Forcing Chess Moves

Forcing Chess Moves is a book that I cannot say enough good things about. I patiently put it on my christmas list months ago and have been waiting to get it in my stocking ever since. Having only had it for a couple days, I’ve already devoured the first three chapters and look forward to finishing it the first time through in under a week. The thing I like most about the book is its layout. Hertan lays the foundation in chapter one, entitled “Stock Forcing Moves,” in which the reader is confronted with a series of patterns which conform to “stock matting patterns” and other themes, which Hertan then builds upon in later chapters.

One theme which repeatedly confronts the reader is the challenge to envision a forcing move perhaps 2 or 3 moves ahead, such as a hidden idea or subtle zwischenzug. One good example is in the following position, which is taken from a real game. Black to move.

Here, I immediately noticed the weakness white’s c pawn, and also the potential back rank ideas, however, I couldn’t immediately see how to exploit these. If 1…Bxd4, 2. cxd4 Qxd4 3.Qxc4, and black has accomplished nothing. The hidden idea involves the subtle idea 1…Bxd4 2. cxd4 Re4! when black will pick up white’s pawn while holding his own, and naturally, black’s pawn is poison because of the back rank threat of Re1+, picking up the queen.

These subtle ideas, tucked away maybe only one or two moves ahead, are essential for making it to the next level. In the introduction to the book, Hertan introduces us to the potential complexity of a two mover, claiming that even with his 2400 rating there are some two movers which keep him thinking for quite a while.

The following position strained my ability to look ahead, and I couldn’t solve it. In fact, it was even difficult for me to envision the solution at first. Again, it’s black to move.

In this position, the winning stroke is 1…Nh5 2.Qxh5 Qg3! (this is the move I couldn’t see. It’s a double mate threat, and so…) 3.Nd5 (Naturally, if Bxb2?? then Qxh3#) 3…Rxd5 (3…Bxd5? allows white to survive the attack) 4.Rf1! a deep defensive idea, which tests black’s board vision, as now the only winning move is 4…Qxg2!! 5.Kxg2 Rd2+ 6.Kg3 Rg2+ 7.Kf4 Rf8+ and mate.

Naturally, the basic tactical themes you would expect from such a manual are found here in spades, but the finesse of the author’s choices comes through in the problems where a hidden idea, one that requires you to envision a position a couple moves ahead, is the key to the success or failure of a tactic. Learning this kind of board vision requires hard work. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts here, but for the dedicated student who wishes to improve, at least there are fantastic manuals like this one.