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Tactical Play in Chess
Tactics are the heart of chess.

Tactics, the heart of chess, are based on the way the pieces move. The most common tactical themes -- the fork, the pin, discovered attack, discovered check, and the xray -- are all based on the double attack.

The following examples are from Emanuel Lasker's Manual of Chess. Lasker was World Champion from 1894 to 1921.


White plays 1.Qb8+. Black responds 1... Kg7 or Kh7. White continues 2.Qa7+, checking the King and attacking the Rook at the same time. We say that the Queen forks the King and the Rook. After White wins the Rook, the rest is easy.

All of the pieces are able to fork the opponent's pieces. A Knight forking the opponent's King, Queen, and a Rook or two is known as a family fork.


White plays 1.Bb2, attacking the Queen. The Queen cannot move off the diagonal because this would leave the black King in check. We say that the Bishop pins the Queen against the King. The best that Black can do is exchange the Queen for the Bishop, when the game will be drawn.

Only the line pieces can pin the opponent's pieces against each other.

Discovered attack

The black Knight appears to be pinned by the white Bishop, but the pin is an illusion. Black plays 1...Ne4+, forking the white King and Bishop and discovering an attack on the Bishop by the black Queen. After White moves out of check, Black will play 2...Nxg5, establishing material equality.

Discovered check

A special case of discovered attack is shown in this diagram. White plays 1.Rxc7+, where the check is not from the Rook, but from the Bishop. This is called a discovered check. A special case of discovered check is where the moving piece also checks the opponent's King. This is called double check. The only response to a double check is a King move.

Black has only 1...Kg8 as a reasonable response. The game continues 2.Rg7+ Kh8 3.Rxb7+, and White will eventually win the Rook on a8. The combined action of the white Rook and Bishop is called a windmill.


Black is on the move and will promote a Pawn before White. After 1...a1Q, White plays 2.h8Q+, winning the black Queen on the next move. This theme is known as an xray and is only executed by the line pieces.

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