Mastery: Tactics

Step Up in Tactics

Step Up in Tactics

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

  • Castle in trouble!

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

    • 2 challenges
  • Demolished castled Position!

    Black's material advantage is small consolation for the ruined king's position! When possible, one should avoid getting 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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?

    • 2 challenges
  • Dangerous lines!

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

    • 2 challenges
  • 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!

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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?

    • 2 challenges
  • 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!

    • 2 challenges
  • 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!

    • 2 challenges
  • 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?

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • King under assault!

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

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • Heavy pieces!

    White's raging attack over Black's poorly defended king easily compensates for the small material deficit: three pawns for two bishops.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • Flank Attack

    Black's knight on h2 and the d5-pawn are hanging while the situation in the center is unresolved. No pieces have been exchanged yet, and Black's king has preferred to stay in the center. Black has just won the h2-pawn, but how should the game continue?

    • 2 challenges
  • Who mates first?

    Black seems to have a good position, with two knights and a mate threat. White only seems to have a few spite checks, but...

    • 2 challenges
  • Opening Surprise

    White has sacrificed a knight on d5 and the knight on g5 is hanging as well. On the other hand, both White bishops are controlling the long diagonals, and the White queen is eyeing the h7-square. Does White have any compensation for the sacrificed material at this early stage in the game?

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • With Interest

    How can White best demonstrate that there's compensation for the sacrificed material?

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • Back to the Wall

    White has sacrificed a lot of material to achieve this attacking position. Black, on the other hand, is struggling to develop and to defend the king.

    • 2 challenges
  • Cutoff Man

    White has sacrificed a rook to get a promising attacking position. Black's pieces are not in good shape to help protect the Black king against White's direct assault along the h-file, yet White must play carefully in order to prevent Black from escaping.

    • 2 challenges
  • Alexander-Bogolyubov

    Efim Bogolyubov, playing Black, was twice the challenger for the World Championship. In both matches he was defeated by Alexander Alekhine. Bogolyubov had an interesting rise to prominence in chess. As a Russian citizen playing in a tournament in Mannheim, Germany in 1914, he was interned when World War I began. His fellow prisoners included many of the world's strongest masters. With nothing much else to do they organized tournaments among themselves. Given that high level of competition, Bogolyubov emerged as one of the strongest players in the world by the end of the war. How did he win here?

    • 2 challenges
  • Rybkin-Marchenko

    White has sacrificed a rook for this position. In compensation Black's king is exposed to an attack by the White queen and rook and the Black queen is very poorly placed on h8. Nevertheless, White must continue accurately. What should White play?

    • 3 challenges
  • 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.

    • 3 challenges
  • 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.

    • 3 challenges
  • 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 far from realizing such drawing hopes. Does White have any tools to simplify the arduous task of converting the extra pawn?

    • 3 challenges
  • The Soul of Chess

    The player who has the pawn center often has to go to great lengths to defend the center and space advantage that usually comes along with it while the other side will attempt to place all the pieces to attack the center. In this position, originating from a Closed Sicilian Opening, Black can use pawns well in order to demonstrate that White's piece development was a bit careless.

    • 3 challenges
  • Shaky Center

    This sharp position has arisen in the English Attack of the Sicilian Defense. You're playing Black. Is there something White has overlooked?

    • 3 challenges
  • Transition from Middlegame to Ending

    White must chose between a tempting mating attack against the Black king and an advantageous conversion of a middlegame advantage into a winning ending. Which is the most promising road to choose for White?

    • 3 challenges
  • Pitchfork

    White is down a rook, yet Black's king has been forced into the corner. How can you take advantage?

    • 2 challenges
  • Minor Pieces Against Rooks

    White has two rooks and six pawns against Black's three minor pieces and six pawns. Material is about even, yet White's rooks would prefer to be on open files, e.g. g1 and g3. Ideally rooks love to occupy the seventh rank to cut off the opponent's king and attack pawns from the side or from behind, yet there is no way that Black would allow the rooks to penetrate to e7 or f7. Black's domination would be complete if the g7- knight could reach f4, but there is also a glaring weakness in White's pawn structure, the e4-pawn.

    • 2 challenges
  • Get Out of My Way!

    Black has chosen a popular set-up against the Closed Sicilian, and has well placed pieces. Yet, the c5-pawn is hanging, and White's pawn at d5 is threatening to eat the knight at c6. How can Black solve this temporary inconvenience?

    • 2 challenges
  • Converting an Advantage in the Endgame

    White is down an exchange, and his rook is hanging. This ending is quite interesting, as all of the pieces are on the queenside giving some tactical opportunities. Each side has five pawns which all face each other. This makes it very difficult for one side to obtain a passed pawn through normal means (other than just winning a pawn). Does White have compensation for the sacrificed exchange?

    • 2 challenges
  • Regaining Material

    White has just sacrificed his queen on h8. How long will Black be able to enjoy the material edge in view of White's well placed pieces?

    • 2 challenges
  • 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.

    • 2 challenges
  • A Goal Assist

    White has an extra pawn in this ending. But with only one pawn left, if Black can sacrifice a bishop for the pawn White's king and bishop will not be sufficient material to force checkmate. (Remember that if you don't have any pawns to make into queens then you need to have at least a rook or a bishop plus knight in order to checkmate the lone king).

    • 3 challenges
  • Choke Hold

    Black is up a pawn. But the Black knight is passively placed and it doesn't seem easy to exploit the advantage. Is there a quick way to win?

    • 2 challenges
  • Cross-pin

    Black, hoping to win the White queen, must play carefully in order to avoid defeat. The key to understanding this position lies not only in evaluating whose king is safer, but also in the understanding of all the nuances of pins.

    • 2 challenges
  • Dark Square Domination

    Material is even with Black having a strong bishop for White's knight. How can you prove that the bishop matters?

    • 2 challenges
  • Long Diagonal

    White is a full rook ahead in this Benko Gambit middlegame as Black has just taken the pawn on b2 with his rook. Black has uncomfortable pressure on the dark squares on the queenside. The White queen is on the bishop's long diagonal (g7- a1), and the knight on c3 is pinned to the queen. What kind of compensation may Black have for the material deficit?

    • 2 challenges
  • Pinned Knight

    White's knight on d4 is attacking the Black rook on e6, yet the other Black rook pins the knight to the White queen. Material is even, yet there are tactical chances here that may upset the material balance quite soon. Black must continue accurately if you are to prevent White from moving his queen off the d-file and out of danger. How can Black best ensure that the pin will reap some benefit?

    • 2 challenges
  • Deadly Pin

    Black's pieces on the back rank are having trouble finding active squares, especially the bishop at c8 which is locked in by its own pawns in the center. How should White best continue to keep the attack alive?

    • 2 challenges
  • Troublesome Pin

    Black's rook is on an excellent square and pins the White knight on d4 to the queen. Black must be able to take advantage of the pin immediately as any delay in action will allow White to move the queen to a square like e1, which would unpin the knight. Did Black foresee compensation for the slight deficit in material?

    • 1 challenge
  • Tactical Pawn

    White has sacrificed a queen, and for a moment one may think White is losing. What compensation may White have for a whole queen in the absence of a mate in one?

    • 2 challenges
  • Passed Pawns

    Black has just taken a rook with the queen in order to slow down White's attack. It is important to be able to calculate quickly and efficiently when several pieces are hanging on the board. The passed e-pawn, having advanced to the seventh rank, becomes the center of attention for both players.

    • 2 challenges
  • 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 imagination to avoid simplifications that may result in a good position for Black.

    • 1 challenge
  • Chivalry

    Material is even in this knight ending. However the far advanced a-pawn gives White a winning edge. Things aren't totally simple, though, because with only two pawns left White must be careful about allowing the Black knight to sacrifice itself for the pawn on g4. What is the best way to proceed?

    • 3 challenges
  • Noah's Ark

    This position came about from a Ruy Lopez where White played d4 and the queen recaptured on d4 after an exchange of knights. Material is even and White appears to have the makings of an initiative. What should Black play here?

    • 3 challenges
  • A French Lesson

    White is down an exchange, yet the active rook and knight, combined with the passed e-pawn give plenty of compensation. Black's pieces are merely reacting to White's ideas as they don't occupy any active posts. Can White continue with the plan of breaking the blockade of the e-pawn?

    • 2 challenges
  • Cute Escape

    White is down a bishop and three pawns in this ending. It truly seems to be a position that most tournament players would resign without blinking twice. Yet, White's piece array may allow for an uncommon, yet perfectly legitimate resource to avoid defeat.

    • 2 challenges
  • Fragile Center

    Center pawns were just exchanged on e4 which brought the White queen out to e4. The White queen looks quite strong on this centralized square, especially compared to the Black queen which is "hiding" in the corner. Yet, the truth is almost the opposite.

    • 2 challenges
  • Connected Pawns

    This ending is characteristic of the rook's attempts to stop two connected passed pawns. Without the help of the White king or any other piece, the efforts of the rook are in vain once both pawns have reached at least the sixth rank. In this position, one of the pawns is on the seventh while the other one is on the sixth. White's rook is eyeing the d-pawn carefully, but what resource may Black have in this sleeve?

    • 2 challenges
  • Undefended Pieces

    White's pieces are all working well together, leading to some good opportunities. Try to find them.

    • 3 challenges
  • Crowded Area

    Material is level. If White isn't careful, Black will go after the weak pawn on a3. Hopefully you can find a good trick.

    • 3 challenges
  • Criss Cross

    White is up a pawn and stands to win. What is the quickest way to end the game?

    • 2 challenges
  • 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!! In the position shown it is White to play his fortieth move. Reshevsky was a well known time pressure addict. (International tournament games have time limits, the most common being forty moves in two hours. If you exceed your time allotment before you have made your required number of moves, then you lose automatically no matter what the situation is on the board.) So as usual, on his fortieth and last move to make before the time control when he would get another hour for twenty more moves, Sammy had only a few seconds left.

    • 3 challenges
  • Too Aggressive

    White is down a rook and a pawn, but has strong threats against Black's uncastled king, including mate in two moves. It's Black's turn. How can you turn things around?

    • 1 challenge
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