A Tale of Three Discovered Attacks: A Zwischenzug Feast!

This is a tale of three discovered attacks in a short game of mine: two that might have happened but didn’t, and one that did. The two that did not occur are most interesting; the one that did was trivial. Often, the most interesting and critical moments of the game are when an idea is seen but rejected after thought. Looking at only the moves played or only the final result misses the true beauty of chess. So don’t be fooled by mismatched miniatures: there could still be something deep to learn from positions in these games!

Discovery 1: the fianchettoed Bishop discovery trick

Recently I wrote an article about the fianchettoed Bishop, a very important way of developing the Bishop that can be surprisingly powerful.

Interestingly, I found myself playing a game as Black in the Dragon Sicilian in which at move 8, I had the opportunity to play the fianchetto discovery trick of attempting to win a Pawn by sacrificing a Knight at White’s Pawn on e4, to win a White Knight back on d4 because of the discovered attack from the Bishop.

To my surprise, I ended up spending an unusual amount of time looking at the position, and I decided that it was not worth playing this trick. I chose not to go into the complications I saw. I didn’t actually need to spent so much time on a decision, from a practical point of view, but I was enjoying the moment of exploration, since this was a game I knew I would win anyway: indeed, the actual game result was an anticlimactic and quick win, because I was playing against an opponent rated almost 700 ELO points lower than me, this being the second round of a tournament after a big first round upset in which I was held to a draw because I didn’t use my Bishops properly.

The trick doesn’t always win a Pawn

Sometimes the discovery trick wins a Pawn, when the only choice is to capture the suicidal Knight and lose the piece on the discovered-attacked piece in return, or retreat the Queen from the discovery and just lose that captured Pawn without a fight.

But in some cases, such as this one, a Zwischenzug can cause a cascade of rampant suicidal captures by both sides on opposite ends of the board. In particular, White has the resource 9 Nxc6 moving the attacked Knight and capturing the Black Knight on c6, attacking Black’s Queen. Now Black has to go all in or lose a piece, and both sides capture the other’s Queen, and finally Black’s suicidal Knight has to keep going and capture a piece (White’s Bishop on f1), White’s suicidal Knight captures a random Pawn (Black’s f7 Pawn), and then both Knights are captured. The result is that material is then even. Black has a slightly better position at the end, but nothing exciting. (Note that if not for Black’s f7 Pawn, this continuation would indeed have won Black a Pawn.)

Obviously, in a game against someone of equal or higher strength, if this continuation were forced, I would have gone for it, obviously. I saw this sequence in just a matter of seconds. So why did I spend half an hour thinking?

The Pawn may not be worth the loss of time and King protection

Because there was another option, clearly the one I would have played if I were White. This involved deliberately giving up the Pawn, in exchange for clear compensation, by following up with Bh6, preventing Black from castling King side. I was fascinated by this continuation and studied it even though I knew I was not going to enter it.

Discovery 2: the Queen trade Knight discovery trick

The second discovery that did not happen was one that White could conceivably used, if I as Black had walked into it. This is the Queen trade Knight discovery trick, in which White has a Queen on d2 and Black has a Queen on a5, and White plays Nd5 discovering an attack on Black’s Queen and therefore forces either a trade or a Queen retreat back to d8. The discovery trick is actually usually strongest when White’s King is on b1, because then a Queen trade happens without check and allows White in some cases a Zwischenzug of either Nxe7+ winning a Pawn (when Black does not have Kf8 attacking the Knight) or Nxf6+, which in some cases may be advantageous.

Here, the discovery trick simply allows White to equalize. So I didn’t play 10…Qa5.

Discovery 3: on the Queen

11…Nd5 won the game, as White had not removed his Queen from the potential discovered attack earlier. The forced Queen retreat allowed Black to destroy White’s King protection by removing the Knight on c3 and also destroying the Pawn structure.

Note that sometimes a discovery like this does not actually win. It is a question of the exact Zwischenzug opportunities and concrete position on the board. In this case, careful calculation was required before playing the discovery, in order to make sure that it won!!

Look at what happens if White had played the best move, ignoring the attack on the Queen. 12 Nxd5 picks up a Black Knight. Then Black takes the Queen. But then the Zwischenzug Nxe7+ is interesting.

Black could lose!

If Black sacrifices the Queen back to regain the lost Knight, the problem is that White ends up with a double attack on Black’s Bishop on d4 as well as Rook on f8, and Black is the one who is losing!! Black can save the Bishop with a Zwischenzug check …Be3+, but then White just ends up two Pawns up anyway with a won game.

But White loses

But Black can force White to win the Queen back, by calmly playing …Kg7. Then White has to do the suicidal discovery Nf5+ in order to win the Black Queen. The result is that Blacks regains the Knight, then loses back the Queen. All even, right? Wrong! Black unleashes the Zwischenzug check …Be3+ and ends up saving the Bishop while taking White’s Bishop on d8.

Annotated game

In the actual game, none of the interesting discovery-generated Zwischenzug exchanges actually happened. But I had to calculate each possible sequence in order to play correctly in case they did happen. All the real action in this game happened in variations that never happened: in the first two cases, I chose not to enter a situation because it was not going to be favorable to me, and in the final case, I had to calculate that it was really going to win.

Franklin Chen


Author: Franklin Chen

Franklin Chen is a United States Chess Federation National Master. Outside his work as a software developer, he also teaches chess and is a member of the Pittsburgh Chess Club in Pennsylvania, USA. He began playing in chess tournaments at age 10 when his father started playing in them himself but retired after five years, taking two decades off until returning to chess as an adult at age 35 in order to continue improving where he left off. He won his first adult chess tournaments including the 2006 PA State Game/29 and Action Chess Championships, and finally achieved the US National Master title at age 45. He is dedicated to the process of continual improvement, and is fascinated by the practical psychology and philosophy of human competition and personal self-mastery. Franklin has a blog about software development, The Conscientious Programmer and a personal blog where he writes about everything else, including his recent journey as an adult improver in playing music.