Saturday Game Analysis

Setting up the clock with a 5 second delay and giving each of us 75 minutes (how the tournament in Des Moines will be timed), I sat down with Jerad for a game at Impact. Jerad was black. After black’s13th move (Be6), we found ourselves in this position. I made a careful calculation and found what I thought to be the best move. See what you would do as white in the following position.

White to move

Seeing the domination of my rook on the e-file, I found 14. Bxc6. This turns out to be a fantastic move if black does not respond accordingly, but a sub-par move to 14. Bxe6. If the bishop takes the knight here with 14. Bxc6, what is black’s best response? Do you retake with the pawn or queen? The best move is to take with the pawn, as taking with the queen is a blunder! By taking with the queen, you leave the bishop hanging on the e-file. So, after 14. Bxc6 Qxc6 15. Nxd4, white comes out a piece ahead.

Why is 14. Bxe6 better? After 14 … Qxe6, white begins an attack on black’s knight with 15. b5. In this situation, if black decides to move the knight to safety, then 16. Nxd4 is next using the relative pin on the e5 pawn. Black’s best response would be 15… Qa2 which attacks white’s rook as well as removes the relative pin on the e5 pawn.

Through several blunders (for both of us) we arrived at this position. In hind-sight, this should be finished every time against the most difficult of computer engines by white.

White to move.

Embarrassingly, with plenty of time on the clock (over 10 minutes), I let the time get to me and did not calculate out the position. While at some point, I would have to sacrifice my bishop for the pawn on the a-file, doing so immediately leads to a draw as there is no way for my king to take out both black’s pawns AND keep him away from the h8 square. In hind-sight, it is easy to see that Bc7 is the correct attacking move to ensure the win.

The Relative Pin

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to face a challenging opponent that was visiting the area. As he seemed to be on a time crunch, I didn’t want to record the game. In hindsight, this was a blunder, as I could have learned so much.

The match eventually ended in a draw, but I was able to recreate a position that we were in with white to move.  I recall it very specifically, as I thought I had found the best move in the position.  The position, it seemed, was not very pleasant for white.  Black had just placed a bishop on c3:

White to move

It appeared as if I was going to lose a minor piece in this situation. I had considered Rc1 for a long time, but saw that after the bishop takes my knight on f6, I would have to move my queen to safety giving black time to move their hanging knight on c3 to safety and I’d be a minor piece down.

I considered Nh5 also, taking advantage of the pinned pawn. But after black moved to h8 and the pin was released, I wasn’t sure how to proceed without losing that knight.

I finally landed on Qc1, which I was certain was the best move. This would initiate an exchange where I would remain a pawn up in the end game.  Black’s only good response would be to exchange at that moment. Play was as follows: 1 Qc1 Qxc1 2 Rxc1 Bxf6 3 Bxc6 and white was a pawn up in a challenging endgame.

Can you find a better move using the title of this blog post as a hint?

I was amazed later on analyzing this position with an engine to find the move Qe3! This places a relative pin on the bishop on c3, maintains the defense of my a2 pawn while immobilizing the bishop for at least one move. 

Although I am familiar with relative pins, they are usually something I can think about when I’m on the attack and in an offense mindset. My defensive mindset threw out the possibility of using a relative pin and even considering this move.

A move that seems to be just as good would have been Rb3. Can you find black’s best response to that?

Material Gains

Looking forward to chess club on Wednesday like I am? I appreciate the games, win or lose, as there is so much to learn from them. Where are your weaknesses? Your strengths? How are you at openings, midgame tactics and strategies, and the endgame?  There is quite a bit of literature out there to help you with any of these elements.

Decorah Chess Club will meet at The Landing at 6pm, 3/2/2022. Come out to play, observe, and ask questions. We’ll be happy to see you!

Until then, here are a few studies in opportunities to gain some material.

Gains in Material

I had some time on Monday to solve several puzzles on the lichess app. There were a few I really enjoyed that fell in the category of material gains. In this first one, black has just moved the bishop from e7 to the f6 square. What is white’s move to gain material?

Black a pawn up, but about to fall behind

This one took me a long time, as I always look for checks and threats on the king first. If you still haven’t got it, here’s a hint: move the bishop.

Indeed, white’s winning move is Bc7 threatening both the queen and knight. Black’s queen cannot move anywhere threatening after that without being taken.

In this next one, black decides to deal with the check by interposing with her queen moving from c7 to f7.

Queen interposition; white to play

Black is down in this position, even with the two pawn advantage. Can you see why? 

Need a hint? One of your rooks should move.

If you found Rxe5 (the rook on e8 takes the knight), good job! While the pawn could take it, that would mean black would lose his queen (and knight) for the cost of two rooks. This would be a material gain for white.

Skewers – Part 2

Decorah Chess Club will meet Wednesday, 2/23/2022, at the Landing beginning at 6pm. There will not be a set structure this week, but timed games that last under 45 minutes are encouraged so that we can switch players with as many members as possible.

If you have a timer please bring one! Or, you can download the lichess app which has this logo:


I’ll show you where you can find the chess clock on that and some very cool functionality if you want. Just find me at chess club!


The puzzles over the last two days have challenged me to look at gaining material through the use of skewers. Let’s check out this first puzzle from Feb 21.

Using the Pause Button from

In terms of pieces, white and black are even. It is black to move, and with the move, can take a piece advantage over white. Try and find it before moving on.

If you found the skewer, 1 … Qb6 good job. The only good move for white at this point is to take black’s queen with 2. Qxb6. Now, we can get a piece ahead with 2 … Nxe2+ where white then is forced to move his king to either h1 or h2. Black then gets the queen back with 3 … cxb6 and ends up a knight ahead!

In this second puzzle from 2/22/2022, the skewer is already in place! We just need to know what to do with it. See if you can solve this to get a minor piece ahead for black.

Adding more “Zs” to Your Chess Vocabulary

Here, with the protected skewer in place, black wants to start by taking the knight 1 …. Rxf3. With white’s queen skewered to the king, the best move for white is to take black’s queen. We will also address what you should do if white advances the pawn to d4. After 2 Qxc5 it is important not to take the queen right away! Otherwise, black would be down a rook for a knight. Instead, the line finishes 2 … Rxf1+ 3 Kxf1 bxc5, and black is up a bishop!

If instead white plays 2 d4, the rook should continue the mayhem with 2 … Rxf2 3 dxc5 Rxf1+ 4 Kxf1, and black is still up a bishop. If instead black makes the mistake with 2 … Qxd4, then after 3 Qxd4 Rxf1+ 4 Kxf1 exd4, blacks rook on e8 is exposed and will be lost!

The Skewer

This week we’ll have a sign-up sheet for Decorah Chess Club that will gather just some basic information from each of you (Name, email, phone number) so that we can keep in contact with you about Decorah Chess Club meetings and events. With the increased turnout, let’s try and follow this schedule tonight (2/16/22, 6pm at The Landing):

  • 6 – 6:15 PM : Arrive, sign-up, and set round schedule
  • 6:15 – 7 PM : First round of games
  • 7 – 7:45 PM : Second round of games
  • 7:45-8:30 PM : Third round of games
  • 8:30-9 PM : Final fast round

After signing up, we’ll get the first few rounds scheduled and alter as needed with late-comers. We’ll have 45 minutes for each game (some pairs may be able to get 2 or more games in), so the use of a timer is encouraged using 20 minutes each with a 2 second delay.  For those that finish early, we’ll have some puzzles that you can explore printed out while you wait for the next round.

If you haven’t already, please sign up with an email at the bottom of this site as well to have a weekly update delivered to your inbox. You can unsubscribe from that list at any time.

The Skewer

Yesterday’s puzzle of the day on (named Fever Pitch) was a good lesson in using a skewer! Let’s look at the puzzle to begin thinking about a good move for white.

“Fever Pitch” – 02/15/2022 puzzle on

Reading the board, we can see that white is two pawns down in the game and the rook is under attack by the d4 pawn. While the black queen has an attack on white’s knight, the rook on a1 is guarding it so that is not the issue.

What to do with the rook then? If this were a real game, you may consider Rd3 or Re5 as some moves to put your rook into safety. Or, maybe an exchange of knight for bishop with Nxb7. It turns out that all of these moves are not very good for white, and would miss out on a great opportunity! If you began to consider the rook taking the bishop with Rxe7 good job!  You may think that this is bad, exchanging a rook for a bishop, but look at what it sets up!

The skewer! After the queen takes your rook with 1. … Qxe7 we find the beautiful move 2. Ba3 which skewers the queen to the king. The only thing that can get in the way is the pawn on b5 (which is something you would have wanted to think through before playing the initial move in the first place).  If black moves the pawn on b5 to b6 to block, the bishop can simply take it since white has the protective pawn on c3.

The best move for black is to take the bishop with the queen immediately, and save a pawn. In summary, the best line for each color is the following:

  1. Rxe7 Qxe7
  2. Ba3 Qxa3
  3. Rxa3

Although difficult to see, black’s best response after white’s first move is as displayed: to take the rook.  Not taking the rook leads to gaining more material and a much better position.