Chess Tactics for Beginners

As a beginner, I was first taught to always focus on developing my pieces and castling my king, so that I would come out of the opening phase with a decent position.

Like any beginner, I didn’t have much trouble with that part; time and time again, I would develop my knights and bishops, and then castle short.

When all that was said and done, I was pretty much on my own in the middlegame. Unless my opponent would help me by hanging their pieces, I didn’t have a clear plan as to what the next step should be.

In other words, I somewhat struggled with finding tactics.

In this article, we will explore the various chess tactics for beginners to employ in their games. Whether you’re a beginner looking to solve the same problem I had or even an established player interested in a refresher, you’ve come to the right place.

Chess Tactics: The Key to Victory

In the world of chess, tactical prowess often makes the difference between a good player and a great one.

Tactics are the sharp-edged tools in a player’s arsenal, allowing them to create threats, seize opportunities, and outmaneuver their opponents.

We will focus on three essential chess tactics: forks, pins, and skewers, shedding light on how these strategic maneuvers can turn the tide of a game in your favor.

The Fork: Attacking Multiple Targets

A fork is a tactical maneuver where one piece simultaneously attacks two or more enemy pieces, forcing the opponent to make a difficult choice.

Example 1

A typical fork scenario occurs when a knight on f7 attacks both the queen on d8 and the rook on h8. Your opponent can only save one of these pieces, and you’ll capture the other. The bishop on c4 is protecting the knight, so the Black king cannot capture it.

Fork: Example 1
Fork: Example 1

Even better, a knight can attack both the king and queen. This would be a royal fork, and is considered a game-winning move because the opponent would have no choice but to respond to the check by moving the king, so there is no stopping losing the queen, which is the most valuable piece.

Forks aren’t exclusive to knights. Take a look at the next example.

Example 2

A common fork happens when a bishop on c6 delivers a check while also attacking the enemy rook on a8. Such a position can arise if Black is careless and delays castling. Once the king moves out of check, the bishop can capture the rook.

Fork: Example 2
Fork: Example 2

The Black queen can capture the bishop back, but a rook is worth more than a bishop, so White would win material in this exchange.

Many people use the terms fork and double attack interchangeably. However, there is an important distinction between the two.

I have written a detailed article explaining the difference with practical examples, so have a look at it if you’re interested.

The Pin: Restricting Freedom

A pin restricts the movement of an opponent’s piece.

Example 1

The bishop on b4 pins the knight on c3 to the king. In chess, it is not a legal move to put your own king in check. This means that the knight is not allowed to move, as it would expose the White king to the bishop’s attack.

This type of pin is called an absolute pin.

Pin: Example 1
Pin: Example 1

As things stand, the knight is completely out of the game. Therefore, Black should definitely not capture the knight at this point, but rather try to exploit its frozen state. For example, the knight can no longer guard the pawn on e4, so Black can capture it with the bishop on b7.

Example 2

The bishop on g5 pins the knight on f6 to the queen. This type of pin is called a relative pin.

Unlike the absolute pin, the knight is allowed to move. However, moving the knight would be a big blunder as it would expose the bishop’s attack on the queen, allowing it to be captured.

Pin: Example 2
Pin: Example 2

Just like in the previous example, White should not capture the Black knight immediately, but consider ways of capitalizing on this pin.

It is always a good idea to put pressure on the pinned piece (PP on the PP). For example, White can move the knight on c3 to d5, which adds an attacker to the pinned Black knight.

The Skewer: An X-ray Attack

A skewer (or x-ray attack) is an attack on a valuable opposing piece that has a less valuable piece behind it. Once the valuable piece is moved, the less valuable piece can be captured. In a way, a skewer can be thought of as being a pin in reverse.

Example 1

A game-winning skewer occurs when a queen (or bishop) attacks a diagonal on which both the opposing king and queen are placed. The Black king on e6 is in check, so it must move, allowing the Black queen on b3 to be captured.

Skewer: Example 1
Skewer: Example 1
Example 2

The White bishop on f3 attacks the Black queen on b7. Black has to move the queen to safety, but the loss of the rook on a8 is inevitable.

Skewer: Example 2
Skewer: Example 2

Of course, capturing the bishop with the queen is not a viable option, as the White queen on g3 would simply capture back, resulting in an even greater material loss.

Practice Makes Perfect

Using tactics like forks, pins, and skewers can significantly improve your chess game. Here are some tips to sharpen your tactical skills:

  • Pattern Recognition: Pay attention to recurring tactical patterns. Over time, you’ll develop an intuitive sense for when these tactics can be applied.
  • Visualize: Before making a move, visualize the entire sequence of moves, including any tactics that may arise.
  • Be Patient: Don’t rush into tactics if the position doesn’t favor them. Sometimes, a waiting move or a strategic maneuver can set the stage for a powerful tactic later in the game.
  • Analyze Your Games: Review your own games to identify missed opportunities for tactics. Learning from your mistakes is a crucial part of improvement.

Wrapping Up

Mastering chess tactics like forks, pins, and skewers can give you a significant advantage on the chessboard. These tactical maneuvers require careful calculation, visualization, and pattern recognition.

By incorporating them into your collection of strategies, you can enhance your ability to create threats, seize opportunities, and outmaneuver your opponents, ultimately improving your chess game and leading to more victories on the board.

If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with chess tactics, please leave me a comment. I would love to have a chat with you.

6 thoughts on “Chess Tactics for Beginners”

  1. Hello, I’ve always dreamed of playing chess. But I always thought that I wasn’t bright enough for that and it always seemed to be quite complicated! I like the tactics, and especially the X-ray one. It seems like you have to practice often to be a successful chess player. And you must be very patient as well. Tell me, can you use all these tactics during the same game?

    • There may be some correlation between intelligence and chess skill, but you definitely don’t have to be a genius to play. In fact, there are many amazing chess players who aren’t generally smart in life.

      Indeed, improving your chess game does take practice and patience. I have written a guide for beginners, so please have a look at it.

      You can definitely use multiple tactics in the same game, but it depends on the position and the chances you get. Often times, it is your opponent’s mistake that paves the way for a tactic.

  2. This post provides a clear and informative guide to chess tactics for beginners. The explanations and examples for forks, pins, and skewers are easy to follow, making it a valuable resource for those looking to enhance their chess skills.

    You’ve emphasised the importance of practising tactics and pattern recognition to improve one’s chess game. Could you recommend specific resources or websites where beginners can find tactical puzzles and exercises to practice these skills effectively?

  3. Hello Yusuf and thank you for your post!  

    I was fortunate enough to have learned chess at an early age. I think I was about 8 years old. A boy in the neighborhood had a father with enough foresight to introduce his son to the game. There were three of us in the neighborhood who liked to play. The other fellas were 12 and I was 8 so they had a bit of an advantage starting out. But I learned quickly and grew to love the game. I think children benefit immensely by learning how to play chess.

    My wife and I play from time to time now. She is very skilled and very clever so it is always an interesting session.

    I thought your content was absolutely superb and I enjoyed the read immensely. I especially liked your use of imagery to illustrate the tactics you were discussing. I agree with you that, for the novice, your content is going to be very valuable. And yes, for someone like myself with some experience, I found the refresher most entertaining.  

    I enjoy your content Yusuf. Keep it coming and I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

    Grant R


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