Using a Knight Fork

For those with an eye for this tactic, the knight fork may come up in many chess games, especially when the opponent has little experience with it. We often see it in chess books. There’s nothing new about this tactic, but each player can discover a new application for the knight fork in over-the-board combat, meaning that this basic kind of pattern can be new to a particular chess player in a particular game. The knight fork is a great tactic for the beginner to learn, then to watch for.

A decisive knight fork for White

Diagram-1  White to move

Do you see a knight fork available to White in Diagram-1? This kind of tactic rarely works against a knight, so the obvious fork here is against the black king and queen. There it is: Ne5+. After the black king moves out of check, the white knight captures that queen.

White wins with a knight fork

Diagram-2  The black queen is lost to a knight fork

After the white knight moves to e5, the black king is in check. But that knight is also attacking the black queen, so when the king moves out of check that knight will capture the queen. This will be a huge gain of material for White, for a queen is generally worth about three times as much as a knight. (After White captures the black queen, Black will be able to capture that white knight: little consolation for Black.)

White wins by a knight fork: Nd5+

Diagram-3  White to move and win material

What do you see in Diagram-3, a position taken from the chess book 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations? Notice that the black pawn at c6 is pinned: It cannot move straight forward and it cannot capture because it’s in an absolute pin.

Now notice that Black’s king and rook are on the same color square. With an opponent’s knight in the vicinity, that’s a clue that a knight fork may be available. There it is: Nd5+.

White wins material with Nd5+

Diagram-4  White moved Nd5+, forking king and rook

The black pawn at c6 cannot capture the white knight, for the black king would then be in check from the white rook. As it is, the black king must now move out of check, allowing that knight to then capture the black rook.

A knight fork does not always involve check. Sometimes it wins material by attacking two rooks. One thing all knight forks have in common: The pieces or pawns attacked through this tactic are on the same color square.

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How to Beat Your Dad at Chess compared with a beginner book

It may be rare for two chess books to differ greatly inside when they look very similar on the cover. Yet that’s the case with Beat That Kid in Chess and How to Beat Your Dad at Chess. The first is for beginners; the second is for more experienced players.

Best Beginner Chess Book

Whether for your own enjoyment or for that of the person who receives a gift-book from you, the choice of a book on chess should depend on the playing level of the one who reads the book.

Chess Book for Beginners

How to Beat Your Dad at Chess has been very popular . . . But this chess book is not best for the beginner who knows little about how to get the upper hand in a game.

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About Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Chess instructor
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