The Misunderstood Knight Fork - Part 1: Greed

  • IM Silman
  • | 22.01.2013
  • | 27876 odsłon
  • | 34 komentarzy

Forks are one of the most useful tactical tools in chess (not to be confused with cutlery). Most people view forks as a way to attack more than one enemy piece at a time and, by doing so, winning a decisive amount of material. While that’s true, there’s actually a lot more to forks than that!

This is Part One of a series on Knight forks. I chose horse attacks since they are common, at times surprising (the Knight moves in mysterious ways), and in many cases lethal. In other words, Knight forks are something everyone needs to master.

Though forks are often synonymous with chowing down on enemy stuff, they can also be used as a defensive tool, as a means to simplify into an endgame or superior middlegame, or as a prelude to a nova-hot attack. In Part One we’ll start out with the Knight fork’s raison d’etre: leaping into an unapologetic orgy of material gain. 

Here are two kinds of greedy Knight forks that leap to one’s mind:

This is known as a “family fork”, though attacking the enemy King, Queen, and just one Rook would still earn the name. Most view it as something akin to a nuclear strike and when an amateur does get it, he envisions a mushroom cloud hanging over the black side of the board. However, we’ll soon see that though a family fork appears to be the “End of Days” for the opponent, this isn’t always the case.

A far more common Knight fork is the simple double attack of the enemy King and Rook:

Black’s in check, the only way out of check is to move his King, White eats the poor Rook, and black’s dead.

One might think that only beginners walk into basic “eat everything” forks, but this isn’t true. The following game is a case in point:

White’s an Exchange down for a pawn, but a quick look will convince you that something has gone horribly wrong for poor old Tarrasch. His King is in the middle, c7 is being eyed by white’s Knight, the King on e8 and Rook on a8 offers up the most common forking pattern, white’s Queen is X-raying down the h1-a8 diagonal (taking aim at the a8-Rook!), and one can clearly see that the Hammer of Thor will descend on black’s head at any moment.


The obvious 16.Nxc7+ Qxc7 17.Qxa8+ Qd8 18.Qxa6 is also an easy win, but 16.Bg5 (which brings white’s Rook into play with gain of time) is much stronger.



Most accurate. In the actual game, Lasker decided to have an early meal with 17.Nxc7+ and after 17…Kd8? (17…Kd7 18.Nxa8 Rb8 19.Qxf7+ Qe7 holds out a bit longer, but is also hopeless) 18.Nxa8 Tarrasch resigned, no doubt wanting to get away from the board (and the humiliation of being seen with such a position) as quickly as possible.


Both 17...Kd7 and 17…Kd8 are met by the crushing 18.Qxf7.


Here we get to see a strange thing about forking positions: It turns out that one Knight fork often leads to another (I don’t know why… it’s just one of the mysteries of the universe)! In the present case the threats of 19.Nxa8 and 19.Qxa8+ are obvious, but another, all new fork threat has appeared: 19.Ne6+ forking the King and Queen!

The triple threat of 19.Qxa8+, 19.Nxa8, and 19.Ne6+ is more than anyone can handle, but we’ll make one final move for Black.


Getting the Queen away from the g5/f8 forking pattern while simultaneously defending against Qxa8 (Black would love to trade Queens and chop on d4 via 19.Qxa8?? Qxa8 20.Nxa8 Bxd4). However, the crafty Knight isn’t done with Black yet!

19.Ne6+! and the King and Queen are forked anyway! 1-0.

One of the beautiful things about Knight forks is that they give you a glimpse into the Knight’s amazing versatility. Our next example (a Family Fork!) demonstrates this in a simple but elegant manner:

Here’s another Family Fork (just to show you that these things occur more often than most would believe):

One might think that, since a basic fork is often deadly, a massive fork should be an instant “lights out” situation. But this just isn’t the case!

Clearly one shouldn’t panic in the face of a fork, no matter how devastating it might appear to be. At times you can allow it, and at other times you have to avoid it like the plague!

Here’s another case of avoiding panic in the face of a massive fork:

So far we’ve focused on the classic Nc7 fork (with other forks somehow appearing afterwards). But Knight forks can (and do!) occur anywhere on the board:

That was obvious, but our next position, with the same Rook placement, seems a safer bet for Black. Or is it?

Though Knight forks can just “appear out of the blue” (you look around the board, your eyes widen in surprise and pleasure, and you say, “Hey, I can fork his King and Queen!”), more often than not they are just one cog in a greater combinative vision:

Finally, just because you have a fork doesn’t mean you should play it. In the following game White played a “brilliant” fork (meaning it’s inferior), but missed a much subtler and better one.

Now it’s time to strut your stuff. That’s right, it’s PUZZLE TIME!


  • 2 lat temu


    Thanks for the article !

    If you want to know more about the basics of the fork, read my blog post here:

  • 3 lat temu


    Today i was talking to two friends at a place, by chance i looked at the floor, and seeing d flooring pattern of the room and the "squares" where they n i were standing i automatically thought to myself: "if i was a knight i'd move to that square n fork those two". I think i'll stop practising tactics.

  • 3 lat temu


    Mr. Silman be feeling his oats.

  • 3 lat temu



  • 3 lat temu


    Jeremy Silman is the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you for this!

  • 3 lat temu


    I loved everything!  Great article!

  • 3 lat temu


    more puzzles pls. great forks

  • 3 lat temu


    Quite helpful and instructive.


  • 3 lat temu


    loving it

  • 3 lat temu


    "An unapologetic orgy of material gain" bahahahah

  • 3 lat temu


    Thanks Mr. Silman!

  • 3 lat temu

    IM Silman

    @ ZaneYosif who said (in the C. Martinez - Juan Fernando Rios puzzle) that instead of 30.Nc5, 30.Qxd7 would work just as well.

    This isn't true since 30.Qxd7 Qxd7 31.Rxd7 Rxd7 32.Nc5 Red6 4.Nxd7 Rxd7 ends up with equal material (while 30.Nc5! pretty much forces immediate resignation). HOWEVER (check out the board):


  • 3 lat temu



  • 3 lat temu


    thank you

  • 3 lat temu


    thanks for the great article, realy looking forward to part 2 :)

  • 3 lat temu


    In this position you said Nc5 is a dead winner but wouldn't Qxd7 work too?

  • 3 lat temu


    Absolutely fantastic teacher (this coming from a teacher, myself). The lessons are clear, exciting, and instructional...just excellent for a beginner like myself.


  • 3 lat temu


     here i tht i had a advantage due to outside passed pawn and bishop but all went wrong for me

  • 3 lat temu


    Asanov vs. R. Gasik 24. NxE6  would that work cause ur just taking the queen

  • 3 lat temu


    Hi, if you like strategy games such as Chess, you should try this one.

    For All Countries.


    (remove the space and connect the link)

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