Crossroads drama | Chess stories

Crossroads drama

ChessTacticsPuzzleOver the board
On Erigaisi, tactical patterns, and Eric Clapton

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the Lord above for mercy, "Save me if you please."

Eric Clapton, Crossroads

Everyone uses different strategies for internalizing patterns. As for me, it is usually enough to grasp how the thing exactly works. Sometimes, though, a decent analogy may come in handy.

The Story

Here is the position that occurred in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals 2022 in the game between Erigaisi and Mamedyarov:

Well, that's impressive. How does it work? The rook e8 controls the back rank. This rook is under pressure, which makes the whole e-file critical since the other rook is using it to protect the one on e8. Next, the bishop covers the vital f6-square on the long diagonal. This diagonal and the e-file intersect on the e5-square. Put something there, and you will instantly cause a complete mess.

When I saw the position in my Twitter feed, I realized I'd learned this pattern many years ago. If you know me, it wouldn't surprise you that I came across it while solving chess studies. However, I did not necessarily use analogies back then. Nowadays, as my memory is no longer that reliable, I most likely would.

Before we get to the study, imagine lively crossroads: everybody's rushing, the cars are passing, and the drivers are focused yet nervous. Everyone contributes to maintaining this precarious balance. Now, right in the middle, out of the blues blue, Eric Clapton emerges, kneels, and starts praying. I bet, in that case, dramatic events would most certainly follow.

Both the d-file and the third rank are vital. They form our crossroads. Where is Eric?

The decisive shot feels less forcing (compare the Bd3 in the study to the Be5 in the game of Erigaisi), and the type of the position, as well as the set of pieces involved, are different. And yet we deal with the same pattern.

Now try it yourself:


  • Always try to understand what the pattern is actually about.
  • Try using analogies that would help you understand patterns.
  • Come up with analogies you are most comfortable with.
  • They should be "triggering": the goal is, after all, to recognize patterns over the board.


Every chess position tells a story, even though the language it's using may often feel somewhat hard to grasp. Good news: the more stories one explores, the clearer the language of chess sounds. Hopefully, this one slightly improved your chess comprehension.

Thanks for listening ;)

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