Chess: White way to win

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The Independent Culture
TODAY'S position, a first-prize winning study by Alexander Herbstman, is a good example of how helpful it is to have the words 'White to play and win' written beneath the board, writes William Hartston.

ch13out-harts-nws Reaching this position in a game, one's first inclination would probably be to neutralise Black's g-pawn by playing 1. Rg4, but after 1 . . . Rf2 White could hardly entertain any hopes of winning the game. An optimist would look at 1. Re8, with its threat of Ke7 mate, but 1 . . . Re5] is discouraging. After 2. Rxe5 g1=Q 3. Re8 Qa7] White's king can never escape.

At this stage one might easily run short of ideas and return to the original choice of 1. Rg4. Only the composer's helpful 'White to play and win' lures us along the path to victory.

After 1. Re8] Re5, White can renew his mating threat by sliding the rook anywhere along the back rank. But Rd8, Rc8, Rb8 and Ra8 are met by Rd5, Rc5, Rb5 and Ra5 respectively. Which is the right one? Black's defensive idea with Qa7 provides the clue. White must play 2. Ra8] Ra5 3. Rxa5] g1=Q 4. Ra8 when the queen can no longer go to a7. But the fight is not over. Black attacks the rook with 4 . . . Qg2 and play continues 5. Rb8] (renewing the mate threat and stopping Qb7) Qg3 6. Rc8] (preventing Qc7) Qg4 7. Rd8] Qxg5 8. Re8]

Now 8 . . . Qg8+ loses to 9. Ke7 Qxe8+ 10. Kxe8 f5 11. d4 f4 12. d5 f3 13. d6 f2 14. d7 f1=Q 15. d8=Q Qf8+] 16. Kd7] (not Kxf8 stalemate). But what if Black plays 8 . . . Qf6] stifling the White king? Then the study ends elegantly with 9. d4] and Black cannot maintain control of both f7 and e7. His only way to avoid mate is 9 . . . Qe6, losing prosaically to 10. Rxe6 fxe6 11. Kf7 e5 12. d5. The final point to note is that after 1. Re8 Re5, White must play 2. Ra8 immediately since 2. Rd8 Rd5 3. Ra8 fails after 3 . . . Rd7.

(Graphic omitted)