Tactics in a Common Chess Game

The following game was played recently in a senior-citizen-center chess club in West Valley, Utah. Neither player is a master, yet they are no beginners. Both are experienced in typical club competition, and this game illustrates a few tactical points.

White is played by a former tournament player, with experience in chess-book studies and tactical training. Black is played by a quick mover who gives little time to thinking through moves but who sometimes sees opportunities with tactics. He’s learned from playing many games in recent years, including games in this chess club.

1. c4    e5

2. Nc3  Bc5

White (Jonathan) to move

Diagram-1  a common beginning (English Opening) for these two club players

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3. e3    Nf6

4. Nf3  e4?    This loses a pawn. Nc6 or d6 would have protected the pawn at e5.

5. Ng5 . . . .  Black now has no long-term way to protect that pawn.

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White moved Ng5 to win a pawn

Diagram-2  after White moved Ng5

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If Black protects that pawn with Qe7, White will attack it again with Qc2. The pawn is doomed.

5.  . . . . .  h6

6. Ngxe4  Nxe4

7. Nxe4   Bb6

Black has no compensation for the loss of that pawn.

8. d4     d6

9. Bd3   Bf5

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White to move in this informal chess club gameDiagram-3  after Black moved Bf5

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White saw the possibility of now capturing the d6 pawn (Nxd6) but he did not like the complications that could happen after Black would get his queen to c4 (with check).

10. O-O    O-O

11. Qc2    d5

12. cxd5   Qxd5

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after Black moved Qxd5

Diagram-4  after Black moved Qxd5 (do you see White’s best move now?)

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Notice that the black bishop at f5 (in Diagram-4) is protected only once, but if White’s knight were not on e4 then that black bishop would be attacked twice (by the bishop on d3 and by the white queen). This is the point of the following combination that greatly weakens Black’s king side pawns and gives the attacker the advantage of the two bishops.

13. Nf6+   gxf6

14. Bxf5   c5

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White to move

Diagram-5  after Black moved c5

White’s best move now is probably e4, opening up an important diagonal for the bishop at c1. The kingside attack that would soon follow would probably force Black to give up a lot of material to avoid mate. Yet White wanted to soon exchange queens, for he would be a pawn ahead with additional benefits in the end game.

15. dxc5   Bxc5

Trying to exchange queens with Qxc5 would have been better for Black, for the white queen may soon become deadly in a kingside attack against the black king. In that context, the white queen is clearly more valuable than the black queen, in this position—much more valuable.

After Black moved Bxc5, White’s best move would still be e4, giving the c1-bishop access to h6 and freeing the white queen to maneuver itself to the kingside. Yet he was satisfied to get into a position to exchange queens, if possible, and arrive at a winning end game.

16. Rd1   Qe5

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White could get a great kingside attack with e4

Diagram-6  White should now play e5

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17. Qe4    . . . . .  White had about a dozen moves that would have been better than Qe4

17. . . . .    Qc7    Black also had about a dozen moves better than the one made (Qc7)

For a short while, neither player appreciated the potential attack that White could have on the kingside. The black king would be almost defenseless against any concerted attack by White. Black focused on avoiding what White wanted: the exchange of queens. Both players were mistaken in their objectives on the seventeen move, regarding that exchange.

To understand White’s temporary blindness, be aware that he had decades of playing experience, with some of those games involving winning end games in which his opponent had weak pawns which he eventually captured. He won many games that way. (He also had read many chess books, some of which illustrated winning in the end game.)

18. Qg4+    Kh8

At last White recognized the opportunity of attacking the black king. The best 19th move for White would now be e4.

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White to move - winning attack on the kingside

Diagram-7  after Black moved Kh8

19. Qh5    . . . .  much better would have been moving that white pawn to e4

19. . . . .    Kg7

20. Qg4+  Kh8

21. e4     . . . .  at last White advanced that pawn

21. . . . .    Rg8  probably the best defense, although Black is essentially lost

22. Qh4    Bf8

23. Bxh6   . . . .

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Black should move Rg6, but this is still losing

Diagram-8  after White moves Bxh6

Black should now resign or move Rg6, but the game is essentially over. After Black moves Rg6, White can move Bf4+, winning the queen, for If Black would then move Rh6 then the dark-squared white bishop would capture that rook, and mate would soon follow. The actual game ended in a quick checkmate.

23. . . . .   Bxh6

24. Qxh6# (mate)

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This is a book for the average (or below average) person who just wants a little help in winning a chess game against somebody who already knows a little bit about winning.

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