mia analisi: Il
La lezione del GM Schwartzman: I sincerely hope that this puzzle was a welcome relief after the few harder puzzles of
We are dealing with a less than fortunate position from white's perspective: he is an exchange and a pawn down, and one would have to try very hard to find any compensation for this material. Black's pawn structure is absolutely perfect, he has a very active bishop, and the fact that there are two completely open files helps, as always, the side with the rook. But if all of the above are pretty depressing facts for white, here are a couple of better news: white's queen is much more active than its black counterpart, the white bishop controls a very important diagonal, the black rook is currently out of work, and most importantly. the black king shows some signs of weaknesses.
This last point is indeed very important. The simple fact that the black king is currently positioned on a diagonale controlled by our bishop, should immediately draw our attention to possible combinations. Of course, it doesn't take long to realize that in its present position it is very hard to hurt the black king, because his bishop and pawn provide him with a great defense. It is also obvious that if we want to do something this is the time to do it, because any delay gives black the chance to bring his queen and rook into play, thus making future attempts much harder. The only question remains "how do we do it?"
Well, if we can not do anything to the black king while it is so closely defended by his bodyguards, it seems reasonable to look at ways of getting rid of the bodyguards or getting the king out of his fortress. Both of these ideas should have pointed you in the right direction: 1.Qc6!
This is the kind of move that under the circumstances of this position you
are obliged to take into consideration, even if it involves a queen sacrifice. I am not
saying that you should play it, I am just saying that if you are white in such a position
it is your obligation to calculate moves such as Qc6 and check whether they work or not,
which of course you should do as black as well, just to make sure that nothing can happen
to you. So 1.Qc6 is not that hard to find, the problem is calculating it correctly...
Well, if black wants to preserve his advantage, he'll have to play 1...Kc6, taking the white queen. The question is "what now?" The only pieces left are a knight and a bishop, and if it takes in the endgame so many moves to checkmate with them, how can we expect to do better with so many of black's pieces around? Well, that's actually the secret! Both white's and black's pawn are very important because they take away many of the squares the black king could go to...
Going back to the position after 1...Kc6, it is obvious that we need a double check. Any other kind of check would allow black to block the diagonale with d6-d5, which would immediately kill any further mating attempt. And since our declared intention is to get the black king in the center, and not let him get back among his pawns, 2.Ne5 looks like the perfect choice!
Black's only move is 2...Kc5. Now what? We can not use
the b- pawn to checkmate, because of the black a5 pawn, and our knight is en prise,
and we can hardly expect to win this game if we lose the knight too... Which means that
checking with the knight is a very attractive choice, so 3.Nd3 is once
again not a very hard move to find, forcing black to play 3...Kd4.
I have to say that this is actually the key position of this entire
combination. Getting here is no problem, because all the moves have been more or less
forced. The great danger is calculating so far and then arriving at the conclusion that
nothing works, and thus not making the sacrifice. Why? Simply because there is no other
obvious check in view, except maybe for 4.c3 Kc3, which gives us nothing. And since black
is a queen up, this hardly looks like a position in which we can take our time...
The important thing is to be able to correctly visualize this position in your head. If you can do that, you should be able to see that the black king has only two squares to go to, e3 and c3, and that one white move can control both of these squares, thus finishing the beautiful mating web around the black king. And that move is 4.Kd2!!. Even without his queen on the board, white can make this quiet move, threatening c2-c3 checkmate, and black has absolutely no way of stopping it, courtesy of the passive position of his queen and rook.
Once again, not a very hard, but definitely a very beautiful combination, which shows what kind of hidden resources a chess position can have. This is also a perfect demonstration of why calculating is so important. Some players might be tempted to take 1.Qc6 and say "this can never work... a knight and bishop are not enough to checkmate." Well, I think this position has shown pretty clear that in chess, almost everything is possible...