This page contains an exhaustive list of Chess tactics that would benefit any player to bookmark. There is a table of contents that you can use to navigate through the page by clicking on one of the names. If you’re looking for a specific tactic within another tactic, refer to the parent tactic for the sub-tactics. For example, if you’re looking for an absolute pin, refer to the pin tactic.
First, let’s quickly go over a couple questions that are commonly asked.
What is a Chess Tactic?
In Chess, a Tactic is a a strategic method consisting typically with a series of moves in order to gain an advantage over an opponent. The advantage could be one or multiple different types, such as positional, a capturing a piece gaining a material advantage, rapid development.
How Much of Chess is Tactics?
Richard Teichmann, a German Chess Master in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s said, “Chess is 99% tactics”. It may not be quite as high as 99%, but tactics do make up the majority of the game of Chess.
How Many Chess Tactics Are There?
The number of different tactics in Chess is extensive, however there are only a few primary types of tactics that are seen in the majority of cases. However, the list of Chess tactics below go over nearly all different types.
In Chess, Attraction is a tactic used to move an enemy piece by luring or by force to a square that makes the enemy vulnerable to other tactical patterns against that piece or against the enemy overall.
In this example, 17 c3-c4! entices Black e6-bishop onto line of c7-queen for a pin.
In Chess, the term battery is used to describe when a player lines up two pieces along on the same rank, file, or diagonal that can both attack the same piece or square. This means Queens, Rooks, and Bishops are the only pieces that can form a battery on the board. Rooks
Two Rooks Battery
Rooks can form a battery on a rank or file. The example below is a battery formed by Spassky.
Queen and Rook Battery
And Queens can form a battery with a Rook or Bishop on a file, rank, or diagonal.
Queen and Bishop Battery
Bishops can form one half of a battery on a diagonal along with a Queen. The game below is from illustrated a battery with a bishop and queen.
Alekhine’s Gun Battery
Alekhine’s Gun refers to when a battery is formed with two Rooks with the Queen also stacked on the same file or rank directly behind the Rooks.
The position below illustrates an example of the Alekhine’s Gun tactic. This example is from the game where this tactic got its name, being named after Alexander Alekhine.
Clearance is the tactic used to free (or clear) a specific square in order to occupy that square yourself or for some other benefit.
The move 40. Bc7 is a Clearance tactic for an open file to wreak havoc.
In Chess, a counter-threat is a very useful tactic used to counter a threat posed by the enemy, typically by a more powerful threat since a less powerful threat wouldn’t deter the enemy.
One of many types of checks in Chess, a cross-check refers to when a player blocks the opponents check while putting the enemy king in check with the same move.
Decoy’s are used to gain the attention of your opponent in attempts to cause them to be too focused on the decoy and miss another tactic.
You can lure an enemy piece away with the decoy so you can launch another tactic. This is commonly seen in King and Pawn endgames where two isolated pawns are multiple files apart from each other and one pawn is used to lure the enemy King towards it just so you can push the other pawn.
Decoys are great when they work. But in order for a piece or even multiple pieces to be used as a decoy, it usually means putting that piece in a vulnerable position.
Deflection is one method used in removing the defender. You deflect an enemy piece by capturing another piece that was being defended.
Demolition of Pawn Structure
Demolition of Pawn Structure is the tactic used to remove the defending pawns in front of the castled King.
Other tactics are commonly used in combination to achieve this. The tactical sacrifice being the most common, such as the Greek Gift Sacrifice, sacrificing a bishop in order to demolish the pawn structure defending the King.
Desperado is a tactic in Chess that refers to when you sacrifice a piece that’s threatened to be captured, hence the appropriate term desperado, before making another capture.
A discovered attack is when you attack an enemy piece or square by moving a piece that was in front of another piece.
Discovered Attack: Windmill
Also known as a See-Saw, A Windmill is a tactic referring to a series of forced discovered attacks. The name Windmill, comes from the concept of the front piece continuously returning to its previous position just as a windmill does. When this tactic is launched at the enemy, the aftermath often leaves the opponent with a significant loss of material and/or advantage.
A discovered check occurs when a discovered attack is also an attack on the enemy King.
These can be very powerful as you could put the enemy King in check while also attacking another piece with the piece you moved to reveal the discovered check.
This is quite satisfying when you deliver a discovered checkmate to your opponent.
The game below is one of my games I recently had that illustrates a discovered checkmate.
Domination refers to a unique position where a piece is trapped without any squares to move to even though it seems to have had multiple squares to move to.
A double attack is when you’re attacking an opponents piece with more than one of your pieces, so if you’re opponents captures or blocks one piece, the other piece can still capture their piece.
Double checks are beautiful when seen in a game. This type of double attack occurs when a King is being attacked by two pieces putting the King in check, usually with a discovered check.
What makes a double check so devastating is the fact that the only way for the King to get out of check is to move the King. No other piece can block an attack from two pieces attacking from different squares.
Tactics are used for more than just winning a game. If you’re in a losing position with no hope of winning, there could be a tactic you could deploy to draw the game. A draw is infinitely better than a loss.
A perpetual attack is the same as a perpetual check, only the player isn’t being forced to move the piece being attacked since it’s not the King being put in check. However, moving the piece elsewhere or moving a different piece could mean the player will lose the game afterward. This causes the perpetual attack resulting in a draw by repetition.
A stalemate is a type of draw. When a player has no legal move, but the King is not in check, the game ends in a stalemate.
A fork is a type of double attack where a piece is attacking two pieces at the same time with one piece.
This tactic refers to when a piece is being defended without a piece actually defending it directly. However, capturing the piece would mean another threat would reveal itself.
You could also call this a delayed defender, since the piece is being defended, it just won’t occur on the following move but one or two following moves.
Removing the Defender
In Chess, a defender is a piece that is defending another piece that you want to capture, but can’t because the defending piece will capture your piece on the following move. This is where removing the defender comes in. Also known as removing the guard, This is one of the staples of tactics that you’ll want to practice more than other tactics.
There are multiple ways to go about removing a defending piece which are listed below.
Capture The Defender
Also known as undermining, capturing the defender refers to simply capturing the defending piece so you can then attack the piece that no longer has protection.
White wants to capture Black’s Queen, but with the Knight defending, it would be no more than a trade. However, White has a game changing tactic that can be played via capturing the defender.
White capturing the Knight and putting the king in check, White wins Black’s queen.
Overload the Defender
Another tactic used to remove a defender is to overload the defending piece, putting more pressure than the piece can handle.
Also known as overworked, overloaded refers to the tactic used to put too put more pressure on a piece than it can handle. The pressure exceeds its capabilities.
A pin is when you attack a piece with a more valuable piece on the same file or rank, thus “pinning” the lesser value piece to a higher valued piece.
A pin starts with a position in which two enemy pieces were aligned with each other. In order to create an absolute pin the opponent’s king has to be placed on the same line, file or diagonal as one of his other pieces.
An absolute pin refers to when a piece is pinned to the King.
A cross-pin refers to when a piece is pinned, but from two different directions instead of one.
The most common type of pin, the relative pin refers to when the value of the pinned piece is lower than the piece behind it.
As we mentioned before, Tactics aren’t always about gaining a material advantage, they can be used to gain a positional advantage. A perfect example illustrating this is trading a bad bishop for the opponents good bishop, leaving with with a massive strategic positional advantage for the remainder of the game.
Tactical sacrifices are some of the most notable tactics seen in games. When they work, they are beautiful. Not to mention the legendary Queen sacrifices that are talked about for months or even years after occurring in a match.
Greek Gift Sacrifice
The Greek Gift Sacrifice refers to the classic Bishop sacrifice used specifically for the purposes of demolishing the pawn structure in front of the King after castling.
This is why White’s light squared Bishop is commonly placed on the d4 square, aiming right at the h7 square ready to become the Greek Gift Sacrifice at the most opportune moment.
Simplification refers to the idea of a player with a material advantage wanting to exchange, or trade, as many pieces as possible in order to “simplify” the position. The idea of removing pieces from the board does is to simplify the position to achieve a straight forward endgame making it easier to set up a checkmate pattern to win the game. However, this tactic that backfire which is why you’ll hear Grandmasters advise to always players to not automatically start trading pieces as soon as you’re up a piece in material.
The Skewer tactic, also known as a “reverse pin”, refers to when an attacked piece has a piece of lower value behind it and must move to safety. Moving the piece being directly attacked will also expose the lower-valued piece behind it in danger. Skewers are pins only the higher-valued piece is the one being directly attacked, hence the reverse-pin name.
In Chess, Tickle Tickle is a tactic primarily used in Blitz and Bullet time controls where one player tickles his opponent making a move forcing the opposition to move the piece being tickled back and forth. This is often repeated since the opponent will still have to take more time to move the piece being tickled.
Trapping a piece is one of the most powerful tactics that can be launched at your opponent or one of the most devastating that can happen to you. When a piece on the board, typically a minor or major piece, gets trapped on its current square losing either most or all mobility. This renders the piece either useless, which is known as an entombed piece, or puts the piece at risk of being captured.
Triangulation is a tactic that’s used to force a player into zugzwang (which means triangulation is commonly found in the endgame) by moving a King in a triangle which is perceived as losing a move when in fact the same position occurs after one side makes three moves while the other side only two moves.
Underpromotion is a tactic referring to promoting a pawn to something other than a Queen. Promoting to a Queen can also result in an instant stalemate or even checkmate.
Underpromoting to a Knight is commonly seen since Knights move in unique ways. The game below illustrated the use of under-promotion.
A weak back-rank occurs after a castled King still has the three pawns on the rank in front of the King with only a Rook or Queen being in charge of defending the King. The defending piece of the King and back-rank is vulnerable to becoming overloaded and being unable to defend the weak back-rank by itself.
An X-Ray is used to describe a position where two mobile pieces, such as the Bishop and Rook, are on the same file, rank, or diagonal with an enemy piece in between them. The X-Ray refers to the two pieces being in sight of each other by “seeing through” the enemy piece in between them.
When the two pieces form an x-ray while attacking the piece in between them, it’s referred to as an X-Ray Attack.
When the two pieces form an x-ray to defend each other from the piece in between them, it’s referred to as an X-Ray Defense.
A Zugzwang is a position that refers to when one player is forced to make a bad move, commonly seen in a King and Pawn endgame. Whoever has the next move in a Zugzwang usually loses the game.
A Zwischenzug, or “in-between move”, is a tactic used when a player is going to make a move that’s certain to occur, usually a capture, but instead of making it now, a different move can be made first (hence the in-between name) so that the player can gain a tempo. The position below illustrates this in-between move.
I hope this list of Chess tactics is beneficial to you. This page will be continuously and frequently updated to be as extensive and as helpful as possible.