Chess

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The endgame study composer Genrich Kasparyan, who died last year, was one of the strongest players of all problemists. (Many very strong players have composed the occasional fine problem, but few top-class problemists have had much of a playing career.)

Perhaps this is why so many of his compositions have that light touch that appeals to players as well as purists. The position above is a good example. It is White to play and win.

At first glance, it looks simple: get the bishop out of the way and promote the pawn to a queen next move. But things are not so simple.

After the natural 1.Bg6 (or 1.Bh5) Black plays 1...Rb8+ 2.Ka7 Bd4+. Now 3.b6 is forced, when 3...Bxb6+ 4.Ka6 looks, and is, good for White. But Black plays instead 3...Rxb6! and after 4.e8Q+ Kc7 the threat of Rb8+ guarantees Black a draw. The white queen has no good square from which to give check.

But if moving the bishop out of the way doesn't work, how is White to make progress? If this were a lesser composer's work, the answer might begin with 1.Rxc6+ dxc6 2.Bxc6, but Kasparyan would not do anything so crude. Black draws easily with 2...Rb8+ 3.Ka7 Bd4+ with Kc7 to come.

So what about trying to get the bishop out in the other direction? 1.Rd2 looks promising: the threat is 2.Bxd7+ and the rook also puts paid to that troublesome check from the bishop on d4. Again, however, Black has an ingenious defence: after 1.Rd2 he plays 1...Rxb5! 2.Bxd7+ Kc7 and the threat of mate on a5 saves the game for him.

Finally, 1.Bxd7+ Kxd7 2.bxc6+ looks tempting, but fails against 2...Rxc6! 3.Rxc6 Kxe7 with a draw.

So what's the answer? The first idea was correct, but you have to pick the right square for the bishop. Try 1.Bf7! Rb8+ 2.Ka7 Bd4+ 3.b6. Now after 3...Rxb6 4.e8Q+ Kc7 White plays 5.Ra2! (where the rook is now protected by the bishop) Rb8+ 6.Ka6 Rb6+ 7.Ka5 and White wins.

The real point of the study, however, is seen after 3...Bxb6+ 4.Ka6 Bd8! Black threatens mate, but White gets there first with 5.Rxc6+! dxc6 6.Be6+ Kc7 7.e8=N mate! Bravo.

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