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Skewer Tactic-- OTB Examples
Compiled by Gasp23

One of the most basic and truly essential chess tactics to learn is the Skewer. This tactic is an in-line operation where a chessman of higher value is being attacked while a chessman of lower value is behind it. Thus, when the big one moves out of the way, the little one is taken.

Another way of looking at the arrangement is to say that you have three pieces lined up, an attacker against one defender directly and a second defender at the rear. This third chessman is being indirectly attacked.

Edward Winter cites Kenneth Harkness as having written in the April 1947 issue of the CHESS REVIEW that: There is another type of double attack in which the targets are threatened in one direction. The attacking piece threatens two units, one behind the other, on the same rank, file or diagonal. This double threat has lacked a good descriptive name. We suggest 'X-Ray’ attack.'

Only a few players try to use the term X-Ray tactic as a synonym for Skewer. However, the Skewer can only be an attack, never a defense, while the X-Ray tactic can be either offensive or defensive. Further, the Skewer has one unit actually attacking both pieces, whereas the X-Ray has two pieces attacking just one piece. See my game collection X-Ray Tactic-- OTB Examples for more details.

The name Skewer is also used when the two defending chessmen are the same kind (two Rooks, for example) or have the same value (such as a Knight and Bishop). The chessmen attacked in the front and back are equal, then. The BALANCED SKEWER is my own term for these special cases, in spite of the fact that the Bishop and Knight may have differing values. To wit, some chess writers will give 3-1/2 points or 3-1/4 points for the Bishop.

My point is that they are so close in value that Balanced Skewer should still apply when the defenders are Knight and Bishop. A few games with this particular form of the Skewer tactic are provided here. One that is not available yet at CG is Gurevich, Mikhail vs Garcia Ilundain, David 1995, 32 moves, 1-0 that has two Rooks being skewered. The material was even for both sides, before the Balanced Skewer was made! Here is that winning position:

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There are two other special cases for the Skewer. An ABSOLUTE SKEWER occurs when the King is in front and any other chessman sits behind that King. Since the King is being attacked, the first law of chess must apply and the three possible responses to check must be carefully thought about. Kasparov vs Lutikov 1978 and Short vs Vaganian 1989 have the Absolute Skewer tactic.

The ROYAL SKEWER is a more colorful name for the Absolute Skewer. Although both terms are uncommon in the literature, my preference is the Royal Skewer as Absolute Skewer came to my attention only recently.

A RELATIVE SKEWER occurs when some other chessman is under attack in the vanguard, with a less-valuable chessman behind it.

Only the line pieces-- Queen, Rook and Bishop-- have the power to work together to attack the way the Skewer needs. The Skewer can only be done on a rank, file or diagonal and then over several squares on one of those lines. Therefore, the King, the Knight and the Pawn are not able to make the Skewer tactic.

Some of these games were included in LEARN CHESS TACTICS by John Nunn, Chapter 4, Skewer. He makes the interesting point that you may need another tactic first to get to a Skewer next. In other words, you may need to be sneaky to do it! For example, here is an Absolute Skewer study that is commonly shown (altho not by Nunn in this book) that wins a Rook:

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White to move

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... Rxa7

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Rh7+ (Absolute Skewer) and the Black Rook is lost!

Wikipedia has a short but useful article on the Skewer tactic with a few helpful diagrams as well. Here's their link: Wikipedia article: Skewer (chess). The Short-Vaganian game was mentioned there with useful comments.

Edward Winter has the excellent article, THE CHESS SKEWER from 26 Oct 2014, The Kasparov-Lutikov 1978 game is mentioned there. This article is a worthwhile read for the history of this tactic and other jewels of information.

Do not underestimate the usefulness of this tactic! Just because it is easy to explain does not mean that it can be easily avoided. It does indeed deserve your time and effort to learn! Keep on the lookout for chances to use it, because the Skewer will often be a game-winning tactic.

This project is a work in progress, culling games from several chess training books and personal research. The games are ordered by date, not by importance.

Absolute Skewer at 13. ... Rh1+ and ends with Suffocation Mate
J Smith vs G H Derrickson, 1860 
(C55) Two Knights Defense, 17 moves, 0-1

ABSOLUTE SKEWER at 32. ... Re1+
Blackburne vs Zukertort, 1876 
(C45) Scotch Game, 34 moves, 0-1

BALANCED SKEWER THREAT if 35. Re7 on Bishop and Knight
Steinitz vs Blackburne, 1876 
(C77) Ruy Lopez, 34 moves, 1-0

Last move makes an Absolute Skewer
Reti vs J Davidson, 1923 
(A06) Reti Opening, 35 moves, 1-0

BALANCED SKEWER occurs at 15. ... Qb5 on two Bishops
D Rivera vs Fischer, 1962 
(E40) Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, 16 moves, 0-1

TWO Absolute Skewers: 32. ... Be2 and 37. ... Bc6+
L Schmid vs A Dueckstein, 1963 
(C18) French, Winawer, 37 moves, 0-1

31. Bb4 is a Balanced Skewer
Fischer vs S Schweber, 1970 
(C18) French, Winawer, 47 moves, 1-0

22. Be4 strikes the Queen and Bishop with a Skewer!
Hort vs Hartston, 1975
(B40) Sicilian, 35 moves, 1-0

Skewer by Queen and Bishop was missed.
L Christiansen vs C Madsen, 1975 
(C15) French, Winawer, 17 moves, 1-0

81. Kf6 variation (h-Pawn only) allows Pawn-Capture-Rook-Skewer
Chiburdanidze vs L Saunina, 1975 
(C58) Two Knights, 82 moves, 1-0

BALANCED SKEWER occurs at 33. Bf5 against two Rooks
Browne vs K Frey Beckman, 1977
(D34) Queen's Gambit Declined, Tarrasch, 45 moves, 1-0

Absolute Skewer with 42. Bd6+
Kasparov vs Lutikov, 1978 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 56 moves, 1-0

21. Bb5 is a Skewer against the Queen and Rook.
Nunn vs Petrosian, 1982 
(B10) Caro-Kann, 20 moves, 1-0

Pawn-Capture-Rook-Skewer routine works after King leaves b-file
Tringov vs Z Zahariev, 1986
(C12) French, McCutcheon, 54 moves, 1-0

10. Ba5 makes a Royal Skewer
Nunn vs K Georgiev, 1988 
(B17) Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation, 42 moves, 1-0

Two Absolute Skewers 51. Bb5+ Kxb5 52. Qc3+ K(any) 53. Qxg7
Short vs Vaganian, 1989 
(C18) French, Winawer, 51 moves, 1-0

M Mueller vs Smagin, 1992
(B01) Scandinavian, 42 moves, 0-1

64. Rb5+ Absolute Skewer on the White King and Knight
Anna Wagener vs M Fierro, 1994
(A00) Uncommon Opening, 76 moves, 0-1

24. Qxf4 wins Bishop as En Prise (Ice Cream!) due to RP
A Stefanova vs N Gurieli, 1995 
(A48) King's Indian, 40 moves, 1-0

36. ... g6? was a bad move, allowing 37. Rh8 to win a Rook
Yermolinsky vs Seirawan, 1997 
(C10) French, 37 moves, 1-0

Start by looking at 39. Qb8+ (Nunn)
Bareev vs Fedorov, 2000 
(E73) King's Indian, 40 moves, 1-0

Absolute Skewer in alternative: 27 ...Kxf6 28 Qd8+ wins Queen
Aronian vs Beshukov, 2000 
(B30) Sicilian, 27 moves, 1-0

Start looking at 36. Rxf5+ for "geometrical ideas" (Nunn)
F Berkes vs S Cao, 2001 
(E01) Catalan, Closed, 49 moves, 1-0

Absolute Skewer in alternate line: 64. ... Qxb7 65. Qh7+
Xie Jun vs N Gaprindashvili, 2001
(B12) Caro-Kann Defense, 74 moves, 1-0

Shows a Royal Skewer and Overloading
Nakamura vs S Muhammad, 2004 
(C78) Ruy Lopez, 28 moves, 1-0

68. Rb7+ is an Absolute Skewer that wins the h7 Pawn
M Mahjoob vs Azmaiparashvili, 2004 
(B09) Pirc, Austrian Attack, 78 moves, 1-0

Bishop makes Skewer to allow for Promotion
Sasikiran vs Areshchenko, 2005 
(D85) Grunfeld, 36 moves, 0-1

Continuation 21. Ke3 Rde8 is an Absolute Skewer to win Queen
Li Chao vs Bu Xiangzhi, 2009 
(C42) Petrov Defense, 20 moves, 0-1

"Balanced Skewer" against both Black Rooks at the end
Carlsen vs Cmilyte, 2009 
(A88) Dutch, Leningrad, Main Variation with c6, 31 moves, 1-0

Absolute Skewer at end; women champions of Peru, Mexico
D E Cori Tello vs D Real Pereyra, 2016 
(A46) Queen's Pawn Game, 39 moves, 1-0

30 games

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