Chess Terms


Desperado is a pseudo-Spanish alteration of the English word "desperate." But what does it have to do with chess? It turns out that desperado is also a chess tactic that can make a bad situation a little more bearable or even give you an edge.

Here is what you need to know about the desperado:

What Is A Desperado In Chess?

A desperado tactic happens in chess when a player makes one last advantageous move with a piece that cannot be saved from being captured. The falling piece can take an enemy piece or damage the position of the opponent before being captured.

The desperado in chess.
The knight is trapped and cannot be saved, so it takes a pawn before being captured.

Why Is Desperado Important?

Chess players know that losing pieces is a part of a game. But why not let your falling warriors give you one last help before they depart?

As players get better, the slightest advantage can be enough to determine who will win a game. The desperado tactic is useful because it can give the player who employs it such an edge or lessen the advantage your opponent has over you after you blunder.

We can see an example of this tactic being applied by Black in this game between two former world champions, GM Tigran Petrosian and GM Bobby Fischer. In the position below, Petrosian had just captured the e5-pawn with his knight, uncovering an attack on Fischer's knight on h5.

A desperado move by GM Bobby Fischer.
GM Tigran Petrosian takes a pawn and uncovers an attack on the black knight.

If Fischer had captured the knight with 12...dxe5, Petrosian would have played 13.Qxh5 and would be a pawn up. Being aware of that, Fischer first played a desperado move and took Petrosian's g3-pawn with his soon-to-be-captured knight. Only after Petrosian captured the black knight did Fischer proceed to take the white knight on e5.

Fischer plays a desperado move.
GM Bobby Fischer captures a final pawn before losing his knight.

As you can see, spotting these tactics can be the difference between playing the rest of the game down material or not. Although it may seem like one pawn is not much of a difference, that advantage alone can determine a game's outcome.

Test Your Skills

Now that you know about the desperado tactic, it is time for you to test your skills. Solve each of the puzzles below with your newly acquired knowledge about this tactical motif.

Puzzle 1: Black has just threatened your queen with their pawn. Can you take advantage of the position to win material?

Puzzle 2: Those two black connected pawns look like bad news. Can you play a desperado move to win material and neutralize Black's threat?

Puzzle 3: What is Black's best move in this position?


You now know what the desperado tactic is and how to win more chess games using it. Try out our premium membership and head over to our puzzle's Learning section to practice desperado tactics.

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