Tactics - Simplicity over Style

Posted by Caleb Denby,

simple tactics over style

Tactics come in a wide variety of forms, and go by many different and confusing names. For example, "zwischenzug", "intermezzo", and "inbetweener" are three terms from three different languages that all mean the same thing, and one arguably isn't even a real word.

Despite the creative naming schemes, all tactics share the same goal. All tactics are about creating unsolvable problems for the opponent. However, whether these tactics win the game for you depends on how they create these problems.

Keeping this goal in mind helps one understand positions like the following:

tactics fork

Here, White has the option of playing a fork with 1. f4?!. Personally, I get very excited at any opportunity to play a tactic, but it's important to understand that this fork is in fact, not a successful tactic. Black is able to escape from this fork with 1... Bd4!

tactics fork

Position after 1. f4!? Bd4!

After 1... Bd4!, it's actually White who is in trouble due to the pin on the knight. The game could continue 2. fxg5 Bxe3+ 3. Kg2 Bxg5 where white loses a pawn or 2. Kf2 Ne4+! 3. Bxe4 fxe4 where it is impossible for white to remove the pin on Bd4-Ne3-Kf2 without losing the white knight.

tactics fork

Position after 2. Kf2? Ne4+! 3. Bxe4 fxe4 -+

The good news for White is that the simpler move, 1. Nd5, does create an unsolvable problem.

tactics fork

Position after 1. Nd5 ±

After 1. Nd5, black simply cannot defend the b6 pawn and white will capture it on the following turn.

While Nd5 doesn't appear to be a tactic in the traditional sense, it's the only move that gives White a significant advantage.

Everyone loves to win in style, but direct moves can be much better than counterfeit tactics. In your own games, you can avoid mistakes like f4 by remaining cautious and alert whenever you think you've spotted a tactical win. And as always, don't be afraid to play a good, simple move.

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About Author

Caleb Denby is a national master from the St. Louis area. He grew up playing chess at the St. Louis Chess Club, where he works as one of the club's assistant managers.


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