Chess: Old favourite

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TODAY'S position is an old favourite, stunning if you haven't seen it before and worth a repeat even if you have. It was composed by A Kakovin in 1936 and is White to play and win.


Two pawns behind, White clearly needs something dramatic. Only two moves are worth considering: 1. fxe4 and 1. f4+. The first of these threatens 2. f4 mate, but either 1 . . . Bxe4 2. f4+ Kf5 3. Ng3+ Kg4 4. Nxe4 f5 or even 1 . . . Re8 2. f4+ Ke6 3. f5+ Bxf5 4. Nd4+ Kd7 leaves Black in no danger of losing.

So it has to be 1. f4+ when 1 . . . Kf5 loses a whole rook to 2. Nd4+, so Black plays 1 . . . Kd5, but then what? Since White's f-pawn is on the square his knight would like to move to, the continuation 2. f5 Bxf5 3. Nf4+ suggests itself, particularly as Black has only one reply, 3 . . . Ke5.

Now one must not be tempted by material gain. After 4. Nxe6? Bxe6 5. Rxc7 d5 Black is in no danger of losing. White must find something better, and since there are no useful checks, we need to create a strong threat. The likely candidate is 4. Rd1] when Black's only defence against Rd5 mate is 4 . . . c6.

Now you can't play f4 mate, because the knight is on that square; you can't play Rd5 mate because of cxd5, and you can't play Nd3 mate because of either exd3 or Kd5. But if you hold all those ingredients together in your mind and shake them up a little, you find the answer: 5. Rd5+] cxd5 6. Nd3+] exd3 7. f4 mate.

The final position is a fine smothered mate by a pawn, easy to miss if you are not guided by those helpful words 'White to play and win'.