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I've began going through, over the board, 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations - 21st century edition. This book is a great supplement to my last question on studying tactics, and I feel like I'm learning a lot from it.

One of the problems I'm having with this particular book is right out of the gate the tactics for pins are very difficult to see in a lot of cases for me. Here is an example, problem 14:

[fen "r4rk1/p2nqppp/Qpp5/3p4/3Pn3/2N1PN2/PP3PPP/2R2RK1 w Qq - 0 1"]

To me one move was clear -

  1. Nxd5

This move clears the way for the rook to enter and pin the knight to the queen. It's almost forced to take with the pawn to prevent the queen capture, the queen is on a pretty good square all things considered. Initially I had evaluated:

  1. Qb7

But disregarded it as a first move because even though the knight is pinned to the queen

  1. ... Rfb8

Mitigates the attack immediately and forces the queen back - or so I thought. By having the rook perform the pin I'd be in better shape to mitigate that attack when I do 2. Qb7.

After:

  1. ... Rfb8
  2. Nxd5 Rxf7
  3. Nxe7+

Which seemed too easy to be right for this tactic and leaves the game at even money, which from what it seems is never the goal of a pin.

So from what I've gathered here I saw the pin at least. The problem I'm suffering from at the moment is how the solution plays out - the solutions don't really give great justification and there's a lot of moves here to consider it "solved":

  1. Qb7! Rfc8
  2. Nxd5! Qd6
  3. Rxc6!!

From this I'm curious

  1. Why 1. ...Rfc8 and not Rfb8, attacking the queen?
  2. Why does black resign after Rxc6!!?
  3. How do I study from this tactic book effectively? I'm getting a ton of them wrong even though I'm seeing the tactic, I'm unable to make the same moves in the tactic for black to make everything "play out right". I'm not sure when to consider a solution "complete".

I'm sorry if this is trivial, I'm working on fixing my over the board play by doing tactics and this book is incredibly difficult. Difficulty is great because its challenging but I'm only on problem 14!

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To me one move was clear -

  1. Nxd5

But after 1...cxd5 2.Rc7, although the knight is pinned for a move, Black can easily unpin it by moving the queen to d6, d8, e6, or e8. In fact, the knight is not even fully pinned - Black could move it to c5 and force a queen trade. You've sacrificed the knight for a pawn, and get no lasting pin.

Why 1. ...Rfc8 and not Rfb8, attacking the queen?

Well, after 2.Qxc6 Black has lost a pawn. And after that move the d5 pawn is threatened twice and not defended, so Black must play 2...Nxc3 if he wants to have a shot at saving it. But now he's traded off a well-placed knight, and after 3.Rxc3, d5 is isolated and still needs a defender, and White will gain solid control of the c-file and will be up a pawn.

Rfc8 is shown here, not necessarily because it's Black's best move, but because in order to figure out how to proceed against it (and that Qb7 is a good move in the first place), you need to see the pin that Nxd5 exploits. (And if this is based off an actual game, it might be the move actually played in the game.)

Why does black resign after Rxc6!!?

Because he's down two pawns, and White will control the only open file. There's a threat of Ne7+ which limits Black's options in the coming moves.

  • 2
    What's really important here is that OP is focused on the wrong pin! It's not the Knight being pinned to the Queen that is the focus, it's the pawn being pinned to the Rook. The Knight on d7 isn't really doing anything. It isn't attacking any white pieces, it isn't defending any important black pieces, and it isn't one move away from attacking or defending either. Pinning a piece for the sake of pinning it isn't beneficial. You want to lock that piece in place for a reason (remove the defender, remove the attacker, or attack the pinned piece) – Chris G Dec 12 '17 at 18:27
  • @ChrisG Thank you for your comment. If the pin isn't on the knight, then why does the queen move away from the pin on the A pawn? The A pawn doesn't seem to be doing anything useful either. The knight on D seems to be at least protecting a jump square at e5 the knight on f3 is current eyeing. – user14142 Dec 12 '17 at 18:38
  • @rec I don't see a pin on the A pawn. And yes, that knight is doing something by eyeing e5, but that's not why White pins it. – D M Dec 12 '17 at 19:13
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    @rec First, the a7 pawn is NOT pinned. If it were removed from the board, white isn't attacking a piece, but is being attacked and would be forced to move his Queen (generally, pieces only pin to stronger or undefended pieces). Secondly, not all pins are created equal. Qb7 is NOT about pinning the Knight, it's about attacking the undefended c6 pawn. The black response Rfc6 is a bad response because it walks into a pin. Without the proper context from the book, it's hard to gauge, but it looks like a poorly designed tactics puzzle because black's best move doesn't result in a pin. – Chris G Dec 12 '17 at 20:48
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  • Regarding the question - how to deal with very hard tactics?

    I'd suggest moving to an easier tactics book, where everything will be clear for you.
    After you will finish that book, move to a more advance book, and you'll find that your tactics abilities are much better.

  • Below you can find a couple of possible continues after Rxc6 which shows why black resigned:

[fen "r4rk1/p2nqppp/Qpp5/3p4/3Pn3/2N1PN2/PP3PPP/2R2RK1 w Qq - 0 1"]


1. Qb7! Rfc8
2. Nxd5! Qd6
3. Rxc6!! Qxc6
4. Ne7 Kf8
5. Nxc6
[fen "r4rk1/p2nqppp/Qpp5/3p4/3Pn3/2N1PN2/PP3PPP/2R2RK1 w Qq - 0 1"]


1. Qb7! Rfc8
2. Nxd5! Qd6
3. Rxc6!! Rxc6
4. Qxa8 Nf8    
5. Qxc6 Qxc6
6. Ne7 Kh8
7. Nxc6
  • The book in question is a mix of difficulties, but is mostly on the easier side. – Ywapom Dec 12 '17 at 17:19
  • @Ywapom I was under the understanding it's one of the best tactics books to learn from. Is there a better book I should be looking at or just continue to struggle and learn from the solutions? I do okay on tactics online and had zero problem working through Chess Tactics for Students, but I think a lot of online tactics are incredibly simple and compared to the one's in this book, the Chess Tactics for Students is almost too easy. – user14142 Dec 12 '17 at 18:31
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    @rec I recommend giving yourself x amount of time on a puzzle and if you don't get it, just look at the answer. Repeat the puzzle a day or few days later and see if you get it. If you don't understand the answer to a puzzle (this happens for various reasons but should be rare), post here or just move on to the next puzzle. The idea is to improve your pattern recognition; repeating a lot of puzzles on each theme until they sink in. – Ywapom Dec 12 '17 at 18:48
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I think the key pin in this tactic is not the knight against the queen, but the c-pawn against the rook. If 2...cxd5, 3.Rxc8+ Rxc8 4.Qxc8+, winning the Exchange and a pawn while also keeping the initiative.

That said, 1...Rfc8 is hardly forced. Maybe it was the move played in a real game, like D M said. FWIW, Stockfish suggests it is a mistake (not even in the top five moves!), as it increases White's advantage from +1.5 to +3.0. Still, White can at least gain a pawn with what Stockfish considers best play, for example 1...Qe6 2.Nxe4 dxe4 3.Ng5 Qd5 4.Nxe4.

In the line you originally considered, 1.Nxd5 cxd5 2.Rc7, the problem is that the black knight can unpin itself by attacking the white queen with 2...Nc5! Both the white queen and rook are now under attack; the trade of queens is forced, which leaves White down a knight for a pawn. In other words, the sacrifice made on move 1 was for nothing.

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You did well to recognize that Whites advantage has something to do with his control of the c-file and that to make anything out of that he has to open the c-file up. But when you say that one thing was clear, you were wrong, and it should not have taken so long to realize this. I suspect that you were drawn to Nxd5 "because thats the sort of move that you get in tactics books". This would be a very poor way of reasoning in a game. There you might still find Nxd5 tempting, but you would be less surprised that it did not work.

Probably you had another expectation because the position was in a book; you were expecting to gain a large advantage. When you looked at Qc6, either you did not realize the simple threat of Qxc6, or else you thought that was not enough.

It does seem that the solution was not well explained (not everyone has a high opinion of Reinfelds books). If you want to take it easy for a bit, I understand that there are some quite good chess books for kids, although Ive never looked into this.

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