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Sergei Shipov vs Vasilij Gagarin
Moscow (1994), Moscow RUS, rd 9
Queen's Indian Defense: Fianchetto. Check Variation Intermezzo Line (E15)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 4 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Oct-27-09  Weadley: So Not Funny! So Not Easy!
Oct-27-09  A Karpov Fan: got it, but not much here when you consider what we usually get.
Oct-27-09  midochessmachine: beautifull but easy to be found
Oct-27-09  Aurora: 60.b8=N secures a draw
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: I remember seeing an endgame puzzle a long time ago and I'm not entirely sure where the pieces go. However, I think this captures the essence of it:

click for larger view

As you can see, Black is ready to kami-kazi his only piece into that pawn knowing that two knights cannot mate a king. Also, the white knights are hopelessly out of the picture, at least for now.

The solution starts off with forced moves that hardly require explanation: 1.f4 Ne2 2.f5 Ng3 3.f6 Ne4 4.f7 Ng5 giving us this position:

click for larger view

After seeing today's puzzle I doubt anybody here would miss the coup de grace, 5.f8=N!! ... but what is staggering to comprehend is that the position that follows (three knights vs one knight) is a very technical win for the player with three knights. I don't claim to understand it, although tablebase will happily walk me through it.

I forget who came up with this study therefore I can't give the proper credit. Somebody here probably knows the exact study I am talking about and can clarify.

Premium Chessgames Member
  doubledrooks: White underpromotes to 60. b8=N to avoid the knight fork on d7 that would happen with 60. b8=Q. A nice drawing resource.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: A brilliant one move knockout! but a knockout DRAW! The pawn must seemingly be lost wether it is advanced or not,but a knight promotion saves the day as the fork is to no effect.
Oct-27-09  dumbgai: Ugh, I saw the underpromotion immediately but kept looking for something better.
Oct-27-09  SuperPatzer77: <TheaN> White's only move is 60. b8=N! for a draw.

60. b8=Q? Nd7+, 61. Kf4 Nxb8, 62. g5!? h5!, 63. f6 Nd7 (ready to attack the two White pawns by leaving Black two pawns up), 64. Ke4 Nxf6+!, 65. Ke5 Nh7, 66. Kf4 Nxg5! (Black's two connected pawns are ready to advance for a win)

Thus, 60. b8=N is White's only move for the draw.

<TheaN> This move actually makes me laugh aloud. I didn't see the underpromotion to a knight.


Oct-27-09  kingfu: Thank you , Chessgames! We are ALWAYS looking for the win. What happens when you try for a win in a drawn position? You get the big ZERO! I would have wanted to be there for the actual game to see the reaction of the players and the audience. Especially after 60 moves which would have been about 5 hours over the board.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jimfromprovidence: After yesterday's "surprise", I was on the lookout for some kind of game-saving ploy.

It's interesting that it does not matter if white plays either 60 g5 or 60 fxg6+ first. (with the exception of 60 g5 Nxb7, which is an easy draw.)

The b pawn still must promote to a knight to avoid the loss.

Oct-27-09  jsheedy: Aha! 60. b8=N!
Oct-27-09  Gambitor: Shipov saw the underpromotion when he played 55.Kf4
Oct-27-09  Endangered71: Does 57. Kf3 win for white? If the knight takes the rook the pawn can't be stopped.
Oct-27-09  YouRang: Seeing that 60.b8=Q loses to the knight fork 60...Nd7+, my first idea was to underpromote the pawn to a knight.

Seeming too easy, I considered for a moment that maybe white had some terribly clever way to win(!).

No such luck: any examination of the alternate moves shows that white loses. So, knight underpromotion it must be, leading to a position that looks drawn.

Oct-27-09  Patriot: <al wazir> Nice puzzle. That took me forever to see that 1.Nb5 draws.

A) 1...b1/Q 2.Nc3+ nabs the queen and gives white winning chances

B) 1...cxb5+ 2.Ka3

B1) 2...b1/Q or b1/R stalemate

B2) 2...b1/N+ 3.Kb4 draws

B3) 2...b1/B 3.Kb4 draws

Oct-27-09  WarmasterKron: <Sneaky> Not sure if this is the one you mean, but it reminded me of this one from Tim Krabbe's site:

click for larger view

White to play and draw, A. Herbtsmann/L Kubbel 1937

"White cannot stop the pawn by ordinary means; moves are dictated by family checks on f3; knight-stalemates; pinning stalemates by a new Queen on e1; and by the knowledge that the endgame of three Knights against one Knight is won - something first demonstrated by Troitzky. 1.Ng1 Ne3+ (Nf4+ 2.Kh1 e1N 3.Nf3+ Nxf3 stalemate) 2.Kh3 Nf4+ (2...e1N 3.Nf3+ Nxf3 with a beautiful three-Knight stalemate) 3.Kh2 Ng4+ (Not 3...e1N 4.Nf3+ Nxf3+ 5.Kg3 and White forks two Knights; or again 3...Nf1+ 4.Kh1 e1N 5.Nf3+ Nxf3 stalemate) 4.Kh1 Nf2+ (Again both promotions are, or lead to stalemate) 5.Kh2 e1N Finally. No stalemate seems in sight. 6.Nf3+ Nxf3+ 7.Kg3 (See Diagram) A fork of three Knights - Black needs them all to win. So he must play 7...Ke3, but that is stalemate once again."

Oct-27-09  beenthere240: <Patriot> A final finess is that after 1.Nb5 if black plays ... Kd3 to avoid the fork and renew the promotion threat, then 2. Na3 draws.
Oct-27-09  MaczynskiPratten: Can't agree with <chrisowen> or <Gambitor> that White saw this when he played 55 Kf4. To deliberately force a draw from an ending with a Pawn up? Looks more like a blunder to me.

Black's Knight is a "forking hero" - first it gobbles the White Rook and then, if White promotes to Q, it forks that as well! Still, not up to the gold standard of the Knights in Bogoljubov vs Schmid, 1949.

<SamAtoms1980>; I’d suggest that 60 b8=N as played is more accurate than 60 fxg6+ first. The latter loses the g pawn but White can comfortably hold material equality if he doesn’t exchange the pawns.

Oct-27-09  JG27Pyth: I didn't really think this was much of a puzzle because I thought underpromoting to a N to counter an enemy N fork was standard operating procedure. I think it's a case of: if you've seen it once, you've got it for always.
Oct-27-09  beenthere240: <Endangered71> 57. Kf3 might not win because black can check on d4 and take the passed b pawn. For a while I thought 57. Ke3 might win, but then black simply takes the rook and if the b pawn advances, black forks on d5 and wins the pawn. Alterntively, if the white king goes after the knight, the knight gets back in time to stop the b pawn. However, it does seem like white was just figuring out how to get out of a blunder, since it sure looked like he was winning around move 50. Although ..... the position of the black rook behind the b pawn did offset a lot of white's advantage.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: All around the world, regulars are sporting bruised foreheads and shins for alternatively doh-slapping or kicking themselves. How come so many of us struggled with this one today?

A piece down and about to lose our precious passed pawn, it is pretty clear that we are looking for a draw. We all know about under-promotions. White doesn't have that many choices and the fact that this is a Tuesday should have been a huge clue that we were looking for something simple. So how come many of us didn't think to underpromote to a knight?

Here's my theory ...

Humans don't think like computers. We don't examine every move to see what it does - we haven't got enough time, we aren't systematic enough and we couldn't remember all the lines. Instead we look for shortcuts: visual or memory clues that point us towards moves that are more likely to be the solution.

Apart from the rarified world of problems, underpromotion is fairly rare. We generally underpomote to a rook or bishop if promotion to a queen would result in a stalemate, as in this position:

click for larger view

1. c8=Q draws by stalemate

1. c8=B or N draws by insufficient material (and immediately draws, if yesterday's kibitzing was right!)

1. c8=R wins (as does 1. Ke7 but that's boring and off-topic).

Or we underpromote to a knight if that allows a fork, as in this one:

click for larger view

White draws with 1. e8=N+, forking king and queen. Instead, 1. e8=Q? Qa1+ 2. Qa4 Qxa4#

As these are the main reasons for underpromotion (to avoid stalemate or to fork), our poor human brains can be fooled into thinking that these are the only reasons to underpromote. So we don't list the underpromotion on our Kotovian list of candidate moves. Why should we? We are not trying to avoid a stalemate or give a fork.

But today's puzzle hinges on an even rarer reason for an underpromotion. It is a little known fact that it is very hard to knight-fork another knight. Because of the peculiar way that a knight moves, it can fork all other pieces because they cannot take it back. But if you try to knight fork, say a king and knight your oppoenent will normally just play NxN. There are some rare positions where you can knight fork a knight - eg if the other knight is pinned or if the knight move comes with discovered check, but these are even rarer still.

So my home brew explanation for today's total eclipse of my meagre chess talent is that underpromotion to defend against a fork is so rare that I ruled our underpromotion without really thinking about it.

That's my excuse, poor though it is, and I am sticking with it....

Oct-27-09  Marmot PFL: Easier than yesterday, if anything.
Oct-27-09  Patriot: <<beenthere240>: <Patriot> A final finess is that after 1.Nb5 if black plays ... Kd3 to avoid the fork and renew the promotion threat, then 2. Na3 draws.>

Yep, very true. I saw that variation and then forgot to include it. Then I went to the Washington Post link on <al wazir>'s post and found the solution. Their solution reads:

"1.Nb5! cxb5+ (or 1...b1Q? 2.Nc3+) 2.Ka3! b1Q (or 2...b1R) stalemate; or 2...b1B 3.Kb4 Bd3 4.a4 draw."

As you point out, 1...Kd3 is a critical variation (to avoid the fork) but 2.Na3 takes care of it. Their solution didn't include this nor does it show 1...cxb5+ 2.Ka3 b1/N+.

Premium Chessgames Member
  chrisowen: <MaczynskiPratten> A spicy one isnt it, a dogged game where neither are ground down. White blows hot and cold but secures in the end.
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