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“Sofia is quite good at tactics, too”: It’s Your Move: daily chess puzzle

June 24, 2015

I have just finished the truly superb second volume of Judit Polgar's three volume games collection/autobiography. The first volume was excellent, the second – if it is possible- better still; the third volume will be in my flight bag for my summer holiday reading.

I haven't quite finished it though. I still have a few of the problems to solve. Judit interspersed a few pages of problems throughout her book, and I have a few toughies to solve. This blog is about one particularly interesting one.

She headed the following blitz game, from Honolulu in 1998, with the heading to my blog- Sofia is quite good at tactics too: that's a compliment, but the 'quite' makes it barbed.

The position is given as a Black to play and win. Have a go at solving it, before reading on.

 

Solution

 

The main themes are fairly obvious. There is a possibility of black back rank mating white (1…Bd3 2 Re5?? Rf1 mate), but if nothing else, 1 Rdd1 defeats it; and Black's position is somewhat loose, with the pin on the e file and also weak pawn structure.

So, I next tried 1…Bg2!?; but I couldn't defeat 2 Qh4.

Black to play and win

I couldn't solve this one, and having tried for too long, turned to the answer.

Sofia played the superb 2…Bh3!! and it was game over, 0-1. She clearly knows the CJS Purdy rule of ignoring threats.

 

Beautiful. Or is it?

 

Having been overwhelmed by the beauty of this (and humbled: it is only a blitz game, and Sofia is only quite good at tactics) I decided to blog about this puzzle. So I loaded the position into the Stockfish app on my iPad and was startled to see 1…Bg2 is good (it took the iPad 30secs or so to find it) but only -0.8. What is going on? It prefers 2 Qg3! which somehow I had dismissed in favour of 2 Qh4. Since Judit makes no comment other than giving the 2 Qh4 Bh3 line, presumably 2 Qh4 is the more human move? It would be interesting to know if any of my readers saw 2 Qg3. I saw it, but dismissed it, thinking 2 Qh4 turned the tables on Black.

I have explored the resulting position a bit more. In fact, it is, to my mind, more equal than advantageous to Black, since playing some human moves as Black enable white to simplify the position to equality. After 2…Qg3 3 hg my first try as Black was 3…Bd5, thinking centralisation is good, but in thinking that I also felt Black's bishop would have no stability (the word I learnt from Mihail Marin's annotations for Chessbase) on d5. 4 Nb6, or, since it simplifies more, 4 c4! bc 5 Nc3 is well night equal, often because if there are exchanges on d5, white can put his e1 rook on e6. So, to try to keep some advantage, Black has to play 3…Bh3.

Carlsen, Caruana et al would no doubt grind the win out, so, ultimately, 1…Bg2! does win, but the position is both beautiful and complex.

 

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