I am training with an app and have played about 10 games in my life, most years apart. However, now I became interested in the game.

I have this situation:

[FEN "4kbnr/p2npppp/1p6/4P3/q2N4/P6P/1PPP1P1P/RNBQ1RK1 w k - 0 1"]

I was going to move Nf3, thereby moving the knight to (temporary) safety, protecting the e5 pawn, and having the queen additionally protect knight. However, the app wants me to make the move Qf3.

The only advantages I see to that are d eveloping the queen and having a more versatile queen instead of a knight control centre

But it seems like this should easily cost me the knight. So, can you help me realise why the app is right?

  • 4
    Just to add to the good answers already given, it is crucial to understand that this type of move takes your game to another level. You not only see and react to your opponent's threats, but weigh them against the threats you can make, and if yours are stronger, then you can ignore your opponent's threat. In this case, you can develop your queen "for free", because Black cannot follow through with his threats.
    – B.Swan
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 16:54
  • 6
    Did you try taking the knight with black and see what the computer's response is? Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 22:30
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft That is the major shortcoming of the programme. It does not (as far as I can see) provide the functionality to switch sides, except when I have made a crass blunder.
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 8:08
  • 1
    @Ludi: Then your problem is the chess program, rather than a chess problem. You can use Lichess instead, where you can click on the menu button and "Board Editor" to set up any position you want to analyze, and then try all the lines you want, besides seeing all the top few lines that Stockfish finds.
    – user21820
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 8:35
  • 1
    @Ludi: Yes, it is normal to miss moves, especially ones that involve long diagonal moves. I can't count the number of times I've forgotten that a bishop attacks a square from across the board. Honestly, if you've only played 10 games in your life, I'm amazed you're noticing development and central control already. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 9:07

4 Answers 4


It comes with the threat of Qa8+, which forces black to return the knight.

And white is up material, so exchanges are good.

  • 2
    Not only that, but if ** Qf3 Qxd4 Qa8+ Nb8 ** does indeed happen, then Black has to either trade queens to or lose extra material. Also note that even if Black doesn't take the knight, Qa8 is a very difficult threat to defend
    – David
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 6:40
  • @David “trade queens or lose material”—(not trading queens, for example) While I see Qxf8, which is annoying, more annoying was black’s Kd7 escaping check—and exposing his king in the center of the board... or is there way out of that exposure I’m not seeing (aside from the trade, ofc)? Granted, it’s going to take white a move or two to develop enough pieces to generate a checkmating threat... Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 14:16
  • @D.BenKnoble white would be a full rook ahead anyway so while it's certainly possible to win the game attacking the exposing king, there's not even a need for that. The position is completely lost and there are many ways to go ahead
    – David
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 9:25

Welcome Ludi!

As RemcoG points out, Qf3!

This is an example of a zwischenzug or "intermediate or interpolated move". Often a surprise move or an unexpected move. Black thinks you are forced to attend to your attacked knight, but you have a surprise in store!

But, how would you come to consider such moves?

Your knight is attacked as you point out, so the first thought is to either defend it or to move it to safety.

However a useful thought pattern in chess is: I have found a good move, but is there an even better one?

This skill comes about from developing sight-of-the-board.

You can develop this skill by practise. A quick scan should allow you to notice several general things:

  1. You are the exchange and two pawns up.
  2. Your king is a bit exposed but your opponent does not have any effective threat against you king.
  3. Your opponent's king is in a precarious position: a check delivered on a8 or c8 by either a rook or queen would be checkmate! Any threat to do this cannot be ignored so one thought is: can any of my pieces attack either of those squares? It leads you to Qf3!

This general scan of the board routinely can be done when it is your opponent's move. Then when it is your turn to move you already have a useful framework to decide on a specific move.

  • 2
    I don't think this is an example of Zwischenzug. Zwischenzug is where there's a move X available, but you make move Y first, then make move X. Qf3 isn't available until Qf3. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 6:03
  • In the above position we don't have provided the move sequence leading up to the position so I will stick with my comment, for Black Qf3 is an unexpected interpolation! Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 6:58
  • Qf3 is clearly not an interpolation before Qa8+ since Qa8+ isn't possible without it, so I agree that this is not Zwishenzug. Saying that it is can only confuse a new chess player about the meaning of that term. This is defense by counter-attack. Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 13:20
  • I am happy to change Zwischenzug to "unexpected interpolation"! My answer sought to encourage new players to always look for moves other than the obvious and to suggest a way to find these moves. Ludi was asking why the App recommended the move Qf3 which he/she considered unexpected as it appeared to lose a piece. Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 14:10
  • It is unexpected, but how is it an interpolation? Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 15:29

Qf3 threatens the king with Qa8 on the next move. Your oppenent could capture your knight and defend with Nb8 afterwards, but this will cost him a knight as well (and also a bishop or an exchange of queens), so he won't capture your knight.

Always keep in mind that there are four possible defences if one of your pieces is under attack:

  1. Move the piece to safety, preferably somewhere where it's still dangerous. Don't retreat.
  2. If the attacking piece is more valuable than yours, back it up and make it an exchange.
  3. Move a cheaper piece into the line of fire and block the attack, preferably making it an exchange as well.
  4. Press and unrelated attack, which forces the opponent to defend his pieces instead of attacking yours.

In your example, all four defences are available. You can move the knight to safety with Nf3, back it up with c2, block the attack with b3 or press an unrelated attack with Qf3. Qf3 is the best option, because it puts you in a great position, forces the opponent to waste a tempo defending his king, and you can still protect your knight with c2 of b3 afterwards. Retreating the knight to Nf3 is the worst option.

  1. a general rule is to solve problems with devolopment, here your problem is your N is under attack and you threat QA8+
  2. the threat of QA8 is very dangerous and is winning.

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