r1b2r2/1p2bp1k/p3p2p/2qnN3/2B4Q/2P3R1/PP3PPP/2K1R3 w - - 4 20

In the diagram position, I was white. I had sacrificed a bishop for a pawn for a huge attack on the black king. I realized during the game that this was a critical position and spent 40 minutes trying to make the tactics work, but I ran low on time and ended up failing at the task.

How should one go about analyzing this position to come up with the right move? Try to think about the position on your own before checking with an engine.

  • Nice exercise. Probably 1. Nxf7 Rxf7 2. Bd3+ Rf5 and then try to exploit the pin on the rook. 3. Qh5!? looks like an interesting possibility in that regard. Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 12:58
  • 1
    That's it, isn't it? I can't see any defense for black. Maybe 3. Bxf5+ exf5 4. Qh5 is just as good. Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 13:06
  • Yep, you got it! How long did it take you and how did you find Nxf7?
    – AS3Noob
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 13:10
  • 1
    The first move I looked at was the natural 1. Bd3+, but then 1... f5 is defending. So can I get rid of the f-pawn first ...? Yes I can play 1 Nxf7 first, because black cannot take my queen. So 1... Rxf7 2. Bd3+ is this a quick mate? No he can play 2... Rf5. So far I have used about 30 seconds. Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 13:15
  • This is promising, do I have a good follow up? The most forcing 3. Bxf5 exf5 4. Rxe7 Qxe7 is not effective, so I must look for a more quite move. My queen is under attack, can I move it to somewhere nice ... Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 13:18

2 Answers 2


These positions are good for a robotic approach, which is my favourite. I would try to come with candidate moves.

  • First I would try to eliminate quickly (or find miracles in) Qxh6+ and Rg7+
  • Then I would go for two more obvious checks, Bd3+ and Qe4+. I would try to get as much feeling about what's going on in these lines, find their problems to have chance to find (if necessary) some hidden properties of position (like Bd3+ is almost mate if we prevent black piece to go on f5.
  • Then I would go for mate threats, trying to quickly eliminate Rg6. From point 2 I should already know that Nxf7 might be a mate threat, even if I can miss this for now and come with the move later during capture searches.
  • I would go for captures and light threats, trying quickly to eliminate nonsense again. Probably here would be Qxe7, Rg8 and of course Nxf7, if not in the previous point. I guess Ng4 could stay hidden from my sight forever as the move came to my mind after writing the whole post. Engines wouldn't make such a mistake :-)

Depending on what would come from this search, which I think shouldn't take more than 5 minutes, I would try to sort candidates from the one I like the most. Well, Nxf7 is a big and obvious candidate. It threatens mate and after Rxf7 it is not even a sacrifice. So I would go for it, unless I would have even better feelings about checking lines Bd3+ or Qe4+. That is possible, as I would have already solid cover of these now. Ok, calculating Nxf7 is another story, you will do similar work like here. Find opponent's candidates, being careful, as your queen is hanging and you are a piece down. When I know only Rxf7 is serious, then I would go for Bd3+ and Qe4+ as a huge candidates. If I find some problem there, I would try to come with other candidates like Qg4. You probably don't search for all weird candidates in later moves of calculation, as your head could explode by doing that. That is a reason why we sometimes miss nice combinations. Always checks, mate threats and big captures and threats first in start position and then later, the less candidates.

In my answer to this question you can see the most brutal combination I could have in my game, but wasn't found during the game either by me, or by my opponent. Was cool to hear how lucky I am, as the computer saw it immediately. You look for calm moves in the beginning, but find the 4th calm move in a row in such a firefight!


Black is in a difficult situation after 1. Bd3! f5 2. Qg4. e.g. 2... Bf6? 3. Qg6+ Kh8 4. Qxh6#

It's clear that black is actually a piece down, too: His LSB (light-squared bishop) is asleep. Next, notice that the f7-f5 pawn push won't offer black any protection because of the pin the white bishop has set. Lastly, white has an open g-file and a well-positioned rook on it.

If you pick up Silman's Reassess Your Chess Workbook and do one problem each day with a time limit of an hour, these things will pop out like a dollar on the floor. I also recommend Winning Chess Tactics by Seirawan. As a final, but essential read, Vukovic's Art of Attack will fill your knowledge gaps with attacking ideas that instill fearlessness into your sacrifices.

  • 2
    Black looks ok, if not better after 2. ... Bg5+
    – Herb
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 0:26

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