Combinations: The Heart of Chess

Combinations: The Heart of Chess

by Irving Chernev


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Explanations for the famous and less well-known combinations of Tarrasch, Botvinnik, Nimzovich, Steinitz, Rubinstein; the dazzling brilliancies of Morphy, Keres and Alekhine; the deadly attacks of Marshall; the unfathomable plays of Lasker; and the matchless creations of Capablanca and many others. 356 diagrams.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486217444
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 06/01/1967
Series: Dover Chess Series
Edition description: REV
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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The Heart of Chess

By Irving Chernev

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1960 Irving Chernev
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15786-3



Chess has this in common with making poetry, that the desire for it comes upon the amateur in gusts.

—A. A. Milne

White to play


In this position, the brilliant young player Michael Tal demonstrates in two moves the most devastating Knight fork you ever saw on a chessboard!

1 Q–B4 ch

Attacks the Rook, and forces Black's reply.

1 ... K–Q2

2 Kt–B5 ch!

A terrific family check! The Knight attacks King, Queen, Rook and Bishop. Black may not capture the Knight, as his Pawn is pinned.

2 ... Resigns

Playing on is useless, since White wins the Queen.

White to play


It is remarkable how much brilliance, wealth of ideas, color and variety can be packed into a combination only a few moves deep. Take this elegant specimen for example, where White offers Knight, Rook and Queen in rapid succession to his opponent:

1 Kt–Kt6

Threatens 2 Q–R8-mate on the move.

1 ... Kt–R2

If 1 ... PxKt instead, 2 BxB ch in reply wins the Queen.

2 RxB! PxR

And here, if 2 ... PxKt; 3 R–K8 ch wins the Queen by discovered attack.

3 QxR ch!

Surprise! Surprise!

3 ... QxQ

Refusing to take the Queen leaves Black a piece behind with a lost position. So he dies gloriously!

4 BxP mate!

White to play


How does White win this? If 1 P–Q7, K–B2; 2 R–Q1, K–Q1, and Black draws by later capturing the Pawn. Or if 1 R–Q1, R–KR7; 2 P–Q7, R–R8 ch; 3 K–K2, RxR; 4 KxR, K–B2, and again Black draws.

Here is the way it's done:

1 P–Q7 K–B2

2 P–Q8(Q)ch KxQ

3 0-0-0ch! K–B2

4 KxR

White wins.

White to play


A Pawn reaching the last square of the board does not automatically become a Queen. It may be promoted to any piece the player desires. The possibilities can be interesting, as this ending shows.

1 P–B6

Threatening to follow with 2 K–Kt6 and then force mate.

1 ... K–R2

Keeps White's King from approaching nearer. There was no hope in 1 ... PxP; 2 K–Kt6, nor in 1 ... QxBP; 2 QxQ, PxQ; 3 K–Kt6.

2 P–B7

Intending 3 Q–B5 ch, QxQ; 4 PxQ, winning easily. Black has a pretty defense.

2 ... Q–K4ch!

To this White dares not play 3 QxQ, as the response is 3 ... P–Kt3 mate.

3 P–Kt5 QxQ

Now if White makes a new Queen, he gets mated on the move by 4 ... P–Kt3.

4 P–B8(Kt) ch!

But White makes a Knight instead, attacks King and Queen simultaneously, and wins.

White to play


Winning by zugzwang is always interesting. Zugzwang is the compulsion to move, but having to move can be embarrassing.

1 K–Kt7ch K–R2

Black's King must stay near his Queen.

2 Q–R2ch K–Kt1

3 Q–R2ch BLD{K–R2}BLD

On 3 ... K–B1 4 Q–R8 ch wins the Queen.

4 Q–B7!

Zugzwang! Black must move, by the rules of the game (if he could only pass he would be safe).

Black's King has no legal move, the Pawn is pinned, and his Queen has only one square open.

4 ... Q–KKt1

5 Q–R5 mate!

Black to play


There are subtleties in the simplest positions. The move that seems obvious can expose you to mortal danger.

1 ... P–K7

Convinced that almost any move wins, Black moves his Pawn up to make a new Queen. This is what struck him:

2 Q–Kt1ch K–Q7

3 Q–QB1ch K–Q6

4 Q–B3 mate!

White to play


The player who fails to see a mating combination often himself becomes the victim of a mating combination.

1 R–Kt8

Threatens a deadly check. White visualized this continuation: 1 ... Kt–B2; 2 R–QB8, R– B2; 3 KtxP, winning an important Pawn.

1 ... Kt–R6ch

2 PxKt R–B6 mate!

Black wins, but White could have won had he played (instead of 1 R–Kt8):

1 P–Kt3ch RxP

If 1 ... K–R6; 2 KxKt wins a piece and the game.

2 Kt–B5ch PxKt

Moving the King instead costs a Rook.

3 R–R6 mate!

White to play


The pin is simple and deadly. It paralyzes an enemy piece, holds it tight so that it cannot or dares not move.

1 QxKt

Exploiting the circumstance that Black's Bishop Pawn is pinned, White captures a Knight and threatens mate.

1 ... PxKt

Regains the piece and prevents the mate.

2 Kt–B6ch

Another attack by a piece which is immune to capture!

2 ... K–R1

3 Q–R7 mate

White to play

LASKER-STEINITZ Match 1894 (Variation)

Simplifying a position by exchanges before clamping on a pin accentuates the power of the pin. With little material on the board, the opponent finds it difficult to complicate matters.

1 KtxB

Reduces the number of pieces on the board, and also draws the Rook at Q1 away from protecting its fellow Rook.

1 ... RxKt

Black's remaining Bishop is now pinned. It cannot move away without exposing the Rook to capture.

2 BxKt

A further reduction of material to simplify the position.

2 ... RxB

3 P–Kt6

Again attacking the pinned Bishop. White wins a piece and the game.

Black to play

ERNST-LOOSE Hamburg, 1946

A pin may sometimes be broken. One of the cleverest ways is by applying a counter–pin.

1 ... RxP

This looks good, as it removes a powerful support from White's Knight. The threat is now 2 ... BxKt pinning the Queen.

2 QxR BxKtch

Double attack on King and Queen!

3 B–Q2!

Interposes with a pin! If Black plays 3 ... BxQ, the reply 4 BxQ leaves him a Rook behind. Black resigns.

White to play


Black breaks out of a pin by brilliant means. He sacrifices his Queen to secure a counter-pin.

1 R(K5)xQP

With a triple attack on the Bishop, which is pinned. The Bishop must stay put, for if 1 ... BxQ 2 RxR mate is the drastic penalty.

How does Black free his Bishop from the pin?

1 ... QxKtPch!

By giving up his Queen!

2 KxQ BxQ

Removes the pinning piece, and in turn restrains the Rook from mating. Black regains his Queen and wins a whole Rook by the counter-pin.

White to play


An off-hand game of Chatard's provides us with a classic example of pin and counter-pin.

1 R–Kt1

Anticipating Black's threat, White prepares a refutation.

1 ... BxKt

2 QxB

White's King and Queen are in line, apparently vulnerable to a pinning attack.

2 ... R–B7

3 R–QB1!

Beautiful! White rescues his Queen by a double pin. Black may not play 3 ... RxQ ch, exposing his own King to check, nor can he break the pin by 3 ... RxR, as the recapture by 4 QxQ costs his Queen.

White wins a Rook and the game.

Black to play


The Cross-pin is a pretty device. Black demonstrates it here neatly and effectively.

1 ... B–KB4ch

The opening up of the King file for Black's Queen adds strength to this check.

2 B–Q3

The alternative 2 K–R1 loses by 2 ... BxP ch; 3 BxB, Q–K8 ch; 4 B–B1, QxB mate.

2 ... Q–K7!

The Cross-pin! White may not play 3 BxQ exposing his King to check, nor does he dare take the Bishop, uncovering an attack on his Queen.

Black wins, as there is no defense.

White to play


A quiet setting for as brilliant a Cross–pin as you are likely to see.

1 P–B6 P–Kt7

If 1 ... B–K5 instead (to give up the Bishop for the invaluable Pawn) 2 P–B7, B–Kt2; 3 B– Kt2, K–R2; 4 BxB, KxB; 5 K–Q8 wins

2 P–B7 P–Kt8(Q)

Or 2 ... B–Kt3 ch; 3 K–Q8, P–Kt8(Q); 4 P–B8(Q) ch, K–R2; 5 Q–B7 ch, K–R1 (5 ... K– R3, 6 B–B8 mate); 6 B–Kt2 ch, B–K5; 7 K–B8, and White mates at Kt8.

3 P–B8(Q)ch K–R2

4 Q–B7ch K–R1

5 B–Kt2ch B–K5

6 Q–KR7!

A startling move! Black's Bishop, now twice–attacked, may not capture the Queen, and does not dare take the Bishop.

6 ... K–Kt1

7 BxB

White wins. He attacks the Queen and threatens 8 Q–Kt7 mate at the same time.

White to play


White gives up his Queen to get in two checks by his Knight. He gets good value, as the Knight skips over to pick up the Queen, and then the Rook.

1 Q–R2ch K–Kt5

Moving to Kt4 or Q6 instead allows a Knight check and a discovered attack on the Queen.

2 Q–Kt2ch K–B5

Of course not 2 ... K–R5, when 3 Kt–B3 checkmates.

3 Q–B2ch K–Kt5

Here too the replies 3 ... K–Kt4 or 3 ... K–Q4 succumb to 4 Kt–B3 ch, winning the Queen.

4 K–Kt2

A quiet move, but it faces Black with two threats: immediate mate by 5 Q–Kt3, and in two moves by 5 Q–B5 ch, K–R5; 6 Q–B4 mate.

4 ... Q–Q4

The only way to guard the two squares involved. Black could not defend by 4 ... K–Kt4 as 5 Kt–B3 ch uncovers an attack on his Queen.

5 Q–R4ch! KxQ

6 Kt–B3ch K–Kt5


7 KtxQch K–Kt4

If instead 7 ... K–R5 or 7 ... K–B5; 8 Kt–Kt6 ch wins the Rook.

8 Kt–B7ch

Wins the Rook and the game.

Black to play


Counter-attack is often the best defense to a threat. Black's Knight does a fine job here.

Black's King Bishop is attacked. How does he defend? If 1 ... BxB; 2 QxB in reply attacks the Rook and also threatens to win the Queen by 3 R–R1. Or if 1 ... 0–0, then 2 BxB, KxB; 3 Q–B3 ch, P–B3; 4 R–R1 again catches the Queen.

So Black counter-attacks!

1 ... Kt–B4

2 Q–B4

The Queen must protect the Bishop.

2 ... BxBch

3 QxB QxBPch!

4 KxQ KtxKPch

5 K–K3 KtxQ

Black's extra Pawns insure the win.

White to play


A Knight fork can be worth a great deal. Here three pieces are sacrificed to set up proper targets for the Knight.

1 Q–R3

Threatens mate on the move.

1 ... QxB

2 Q–R7ch K–B1

3 R–K1

Restrains the King and again threatens him with immediate mate.

3 ... Kt–K4

Or 3 ... Kt–K2; 4 Q–R8 ch, Kt–Kt1 and 4 Kt–R7 is mate.

4 RxKt QxR

5 Q–R8ch K–K2

6 QxRch! KxQ

7 KtxPch K–K2

8 KtxQ

White wins. He is the exchange ahead, and there are no complications.

White to play


White's pieces are far apart but they co–operate beautifully to force a draw. The Bishop harasses Black's King on the black squares, while the Knights patrol the nine white squares outside the Bishop's scope.

The number of Knight forks the King can walk into is astonishing!

1 B–K1 ch K–B4

If 1 ... K–R5 or 1 ... K–Kt4; 2 Kt–B3 ch wins the Queen, while 1 ... K–Kt6 loses by 2 Kt–Q2 ch.

2 B–B2 ch K–Q3

On 2 ... K–Q4; 3 Kt–B6 ch is the winning Knight fork.

3 B–Kt3 ch K–K2

Moving 3 ... K–Q2 allows 3 Kt–B6 ch, while 3 ... K–K3 runs into 4 Kt–Kt5 ch.

4 B–R4 ch K–Q3

There is no escape by 4 ... K–K1 as 5 Kt–B6 ch catches the Queen nor by 4 ... K–B2 where 5 Kt–Kt5 ch does likewise.

5 B–Kt3 ch

"Care to go around again?" says the Bishop.


White to play

MUNK-AMATEUR Kassel, 1914

A Queen sacrifice opens the gates for a devastating double check.

1 Kt–B7 ch K–R2

2 QxRP ch! PxQ

3 Kt–Kt5 ch K–R1

Knight and King have returned to their previous positions, but now the Rook has a clear road along the rank.

4 R–R7 mate

White to play


Black's overworked Queen gives Capablanca opportunities to sacrifice pieces almost impudently.

1 B–B1

Giving up a Pawn to get his Bishop into active play.

1 ... RxBP

Threatens mate.

2 B–B4

A move with a four-fold purpose:

(a) The Bishop is developed.

(b) Mate is stopped.

(c) Black's Queen is attacked.

(d) Black's Rook is cut off from the defense.

2 ... Q–Q1

3 RxB!Q–KB1

To prevent 4 QxP mate. If instead 3 ... QxR, 4 Q–B8 ch forces mate.

4 QxP ch QxQ

5 R–K8 ch Q–Kt1

6 B–K5 ch

And White mates next move.

White to play


Morphy provides a lucid treatment of The Overworked Queen theme.

1 KtxKt QxKt

Compulsory, as the Queen was under attack.

2 KR–B1 Q–Q1

3 RxR ch QxR

Morphy now exploits two apparently unrelated facts: Black's Bishop is unprotected, and his Queen must guard the back rank against mate.

4 Q–Kt4!

An attack on both pieces!

4 ... Q–B1

Obviously not 4 ... QxQ when 5 R–K8 ch forces mate.

5 QxB

And here too Black cannot take the Queen. White wins a piece and the game.

Black to play

POPOV-RIUMIN Moscow, 1929

Black is happy to sacrifice Rook and Queen to maneuver White's King into position for a double check, a form of attack which is almost always fatal.

1 ... RxKt!

2 BxR QxB ch!

3 KxQ KtxQP ch

4 K–Kt4

The only square open.

4 ... B–B1 ch

5 K–R4 Kt–B6 mate

Not content with mating, the sadistic Knight, while doing so, threatens White's Queen and Rook.

White to play


Brilliant moves are easy to find if there is a double check in reserve.

1 KtxP! BxQ

On 1 ... KtxKt; 2 RxKt ch, and Black's loose pieces are in danger, while 1 ... B–K2 succumbs to 2 Kt–Q6 ch followed by 3 QxKt.

2 KtxKt ch K–B1

Now to lure the Queen away from the last rank....

3 B–Q6 ch QxB

4 R–K8 mate

White to play

LAMPARTER-GREEN Australia, 1938

White senses the possibility of a double check on the Knight file. Two pieces prevent a double check, Black's Knight on the Knight file and White's own Knight at K5. Watch how these obstructions are cleared away without loss of time.

1 Kt–B6!

An attack on the Queen. This gives Black no time to think about his King.

1 ... KtxKt

2 Q–R7 ch!

And this check forces the Knight to vacate the file.

2 ... KtxQ

If 2 ... K–B3, 3 Q–R6 ch mates on the move.

3 B–K5 ch K–R3

"Even the laziest King flees wildly in the face of a double check."

4 B–Kt7 mate

White to play

TAVERNIER-GRODNER Charleville, 1952

Chess has so many hidden resources in innocent–looking positions, that it tempts one to suggest a rule, "If you see a strong move, don't make it!"

1 B–Kt1

White, for example, cannot resist this pin, which seems to win on the spot.

1 ... P–R5 ch

2 K–Kt4 P–B4 ch!

3 RxP

Forced, but now Black's Rook is no longer pinned.

3 ... R–Kt7 mate!

White to play


Chess players often indulge in wishful thinking. "If I only had the opportunity," they say to themselves, "I could be as brilliant as any of the masters." The opportunities are often there, waiting to be seized. The chess master makes his chances by examining every move on the board–even the impossible ones!

1 Q–Kt7 ch!

Would you or I have made this move?

1 ... KxQ

The pinned Bishop cannot capture the Queen, but the King must.

2 Kt–B5 ch K–Kt1

3 Kt–R6 mate

Sudden death! Black's Bishop looks on helplessly.

White to play


The King is always in danger facing an adverse Rook, no matter how many pieces separate them. From the diagrammed position, White clears away the obstacles in four moves and exposes Black to a fatal attack by the Rook.

1 KtxBP PxKt

Otherwise Black, a Pawn down, is menaced with a Knight check at Q6.

2 Kt–B6 ch QxKt

3 Q–Q8 ch!

To dislodge the Bishop from the King file.

3 ... BxQ

4 B–Kt5 mate!

White to play

JANNY-KARDHORDO Tamesvar, 1922

Before making the key move of his combination, White undoubtedly considered this procedure: 1 B–R6 ch, K–R1, and then said to himself, "If not for Black's QRP I could continue with 2 B–B8, discovered check and mate. I must therefore eliminate the Rook Pawn at any cost."

1 QxP ch! KxQ

2 R–QR3 ch K–Kt2

3 B–R6 ch K–R2

4 B–QB8 mate

White to play


Discovered check often lends itself to hit–and–hold tactics, as Alekhine shows in this attractive specimen.

1 QxKt! PxQ

2 BxP ch K–R1

3 Kt–Kt6 ch K–R2

4 KtxR ch

It is necessary to remove the Rook before playing for mate.

4 ... K–R1

5 Kt–Kt6 ch K–R2

6 Kt–K5 ch K–R1

7 Kt–B7 mate

White to play

TORRE-LASKER Moscow, 1925

The windmill effect is pleasing–for White particularly so, as he brought off this combination against the mighty Lasker!

1 B–B6!

Threatens the King with 2 RxxP ch followed by quick mate, and simultaneously discovers an attack on the Queen.

1 ... QxQ

2 RxP ch K–R1

3 RxP ch

Before regaining his Queen, White picks up some extra material.

3 ... K–Kt1

4 R–Kt7 ch K–R1

5 RxB ch K–Kt1

6 R–Kt7 ch K–R1

7 R–Kt5 ch K–R2

8 RxQK–Kt3

9 R–R3 KxB

10 RxP ch

And White wins.

Black to play

BLASEJ-MIKULKA Correspondence, 1930

An unprotected piece is always in danger. White's Queen is separated from Black's by a Bishop and two Pawns. But how quickly these obstacles can be swept aside, exposing White to a discovered attack!

1 ... KtxP!

Doubling the attack on White's pinned Knight.

2 PxKt

Capturing the Bishop instead loses immediately: 2 QxB, QxKt ch; 3 K–K1, R–Q8 mate.

2 ... QxP ch

3 K–B2

The pieces are now in their proper places, and the conditions are favorable for the decisive stroke–check to the King, and discovered attack on the Queen.

3 ... B–K8 ch

And Black captures the Queen next move.

Black to play

SEPP-SUNDBERG Munich, 1936

White's Queen is vulnerable to attack, despite her control of the long diagonal, and apparent freedom. Only one flight square is actually open to the Queen. This circumstance (and the obligation to picture the effect of every check or capture) gives Black the idea for the winning combination.

1 ... Q–K8 ch

2 RxQ RxR ch

3 K–B2 RxKt

Black surrounds the Queen, and wins.

White to play

YOUNG-DORÉ Boston, 1892

The smothered mate is a spectacular finish to a game. It can only be given by a Knight, the one piece that can leap over the heads of the guards around the King, and deal the final blow.

1 Kt–K5 ch K–Q1

Forced: if 1 ... K–B1; 2 QB7 mate.

2 Kt–B7 ch K–K1

3 Kt–Q6 ch K–Q1

4 Q–K8 ch! RxQ

5 Kt–B7 mate

White to play


Najdorf contributes a semi–smothered mate to The Treasury of Artistic Combinations.

1 Q–R5

The threat of 2 QxP mate explain the next moves on each side.

1 ... BxP

2 RxB QxR

Still guarding the critical point.

3QxP ch!QxQ

4Kt–Q7 mate

White to Play


A rare and unusual effect is obtained when smothered mate is given to a King surrounded by pieces only, instead of pieces and Pawns.

1 B–R6 ch K–Kt1

Or 1 ... B–Kt2; 2 BxB ch, and the King must move to a black square and into a Knight fork.

2 Q–Kt3 ch K–R1

3 B–Kt7 ch! BxB

4 Kt–Q7

Attacks the Queen, who must now cover the last rank to prevent mate by White's Queen, and Kt3, to guard against mate by the Knight.

4 ... Q–Q1

5 Q–Kt8 ch! QxQ

6 Kt–Kt6 mate!

This is the final combination of a remarkable endgame composition.

White to play


A smart bit of play disposes of the Rook, blockader of White's potential Queen.

1 R–K7 ch K–Q3

2 B–Kt3 ch KxR

3 BxR


Excerpted from COMBINATIONS by Irving Chernev. Copyright © 1960 Irving Chernev. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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