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La mia analisi: Il materiale

La lezione del GM Schwartzman The reason I have do not include many compositions in my Lessons is that they are usually not very realistic.  And since the main goal of the Academy is help you improve your tournament play, besides having fun, I just thought that it is positions that come from real games that provide the best learning experience.
So, what changed my mind?  Well, just the fact that this position looks almost like it came out of a real game.   I know black's 'g' pawn getting to f3 and 'h' pawn to g4 is not that easy.  I also know that black happens to be an exchange down, and his bishop looks like it never developed.  But, let's get over that - everything else looks like a game, right?
And quite an exciting one! It is almost like a football game played by two teams that don't have any defense: white's king is absolutely alone surrounded by black's pieces, and black's king is just as lonely, in front of not less than three of our pieces.  Now let me tell you what by far the best news about this position really is: it is white's move!  If it were black's move - well he would have a choice between checkmating us right away, or promoting his 'e' pawn.
Of course, this threat that black has is quite obvious, so why am I pointing it out?   Simple:  it is the clue that will help us solve the puzzle! Under normal circumstances, we should be considering all of white's moves, or at least almost all.   That could take a while, and would make our job pretty difficult, wouldn't it?   But, because of the threats that black has, we have no choice: we must limit our calculations to only the moves that stop them.
Unfortunately, since black threatens not one, but two checkmates - on h2 and g2, there is no defensive move that would stop them both.  Really, the only moves that would either stop or postpone a checkmate, are... checks!  So, all we have to do is carefully calculate our checking moves: Rb8, Qe6, and Qg4.
Now of course, Qg4 looks like the first choice, since it is not a sacrifice, and it forces black to trade his most threatening piece, the queen.  The bad news, though, is that as soon as we get his queen off the board, his other one comes in...  And without our queen, we really find ourselves in deep trouble!
So, this only leaves our two other moves.  Trust me when I say that I wouldn't blame you if would start with 1.Rb8.  After all, it is a rook sacrifice, which is generally better than giving up an entire queen, as Qe6 does.  But, on the other hand, can we really do anything after we give up the rook?  The unfortunate answer is no.  You see, we manage to get black's king on the 'b' file, which allows us to then infiltrate our queen.  But, just as we proceed to go in, on b7 and then b8, black's queen happens to remember the concept of defense and comes back at the last second to avoid defeat.  The variation I am referring to is: 1.Rb8 Kb8 2.Qb4 Kc8 3.Qb7 Kd8 4.Qb8 Qc8.
Obviously, white has some other possibilities as well after the first move, but trust me, there is no checkmate in sight.  So, before we despair, let's check out the one remaining move: 1.Qe6!!

Here's the problem with this move: its looks.  It really doesn't look like the move does anything...  I mean, yes it loses our queen after 1...Qe6, but it doesn't look like it is doing anything to help us checkmate black... But here is where looks can once again be deceiving!  You see, it does do one thing:  it removes black's queen from h3, and thus removes the immediate checkmate threat.  With that gone, what we do get, is some extra time - time that we can use to put together a mating net.

Putting this net together is really not as difficult as it sounds.   With the little pieces that we have left, we have to use them in the best possible fashion if we want to stand a chance.  And there isn't anything more obvious than 2.Nd7!
Suddenly we have an exciting checkmate threat: Rb8.  Further, some more good news:  with black out of checks, and a king out of breathing room, the only way he can stop the checkmate is by giving up his own queen with 2...Qd7. 
And it is now, finally, that we reach the trick to this entire combination!  It is so tempting to only consider 3.ed7 as the simple reply which captures black's queen!  But then we quickly realize that black captures back and enters a completely winning endgame, thanks to his bishop, knight, and numerous pawns.   So, all the effort for nothing?  Not exactly! We have just one more trick up our sleeve: instead of quickly gobbling up black's queen, how about sacrificing our last heavy piece with 3.Rb8!!

And this is exactly why this puzzle is so fantastic: in three quick moves, we have sacrifice all of our active pieces: the queen, the knight, and now the rook.   So, are we trying to get a stalemate?  Not exactly, as long as there still is a pawn on g3... So, then what are we trying to get?  I mean checkmating without pieces is kind of difficult, right?
Well, yes, except for the fact that we still have pawns, and one happens to be very close to promotion.  As a a matter of fact, after the forced 3...Kb8 we can play 4.cd7 and put black in an absolutely amazing situation:

He can simply not prevent our 'd' pawn from promoting.  And as if this is wasn't bad enough for black, here's another nightmare: when our pawn promotes on the next move, it is going to be a checkmate! So, this entire puzzle was actually a forced checkmate in five moves.  Pretty neat, wasn't it?