Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bored of studying? Here's a present for ye:

Perhaps you may be tired after all those mugging. If so, then take a break, and have a good chess puzzle:

White to move, can he win?

Anyways, all the best for tomorrow's paper! (:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Day Present!

Since everyone's all good and happy, why not throw in some extra fun with a couple more presents? I'm sure that after such a long absence, many of you will welcome the return of our composed problems... so here goes:

Benkö, Pál & Páros, György
Magyar Sakkszövetség, 1970-06-10 (1st Prize
White to mate in 2

Have fun, and Happy Easter to all! (:

Friday, April 18, 2014

The glorious mark of Philidor's Legacy

Many of us should be well versed in the basic tactical motifs that appear on the chessboard every day: Forks, Discovered Checks, Decoys, and so on. Needless to say, tactics IS beautiful, and of course gaining a keen eye for them gives the tournament hopeful an edge over his opponents.

So as we take a break from rook endgame study, allow me to introduce a tactical mating attack that has left an especially deep impression on me: The Philidor's Legacy.

The Philidor's Legacy is in fact a combination of several tactical motifs: A double check with a knight and queen, followed by a decoy sacrifice that leads to a smothered mate. Funnily enough, the first occurrence of Philidor's Legacy was not by Philidor himself; rather, Lucena was the first to publish it in 1497:

 Luis Ramirez de Lucena
White to move and mate in 5
1. Qe6+! Kh8 2. Nf7+ Kg8 3. Nh6+ Kh8 4. Qg8+ Rxg8 5. Nf7# 1-0

White is down by two pawns and a major piece, yet this brilliant mating attack saves the game for him.


And if you thought this mating attack looks too good to be true, then allow me to remind you that it has appeared many times in real games... such as the following game by the legendary Joseph Henry Blackburne:

 Blackburne - Thomson
Glasgow 1885
Find the best move for White
1. Qe5+ Ka8 (or 1... Rc7 2. Qxc7+ with back rank mate to follow) and after 2. Nc7+, Black resigned in view of Philidor's Legacy (2... Kb8 3. Na6+ Ka8 4. Qb8+ Rxb8 5. Nc7#)

Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841-1920), the "Black Death"


I guess a couple of examples should be more than enough to let y'all understand the beauty of the Philidor's Legacy. Now let me leave y'all with a couple of tactical presents featuring this tactical motif; or rather, the threat of this tactical motif!

Timman - Short
Tilburg 1990
White to move and mate in 5

McConnell - Morphy
New Orleans 1849
Find the best move for Black

Alekhine - Menzel
Boston 1923
White to play and win

And while you're at it, do pause to marvel at the tactical brilliancy executed in the form of Philidor's Legacy. Have fun! (:

"Looking for Trouble: Recognizing and meeting threats in chess" by Dan Heismann

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Inverse Philidor

Since our exams are coming up this will be the last rook endgame challenge that we will be going through in a while. Let's take a look at the position again:

White to move, Black to draw

Once again if it were Black to move things become easy after 1... Rh6! with a draw to follow (I hope you STILL remember this!). But of course with White to move, he makes life hard for Black with:

1. Rg6!

After which White grins at Black and says:

Sorry for stealing your 6th rank, bro

But is it now time for Black to tip his king over and give the point to White? No! Black can still draw with a deceptively surprising method as we shall see.

1.... Rh1! (D)

Position after 1... Rh1!

Remember how a long time ago ( I told y'all to forget about the Rh1 maneuver because it is too difficult to draw? But now, Black has no other choice... so seems like we'll have to pick up this skill anyway!

2. Rg7+ Kd8
3. Kc6

After 3. Kd6 (hoping for 4. Rg8#) Rh6+ Black retakes the 6th rank for himself.

3... Rd1!

The critical move to drawing this game. Apart from the fact that it places the rook behind the pawn, we shall see later why this move is so important!

Now, White can enter several variations, and Black must know how to respond correctly to all of them. The first variation we will look at:

4. Rg8+ (D)

Position after 4. Rg8+

4... Ke7

Demonstrating the strength of 3... Rd1: White now cannot play 4. d6 for fear of 4... Rxd6, while 4. Rg7+ Kd8 simply repeats the position.


Stage 1: Cleared. So let's go back to just after Black's 3rd move (3... Rd1) and see what else White can play:

4. Kd6 (D)

Position after 4. Kd6

Threatening mate on the 8th rank. The best way out for Black will be:

4... Kc8

Escaping onto the short side of the board; remember that the weaker side should strive to put his king on the shorter side of the board so as to allow maximum checking distance for his rook on the long side should the need arise. If you don't understand what gibberish I just said... here you go:

5. Rg8+ Kb7
6. Ke6 Kc7!

Again showing the strength of 3... Rd1: White still can't advance the pawn. Note that 6... Re1+?! 7. Kd7 brings White dangerously close to a Lucena Position, which Black should avoid at all costs! (Though on a side note, Fritz still analyzes the position after 6... Re1+ as a draw)


Stage 2: Cleared. Now on to the final task; let's go back to the position after Black's 5th move (5... Kb7). Instead of 6. Ke6, White tries something new:

6. Rd8 (D)

Position after 6. Rd8

Threatening 7. Ke6 after which White can advance the pawn with impunity. But of course Black does not have to be so accomodating:

6... Rh1

Preparing to rain checks from the long side of the board, and retaking control of the 6th rank (thus creating another easy Philidor Position). White tries his last shot:

7. Re8

Hoping for 7... Rh6+? 8. Re6, but Black simply declines the offer and returns to a status quo:

7... Rd1

And we're back to where we started. Since White can't make any progress, both sides can agree to a draw.



Well, did that look simple enough? Perhaps looking through it a few more times will allow you to familiarize with the drawing technique. And if you thought that was too easy, let me screw around with your mind a little by shifting the pieces around:

White to move wins, Black to move draws

See? I just switched the ranks of the Black king and both rooks and everything suddenly becomes so different: Now White can win if he has the move!

If it were Black to move of course he draws with 1... Rh6 and everything's good and easy after that. But now if we gave White the move:

1. Kc6! Rh1

Or 1... Rf8 2. Ra7! (demonstrating the power of active rooks over passive ones) 2... Rf6+ 3. d6 Ke8 4. Ra8+ Kf7 5. Kc7 Rf1 6. d7 Rc1+ 7. Kd8 with an upcoming Lucena Position.

2. Rg8+ Ke7

White must not allow Black any chance to play Rd1!

3. d6+ Kf7
4. Rg2 Rc1+
5. Kd7

And from there onwards it should not be too difficult for White to set up his beloved Lucena Position.


I hope y'all are following well with these interesting variations of the Philidor Position! In any case, I must pause our journey here for now, since many of us have to prep for our upcoming exams. I may continue to post some puzzles or other interesting stuff that I may wish to share with everyone up here, but we can only resume our study of rook endgames after our exams are over.

All the best, guys!

"Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman
"Chess Endgame Training" by Bernd Rosen

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Challenge yourselves: The Inverse Philidor

Before we go off to prep for our exams, let me issue y'all one last challenge:

Meet our old friend!

Yes, it's the old friend that has been causing y'all so much pain over the last few weeks: The Philidor Position! Of course we all know (well I hope you STILL know, otherwise here goes: that if it were Black to move he draws easily with 1... Rh6, cutting the White king off from the 6th rank.

But what happens if it were White to move instead? Then he destroys Black's plans with a timely 1. Rg6, grabbing the 6th rank for himself and preparing to advance the pawn. Sounds like it's time for Black to resign...

Or is it? Surprisingly, Black can still draw here, though it is definitely not as straightforward as the original Philidor. Anyways, have fun trying to solve the Inverse Philidor: White to move, Black to draw! (:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A difference with an extra pawn: Part 2

Really sorry for the recent inactivity, but at last I have found time to continue writing. Let's continue where we left off a couple of weeks ago:

White to play and win

Once again, the trick here is to find a way to win Black's pawn, so that we can simplify to the winning position we saw in our previous article.

1. Kf2

In order to reach the f-pawn, White must first break through the fence on the 3rd rank.

1... Ka7

1... Rh2+ 2. Kg3 allows White to achieve his goal. Since 1... Kc3 also loses to 2. Ra8 (you should know this by now!) Black can't do much except shuffle his king between a7 and b7.

2. Kg2 Rh6

White now makes his way towards the f-pawn.

3. Kg3 Kb7
4. Kg4 Rh1
5. Kg5 Rh2
6. Kf6 Rh4
7. Ke6 Rh1

7... Rxc4 allows the White rook to escape with 8. Rg8

8. Kd5

The other variation is 8. Kd6 Rh5 (D)

Position after 8... Rh5

If it were Black to move in this position, he would land in zugzwang; thus White must perform some waiting moves until he reaches the same position with Black to move: 9. Ke6 Ka7 (9... Rh1 10. Kd5 leads to our main line) 10. Kd7 Kb7 11. Kd6 with Black in zugzwang.

Fortunately, 8. Kd5 keeps things simple:

8... Rh5+
9. Kd6 Ka7
10. Kc6

Zugzwang! Black must now make the difficult choice between dropping his pawn, letting the White rook escape, or checkmate.

10... Rh1

10... Ka6?? leads to 11. Ra8#

11. Kxc5

Our training sessions may have paused for now, but I will continue to write so long as I can find the time to do so. Hopefully y'all can do the same and continue learning at your own pace. Remember: Chess is a not just a competitive sport. It's a lifelong learning experience!

The Vancura Position:
Passive rook + Pawn on 7th rank (Part 1):
Passive rook + Pawn on 6th rank:
Passive rook + Pawn on 7th rank (Part 2):

"Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman