March 02 2017: Puzzle no4 - Black play and win
Fen: 4r1k1/1R3p1p/p5p1/2p5/P1Qb1q2/5N1P/5PP1/5K2 b - - 0 29
Black to play and win. Answers by email before Wednesday 08 Mar.
This one comes from the recent Aeroflot Open in Moscow. Rainer Buhmann was white against Nikita Vitugov. Black is a pawn up with a commanding bishop on d4 and is pressing. However, at first glance it doesn't look like he is having it all his own way. White has a rook on the 7th, a well placed queen with pressure on both f7 and the a6 pawn plus a knight on f3 covering all the key entry squares. How does black break white's apparently stubborn set up?
As many of you pointed out, the correct move is 29... Re1+!! after which Kxe1 loses the queen to 30... Bxf2+ and 31... Qf4xc4 with a decisive material advantage, but Nxe1 allows 30... Qxf2 mate! In both cases all of black's major pieces play and the apparently defended f2 pawn cannot be saved.
Feb 17 2017: Puzzle no3 - White play and win
Fen: 5rk1/R3Q1pp/P4pr1/1p1p4/3qb3/R7/1P3PP1/4N1K1 w - - 1 38
White to play and win. Answers by email before Wednesday 22 Feb.
The 4NCL (Four Nations League) in the UK recently held its 5th and 6th rounds in Northampton. This position is from a division 2 game. Black is an International Master, but had been struggling to keep his position together with black in an unfavourable isolated queen's pawn position and now found himself in an impossible situation. White is winning and has several good moves, but one is totally decisive. Can you find it?
This one was a bit tricky because there are a lot of good moves, but very few of you found the most decisive. Rc3 is crushing due to the threat of Qxf8+ followed by back rank mate. Black cannot try to run by moving the h pawn for example because Qxf8+ is still good, winning the rook or dragging the King back into the mating zone. He tried Bf5 to cover c8, but after Rcc7, the threat was renewed, this time with the other rook ready to give mate and black ran out of time. There is no defence that doesn't require material deficit of minimum a queen!
Feb 2 2017: Puzzle no2 - White to force checkmate in 5 moves.
Fen: 3n3k/2R5/2n1P3/3N2N1/8/2p5/1r4r1/K7 w - -
White to play and give mate. Answers by email before Wednesday 8 Feb.
This week I would like to offer you a different puzzle. One which I saw elsewhere and is well-known apparently! In this position it is white to play and mate in 5. The combination is linear and forcing which means it should be possible to get after some thought. But there are a number of concepts, visualisations and geometry in this which I really like. Switch off your chess engines and see what you can find. This is excellent brain training for accurate visualisation.
Rh7+ kg8, Nf6+ kf8, e7+ Ne7, Rf7+ Nf7, Ne6 Mate. White forces the King to f8, then first the e-pawn, then the rook is sacrificed forcing the black knights to occupy two escape squares in front of their king. The second knight then gives mate with the two knights covering the other three escape squares.
So-Rapport - Black to play and achieve a winning advantage.
Fen: 6r1/2pq3k/3p4/pPnPpN2/4Pb1P/2N2P1R/P5r1/1Q3K1R w Kk -
So-Rapport, Tata Steel Masters, Wijk aan Zee 2017. Position after 33. Qb1. Black to play. Answers by email before Wednesday 25 Jan.
The 2017 annual Wijk aan Zee Super-tournament is currently running with World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his erstwhile challenger amongst the contenders. The field contains its usual mix of elite, dangerous rising stars and at least one top Dutch player. It is missing a some top players this year however due to the growing status of the Gibraltar Open which clashes with it and includes Caruana, Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave and many more in an incredibly strong field (I can’t think of a stronger open tournament in recent years).
Nonetheless the Wijk-aan-Zee tournament is still a Category 21 tournament with an average rating of 2751 and the inclusion of a sightly more varied field with some ambitious youngsters has made for a better spectacle in my view with more varied openings appearing on the board and numerous fighting games.
Richard Rapport is one such youngster who plays attacking imaginative chess starting with the opening. In round three he was paired with the black pieces against Wesley So. So was unbeaten in 45 games, hadn’t lost in a year and is currently ranked no3 in the World. Rapport surprised some observers by playing the relatively normal Queen’s Indian, but the position later transformed into more of a King’s Indian type structure and from a slightly worse position he proceeded to outplay his more established opponent.
In this position we are coming up to the time control, and Rapport has So in huge trouble with an open king and complete domination of the g-file having played a sequence of brilliant moves. Now So has two strong moves, the best of which is crushing. Can you find it and explain why this wins for Black?
Many of you found the excellent move c7-c6 (!!?) with some beautiful chess geometry opening the a7-g1 diagonal for the white queen to invade. Indeed this is very strong and should be enough to win, however is not completely decisive. The strongest move is Rd2! which prepares to double on the 7th and supports Nd3. c7-c6 is still also in the air as well as Nd3, R8-g2 and often Qe8-g8/h5. White has to give up far too much material to avoid mate and will be forced to resign in just a few moves. This was a simpler solution and one which Rapport should have found, but it seems our entrants were more attracted by the beauty of c7-c6 and Rapport possibly suffered from nerves. Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry - because c7-c6 is winning in the long-term we have also accepted that as a correct answer.