This week we are going to look at some examples to get you used to creating basic combinations. We’ll start with a simple skewer that can be executed in a single move and then add additional pieces to this initial position to force you into creating a sequence of moves that will end up with the same result, winning a piece by using a skewer . This method applies to any tactic. A method you can use to figure out how tactics are created is to work backwards through a problem. Start with the solution and work back to the start of it. Lets jump right in!
Set up the Black Queen on a8 and the Black King on f8. Set up the White King on e1 and a White Rook on h1. A key point I want to make is that either player has the opportunity to skewer the other player, depending upon whose turn it is. I mention this because beginners will often spot a potential tactic and start building up their position to exploit that tactic. Unfortunately, they only see their pawns and pieces and the location of the tactic. What are they not looking at? Their opponent’s position! Why look at your opponent’s position? Because your opponent may have a tactical opportunity and, if it’s their turn, they may beat you to the punch, launching their own tactical play before you have a chance to launch yours. Always look at the overall position first, examining the board for tactics or attacks your opponent can launch.
There is a big difference between White and Black’s position. It has to do with the two pieces that would execute the skewer. White’s Rook can only win the Black Queen by moving to h8, checking Black’s King and then capturing the Black Queen on a8. Black, on the other hand, can win White’s Rook on h1 in one of three ways. The Black Queen could move to a1 and Skewer the White King, winning the White Rook on h1, fork the White King and Rook by moving to e4, or simply capture the Rook on h1, checking the White King as well. Fortunately, it’s White to move in this example. White plays 1. Rh8+, and when the Black King moves, the Black Queen is lost.
This was an easy skewer since it only required one move. Let’s add a few more pieces to our initial position. Place a second Rook on h2 and a Black Bishop on e5. While a more advanced player would see this as a simple problem to solve (skewering Black’s King and Queen), the beginner is often completely lost. Let’s say it is White to move. The beginner is going to think about the value of the pieces after noticing that the Black Bishop is protecting the h8 square. The beginner ponders whether or not they should trade a five point Rook for a three point Bishop (1. Rh8+…Bxh8) and decides it would be a bad trade. The beginner might then try to check the Black King with a move like 1. Rf1+.
The mistake here is that the beginner is only thinking about the current move, not thinking ahead a few moves. Thinking ahead is what chess is all about, especially when it comes to combinations! If the beginner had thought ahead and played through the sequence of moves, 1. Rh8+…Bxh8, 2. Rh8+…Ke7, 3. Rxa8, he or she would see that this sequence leads to White being ahead in material with a completely winning position. .
This idea of thinking ahead is the key to creating combinations. While the beginner might stumble into a tactical opportunity that can be employed in one move, that will end as soon as they play someone with a stronger skill set. When creating combinations, you have to first see the tactical opportunity, pieces aligned along the same rank, file or diagonal and then determine whether or not you can get a piece into a position to take advantage of your opponent’s position. This is what we are going to get into during the next few weeks. For now, I want you to take the two pieces you added to the initial position (the Black Bishop and White Rook) and randomly place them on the board. The only caveat is that you cannot place a piece that checks either King. Just plop them on a square. Then, try working out potential skewers and pins for both sides. This simple exercise will help you create longer combinations when we add even more pieces to our initial position next week. Here’s a game to enjoy until then.
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