21 May 2017


An appalling number of chess games are lost (and won) because a player puts a piece where it is free for the taking. Chess players use the term en prise, which no one in America pronounces correctly, when a piece is within grasp (see Edward Winter, "En Prise [Chess Term]," History Notes, updated 28 February 2015). In Essential Tactics: Building a Foundation for Chess Skill (2017), where I define such terms, I offer the following simple exercise to introduce the idea.

White to move

Such positions often arise from blunders. In a comic blitz game yesterday, it seems that neither player was looking at the board.

Black to move

Black has an extra pawn and a slightly more secure king. However, Black threw the game away with a foolish check that leaves his queen en prise.


However, White did not snatch the free queen, even though his own queen was also undefended.


Evidently Black then noticed that the queens were in contact because he defended his queen.


Finally, White awoke and removed the offending queen.

28.Qxg4 hxg4

A few moves later, White won back the pawn. Nonetheless, he lost after a long battle that both players might wish to forget.

When I think of blunders, I often remember a game that I played fourteen years ago. It was my only standard rated loss to Jim Waugh, against whom I am 10-1-1. Including rapid games, my record reflects two additional losses: 25-1-3. We have played many casual games as well, and he has won a few of those. This loss in the 2003 Inland Empire Open, however, was painful, and remains fresh in my mind. I have a clear and relatively easy win.

Black to move

Inexplicably, I played 22...Re3, thinking to drive the queen from defense of his vulnerable king. Once he had the upper hand, Waugh did not let up.

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