Chess: Trickery of performing pieces

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A GOOD chess composition often has the pieces performing tricks of which one would not have believed them capable. An outstanding composition features a succession of such tricks, strung together to achieve a higher order of astonishment.


Today's position, by Mark Liburkin (1910- 1953), is a good example of the best in endgame studies. The start should not be too difficult. Black threatens to promote his pawn and give mate, so the opening move must be 1. Nd5+ or 1. Ne4+. Since 1. Nd5+ Kd2 leaves White defenceless, it must be the other one. So where does Black go after 1. Ne4+? If Kxc4 or Kd4, then 2. Kb2 will win easily, so it must be 1 . . . Kd3]

Now 2. Kb2 is met by Be5+ followed by promotion of the pawn, so the white knight has more work to do with 2. Nc5+ Kc3 and now 3. Nb3 removes the immediate danger from the c-pawn. Black, to keep the game going must play 3 . . . Be5] with the terrible threat of Kd3+.

White now has two possibilities to distract the bishop: 4. Bh2 and 4. f4. After 4. Bh2 Bg7 (4 . . . Bh8 allows e8=Q and the new queen attacks the bishop) 5. e8=N (again attacking the bishop) Bh8] White runs out of ways to defend the long diagonal, but this suggests the correct path: 4. f4] Bg7 (or Bf6) 5. e8=N] Bh8 and now we keep going with 6. f5] threatening to cut off the bishop's line with f6. Black must escape with 6 . . . Be5 and now, for want of anything else, White goes back to the other idea: 7. Bh2]

One point now is that 7 . . . Bd4 loses to 8. Bf4] when the bishop relieves the knight from covering c1 and allows Nxd4 in reply to a check. So Black has nothing better than 7 . . . Bxh2 and White must find something to do when the bishop returns to e5. At first 8. Nf6 Be5 9. Nd7 looks tempting, but 9 . . . Bd4] is then very strong. It's time to use the b-pawn: 8. b7] Be5 and now 9. b8=Q is obvious . . . and wrong] Black replies 9 . . . Kxc4+] 10. Qxe5 c1=Q+ 11. Nxc1 - stalemate.

The answer, therefore, is 9. b8=B]] Bxb8 10. Nc7] (delaying the bishop's return to e5) Bxc7 11. e7 Be5 and now 12. e8=Q? again allows stalemate after Kxc4+, but 12. e8=R]] completes the job. After 12 . . . Bg7 13. Re6] Bd4 14. Re1] and White squeezes out the win after 14 . . . Bf6 15. Rb1] Kxc4+ 16. Rb2.