Invisible Defender Tactic

   Before I get into this really cool story take a look at this position, and see if you can find the best move for white.  Answer is below.

Alex Yermolinsky vs Emory Tate
Reno Western States Open 2001
White to Move

   I get a lot of great comments from people who see a tactical motif in one of my chess e-mail newsletters, and later implement and unleash it on their opponent in one of their games.

   My philosophy about learning is that the most important thing is that you are able to do it yourself.  In a real chess game, under real playing conditions.  It could be a blitz game, correspondence game, or over the board tournament game.  The main thing is behavior change.  If your behavior doesn’t change, then you really haven’t learned anything.

   Normally when I hear from people that they made a cool move, it is a fairly standard tactic idea, like a bishop sacrifice on f7 or h7, or a discovered check, or back rank mating idea, etc.  I love getting these sorts of comments that let me know I am helping people win more games, and the ideas are sticking, not just going in one ear and out the other.

   Yesterday I got probably the greatest example of someone taking an idea, and having an almost immediate use for it.  The most amazing thing is that this is a tactical pattern that does not come up very often, and is one that even surprised a Grandmaster in a long time control game.

   Here is the message I received, via

From Subscriber jb70
Date Aug 08 2012 08:38
Subject What a result!

I received the latest tactics email last friday Invisible Defender 2.Joel Johnson Guest Issue..

Check out this game ended yesterday.

Game 9439446

What was it the A TEAM used to say about a plan coming together?

When my opponent played his Queen over to the a-file,I thought at first about my a7-pawn being under attack and then I saw the pattern of the invisible defender and the weak back rank.

Keep up the good work!

Best wishes jb70.


   The newsletter that jb70 is referring to is one that was guest written by Formation Attack Strategies author Life Master Joel Johnson of Arizona, and was entitled “Invisible Defender 2″.   You can read the newsletter here:

   It featured the above position from the game Alex Yermolinsky vs Emory Tate from the 2001 Reno Western States Open, a tournament that I have played in several times.

   The answer to that puzzle was:

   8. Qa4!! White checkmates Black as in the game or loses his Queen if he prevents the checkmate with say 8. …Nxh4.

   The idea is that by 8. Qa4, Black either loses his queen or loses the game; he can’t move the queen safely and prevent checkmate at the same time.

   This is a very beautiful tactic, and is not one that is common.

   So in jb70’s game he came to this position:

saint isaac (1253) vs jb70 (1680)
Black to Move

See if you can guess what he did here.


   Black sees that they have a mating pattern of bishop and rook working together.  If black was able to play 21…Re1, then white would have to respond with 22. Rf1 and then black could checkmate with 22…Rxf1#

   However the white queen is currently guarding the e1 square.  Which lead black to find the move 21…Qa4!!

   This is very similar to the Yermo-Tate game except now it is black playing their queen to a4.  This version is not as forcing as the Yermo game, but is still considered to be the best move by the chess engine Rybka.  If white takes the queen with 22. Qxa4 (as happened in the game), then black mates with the moves 22…Re1 23. Rf1 Rxf1#

   If white moves the queen, then black can start grabbing pawns like the a pawn and c pawn, depending on where white moves.

   This was a great example of taking a new tactical pattern, learning it, and having an immediate use for it in a real game! 

   Great job jb!

   If you haven’t already subscribed to my free chess tactics e-mail newsletter, and want to start finding brilliant moves like this in your games, sign up now!


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