Chess Merit Badge Tips: Tactics

Tactics are short-term opportunities to gain an advantage.

This is generally a material advantage but not always. As mentioned in other lessons, entire books are devoted to the subject of tactics and quite a number of computer programs exist that offer practice in the recognition of a whole variety of tactics. Knowing these patters can sometimes make the difference between winning and losing a game. Practicing tactics is essential to becoming a better player.


Two common tactics in chess are forks and discovered attacks. A fork occurs when one piece moves and attacks two or more pieces at the same time. Normally the opposing player can only defend one of the attacked pieces and must lose the other one. A discovered attack happens when a piece moves, revealing a piece behind it that is now attacking along the newly revealed rank, file, or diagonal.

The diagrams below will illustrate how these tactics look in a game. For each tactic, the answer to the first problem will be one move. The answer to the second problem will take two moves.

Can you find the fork? Black to move.

Answer: b5! The pawn attacks both rooks.

Can you find the fork now? Black to move.

Answer: The first move for Black is rook captures bishop on c4 (RxBc4). When the white rook recaptures on c4, the pawn moves to b5 forking the rooks.

Can you discover the discovered attack? White to move.

Answer: White moves the bishop to c7 or e7. The white rook is now giving check and White will be able to win the black rook.

Discovered attack two: White to move.

Answer: The White pawn captures on b6. If Black recaptures on b6 with the pawn, then White has a discovered attack on the black knight by Bxg7+ (the bishop captures the pawn on g7).

When the black king captures the bishop, White can capture the knight on c7 giving check and forcing Black to trade rooks, leaving White a rook ahead with no black pieces to stop it from capturing more pawns on the queenside.

ChessKid offers a lot more practice on learning to recognize tactics and using them in your games!




Note from Jerry Nash: Scout leaders and parents should know that the questions listed in these articles are meant to be used as a starting point and a guide for the type of questions and critical thinking you should be encouraging in your scouts. These questions are mere samples of the kinds of questions that could be asked. By providing a few answers within the articles, we mean to help those new to chess not feel completely overwhelmed with the information, and to help provide context to the type of knowledge that should be gained through the experience. Happy scouting, and happy chess merit badging!