecting a permanent blockade or does White have some means to break through?
  • A Stalemate Riddle

    In this ending White's chances to survive are slim in spite of the opposite colored-bishops as Black has too many extra pawns. Endings with queens on the board can be some of the most complicated as it is often hard to find a safe haven for the king once a lot of pawns are off the board. Luckily, there are sometimes opportunities to find another way to fend off defeat; stalemate. Stalemate is achieved when none of one's remaining pieces or pawns can move legally. When one cannot make any legal move,...
  • Danger in the Opening

    White has chosen a hypermodern opening along Reti's ideas. This is exemplified by fianchettoing both bishops along the long diagonals while restraining from occupying the center with the d-or e-pawns. Only when Black has made attempts to occupy the center with his or her pawns, White will begin to fight for the center with the central pawns. Here White chose to mix positional play with some tactical spice in order to make it harder for Black to choose the correct plan.
  • The Benko Gambit Pawn

    This position can arise out of the Benko Gambit Opening (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6) where Black sacrifices a pawn for open files on the queenside against White's extra pawn. While this gambit has lost a bit of its original popularity, it is still quite unpleasant to play for White as Black obtains a lot of pressure for the pawn down the open a- and b-files. The fianchettoed bishop at g7 is also a very important piece for Black as it pressures the knight on c3 and possibly the pawn on b2....
  • End of the Line

    This problem stems from the romantic age of chess. It was very common in the 19th century to sacrifice many pieces in order to exploit a lead in development and find a direct way to the opponent's king. Since opening theory began advancing to unforeseen heights in the 20th century, romantic king hunts have occurred less frequently due to the great amount of literature that has revealed new defenses and has emphasized the need for positional play and king safety. Siegbert Tarrasch, one of the best...
  • Hort - G.Garcia: Converting an Advantage in the Endgame

    White has a structural advantage in that all his pieces are on more active squares than Black's. Material is even, though, and after the last move pair b6 axb6, White gave away his extra pawn. Strong players often trade one advantage for another one, but here it seems that Black may be able to hold the position now. Did Grandmaster Vlastimil Hort, a world class player in the 1970's from former Czechoslovakia, make a miscalculation, or did he spot a way to convert the structural advantage into a material...
  • The Knight Fork in the Opening

    The opening is a very important part of the chess game. One or two errors in the opening can be enough to lose an entire game. It is important to study all parts of the game and not give too much emphasis on either the middlegame, the endgame, or the opening by itself. If you don't study the opening well, you may not reach positions in which you can practice the middlegame or endgame skills you have obtained. In this position, both sides have played the opening sort of sloppily. White has spent two...
  • Connected Passed pawns

    In this ending, White has a rook and four pawns against Black's five pawns. Yet Black has two connected passed pawns on the sixth rank which are quite difficult to stop for White. How shall Black continue to maximize the power of the passed pawns?
  • Weaving a Mating Net

    In this position White's active pieces more than compensate for Black's extra pawn. White has a strong attack against Black's king along the h- file, but White must play accurately to reach the desired goal. Black would like to exchange a few pieces as the ending would certainly be in his favor, yet White needs only one more piece in the mating attack.
  • Passed Pawns of Different Strengths

    White has achieved an active position with all of his three pieces eyeing the f8-square. Yet, while White is trying to get to Black's king and/or promote his e-pawn, both of his passed central pawns are currently hanging. White must continue actively or his piece activity is going to evaporate.
  • Queen Trade Quest Quenched

    White has grabbed the initiative early in the game and has opened the h-file before castling. It is instructive to see that strong masters often know when they can delay castling in order to exploit a slight inaccuracy in their opponent's opening play. The White king is in no immediate danger, but the White rook on h1 already exerts some uncomfortable pressure on the castled Black king. Especially noteworthy is the fact that Black has had to exchange dark-squared bishops which has left some weaknesses...
  • A Fragile Center

    Material is even in this early middlegame position, yet the placement of White's and Black pieces differ in their effectiveness. White's bishop on b2 is biting granite on c3 while both Black's bishop at b7 and the queen on a8 are blocked by their own pawn at c6. Both sides will make it a priority to advance their respective c-pawns in order to give their pieces more scope. Yet one always needs to take a close look at the situation in the center of the board. White's e4-pawn and Black's d5-pawn are...
  • The Pinned Knight on the d-file

    This position arose in a last round game at the National Open between myself (playing White) and Arizona master Spencer Lower (playing Black). Material is equal and a lot of features in this position are symmetrical. The pawns are exactly on the opposite squares while both side have only traded the dark- squared bishop and three pawns. Yet there is one dominating theme in this position. The knight on d4 cannot move without uncovering the queen at d1 to the power of the rook at d8. Thus the knight...
  • Passed Pawns against a Piece

    In this ending, Black only has a pawn for a rook. At first glance, one may think that it cannot be sufficient compensation, especially since the two passed c-pawns are doubled. There are some unique tactical resources in this position, however, that allow Black to stay in the game rather than throwing in the towel.
  • Impatient Mating Attack

    This is a position that can occur in a Closed Sicilian system. White did not mind sacrificing some material as he is determined to get to Black's king before he can castle. For such an early attack to be justified and successful, one must have made a decisive mistake. Black, who had just taken a rook on f1 with his bishop, was confident that his defense was sufficient. How should Black best react to the queen check at h5?
  • Strike While the Iron is Hot

    Rook endings are notorious for their tactical tricks. This is especially true when there are many pawns remaining on the board. Rooks are often very slow to move from square x to square y if there are a lot of closed lines in the way. In the following example, White must use his imagination to avoid simplifications that may result in a good position for Black.
  • Pawn Push Propels Penetration

    This position occurred in a recent tournament in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Zapata, an experienced grandmaster playing Black, has successfully placed his pieces on nearly ideal squares after White too hastily exchanged bishops at g7 and queens at g5. All of his three minor pieces are much superior to their counterparts, yet how can Black exploit White's passive and somewhat awkward piece coordination?
  • Capablanca-Fonaroff, New York 1904

    In this position Capablanca demonstrates several important tactical themes. Some strong masters have suggested that with a knight on f5 one always wins an attack. While this is a gross simplification, the f5-square is certainly a very nice attacking square for the knight.
  • Capablanca-Jaffe, New York 1910

    White has a lot of pressure on the kingside. This position illustrates the combinational theme of removing a defender.
  • Capablanca-Raubitscheck, New York 1909

    As well as being a chess genius, Capablanca was very well-rounded. Fluent in several languages, he even found time to play on the baseball team while studying at Columbia University.
  • Alatortzev-Capablanca, Moscow 1935

    This is another nice combination by Capablanca. The great Cuban once said that you must lose 100 times before you become a strong player. So take your losses as lessons.
  • Raubitscheck-Capablanca, New York 1906

    Black has sacrificed a piece to get this position. Another sacrifice is coming up.
  • Capablanca-Yates, Barcelona 1929

    Capablanca's advice is always worth remembering. He once wrote: "When you have the advantage and your opponent has a passive piece set-up, one should not hurry matters. With each move the likelihood of an error from the defending side increases." However, this position is very sharp and White must strike immediately.
  • Corzo-Capablanca, Havana 1900

    Capablanca learned how to play chess at the age of 4 after watching his father play with a friend. The next time the two adults played, the youngster told his father that he made an illegal move. He then challenged his father and beat him! The rest is history.
  • Spielmann-Capablanca, Bad Kissingen 1928

    Both sides attack each other's queen. Black is able to take advantage of this.
  • Capablanca-Steiner, Los Angeles 1933

    This game features a king hunt. Capablanca once wrote: "Direct and violent attacks against the king must be carried out en masse, with full force, to ensure their success. The opposition must be overcome at all cost; the attack cannot be broken off, since in all such cases that means defeat.
  • Nimzovitch-Capablanca, New York 1927

    Capablanca said: "The main thing is the coordination of the pieces, and this is where most players are weak. Many try to attack with one piece here and another there without any concerted action. You must coordinate the action of your pieces, and this is the main principle which runs throughout." This combination is a good illustration of coordinating your pieces.
  • Capablanca-Souza Campos, Sao Paulo Simul 1927

    White checkmates Black in 9 moves, but you can find each move if you think logically.
  • Capablanca-Lasker, Berlin 1914

    This is a study based on a skittles game played between the two chess greats, Lasker and Capablanca, on the eve of World War 1. They played an informal ten game match at a cafe in which each move had to be played within 5 seconds. Capablanca won that match 6.5-3.5.
  • Capablanca-Lasker, Havana 1921

    This game is from the 1921 world championship match between Lasker and Capablanca. It is essential that every chess player who wishes to improve study the games of Capablanca. He also wrote some very good books from which much can be learned. For example, in Chess Fundamentals, he wrote: "When the opponent has a bishop, keep your pawns on the same color as your opponent's bishop. Whenever you have a bishop, whether the opponent has also one or not, keep your pawns on squares the opposite color to...
  • Lasker-Euwe, Nottingham 1936

    Euwe, who was World Champion at the time, has just blundered in a slightly superior position. How does Lasker take advantage of the oversight?
  • Lasker-Delmar, Cambridge Springs 1907

    This problem illustrates the combinational theme of deflection. Lasker once wrote: "By some ardent enthusiasts chess has been elevated into a science or an art. It is neither; but its principal characteristic seems to be - what human nature mostly delights in - a fight."
  • Chigorin-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1895/96

    Chigorin was the top Russian player before the communist revolution.
  • Lasker-Henneberger and Rivier, Bern 1919

    Emanuel Lasker was born in 1868 and lived most of his life in Berlin. The rise of Hitler forced him to leave his homeland. Lasker moved to Moscow in 1935 and two years later to New York. He died there in 1941.
  • Lasker-Mieses, Paris 1900

    The great chess master Rudolf Spielmann wrote of Lasker: "Lasker is always unafraid, always ready for the struggle. To me, this is a sign of true greatness."
  • Marshall-Lasker, New York 1907

    Black has sacrificed a rook for a mating attack on the White king. Frank Marshall was the United States Champion for several decades.
  • Lasker-Tarrasch, Nuremberg 1896

    "Einstein, who once met Lasker through a good friend of mine, told me he considered him the finest mind with whom he had come in contact in his later years. The only thing that he found a bit strange was that Lasker, no matter what they happened to be talking about, modulated back to chess."-Edward Lasker
  • Lasker-Reti, New York 1924

    Lasker looked to be past his prime when he lost the World Championship to Capablanca in 1921, but he rebounded and took first place at New York 1924 - one of the strongest tournaments of all times.
  • Lasker-Steinitz, St.Petersburg 1895

    Black seems to have a solid position, but White's pieces are more centralized and only need some extra scope. Lasker finds an amazing way to break through. A master of all phases of the game, Lasker was adept at both tactics and positional play. He often liked to try to throw his opponents on their own resources, deviating from theory at an early stage. This often brought him close to the precipice, but Lasker was unequaled in judging just how much to risk.
  • Wolf-Lasker, Maerisch-Ostrau 1923

    Black's pieces exert a great deal of pressure on White's weakened kingside. All of White's pieces are very passive. Especially the bishop on g2 could be mistaken for a pawn!
  • Study by Lasker

    White wins by a clever stroke in which the power of the passed pawn on b7 is demonstrated.
  • Steinitz-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1895

    The pin and double attack will be the key combinational themes of this problem. White's pieces are placed rather awkwardly.
  • Chigorin-Lasker, London 1899

    Black has sacrificed the exchange for a ferocious attack on the White king. Lasker has more than enough compensation in the form of a powerful bishop pair, pressure on the a-file, the safer king, and an extra pawn. Now he needs to put on the final touches. Chigorin was Russia's top player at the time.
  • Pillsbury-Lasker, St.Petersburg 1896

    This is the conclusion of one of the most famous combinations of all time.
  • Steinitz-Lasker, Nuremberg 1896

    Black is down a pawn, but all of his pieces are aimed at the White king. White, on the other hand, hopes that his kingside holds together, while the lone queen goes cherry picking on the queenside. Show why it wasn't harvest season yet!
  • Lasker-Steinitz, Moscow 1896/97

    All of White's pieces are aggressively placed. A combination looms on the horizon.
  • Lasker-Bauer, USA 1908

    Black's major pieces are out of play off on the side of the board. White takes advantage of this with a direct assault on the Black king.
  • Porges-Lasker, Nuremberg 1896

    Black has pressure on the kingside, but White wants to exchange Black's strong knight. What is the best way to keep the initiative?
  • Janowski-Lasker, Paris 1909

    Black has strong pressure on the kingside and needs to find a way to continue his attack. In this position, Janowski's split kingside pawns should spur your creativity.
  • Lasker-Bauer, Amsterdam 1889

    When you play chess and try to improve, always remember what Lasker wrote: "In the beginning of the game, ignore the search for combinations, abstain from violent moves, aim for small advantages, accumulate them, and only after having attained these ends search for the combination -- and then with all the power of will and intellect, because then the combination must exist, however deeply hidden."
  • Bernstein-Capablanca, Moscow 1914

    Capablanca combines the combinational themes of double attack and deflection of defender.
  • Capablanca-Rossolimo, Paris 1938

    This problem illustrates the theme of discovered attack. All of the pieces are hanging, but it's White to move.
  • Bogoljubov-Capablanca, Bad Kissingen 1928

    Capablanca illustrates the theme of clearing space.
  • Capablanca-Vassaux, Buenos Aires Olympiad 1939

    White's pieces are aiming at Black's king, while Black's queen is out of play. Capablanca shows how to use a tempo in order to gain time for the attack.
  • Capablanca-Mieses, Berlin 1931

    Capablanca combines the combinational themes of double attack and pin. When attacking the king, don't forget about the possibility of reaching a winning ending.
  • Capablanca-Ribera, Barcelona 1935

    White has sacrificed a whole rook and now needs to put on the finishing touches of the combination.
  • Lasker-Steinitz, Moscow 1896

    White's pieces are on the back rank and in disharmony. This will often spell trouble.
  • Steinitz-Hirschfeld, London 1871

    Black is up two pieces for a rook, but his pieces are somewhat loose. The theme of this combination will be removal of the defender. One piece is protecting another piece. If the first piece can be removed, then the piece needing protection will fall.
  • Steinitz-Schlesser, London 1863

    The theme of this combination is to deflect a Black piece away from a key square. This piece is the key to Black's defense. Remove that piece and the defense collapses. Black's problems are caused by the exposed position of his king.
  • Hanham-Steinitz, New York 1894

    White seems to be in good shape as Black's queen is attacked. If the queen moves, then 2.Rxf8+ wins.
  • Reiner-Steinitz, Viden 1860

    White is seriously underdeveloped and is barely holding on. The winning theme is deflection. One hard working piece makes the defense possible for White. Remove that piece, and the defense falls apart.
  • Steinitz-N.N., London 1868

    Black's king is in a very exposed position, while his development lags a lot. Steinitz finds a magnificent way to take advantage of this.
  • Murphy-Steinitz, London 1866

    White currently has four pawns for a piece. But this is not a good trade for White as his pawns are not of much importance in this middlegame position. More importantly, White's king is stuck in the center and very exposed, yet the center pawns seem to protect him.
  • Steinitz-N.N

    Steinitz played this game at rook odds. Nowadays it is very uncommon for anyone to start a game with less material. Black has done little with his extra rook on e8. Instead of developing his pieces, the king was already forced to move and is not safe.
  • Steinitz-Scott

    Black's centralized pieces can easily become targets. White can win some material in this position.
  • Steinitz-Ware

    This position demonstrates the disadvantage of bringing the queen out too early, as it can be harassed by the minor pieces.
  • Steinitz-N.N., 1861

    This is a short, but very tricky combination. White has a decisive advantage as Black's rooks are dormant while White's can be used against Black's king.
  • Zukertort-Steinitz, St.Louis 1886

    Black's queen and bishops combine for a deadly attack on White's exposed king.
  • Zukertort-Steinitz, St.Louis 1886

    We have just seen the shortest possible way to mate White's king in the main variation of this challenge. Here we are interested to see how Steinitz continued after his innovative bishop sacrifice on f4.
  • Steinitz-Blackburne, London 1876

    White's queen and bishop are very strongly placed on the kingside, but another piece needs to be activated to make the attack effective.
  • N.N.-Steinitz, USA 1890

    This game features a king hunt. Black is down a rook and a knight for a couple of pawns, but White's kingside is not very safe.
  • Steinitz-Chigorin, Hastings 1895

    Black is up a pawn, but his king is very exposed. Note that all of Black's heavy pieces are far off on the queenside. Can White take advantage of this?
  • Dubois-Steinitz, London 1862

    Black is down a piece, but he has a very strong attack with the doubled rooks on the h-file. However, he must work out a concrete winning variation, else White may escape.
  • Steinitz-Mongredien, London 1863

    The pawn structure in the center favors White, whereas the open h-file and White's active pieces also give White an attack on the kingside.
  • Spassky-Averkin, USSR Championship 1973

    Spassky demonstrates two themes in the following combination, including double attack.
  • Opocensky-Alekhine, Paris 1925

    Alekhine was playing in a tournament in Mannheim, Germany when the First World War broke out. He was interned as a citizen of hostile powers. Rumor has it that he escaped from the Germans and made his way back to Russia. He joined the Russian army, was twice wounded and twice decorated.
  • Petrosian-Ivkov, USSR-Yugoslav match 1979

    Petrosian was born of Armenian parents in 1929 in Tbilisi, USSR. He was orphaned during the war and had to sweep streets in order to live.
  • Potunno-Alekhine, Montevideo 1938

    Alekhine died in 1946 in a hotel room in Lisbon. Many denounced him as a Nazi sympathizer. He died in poverty after years of using his genius to become rich.
  • Euwe-Thomas, Hastings 1934

    "...in chess, as in any conflict, success lies in attack."
  • Timman-Karpov, London 1984

    Karpov was born in 1951 in a small town in the Ural Mountains where he, like Capablanca, learned chess at the age of four.

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