March 8, 2015

Pattern recognition in chess – fork

In chess, top players usually say that there are some tactical patterns which one should be able easily to recognize to become a strong player. That’s true indeed. For instance, there is a quote from a famous player:
The chief factor in chess skill is the storing of patterns in the mind, and the recognition of such patterns in actual play.
- C.J.S. Purdy 
One good way of learning chess is to build a vocabulary of patterns to help us find the best moves on the board. The practice is like using flashcards to improve one’s mathematical skills or language vocabulary.
True, the young chess player’s development starts with the growth of his/her tactical thinkingas most chess games are won through employing tactics. Tactics help you think ahead to recognize patterns and calculate to see how these patterns can work in your games.
Today, we’ll discuss a particular pattern – forks:)
“What is a fork?”
This is a tactic that any piece can deliver whereby a single move makes two separate threats at the same time – one of the most common tactical devices in chess.
Let me show you some examples:
Pieces in action
Diagram 1
Black to move
1. Although it’s Black’s turn, he can’t keep his extra rook in the game. White’s last move e3-e4 forces one of the attacked units to be captured next move. This is how a humble pawn gets into action.
Diagram 2
Black to move
2. The knight fork is perhaps the most deadly form of double attack. Note that both enemy pieces stand on the light-coloured square – that’s a warning sign to remember. White wins by capturing the queen after Black moves out of check (no way to interpose a knight check).
Diagram 3
White to move
3. The above example shows the wonder of the bishop when the diagonals of its own colour are open. Black wins, as White cannot defend both threats – a check on the king and an attack against the undefended rook.
Diagram 4
Black to move
4. The mighty rook attacks the loose minor pieces simultaneously along the fifth rank. White should win here, as there’s no means to save both units in one move.
Diagram 5
Black to move
The queen is “star of double attacks“, as she can move in any diagonal direction, vertically (along a file) and horizontally (along a rank) in a wide-open board. She controls a large number of squares when unobstructed by other pieces and will snatch the black rook on White’s turn.
Diagram 6
Black to move
6. The king forks enemy pieces on adjacent squares and saves the day. Black can save his knight by moving it to g3 but will leave the bishop unprotected; and so White captures next move – with no mating forces left – it’s a draw.
A fork is considered one of the fundamentals of all tactics, as it allows a player to impose his/her will on the opponent who can’t make two moves in a row to parry simultaneous threats.
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Now, let’s see if you can recognize such patterns on your own. :)
Try it yourself
Exercise 1: Level – Easy
White to move
Exercise 2: Level – Medium
White to move 
Exercise 3: Level – Hard
Black to move
After calculating all possible variations, you can check the answers here: LINK
Pieces and pebbles – This chess drill will help you notice and create forks (or double attacks) instantly.
You will be using pebbles to mark all squares that will simultaneously attack both knights (see diagram above as a sample), using the power of the pieces that act on a line (diagonal, rank and file).
The exercise will continue by moving the knights towards the centre of the board and finishes upon touching all the squares once (32 for each knight) or when the knights intersect at mid-board.

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