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Step Up in Tactics

IM Marc Leski, FM Thomas Wolski, NM Mike Arne Avg Rating: 1436 Tactics

"Step Up in Tactics" presents exercises, both checkmates and tactical, which are somewhat more difficult than the material covered so far.

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  • Castle in trouble!

    Black's king is in big trouble. Many White forces point at the king making a quick execution possible.
  • Demolished castled Position!

    Black's material advantage is small consolation for the ruined king's position! When possible, one should avoid to get doubled pawns in front of one's king. This is especially the case if the opponent's pieces can penetrate as easily as in this position.
  • Open Sesame

    White is a rook down. However, Black's forces exhibit such poor coordination that White is bound to have some good moves here! Can you figure out the way to open Black's fortress?
  • Dangerous lines!

    White sacrificed a minor piece to reach this setting. Too many lines are open on the Black king. Which of these tempting avenues should White select to swiftly end the game?
  • Unsafe King!

    White gave up two pawns to reach this position. All it takes is a little imagination to bring about the fall of Black's sovereign!
  • Minor problem!

    White is the exchange up in this queenless middlegame (the difference between a minor piece and a rook). However, Black has a raging initiative due to the terribly exposed position of White's king.
  • Nasty Surprise!

    White is a pawn up, but Black appears to have seized the initiative. Black just attacked the White queen with the bishop on b5. White's knight and bishop are also under attack, but White has a nasty surprise in store.
  • Stranded King

    White sacrificed a knight to force the Black king to d8. White can certainly transform this asset into something more tangible, but what is the right way?
  • The Key to the Fortress!

    Black is behind in development and has definitely lost control over the game. The position of the Black king on f8 doesn't inspire much confidence!
  • Concealed pin!

    Black believed the king to be well guarded. However, White can take advantage of a concealed pin to swiftly mate the Black monarch!
  • Crossfire!

    White gave up the queen to get a raging attack against the Black ruler. Black is totally underdeveloped, giving White many attractive choices. Which one concludes matters most elegantly?
  • Pulling the cover!

    Black gave up a pawn to reach this setting. White believed that all was safe and just castled queenside. Often it is too dangerous to place the king right next to a diagonal that is controlled by an opponent's piece.
  • King under assault!

    White sacrificed material to gain a lead in development and to drive the Black king into the open.
  • Castle wide open!

    White has given away a bishop to open up Black's castled position. Black's king position on g7 doesn't inspire much confidence.
  • Heavy pieces!

    White's raging attack over Black's poorly defended king easily compensates for the small material deficit: three pawns for two bishops.
  • King in dire straits!

    Black's awful king position can be exploited by White. Too many White units are aiming at the Black monarch on the open file.
  • Hanging queens!

    White is apparently in trouble. White is down a piece and Black now attacks White's d4-pawn, the c4-bishop, the g5-knight, and the f1-rook.
  • Who mates first?

    Black seems to have a good position. He's up two knights and threatens mate with 1...Qb2 mate, 1...Qxc2 with mate, or 1...Rxd1+ with mate. White only seems to have a few spite checks.
  • Key to the fortress!

    White sacrificed a pawn in the opening for an initiative which now has turned into a raging attack against Black's king.
  • King on fire!

    White sacrificed a rook to invade Black's camp. Black's pieces are too randomly placed to help the king on the edge.
  • Centralized king

    Black sacrificed a queen and a knight to attract the White king in the middle of the board. The problem is how to deliver the right checks.
  • Defense or attack?

    At first sight things don't look good for White. Black is a queen up and threatens mate on g2 with the queen. But Black's king is still in its original position. This factor alone gives White chances.
  • Alexander-Bogolyubov

    This is a position from a game played in Great Britain in 1951. Hugh Alexander, playing White, was the No.1 ranked British player from the 1930's to around 1960. He was an extremely dangerous tactician who defeated many of the world's strongest players of that era. What wasn't well known at the time was the role that he and several other of Britain's strongest chess masters played in defeating the Germans in World War II. Alexander and others were recruited into the code breaking efforts at Bletchley...
  • The Deceptive Knight

    This is a roughly even endgame in which White has an extra pawn. In many positions, this pawn would be insufficient for a win, but here White has a few advantages. White's pawn provides a useful shield for White's king which allows both White pieces to occupy active squares rather than defend against possible checks. Black, on the other hand, must be careful, as White may have some useful checks against the exposed king.
  • The Great Knight Fork

    Black is doing well according to common knowledge. The queen slightly outweighs the rook and the knight, but more importantly, Black's king appears much safer than White's, since it is protected by two pawns. White's king, on the other hand, looks vulnerable to checks by the centralized queen. Yet, White may have a maneuver that could show that there are exceptions to almost any rule.
  • Pawnpower

    White has an extra pawn on e5, but the realization of such an advantage is often difficult in this type of ending with many minor pieces (knights and bishops) on the board. As the value of pawns often increases in endings, the value of minor pieces can decrease in relation to the value of pawns. This often allows the defending side to sacrifice a minor piece for a strong pawn in order to attain drawn endings such as knight and bishop vs. a bishop with no pawns on the board. Black, however, is still...
  • The Soul of Chess

    In the 18th century, the French player and chess composer Philidor gained a valuable insight into the mysteries of chess. He called the pawns the soul of the game. This was a new, revolutionary concept. The predominant style and notion up to the 19th century was often that pawns needed to be sacrificed at the right moment to open the position for one's pieces. Philidor realized that pawns did not have to be obstacles for piece development. It takes great skill to use pawns in a manner that allows...
  • Shaky Center

    This sharp position has arisen in the English Attack of the Sicilian Defense. In many open Sicilian positions, White seeks to find direct tactical refutations of Black's opening. After move three when Black trades a c-pawn (on c5) for the White d-pawn in the center (on d4), Black's pawn structure is considered superior. If White doesn't cause any weaknesses in Black's camp during the middlegame, Black is often said to have the better ending chances. In this example, White has taken a tempo to play...
  • Transition from Middlegame to Ending

    In this late middlegame position, White enjoys a large positional advantage. His pieces are more active than Black's counterparts yet White must chose between a tempting mating attack against the Black king and an advantageous conversion of a middlegame advantage into a winning ending. This is problematic for some players who don't know endings very well and go to great lengths to avoid them. Which is the most promising road to choose for White?
  • Knight Tactics

    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.
  • Tortoise and Hare

    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.
  • Undefended Pieces

    Good teamwork possibilities exist for White
  • Reshevsky-Savon

    This is a position from a game played in Petropolis, Brazil in 1973. Sammy Reshevsky, playing White, was probably the second strongest player in U.S. history (the strongest being Bobby Fischer). He was a child prodigy who was said to be of master strength at age eight!! Between the ages of eight and twelve he toured Europe and the U.S. giving exhibitions. Then after giving up chess for a time to pursue his education, he returned in his twenties as one of the strongest grandmasters in the world. For...

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