Independent Pursuits: Chess

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A MONTH ago I demonstrated one of my favourite studies: Mitrofanov's

exercise in wish fulfilment in which a king and three pawns ultimately defeat a good part of a complete army. Today another favourite, but in a quite different genre.

White to play and win

Vladimir Korolkov 1951

As with the Mitrofanov study, I refreshed my memory in Endgame Magic by John Beasley and Timothy Whitworth (BT Batsford, pounds 9.99). In fact the problem appears on the opposite page, but only because they are both in the chapter entitled "The Grand Manner".

Beasley and Whitworth tell the interesting story of how the Dutch composer John Selman had published a similar effort with the same finale in 1940 and improved it in 1949. But communications just after the war were bad and Korolkov produced this even better effort independently (unless you invoke Jung's Collective Unconscious) in 1951.

The solution depends completely on the logic stemming from White's efforts to promote his passed pawn and Black's to prevent this. The first move is obvious:

1 f7.

Now 1... Rf6 fails to 2 Bb2, so Black first gives check:

1... Ra6+

Posing a difficult problem, since 2 Kb2 would take the square away from the bishop, allowing 2... Rf6 while if 2 Kb1? Bxf5+ is check. There remains only:

2 Ba3! Rxa3+ 3 Kb2.

Now, the rook can't get back but it can harass the white king, which must avoid the diagonals from f5 to b1 (... Bxf5+) and e6 to a2 (...Be6+)

3... Ra2+!

If 3... Rb3+? 4 Ka2, White wins immediately:

4 Kc1!

Perhaps the hardest move of the solution. It turns out that 4 Kc3 Rc2+ would lead to a draw, since the white king can escape the checks neither by crossing the d file - when the rook can get to d8, eg 5 Kd4 Rd2+ 6 Ke5 Rd8; nor via the seventh rank, when a rook check on that rank will win the pawn, eg 5 Kb4 Rb2+ 6 Kc5 Rc2+ 7 Kb6 Rb2+ 8 Kc7 Rb7+.

4... Ra1+ 5 Kd2 Ra2+ 6 Ke3 Ra3+ 7 Kf4 Ra4+ 8 Kg5 Rg4+! 9 Kh6! Rg8.

Or 9... Rg6+ 10 Kxg6 Bxf5 + 11 Kf6

10 Ne7 Be6

11 fxg8Q+

I happened to have a computer on at this moment - Hiarchs - and to my amusement it assessed the position as equal right up to the point when Black recaptured: 11... Bxg8, allowing 12 Ng6 mate.

All this with just seven pieces. A masterpiece!