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In chess, an X-ray is a tactical theme where a piece defends or attacks through another piece along a line, such as a rank, file, or diagonal. This tactic can involve both direct and indirect forms of attack or defense, making it a versatile and often surprising element in gameplay.

Similar terms: skewer, pin, tactical motifs, chess tactics, fork, discovered attack, double attack, intermezzo, overloading, chess strategy

So, what exactly is an X-ray?

An X-ray in chess occurs when a piece exerts force through another piece, effectively “seeing through” it to influence a square, piece, or another strategic element behind it. This can happen in multiple ways, such as an X-ray attack, where a piece like a queen or rook aligns with an enemy king behind another piece, or an X-ray defense, where a piece defends another behind it from an attack.

Why is X-ray important?

X-ray tactics are crucial because they can subtly change the balance of power on the board. They often catch opponents off-guard and can lead to winning material or creating decisive threats. Mastery of X-ray tactics is part of advanced tactical awareness in chess.

Examples of X-ray

A classic example of an X-ray attack is when a rook on the same file as the enemy king and a piece in between them is moved, suddenly exposing the king to a check. In terms of defense, a bishop might defend a piece on the same diagonal, even with other pieces in between.

How to use X-ray tactics effectively

  1. Identify alignments: Look for opportunities where your pieces align with the opponent’s king or valuable pieces, even if other pieces currently block them.
  2. Combine with other tactics: Use pins, skewers, and other tactical themes to exploit the alignments and create multiple threats.
  3. Calculate thoroughly: Always ensure that initiating an X-ray tactic won’t backfire by leaving you in a worse position or losing more material.

Famous examples of X-ray

An illustrative use of an X-ray tactic can be seen in the game between Bobby Fischer and Reuben Fine, New York 1963. Fischer’s queen on d4 created an X-ray through Fine’s queen on d6 to the king on g3, eventually leading to a winning tactical sequence. This game highlights how X-ray tactics can be pivotal in exploiting the opponent’s piece alignment.

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