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Chess 101: What Is Double Attack? Learn About the Different Types of Double Attacks and Why Mastering This Tactic Can Improve Your Game Strategy

Written by MasterClass

Jun 13, 2019 • 3 min read

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The double attack is one of the most fundamental chess tactics. Learning how to create multiple threats on the board can not only deprive your opponent of valuable material, it also creates flexibility in your own position.

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What Is a Double Attack?

A double attack is when two targets in the enemy camp are attacked at the same time. This often happens when pieces are “loose” or undefended. While there are a couple of competing or overlapping definitions for what constitutes a double attack, many players define a double attack this way. Some players define a double attack narrowly as a move that uses a single piece to create multiple threats. (This is also called a fork.)

More broadly speaking, the double attack is an umbrella term that covers a number of related chess tactics. What they all share in common, though, is that they create multiple threats for your opponent to deal with.

Learning how to create multiple threats is a critical part of developing your repertoire of chess tactics. The ability to capture your opponent’s pieces is valuable in and of itself, of course, but double attacks offer more than just a material advantage: a double attack can also force your opponent to make uncomfortable decisions, forcing them to respond to your attacks rather than developing their own threats. This can be successful even if no material is captured, if it gains the attacker a tempo or throws the defender off her game.

2 Types of Double Attacks

A double attack is created when a single move creates threats against multiple enemy pieces at once. Under that broad heading, though, are several subspecies worth paying attention to. These include forks and discovered attacks.

  • Whereas a double attack creates multiple threats with a single move, a fork arises when a single piece threatens two spaces at the same time. Forks are so common that many players use the terms “fork” and “double attack” interchangeably. Under the heading of forks, players may refer to different types of forks, depending on the forking piece involved (e.g.
  • A discovered attack, by contrast, occurs when moving one piece creates an attack for another piece. Discovered attacks are some of the most powerful moves in chess. They’re frequently used to create check situations, so much so that the “discovered check” can be its own topic of study.

2 Examples of Forks

One of the best ways of learning tactical possibilities is by studying positions. Here’s a basic example of a fork for white. Remember, the key to a fork is using a single piece to attack multiple pieces simultaneously.

graphic of chess set up 1

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This example shows how a pawn, working in concert with other material, can create a deadly bind. With the move c5, white’s pawn forks black’s king and queen. (This type of fork, the most valuable possible, is sometimes called a royal fork.) No matter how black responds, white is guaranteed to win material. If the black king moves to c5, white can respond with Na4+. If black plays Qxc5 instead, white’s knight moves to e4+ instead. Either situation creates a knight fork for black’s king and queen.

Here’s another example of a double attack, this time featuring the white queen. (The queen’s flexibility makes it perfect for these sorts of tactics.) Where can white move her queen to create maximum pressure on black’s positions?

graphic of chess set up 2

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The right move here is Qg3, which attacks the black rook and g-pawn. More importantly, it threatens checkmate on g7 and b8, backed up by the white bishop.

2 Examples of Discovered Attacks

Now consider a couple of examples of discovered attacks. Remember, a discovered attack may create a threat both from the piece moved and the piece that’s uncovered. Where can white create multiple threats at once?

graphic of chess set up 3

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The best move here is Bb5+, which checks black’s king but also reveals a discovered attack on her queen from white’s queen. No matter how the king gets out of check, black will lose her queen for it.

Even more dangerous than a discovered attack is discovered check. Consider this last example:

graphic of chess set up 4

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Here, white plays e5, revealing both a discovered attack on black’s queen from white’s rook on d4, and (more devastatingly) a discovered check from the bishop on c2. No matter where black moves her king, white playing Rh8 seals the deal.

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