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Bent Larsen vs Jonathan Penrose
Palma de Mallorca (1969), Palma ESP, rd 3, Nov-24
Nimzo-Larsen Attack: English Variation (A01)  ·  1-0



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Given 40 times; par: 104 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Sep-17-10  whiteshark: I hallucinated as soon as day broke.
Premium Chessgames Member
  agb2002: The material is even.

White can tie Black up with 40.Bg6+ Kf8 (40... Kxg6 41.f5+; 40... Ke7 41.Rxe8+) 41.Kg3 and once the white king reaches a better square, the pawn ending after trading rooks and bishops is won for White:

A) 41... Re1 42.Kh4

A.1) 42... Re4 43.Kh5 Re3 44.Rxe8+ Rxe8 45.Bxe8 Kxe8 46.Kg6 Kf8 47.g5 hxg5 48.fxg5 fxg5 50.Kxg5 Kf7 51.Kf5 wins the d-pawn and the game.

A.2) 42... Re3 43.Rd8 (43.Kh5 Rxh3#) Re4 44.Kh5 transposes to A.1.

B) 41... f5 42.gxf5 Re1 43.Kg4 Re3 44.f6 (a curious stalemate arises after the not forced 44.Rxe8+ Rxe8 45.Bxe8 Kxe8 46.f6 gxf6 47.Kf5 Kf7 48.h4 h5) gxf6 45.Rxe8+ Rxe8 46.Bxe8 Kxe8 47.Kh5 Kf7 (47... Ke7 48.Kg6 Ke6 49.f5+ Ke7 50.Kg7 + -) 48.Kxh6 + -.

C) 41... h5 42.Bxh5 Re1 43.Kh4 Re3 44.Rxe8+ Rxe8 45.Bxe8 Kxe8 46.Kh5 Kf7 47.f5 Kf8 48.Kg6 Kg8 49.h4 + -.

Sep-17-10  Patriot: 40.Bg6+ was the only move I seriously considered, seeing that 40...Kxg6 41.f5+ Ke7 42.fxe6+ which looks winning. 40...Kf8 leaves black tied down, while 40...Ke7 41.Rxe8+ is just winning. After 40...Kf8, white has time to do what he wants but seems to be winning anyway after 41.Bxe8 Rxe8 42.Rxb6. I probably would not have played that line in the game nor would I go that route instantly because it could be throwing the win away, but would look for other things white can do--after all, black isn't going anywhere!

I really didn't see the possibilities <dzechiel> pointed out. 40.Bg6+ looked so forcing and seemed to be winning immediately that candidates like 40.Rd8 just didn't register. I should have at least noticed that possibility.

Sep-17-10  CHESSTTCAMPS: Material is even in this ending, but white has the advantages of mobility, the most advanced pawn (b-pawn) on the board, and the attacking rook behind enemy pawns. I analyzed this as a two-stage problem. The first stage is a tactic to put black in a tighter bind (the easy part), the second stage is to determine the most accurate way to convert white's winning advantage.

The first part is easy:


A) 40...Kxg6? 41.f5+ Kf7 42.fxe6+ Ke7 43.Rxb6 and exchange+pawn gives white an easy win.

B) 40... Kg8 or Ke7 41.Rxe8+ wins.

C) 40... Kf8

The only defense - not much analysis is needed to reach this. Now white (though certainly not Larsen) might be tempted to cash in with 41.Bxe8? Rxe8 42.Rxb6, but black has 42... Re4 getting the pawn back immediately. However, there is no rush - black is nearly in zugzwang. King and bishop moves lose a piece, pawn moves are sacrifices, and the rook can't leave the e-file without losing a piece, so black now is confined to shifting the rook between e7 and e6. The 2nd stage is logic and a little bit of calculation. White wants to take the b-pawn under the most favorable circumstances possible. A triangulation maneuver could be considered by white (i.e. rook moves on 8th rank) to make the rook abandon the e-pawn, but I (and perhaps Larsen also) decided on the following direct method:

C.1) 41.h4! (to protect the bishop. f5 gives the black rook immediate access to e4.) Re7 42.h5 Re6 43.Kf3 (protects f4 and forces the rook to abandon defense of the b-pawn) Re1 44.Rxb6 Bxg6 (Rb1 45.Rb8 wins) 45.hxg6 Rb1 46.Rb8+

Now we reach a faniliar theme where white switches attention to the kingside pawns.

Ke7 47.b6 Kd7 48.f5 Kc6 (Rf1+ 49.Ke2 Rg1 50.Rb7+ Kc6 51.Rxg7 Rxg4 52.b7) 49.Rg8 Rxb6 50.Rxg7 to be followed by Rf7 and Rxf6+ and the advanced g-pawn will win easily for white.

Sep-17-10  CHESSTTCAMPS: Ahh 44.g5 is so much better - it crossed my mind but I didn't work it through.
Sep-17-10  twin phoenix: Well, Larson was great! I came up with 40. B-g6, K-f8 but then wanted to continue with 41. Bxe8?!, Rxe8 42.Rxb6 and although this still looks winning Larsons 41. H4! is much better as so succinctly demonstrated above by Syracrophy . Thus, i'm afraid that i can only claim partial credit here. Doesn't surprise me the resignation after all who wants to be black who can only sit around waiting for the sword of damacles to fall...
Sep-17-10  kevin86: The bishop check leads to a zugzwang set-up whereupon, black is lost.
Sep-17-10  EXIDE: Considered the Bishop move, however: I did not see that black would be all tied up saving his black bishop, waiting for white to perform the kill at his leisure. Did not even cross my mind, there are too many pitfalls (traps) in chess.
Sep-17-10  LIFE Master AJ: <dzechiel, Once, etc.>

I think that the REAL point of White's play is that Black is in complete Zugzwang. (A few of you HAVE pointed this out.)

But as far as I can tell - and deep apologies if anyone already posted this, I am not trying to steal your thunder ... ... ...

The REAL point of Larsen's play is that he threatens to march his King to f5, swap off the Bishop and Rook, and then play Ke6, winning the K+P endgame easily?

Does this help anyone?

Sep-17-10  BOSTER: White have more space on the King's side and more active rook. All black pieces on the white squares. It gives white the possibility to play 40.Bg6+ decoy, if Kxg6 41. f5+. So black have to play Kf8. And now we have clearly understand that black rook tied to protect bishop e8 and has to stay on e file ,and black is in zugzwang. In the majority of endings it is essential to think in terms of plan. We plan the deployment of our own pieces that we require. This is achieved by moving the King to f3, rook at d8 and pawn on h5. After this we can exchange bishops on e8 and take the pawn d5.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <LIFE Master AJ>

Except, of course, that black is not in zugzwang at any point in the combination. Zugzwang, literally "oompulsion to move", is when one side has a perfectly satisfactory position but the fact that he is forced to move compels him to damage his position.

In today's puzzle, black is not forced to ruin his position by the compulsion to move. His problem is that he is so tied down that he cannot do anything while white improves his position.

As to the finish, I think we have all looked at the rest of the moves and worked it out for ourselves, thank you.

Sep-17-10  ZUGZWANG67: An endgame (again!) where material is equal. W has more space on both wings and has better R and B (because of the central pawns). But these factors alone would not be enough to support a win without the existence of a tactic on the light squares, which brings the possibility of a zugzwang:

40.Bg6+! (40...Kxg6?? 41.f5+);
The BK is forced on the back rank where it will remain extremely passive.


This is the key manoeuvre that steals a crucial square on the e-file.

Again, forced.

And B should resign as he has no more move that keeps the status-quo (42...h5 43.Bxh5 g6 Bxg6; 42...Re4 43.Bxe4 dxe4 44.Ke3).

Hopefully my calculation should prove accurate (this time!). Time to check!


I'm not sure but I think that my line wins faster. I should investigate. What do you think?

Sep-17-10  ZUGZWANG67: Oops! 41...Re4!. So 41.f5 was almost a blunder!
Sep-17-10  ZUGZWANG67: Not only was 41.f5(?) "almost" a blunder, it was actually one!



Sep-17-10  ZUGZWANG67: <<LIFE Master AJ>: I think that the REAL point of White's play is that Black is in complete Zugzwang. (A few of you HAVE pointed this out.)>

I did but miserably failed to prove my point.


Sep-17-10  wals: Black.

Analysis by Rybka 4 x64: depth 23:

1. (0.95): 34...b6 35.Rc8 Rxc8 36.Rxc8 Kf7[] 37.axb6 axb6[] 38.Rb8 Rd6 39.f5 Ke7 40.Kg3 Ba4 41.Rb7+ Kf8 42.Kf4 Rc6 43.Be2 Bb3 44.b5 Rd6 45.Rc7 Rd8 46.Bd3 Ra8 47.Rb7

depth 23:

1. (2.01): 39...Ra7 40.Rxb6 Ke7 41.Rb8 Ra4 42.Ke3 g5 43.f5 Ra3 44.Kd2 Ra2+ 45.Bc2[] h5 46.gxh5 Bxh5 47.Rb7+ Kd8 48.Rb6 Be8 49.Kc3 Kc7 50.Rxf6 Bxb5 51.Bb3 Rh2 52.Rh6 Rf2 53.f6 Bc6

42...Re6 +7.22, and Black threw in the towel, move 44.

Sep-17-10  dzechiel: <Once: Except, of course, that black is not in zugzwang at any point in the combination.>

Yeah, black finds himself in what Soltis calls a "squeeze". He has moves, but they do nothing to prevent the opponent from steadily improving his position until finally a tipping point is reached.

When in real zugzwang, your position would be maintainable if you were not compelled to move.

Premium Chessgames Member
  eternaloptimist: Nice combo by the great dane to threaten a ♙ fork after 40...♔xg6 & get a superior ♔ + ♙ ending.
Premium Chessgames Member
  benveniste: I went for f5 after ♗g6+ and ♔f8. If that wins, and I'm pretty sure it does, is this still a Friday puzzle?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Bobsterman3000: The Penrose Path = 40 Bg6+
Sep-17-10  LIFE Master AJ: <Sep-17-10 dzechiel: <Once: Except, of course, that black is not in zugzwang at any point in the combination.> Yeah, black finds himself in what Soltis calls a "squeeze". He has moves, but they do nothing to prevent the opponent from steadily improving his position until finally a tipping point is reached.

When in real zugzwang, your position would be maintainable if you were not compelled to move.>

Good point. I was wrong to use Zugzwang. Its really not a case of Zug. I guess "the vice" would have been a better description. (Black can wiggle a little, but he cannot get out.)

Sep-17-10  LIFE Master AJ: <Once> Your points were also noted. You were (also) right. Its hardly a case of true Zug.
Sep-18-10  LIFE Master AJ: In case I offended anyone here, I am truly sorry!

First, (and this happens all the time at our chess club), my ability to solve this problem was more due to memory than due to problem solving. WHY? I clearly remember that, while I was stationed in Iceland, I got the Eric Brondum book on Larsen. I practically memorized that book. Secondly, I have at least two more books (and one pamphlet) on Larsen. He is one of my favorite players. I have been over all the games in these books. So - if this game is in any those books, it was more a function of memory than problem solving.

Secondly, I called this Zugzwang, it was hardly a real case of Zug. (To me, Black was completely tied up.) However, I can see that you expect a master to be much more accurate than that. It was sloppy stuff, and maybe I somehow disappointed a few of you, maybe without even realzing it.

One thing I can tell you is that I NEVER intended for that post to sound high-handed or superior!!! I was just sharing my thoughts.

In fact, I have noticed a very weird trend lately. Some of the more difficult ideas, I get right away, (BUT NOT ALWAYS!!!); however, some days, with some of the really simple stuff, my mind does not grasp the pattern right away ... a few problems, I have spent a very long time on what you might have only taken a few minutes on. As to why this might be, I have no clue.

I truly hope this clears things up.

Oct-16-11  notyetagm: Larsen vs J Penrose, 1969

Game Collection: BOGO(++): THREATEN (BUY) ONE SQUARE, GET ANOTHER 40 Bd3-g6+!: f4-f5 threatens e6-rook, gains g6-sq for free

Nov-01-15  ToTheDeath: Awesome play by Larsen, one of the best tournaments of his life.
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