ChessBase for Coaches: Defending with Black

by Jeffrey Ashton
3/17/2022 – Studying "Black to play and defend positions" teaches chess students how to recognize and stop threats. For example, coaches may ask beginners to find ways to stop a back rank mate or the Scholar’s Mate. Flipping the board may also help with high-level analysis. National Master Jeffrey Ashton explains how to create positions where the Black chessmen are on the bottom of the diagram, which gives Black’s perspective.

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Flipping the Board

My mentor Dr. Alexey Root recently reviewed a book where most of the diagrams had Black on the bottom. She wanted to check the author’s analysis but setting up the diagrammed positions was a hassle. She complained, "To set up those 'Black on the bottom' positions in ChessBase 12, I flipped the book upside down, so that White was on the bottom. That way, the book matched what I was entering into ChessBase. Position Setup didn’t allow me to have Black on the bottom." After some investigating, I found that Alexey was right. ChessBase 12 doesn’t have the flip board feature in Position Setup, but ChessBase versions 14 and higher do. And that’s a good thing, not just for high-level analysis of positions from books, but also for teaching students how to defend as Black.

Back Rank Mate Example

When it’s Black to play and defend against checkmate, students must see the checkmate threat, then figure out the best way to stop it. Often, students will come up with more than one solution. Below is an example of such a puzzle.

To create this type of puzzle, use Position Setup and Training Annotation, a feature explained in ChessBase for Coaches: Creating a Worksheet.

  1. Create a new game (Control + N). From the Board Window, press S for Position Setup.

  2. Click Flip board so the Black chessmen are on the bottom. The Flip board button is available on ChessBase 14 and newer versions.

  3. Set up a position where White is threatening checkmate.

  1. Set Side to move as Black. Click OK.

  2. In the Board Window you will see the position that you just set up but with the white pieces on the bottom. Press Control + F if you wish to flip the board. Enter the move …h6.



  1. Click on …h6 and Press Control + Alt + M to create a Training Annotation. Create a question stem such as "Black to play and defend."


Note that the answer appears to be …h6, and the answer key will only show …h6. For a puzzle that has multiple solutions, remove the answer key before passing out the homework.

  1. Click OK once again to finish creating the Training Annotation.

  2. Press Control + S to save.


Defending against Scholar’s Mate

In her 2009 book Read, Write, Checkmate: Enrich Literacy with Chess Activities, Dr. Alexey Root describes how she shows her class a game where Black loses in four moves to the Scholar’s Mate. 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. Qh5 Nc6? 4. Qxf7#. The class is asked to discuss alternatives to 3…Nc6? Here’s how you can create a chess puzzle that is inspired by her lesson.

Press Control + N to create a new Board Window, and enter either her moves or another line of the Scholar’s Mate, such as the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 g6. Click on 3…g6 and press Control + Alt + M to create a Training Annotation. Make the question stem "Write down 3 or more defenses for Black. Circle the move that you would play."

Press OK to exit the Training Annotation window. Save it to the same file where you saved your previous question.

Flipped Diagrams

ChessBase prints diagrams from White’s perspective (first rank on the bottom). But you can adjust the settings so that diagrams are automatically "flipped" to show it from the side to move’s perspective. For our worksheet, it makes sense to have the Black chessmen on the bottom because the questions are focused on Black defending. To do this, go to File -> Print -> Page Setup. Click the Flipped box so that it is on.

When you are finished creating your Black to play and defend puzzles, you can Print multiple training to create a worksheet and share it with your students. Remember to discard your answer key.

I wrote earlier that Dr. Alexey Root is my mentor. I’ve learned from her lesson plans, and more recently, from her writing tips. I hope this article is a fitting way to acknowledge both her contributions to my chess coaching.


Jeffrey Ashton is a US Chess National Master. He teaches chess, organizes tournaments, and owns the Panda Chess Academy in Houston, Texas. He attended The University of Texas at Dallas on a full-ride chess scholarship, graduating with a degree in psychology.


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