Reader Mailbag: Defensive Chess Tactics

Don't forget the D-Fence in your chess games!

I got a nice email from one of my chess newsletter readers, Saajan who wrote:

Hi Tim,

Do you know what “defensive tactics” in chess are? I read this phrase somewhere, but haven’t been able to find anything on it on the Internet. If you know any sites where I can read more about it, please let me know.



I was not exactly sure what this meant, and he wrote back that this is where he originally saw the phrase mentioned:

This is an interesting article called “Anatomy of a Chess Player : From Beginner to Expert” that attempts to classify the different types of errors that class players tend to make in chess.

Here is where the phrase was first used (my emphasis added):

1100-1200 (1-2 years of experience) Beginner player continues to make many blunders. Player has learned basic tactics. Occasionally leaves pieces en prise, but not a common occurrence. Sometimes plays with a plan, but the plan is usually incorrect. At this point the player sees many offensive tactics but they miss almost all defensive tactics.

I thought this was a very interesting article, and for the most part I agree with the author. 

Here was my response:

So an offensive tactic would be similar to what I am putting in the newsletters.  So similar to “White to Play and Win”, where the idea would be to find the right move to get a winning advantage.

So a defensive tactic, would be to prevent that possibility from happening in the first place.

Here is an example taken from my Tactics Time Database:

White to Play - Offensive Tactic













So a person in this range might see a knight fork on c7 for example when it is their turn to make the move, and is a one move tactic that they can do themselves to their opponent.  But they are not looking at their opponents threats, to see – “Oh I need to prevent my king and rook from getting forked on c7, so I will play Rc8 to prevent that” if they had the black pieces in the above position, and it was their turn to move.

So in the above position the offensive tactic (normally just called a tactic, without the “offense” part) would be to play Nc7+ forking the Black King and Rook.

If in the same position it was Black to move, the “Defensive Tactic” would be to play d6 or Rc8 to prevent the threat of Nc7+. 

So both are critical to know.  If you can’t see what your opponent is threatening, you cannot defend against it, and will lose games to tactics.  If you can’t see normal tactics, you can’t take advantage when your opponent makes a mistake.

That would be my guess…  Great question, and interesting topic on the subject of chess tactics!!

Thanks for the email, I always enjoy hearing from you!


Here is the complete game the above position was taken from

[Event “March 2011 Duel VI”]
[Site “”]
[Date “2011.03.29”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Atlantean”]
[Black “Redwoodpete”]
[Result “1-0″]
[ECO “A80″]
[WhiteElo “1305”]
[BlackElo “1563”]
[PlyCount “29”]
[EventDate “2011.??.??”]
[EventType “game”]

1. d4 f5 2. Bg5 g6 3. Nf3 b6 4. e3 Bb7 5. Bc4 Bg7 6. Nc3 Nc6 7. Nd5 h6 8. Bf4
Nf6 9. Nxc7+ Kf8 10. Nxa8 Qxa8 11. Ne5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Bxg2 13. Rg1 Bf3 14. Qd4
Ng4 15. h3 1-0

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