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Chess, March, 2012

The British Chess Solving Final, 2011-2012

Imagine. You’ve qualified for the final of the Winton Capital British Chess Solving Championship by managing not to drop too many points in the difficult postal round. You’re sitting at a desk in School Hall at Eton College, the place set up just like it’s an examination, which in reality it is. You’ve been through the first round – three ‘mates in 2’ to solve in just twenty minutes. You’ve seen Roddy McKay hand in his solutions in just 9 minutes, and then watched as nine other top solvers (5 solving Grandmasters and one solving International Master) have handed in in times between 13 and 19 minutes. Despite the fact that, for such an event, the first round was relatively easy, you have found yourself questioning your normally confident view of the chessboard.

You’ve sat through the second round – two ‘mates in 3’ in 40 minutes. Again, these are relatively easy, certainly easier than normal, with Grandmasters Murdzia, van Beers, Mestel and Nunn handing in very early in times ranging between just 14 and 15 minutes. You though, along with half of the solvers present, stay seated for the full 40 minutes and still don’t manage to get full marks. With all that behind you, you are just about ready for two endgame studies in 60 minutes – or maybe not. The event is difficult, even in years, like this one, when the problems set are somewhat easier than normal.

The fastest, all-correct solver of the study round was Grandmaster John Nunn, who took just 28 minutes to polish off the studies given below. His closest rival in this round, Grandmaster Piotr Murdzia of Poland, took all of 49 minutes. Only 6 of the 38 solvers present got full marks on this study, a prize-winner from over a quarter of a century ago by Czech composer Mario Matous.

Mario Matous

4th Prize, Chervoni Girnik, 1984


White to play and win

WCBCSC solvers were awarded half a point for providing the white moves of the main line indicated below by ‘(½)’, leading to a total of 5 points for a full solution. With the knight under threat, the first move is not difficult. 1.Nc5 (½) Qc8+ Black’s other check leads to the loss of his queen or the promotion of White’s passed pawn – 1...Qh5+ 2.Kg3 Qe5+ (2...Qxc5 3.Be4+ Kb8 4.Bf4+ Kc8 5.b7+ Kd7 6.b8Q 1-0) 3.Bf4 Qe1+ 4.Kg2 Qb4 5.Be4+ Qxe4+ 6.Nxe4 1-0 2.Kh2 (½) The first of a series of careful choices for the white king. Bad alternatives are - 2.Kh4? Qd8+ 3.Kg4 h5+ (3...Qxb6? 4.Be4+ Ka7 5.Be3 h5+ 6.Kh3 (6.Kxh5? Qb5 =) 6...h4 7.Kg4 h3 8.Kxh3 Qb5 9.Nd7+ Ka6 10.Bd3 Qxd3 11.Nc5+ 1-0) 4.Kh3 Qc8+ 5.Kh2 Qb8+ 6.Kh1 Qxb6 7.Be4+ Ka7 8.Be3 h4 9.Kg1 h3 10.Kh1 h2 = and 2.Kg2? Qg4+ 3.Kf2 Qh4+ 4.Ke2 Qg4+ 5.Ke1 Qg3+ 6.Kd1 Qg1+ 7.Ke2 Qg4+ = 2...Qb8+ Black has to be careful too. Picking up the loose knight gains White a queen – 2...Qxc5 3.Be4+ Kb8 4.Bf4+ Kc8 5.b7+ 1-0, as does trying to tie down the white king 2...Qg4 3.Be4+ Kb8 4.Na6+ Kc8 5.b7+ Kd7 6.Bg2 Qh5+ 7.Bh3+ Ke7 8.b8Q 1-0 3.Kh1 (½) Staying uncheckable on the first rank is now important. 3...Qxb6 Black has captured White’s dangerous passed pawn, but now the white pieces combine beautifully. 4.Be4+ Ka7 5.Be3 (½) Black is now in zugzwang. His only king move leads to a knight-fork and every destination for his queen is mined. 5...h5 Black can only play this pawn until its way is blocked. 6.Kg1 (½) h4 7.Kh1 (½) h3 8.Kg1 (½) h2+ 9.Kh1 (½) Qb5 The only move that doesn’t lead to immediate loss of the queen, but a small combination now wraps things up – 10.Nd7+ (½) Ka6 11.Bd3 Qxd3 12.Nc5+ (½) 1–0

The other study that WCBCSC solvers had to tackle within the 60 minutes was this one and it is this month’s challenge for you to solve. Have a go! You can take as much time as you like!

Leonid Katsnelson & Aleksandr Maksimovskikh

2nd Prize, Magadanskaya Pravda, 1986


White to play and win

After the studies round, there are three more timed rounds, featuring helpmates, selfmates and mates in more than 3 moves. Overall then, 6 timed rounds held between 12:30 and 17:15. The breaks between rounds are 10 minutes for all except that after the third round, when an extended rest (of fully 15 minutes) is granted.

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