Friday, April 29, 2016

Chess Tactics: In-Between Move (Zwischenzug)


A knowledge of tactics is the foundation of positional play. - Richard Reti

Tactics are important for chess players of all levels. The simplest tactics, such as pins, forks, and discovered attacks, start the journey for the beginner to move into more advanced levels of chess. 

Today's article will be about an important tactical theme - the in-between move (also known as zwischenzug). An in-between move is a move that is unexpected as usually the preceding move is a typically forcing move, such as a capture or threat to another piece.

Examples of In-Between Moves

Here's an example from a game of the 3rd World Champion, Jose Raul Capablanca.

The reason this concept is so important is that it's often missed during calculation by players of all levels. Learning to consider these during your games both for your moves and for your opponent's moves will strengthen your ability to evaluate moves and find hidden resources in all positions.

For example, had I seen the in-between move (this is a blitz game so I'll forgive myself), I would have won the following game.

Spotting In-Between Moves

So now that you have an idea of what in-between moves are, how do you spot them in your games? Here are a couple tips:
  • Play longer time control games. It is hard to find these tactics during blitz games.
  • Follow the adage: When you find a good move, look for a better one! 
  • Look at all of your checks, captures, and threats as replies to your opponent's moves as well as your opponent's checks, captures, and threats (or as I like to call them, CCT's). This is good advice for all calculation, not just tactics. (Check out Dan Heisman's excellent article about "Real Chess" to understand this further).
  • Pay special attention to moves where there is a seemingly "automatic" reply such as a recapture or moving a threatened piece to safety. Check your CCT's twice during these positions!

In-Between Move Quiz!

Here are a couple positions for you to solve. The solution requires understanding and spotting in-between moves. Note that the in-between move may not be the first move in the solution.

Problem #1
Black to play

Problem #2
White to play

Problem #3


Problem #1

The solution to this problem requires recognizing that Black's in-between move involves a check.

Problem #2

This problem is a little more difficult and involves several tactical themes, but the in-between moves before recapturing in the main line need to be seen to solve it properly.

Problem #3

This particular position is a variation from a famous game involving Dr. O.S. Bernstein and Jose Raul Capablanca. As mentioned in the commentary to the moves, White saw the in-between tactic and avoided this particular position altogether.

Final Thoughts

Zwischenzug - the in-between move - is an important concept to understand as well as spot in your games.

Also, one of my previous articles features an in-between move example on the Better Chess Training Youtube Channel.

Besides the advice and examples given above, I encourage you to practice your tactics on a site like Chess Tempo where you can find problems like these and many more. Also, I wrote a general article about improving your tactics that includes a tutorial video for Chess Tempo.

Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed this article. Please share it with other chess players you know and feel free to leave comments. Good luck and good chess!

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