Home of the Meson Chess Problem Database and the BDS Ladder

Chess, August, 2008

Shadow boxing

A popular study idea (that chess composers like to call a theme) is that of a duel between a single white piece and a single black piece. Normally this involves the white piece threatening the black piece with capture and the black piece running around the board. Sometimes however, the idea can be set in a more subtle way, as illustrated by our first study. Grandmaster Kasparyan shows us a duel that is almost more like shadow-boxing than hand-to-hand combat.

Genrikh M Kasparyan

3rd Prize, Shakhmaty v SSSR, 1962


White to play and draw

The position is admittedly not very natural and indeed, trying to win by natural means just doesn’t seem to work, as this sample line shows - 1.Ra6? a2! (1...Bg7?? 2.Rxa3+ Ba2 3.Kxc2=) 2.Rg6 Be7 3.Rd6 Bg5 4.Rf6 Bh4 5.Rf8 Be7 6.Rf6 Bd8 7.Ra6 Bc7 8.Ra3 Be5 9.Rc3 Bh8 10.Rb3 Bf6 11.Rc3 Bd8 12.Ra3 Bc7 13.Rc3 Ba5 14.Rxc2 (14.Rxe3 Bd2+ 15.Kxd2 Kb2 16.Rc3 a1Q 0-1; 14.Rd3 Bd2+ 15.Rxd2 exd2+ 16.Kxd2 Kb2 0-1) 14...Bb4 15.Kd1 Ba3 16.Rd2 exd2 17.Kxd2 Kb2 0-1. In this form of the duel between white rook and black bishop, the black bishop is victorious.

Because the rook is the only white piece that can move, its removal from the board leads to an immediate draw. Also, if Black can be persuaded to play ...a2, then White could draw by capturing the bishop, or by not allowing Black to set up the kind of position shown in the try. The first move doesn’t attack the bishop, but restricts it. 1.Rg7! a2 Instead of this restricting move, Black can try not to fall into White’s plan, but to no avail - 1...Ka2 2.Rb7! Bd6 3.Rb3! Be5 4.Rxa3+ Kxa3 =; 1...Ba2 2.Ra7 Bxc4 3.Rxa3+ Ba2 4.Kxc2 = (The white rook stays on the a-file, the white king stays on c2 and Black can make no progress); 1...Bd6 2.Ra7! a2 3.Re7! has transposed into the main line. 2.Rh7! 2.Rd7? Bh6 3.Rf7 Bg5 4.Rf6 Bh4 0-1 has transposed to the line in the try 1.Ra6? 2...Bd6 3.Re7! Bf4 3...Bb8 4.Rc7 = 4.Re5! Bh6 5.Rg5 Bf8 6.Rg7 Bd6 7.Re7 ½–½ The duelling pieces dance around each other for ever!

As I wrote earlier, this study is not very game-like, and when shown such studies, practical players often ask how they are meant to help them improve their play. Well, apart from stimulating the imagination by showing things that are possible with the board and men, these studies are not really intended to improve your play. They are to be enjoyed for themselves. Some people, myself included, believe that chess has a lot more to offer than just being a means of proving our superiority over others.

Our second study is newer (and more game-like!) and was first published in a Ukrainian city that is sadly better known for non-chessic events than chessic ones. Why not have a go at solving it?

Sergei Abramenko

1/2 HM., Chernobyl Ty., 1990


White to play and win

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