Middlegame Tactics

U9s | U14s


  1. Play slowly and carefully
  2. Know the basic tactics
  3. Practise spotting tactics by doing puzzles
  4. Always think about what your opponent can do to you!


Try to avoid mistakes

Most of the games we see have unforced mistakes in them, and they usually decide who wins the game.

But you can do a lot to make sure you don't make blunders. Here are three tips:

  • 1. Play slowly and carefully -- don't reply to a move straight away
    • You don’t get any points for finishing quickly! Even if you win, you can easily miss something by playing quickly, and if you lose– well, you might not have lost if you had played slower!
    • You should aim to use MOST of your time in every game. This is hard to judge, but, if you have 50 minutes for the whole game, you will probably have an average of a minute to spend on every move. That’s time enough to write down your opponent’s move, spot their threats, think of your own move, check it and play it.
    • If your opponent plays quickly, ignore it!
  • 2. Practise spotting tactics
    • You should know all the basic tactics (mates, forks, pins, skewers, discoveries, nets, ties) and be able to find them quickly in puzzles and over the board in their one- and two-move versions.
    • So, solve puzzles in books and on websites: there are new free puzzles every day online!
    • Once you have finished a book of puzzles, do it again! The point is to make sure you spot things quicklywhile you are playing a game, and can use your thinking time to best effect.
  • 3.Get into good habits of thinking -- most importantly...
    • After your opponent has moved, ask yourself:
      • i. what threats does my opponent have right now?
      • ii. what threats do I have right now?
    • and after you have chose a move, but before making it, ask yourself:
      • iii. does my chosen move give my opponent a new threat?

The six basic tactics

You should know by now to look out for chances to take a piece for nothing.

Sometimes the chance is hidden but you can find it!

Mates |Jumps |Forks |Nets |Pins |Ties


This is an example of checkmate This is a checkmate from a real game
The white King is in check, and cannot escape. It's checkmate. This is a short game with a checkmate

			[Event "Checkmates"]
			[White "O'Brien,G"]
			[Black "LauerSmith,J "]
			[Site "Australia ch girls (5), "]
			[Date "1995"]
			[ECO "C57"]
			[Annotator "Queen and Knight "]
			[Result "0-1"]

			1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Nxe4 5.Nxf7 Qf6 6.Nxh8 {# White liked the look of Black's Rook, but not Black's reply} 6...Qxf2# { This is like Scholar's Mate, but the job of the Bishop is done by the Black Knight} 0-1

This is an example of jump move (discovered attack) This is a jump move (discovered attack) from a real game
The Knight can hop to c6, and the Rook calls check.

It's as if the Rook jumps out from behind the Knight!

Black will lose the Queen.

This is a short game with a jump move (discovered attack)

			[Event "3.1 Jumps"]
			[Site "North Wilkesboro,NC, "]
			[Date "1976.??.??"]
			[Round "?"]
			[White "Wall, B."]
			[Black "Hamilton, H."]
			[Result "1-0"]
			[ECO "C41"]
			[Annotator "Jumping Knight"]
			[PlyCount "19"]
			[EventDate "1976.??.??"]

			1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Bc4 Bg4 5. Nc3 Nxe4 6. Nxe4 d5 7. dxe5 Bxf3 8.
			Qxf3 Nc6 9. Bxd5 Qxd5 {# White's Queen would like to jump over the white
			Knight to take the black Queen, so the white Knight jumps out of the way with
			check!} 10. Nf6+ 1-0

This is an example of fork. This is a fork from a real game
The Knight attacks the Queen, but also calls check.

The Knight attacks two pieces at once,

and Black can't solve both problems in one move.

This is a short game with a fork

			[Event "Fork"]
			[White "Greco,G"]
			[Black "NN "]
			[Site "Italy?, "]
			[Date "1801"]
			[ECO "C41"]
			[Annotator "An ancient Queen fork"]
			[Result "1-0"]

			1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.h3?! Nf6 4.c3 Nxe4? {# After the Knight, the piece that is best for forks is the Queen} 5.Qa4+ c6 6.Qxe4 1-0

This is an example of net This is a net from a real game
The white Knight is being attacked, but cannot escape.

Any piece can be netted.

A checkmate is really a net for the King

This is a short game with a net

			[Event "Net"]
			[White "W"]
			[Black "B"]
			[Site "?"]
			[Date "?"]
			[ECO "C60"]
			[Annotator "The Noah's Ark Trap"]
			[Result "0-1"]

			1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.d4 b5 6.Bb3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Nxd4 8.Qxd4? c5 9.Qd5 Be6 10.Qc6+ Bd7 11.Qd5 {# A net of a Bishop... This happens a lot: remember it!} 11...c4 0-1

Pins and skewers
This is an example of pin This is a pin from a real game
The Black Queen is being attacked, but cannot escape.

If it moves, the black King will be in check.

The Queen is pinned against the King.

A skewer is when the more important piece is in front,

and the piece that is lost is the one behind.

The White King is in check.

It has to move, then the white Rook is lost.

The skewer goes through the King to stab the Rook.

This is a short game with a pin

			[Event "Pin"]
			[White "Davis,M"]
			[Black "Calabria,J "]
			[Site "E Lansing ch-MI opB (1), "]
			[Date "1993"]
			[ECO "C48"]
			[Annotator "A long pin"]
			[Result "1-0"]

			1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bb5 d5? 5.Nxe5 Qd6 6.0-0 Qxe5? 7.exd5 Ng4 {# White's next move pins across the whole board} 8.Re1 Qxe1+ 9.Qxe1+ 1-0

This is an example of tie This is a tie from a real game
Black's Queen and Bishop are both being attacked

but both are defended by the King.

But the King can't really do two jobs at once.

If White takes the Bishop with check,

Black dare not take back, or the Queen will be undefended,

so the Bishop is lost for nothing.

If White takes the Queen with check,

Black must take back, and again the Bishop is lost.

This is a short game with a tie.

			[Event "Tie"]
			[White "Levy"]
			[Black "Vaca "]
			[Site "Skopje ol, "]
			[Date "1982"]
			[ECO "C44"]
			[Annotator "Kicking away the ladder"]
			[Result "1-0"]

			1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3 d5 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Bg4 8.Be2 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qxd4 {# Black's Queen is guarded, but:}10.Bxc6+ { The check means that Black can't take White's Queen first} 1-0

There are other names for tactics, but they all come from these ideas.

You can find a course in chess tactics on this site with lots more examples and details.