Chess: Encouraging the stubborn

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TODAY'S positions will encourage those miserable folk who won't resign when a queen behind. They are composed by Alexander Herbstman (1900-1982), a Russian whose constructions frequently displayed humour as well as inventiveness.


This one is White to play and draw. A queen and knight behind, the natural 1. Kc7 Bxb7 2. Bg1+ Ka8 is hopeless. Black's Qg8 cannot be prevented, and there is no hope of guarding all the squares on the back rank to prevent her emergence.

Since Black's king always has access to a white square, b7 or a8, which White cannot control, the only hope of salvation is stalemate. We should soon spot the idea: White's king on d7, Black's queen on f8. That leaves two closely interrelated problems: how to ditch the white bishop and lure the queen to f8.

Now it all fits: 1. b8=Q+] Kxb8 2. Kd7+ Kb7 (or 2 . . . Ka7 3. Bg1+, checking on g1 and h2 until the king goes to b7) 3. Bd6 (or Bc5 if it comes from g1) Qg8 4. Bf8]] and that's it. Qxf8 is stalemate, any king move is met by Bd6+ or Bc5+, and Qh7 just repeats moves after Bd6.

That was first published in 1925, but Herbstman was still playing with a similar idea 38 years later. Here's the 1963 version:


Again it's White to play and draw, and once more the only hope is a combination of glue and stalemate. First the adhesive: 1. d6+ Ke8 2. Bf7+] By luring the king to f7, White slows down Black's untangling process. After 2 . . . Kxf7 Black's king must wander across the board to let his queen escape: 3. Kc3 Ke8 4. Kb4 Kd8 5. Ka5 Kc8 6. Ka6] Kb8 7. Bg3 Qg8 8. Be1 Qf7 9. Ba5 Qe8. White has his pieces on their best squares. Now he completes the task with 10. Bc7+] Ka8 11. Bd8] with a draw as before.