Tactical themes

Lolli's mate

The best way to learn tactics? I believe that pattern matching has much to do with it. That's a fancy way of saying that experience with many different tactical situations will help you to recognize tactical themes when they arise in your games.

In Anand's win against Timman at Wijk aan Zee (2004), he used a beautiful Rxh7 sacrifice. In that position, the rook sacrifice was against a Black king on g8 and with a white pawn on g7.

As it turns out, it's far more common to see the sacrifice with the black king on g7 (perhaps after a Bxg7 exchange). To make it work, white usually needs to be able to follow up with Qxf7+ and then Rh1 soon thereafter. Here's the main mating pattern:

Rxh7 sacrifice

1.Rxh7+ Kxh7 [1...Kg8 2.Qxf7#] 2.Qxf7+ Kh6 3.Rh1+ Kg5 4.Rg1+ Qg3 5.Rxg3+ Kh4 6.Qf4+ Kh5 7.Rh3# *

I offer 30 examples of this theme, about half of which I have briefly annotated, and here are two of my favorites:

Bannik,A - Kortschnoj,V [B02]
URS-ch21 Kiev, 1954

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.Nc3 Nxc3 4.dxc3 g6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Bf4 d6 7.Qd2 Nc6 8.0-0-0 Bg4 9.exd6 cxd6 10.Be2 Qa5 11.a3 0-0 12.Bh6 Qb6 13.h4 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Rfc8 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.h5 Qxf2 17.hxg6 hxg6 Diagram

White could try Qf4, threatening Rxh7, but white can gain a tempo for the attack!18.Qh6+! Kf6 [18...Kg8 19.Qh8#] 19.Qf4+ Kg7 And it's white's move... but does the sacrifice work. If it doesn't, find out why BEFORE you play it. 20.Rh2 excellent preparation! White needs to be able to play f4# [20.Rh7+ Kxh7 21.Qxf7+ Kh6 22.Rh1+ Kg5-+] 20...Qc5 21.Rh7+ Kxh7 22.Qxf7+ Kh6 23.Rh1+ Qh5 [23...Kg5 24.f4# Here, f4 is mate because the Black queen is no longer on f2] 24.Qf4+ Kg7 25.Rxh5 gxh5 26.Qg5+ Kf7 27.Qxh5+ Ke6 28.Qg4+ Kf6 29.Bc4 Nd8 30.Qh4+ Kf5 31.Qh7+ Kf4 32.Qxe7 Kxf3 33.Qxd6 a6 34.Bd5+ Kg4 35.Qf6 Rab8 36.Bf3+ Kg3 37.Be4 Nc6 38.Qg5+ Kf2 39.Qg2+ 1-0

Yakir,L - Skegina,K [A88]
URS-chT Moscow, 1959

1.d4 f5 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.g3 0-0 6.Bg2 d6 7.0-0 c6 8.Qc2 Kh8 9.b3 Na6 10.Bb2 Nh5 11.Rfd1 f4 12.d5 Bf5 13.Qd2 c5 14.Nh4 Bd7 15.Ne4 Qc8 16.Bxg7+ Kxg7 17.Ng5 Nc7 18.Qd3 Qe8 19.Bf3 Nf6 20.gxf4 Bg4 21.Bxg4 Nxg4 22.e3 Nh6 23.Kh1 Nf5 24.Nxf5+ Rxf5 25.Rg1 Qf8 26.Rg3 Qf6 27.Rag1 Rf8 28.Rh3 Rh8 29.Ne4 Qb2 Diagram

30.Nxd6 A nice move, threatening Qxf5 (the Rf5 is pinned) 30...Rff8 Taking the Rf5 out of harm's way, but... 31.Rxh7+ Removing the protection of the g6-pawn. 31...Rxh7 32.Qxg6+ Kh8 Coach's first law... when the king can't move, all we need is check 33.Nf7+! Rhxf7 [33...Rfxf7 34.Qg8#] 34.Qh6+ [34.Qh6+ Rh7 35.Qxf8#] 1-0

Books on tactics