Improve Your Tactical Play 7

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Blow up your opponent's position tactically!

Developing a winning combination

Chess combinations can be exceedingly beautiful and make one proud to be a chess player. Non-chess players will never understand the sense of satisfaction that is gained from playing a nice combination especially one which involves a sacrifice!

The combinational motifs or raison d'Ítre for combinations has been discussed under the tactical element assesment section previously.

Romanovsky is famous for his systemization of combinations. The ways and means of the combination were categorised by Romanovsky as the ideas and themes.

These usually include a mixture of the following ingredients:-

The keys to create combinational achievements

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Every chess player may at one time or another use the following tools to achieve combinational ends:-

Forcing moves, eg
A check (Patzer sees a check, gives a check is a popular expression)
A capture 
A threat that must be parried
A decoy
A deflection
A discovered attack, eg discovered check or discovered attack on the queen
A Sacrifice! (Botvinnik argued in "Towards a definition of a combination", Botvinniks Chess Activity Volume 1 that a combination is a forced variation with a sacrifice.
Quieter moves which may subtely assist in the combination, e.g
Waiting moves !
A Pin (Pin and win)
Square vacation
Line Opening

Combinational achievements to blow your trumpet about!

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A successful combination should lead to a clear advantage for the player who initated it. The clear advantage could be expressed in terms of the following:-

A Checkmate or mating attack
A Material gain of some sort, eg:-
A double Attack winning material
A trapped piece
A Skewered piece
A pawn promotion

The combinational toolbox examined

Forcing moves


Forcing moves can be used to gain critical tempos which facilitate an unstoppable attack or win material. The opponents queen is often a good piece to gain tempos from, in order to implement a winning attack. It is a highly "threat-sensitive" piece as a logical consequence of it's high material value. 

Forcing moves can also be used to simply win material by force from seemingly non-dangerous positions. This is one of the key reasons that they should be given priority in the calculation of variations.


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Forcing moves starting with pawn sac          Material gain

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Fischer - Benko, Yugoslavia 1959

Fischer exploits the position of the threat-sensitive queen on c5 to gain time for a very strong attack with e5!

The game continuation was dxe5 15.Bxf6 (another forcing move) gxf6 16.Nce4 (gaining the tempo) Qd4 17.Qh5 Nxb3 18.Qh6 exf4 19.Nh5 f5 20.Rad1 Qe5 21.Nef6+ Bxf6 22.Nxf6+ Qxf6 23.Qxf6 Nc5 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Qe7 Ba6 26.Qxc5 Bxf1 27.Rxf1 1-0

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Forcing moves        Material gain
                                (trapped queen)

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Tal-Larsen Reykjavik 1957

An unsuspecting Larsen has just played Rac8. With 2 forcing moves, White wins the black queen by force with b4! Qa4 and Ra3. Larsen played Rxd5 and eventually lost.

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Forcing moves        Material gain

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Tal-Larsen, Portoroz 1958

Here Tal unleashed a series of forcing moves which ended up winning material. Tal played e5!  The continuation was dxe5 20.Ne4 0-0-0 21.Ng3 Qg4 22.Nxe5 Qh4 23.Qc3+ Kb8 24.Nxd7+ 1-0

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Forcing move(Queen sac)          Material gain through a knight folk

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Tal-Tringov, Munich 1958

This example shows that one should definitely consider apparent queen sacrifices, if they are forcing. Tal play Qxd7+ which wins a piece because after Kxd7 Nc5 wins the black queen.

Decoys/ Deflections

Effective decoys/deflections within a middlegame context are often used to attract key defensive pieces away from their critical tasks. These usually involve defending the opponent's king in some way. But decoys can occur in the endgame, for example an outside passed pawn can be used to decoy the opponent's king so that another pawn may queen.


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Decoy (Rook sac)        Mating attack/ winning material by force

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Tal - Veder, Riga 1951

Here the rook on d7 is helping defend the g7 square. Tal played Re1!! attempting to lure the rook away from this defensive task. His opponent played Qc5 and lost quickly after Be6. However if Rxe1, there is a forced mate, eg Rxe1 Nf6+ Kh8 hxg7+ mating, or in this line if Kf8 instead of Kh8 then hxg7+ Ke7 Ne4+ Ke8 Nd6 mate.

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            Deflection              Material gain (the black queen)

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Tal-Benko, Amsterdam 1964

Here Tal played the Rd8+! deflecting the black queen to d8 allowing Nxf7+ folking the black queen and king.

Line Opening

Opening lines of attack against the opponents king is like creating new roads!. These new roads can be used to develop unresistable pressure.

Examples of Line Opening

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Line Opening        Winning attack

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Spassky-Fischer 1992

Here Fischer played e5!, and after white played dxe6 the a1-h8 diagonal was opened up for exploitation with Bc6! increasing the pressure on White's position. The game continued Kf1 Bxf3 0-1

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Line opening (Pawn sac)        Strong king attack

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Tal-Teslenko URS 1964

Here Tal was intent on opening up the b2-h8 diagonal against the black king. The preliminary to this move was g4!. The game continued:-  Be3 18.gxf5 exf5 19.e6 Bxe6 20.Ng5 Bd7 21.Qh5 h6 22.Qg6 1-0


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Forcing move(Bishop sac)          Material gain (queen)

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Fischer vs Reshevsky New York ch, 1958

Here Fischer exploits a latent subtle pin on the d file, with Bxf7+!! and after Kxf7 Ne6 Fischer trapped Reshevsky's queen.

Discovered attack

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Forcing move(Pawn sac)          Material gain (White queen)

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Huebner vs Kasparov, Koln 1992

An unsuspecting Huebner played Bd3 here, and Kasparov unleashed the deadly f5! with the continuation Qxf5 Nf6 winning white's trapped queen 0-1