Chess Fork – A Strategic Chess Move

A chess fork is a move that uses a chess piece to attack 2 or more of your opponent's pieces at the same time, hoping to achieve material advantage, since the opponent can only counter one of the two threats.

Knights are most commonly used for forks, as they have a unique and superb moving and jumping ability. A common chess fork situation is when a knight jumps to square c2 or c7, and thereby threatens both the opponent’s rook and king. A chess fork that involves a king is called "king forks." King forks are normally powerful moves, because your opponent is then forced by the rules of the game to move their pieces to alleviate the threat to the king. It is common for knights to capture rooks in chess fork moves.

Your opponent can’t choose to defend their other chess piece, and therefore can’t use a ‘zwischenzug’ to further complicate the situation. You can effectively use pawns for forking. By moving your pawn forward, it can attack two pieces simultaneously, 1 diagonally to the left and 1 diagonally to the right.

Queens are, of course, brilliant forking pieces, because they can move in 8 different directions. However, the queen is only useful if two chess pieces are undefended, or if 1 is undefended and the other piece is the protecting the king. The queen is your most powerful and valuable piece (except for the king), which means it’s not usually profitable for it to capture a defended piece.

It can be tricky at times to figure out which of your opponents two forked pieces to capture. For example, you have positioned your knight in a square and so that it is forking two rooks. Have you thought about whether it matters which one of the rooks you capture? Are you sure that you have thought it through? Should you capture perhaps capture one of the forked pieces instantly or should you rather wait patiently?

When to capture a forked chess piece depends on what your opponent is planning to do with them. If the piece is kept in place, you can simply wait. If, however, your opponent moves one of forked pieces you should capture the remaining threatened piece.

What happens if your opponent threatens your forking piece? Using our existing example, let’s suppose your knight is now under threat and you must act. You should know capture the rook that is doing the least. If one of the rooks is simply stuck on the back row, capture this one.

This chess move will leave your opponent to take your knight with his or her other rook, and unpinning your pinned piece, or it could give you a "free" capture because your chess opponent simply allows you to take the rook. You should always capture the piece that is doing the least amount of damage and always wait to capture a piece until you are forced to do so, or until your chess opponent removes 1 of the forked pieces.