My friend Anshul captured my bishop, which had just captured a pawn next to his king in an apparent suicidal move. Without saying a word, my knight which had been positioned a few rows behind moved in. “Check”, I said. Anshul smiled and moved the king back to its original position. But my knight moved once again, this time in another of my favorite setups – the fork - which allowed the piece to attack Anshul’s queen and another uncovered bishop simultaneously. The queen moved out rapidly to the only safe destination it had. Then came the coup d’grace – my knight moved in a final fork maneuver that attacked the king and the queen simultaneously. “All right, so you got lucky that time”, Anshul said while marching off in a huff.
There was a time when my father was bored playing chess with me. “Let’s play a game where you can offer me some challenge” he would say.
After losing repeatedly to my father, I vowed to teach myself chess strategy. I picked up a couple of books on chess from ‘Crossword’, my neighborhood bookstore, and devoured them over a weekend. I began to read the Sunday columns in The Times of India which always has a challenging chess puzzle to solve. And I signed up with a chess tutor to master the 64 squares that comprised this game. My passion rubbed off on my younger brother and soon both of us were skipping our favorite TV shows to play game after game of competitive chess. I even found a software program that would play chess against me and I practiced on the computer for hours, slowly increasing the setting for level of difficulty as my game improved.
The sacrifice and the fork are two of my favorite strategies. Sometimes, I find that my opponent has just one piece protecting his king so I look for ways to sacrifice a large piece – sometimes even my queen – to make the king vulnerable to attack by other pieces that have been kept standing by for just such an opportunity. At other times, I...