Chess: Opting for the absurd

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The Independent Culture
A STRING of paradoxical moves are needed to solve today's position by Leonid Kubbel, with White to play and win. White has two major assets: the pawn on f7 and the encircled black king, but 1. f8=Q allows an immediate draw by perpetual check: 1 . . . Qxf2+ 2. Kc1 Qe1+ 3. Kb2 Qb4+ and so on. 1. c3+ Kxe5 2. Nd7+ Kd6 3. f8=Q+ Kxd7 also leads to no more than a draw. With both Qxf2+ and gxf6 threatened, White is left with one chance: 1. Ne4 defending f2 and threatening f8=Q. Black can create no threats, so must stop the pawn with 1 . . . Qf3.

What now? The knight must guard f2, so the only hope is to create a mating net, but White can only manage to play c3 mate if e5 is protected, which is not easy with the queen patrolling the f-file. White's second move must also be something forcing, since Black threatens to escape with Kxe5. These thoughts should lead us as far as 2. f8=Q Qxf8 before thinking again. We need to lure the queen away from her protection of f4, and that can only be done by creating a blockage on the file.

So it has to be the absurd-looking 3. Nf6] returning to its original square. White's threat is 4. f4 followed by c3 mate, and 3 . . . Kxe5 loses to 4. Nd7+. The beautiful variation, which should convince us we are on the right track, is 3 . . . gxf6 4. f4] when nothing can stop 5. c3 mate. We now need only tie up the loose ends on Black's third move. Qb8, hoping to check on b4, loses to Nd7+ again, and Qh8, ready to check on h2 if the f- pawn advances, is perfectly met by 4. Ng4] defending e5, preventing a check on h6, and again setting up the unstoppable threat of c3 mate.