Friday, October 17, 2014

Tricks to Create Threats

When calculating forcing lines it is important to look at checks, captures, and threats.  While checks and captures are the easiest to find and count, finding threats can require creativity and can be very challenging.  This is because the term "threats" is intended to cover a broad range of things that aren't checks or captures.  Threats can range from the very clear tactical devices (pins, skewers, remove the guard, etc) to the less obvious strategic themes (pawn structure, better minor piece, etc).  It can even include "threats" to simplify the position into a won endgame, or "threats" to force a draw.

It is impossible in this blog post to cover all of the "threats" that you need to be aware of in chess, but I have found two tricks for looking for mate-in-1 threats and tactical themes:

To find mate threats, pretend that you (or your opponent) can make two moves:

  • Look for pieces that are currently attacking squares next to the king (helper). Can you add an attacker (hunter) to any of those squares that can give mate on the second move?
  • Or vice versa – look for pieces that can currently give check (hunter) but who just need a helper.

To find tactics:

  • Pretend you can pick up ANY piece, and place it on ANY square. Are there any queen forks on the board? Any rook pins? Bishop skewers? Knight forks? If so, look for ways to get your piece there.
So the next time you're running through your exercises or are doing Stoyko positions, give these ideas a shot.  They have worked for me!

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