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Raul Figares vs Kevin Martin McDonald
Pompano Beach Memorial (1996), Fort Lauderdale, FL USA, rd 3, May-26
Dutch Defense: General (A80)  ·  0-1



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Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: So far, everyone else has posted a solution - and very fine solutions they look to be too.

So I thought I'd do something a little different (as usual). I'll explain how I nearly didn't get this one.

I'll admit that this one took a little while. I stared at it, tried a few lines, got stumped, stared at it some more. I was tempted to peak at the solution. It was only after a while that a eureka moment happened, and it all made sense.

Let's start from the beginning. The starting position looks blocked and sterile. There are a couple of backwards pawns on either side, but they are either defended or could be defended quite easily.

In situations like this, we know that the answer is usually to sacrifice a piece in order to get a pawn roller ... ahem ... rolling.

But the three piece sacs on offer don't seem to amount to much - Bxc5, Nxe4, Nxf3. In each case, white simply recaptures the piece without penalty.

The other active move in the position is to threaten the backwards g2 pawn. But after 41...Qh1+ 42. Qf1 ...

click for larger view

Everything seems to be safely defended. And now I need to do something about my en prise queen. 42...Qxf1+ loses because black can't defend the c6 pawn. And 42...Qh6 seems to be tantamount to a draw offer.

I was stuck. I looked at other moves, but nothing lifted my skirt.

So I resorted to following the aphorisms. Examine every check and capture, they say. I'd already done that and found nothing.

But I have a personal theory in chess puzzles - always look for the forcing moves. A variation with forcing moves is more likely to be interesting than one without.

And the biggest forcing move in this position is 41...Qh1+. White has to play 42. Qf1 if he wants to preserve his g2 pawn. I have no idea yet if this leads to an advantage, but it is forcing and forcing is good.

After 41...Qh1+ 42. Qf1, the next forcing move is 42...Nxf3+. I know, I know, I'd already dismissed it. But let's look at it again. White surely has to play 43. gxf3 if he wants to avoid being a pawn down.

That leads us to here:

click for larger view

I stared at this position in my mind's eye. At first I assumed that I had to move my attacked queen and then try to push the g3 pawn somehow.

Then it hit me. Why not push g3 straight away? It protects the Qh1, attacks the Qf1 and threatens g1=Q. One single pawn simultaneously threatens the net win of a queen on any one of three squares.

And that was the eureka moment.

Now that I had a core variation, the job was to go back with my imaginary red pen and do the spell-checking. What if white varies from this line?

A close call today. Nearly didn't get it.

Sep-25-14  mike1: looks like 41.Na5 was the problem and asked myself it there is anything for Black after 41.Qf1? If white continues to relocate his king to e2 and then shuffles his knight s to a5 and d3 he might even win that game! Blacks bishop is just a bad piece.
Sep-25-14  morfishine: <mike1> Good question. After 41.Nd2 White's position looks fairly impregnable: 41...Qh1+ 42.Qf1

41.Na5 is the losing move; its fitting Black's final forcing sequence begins immediately after


Sep-25-14  Nick46: I sort of got it(:-))
Sep-25-14  eblunt: I only got it as far as 43 ... Nd4+. I was thinking I would play this, and after 3 moves : I've won a pawn, got my Knight to a much better square and protected c6. At that point, OTB I'm pretty certain once I see the position I would find Nc2+.

Sometimes these puzzles can be harder than OTB, where you can see a sequence of a few moves where you know you will be better off than you were, but can't visualize the possibilities. So you just play the sequence and then take stock once you reach your new, improved position. This puzzle is a typical example of this for me.

Sep-25-14  eblunt: <Mike1> Yes, IMO as long as white looks after g2, which he so blatently failed to do in the game, his position looks very hard to break into. The Bishop is a spectator, there isn't anywhere easy for the Knight to get in.
Sep-25-14  David2009: <Once>: Congratulations on persisting long enough to solve this puzzle! In my case I didn't and looked it up.

Chess blindness takes many forms: in my case it was not noticing that

click for larger view

42...Nf3 is with CHECK.

Sep-25-14  Chess Dad: I couldn't see the end from the starting position, so I played the moves one at a time.

I missed the final f3 move. Instead, I had Qxf1. So, I'll give myself 80% on this one. I got four of the five moves.

Sep-25-14  dfcx: 41...Qh1+
A) 42. Qf1 Nxf3+ 43. Ke2 Nd4+ 44. Ke1 Nc2+ 45. Ke2 f3+

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A1) 46. Kd2 Qxf1
A2) 46. Qxf3 Qe1+ 47. Kd3 Nxb4#
B) 42. Kd2 Qxg2+ 43. Kc1 Qxf3 with unstoppable passed pawn

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: This one is a shocker to me. Easy when it's presented as a puzzle, but I could easily imagine overlooking it in a game.
Sep-25-14  kevin86: What a shocking conclusion: White can either lose his queen or all the black pawn to gain a second queen.
Sep-25-14  Castleinthesky: I'll give myself credit because I got the combination, but did not play it out as it occurred in the actual game.
Sep-25-14  BOSTER: <Cheapo by the Dozen: > <First ! >

The bride: I don't thinks so.
< The Bishop > was here before.

Sep-25-14  AvidChessMan: I saw 41... Qh1 made sense in that it gave black the g pawn. I did not see the queen moving in to block check and then the subsequent knight moves. I believe white lost this game at 11. Rd1. A better move would have been 11. O-O-O, due to the bishop at g5 and knight at f3 being easily harrassed by the black pawns advancing at the kingside castle.
Sep-25-14  BOSTER: < FSR:I could easily imagine overlooking it in a game>. I know such kind pos.
What I saw very fast that the bishop e7 is only pretended sleeping and look at h4. This is called The coordination of the Pieces.
Sep-25-14  Lighthorse: For some reason, I got this one fairly quickly, although I didn't see the 43...f3+ at the end when working through that variation in my head.

Instead I saw 43...Qxf1+ 44.Kxf1 Nxb4 and Black is two pawns up and will shortly lose the c-pawn as well.

Sep-25-14  Cheapo by the Dozen: I don't think the ... Qxf1+ line counts as missing the puzzle. (OK, I'm biased. :D). We found a win; we might have found a better win over the board; and by the way, we already saw the g2 idea in another line.

So not realizing it arises a second time, several moves in advance of the event, doesn't seem like a major miss. ;)

Sep-25-14  Labgrunt: <Once>
That was a brilliant post! Very nicely explained. Thank you very much!
Sep-25-14  BOSTER: <mike1 : 41.Qf1>. This is a mistake.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Bubo bubo: 41...Nxf3+ 42.gxf3 would give Black an advanced and covered passer, but unfortunately White can play 42.Qxf3 instead.

Therefore some kind of <vorplan> is required: 41...Qh1+!

In order to save the pawns on g2 and f3, White must play 42.Qf1, and now the <hauptplan> 42...Nxf3+ works: White must not capture (43.gxf3 g2, and Black queens), and his king is bound to protect his queen.

Therefore 43.Ke2, but after 43...Nd4+ 44.Ke1 Nc2+ 45.Ke2 Qxf1+ 46.Kxf1 Nxb4 (covering c6!) White has lost two pawns, and the remnants of his former pawn chains look rather desolate.

A spectacular and funny knight rampage!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Bubo bubo: Just like yesterday: Close, but no cigar! Bother!
Sep-25-14  CopyBlanca: How could someone that makes such a Grandmaster combination have a highest rating of under 1800?. Heck I got to 1900 and I only got the first three moves.
Sep-25-14  Longview: Didn't get it all today (as usual) but I did see the first move and the sad consequences to white if he moved the king. I missed the Q-f1 block (duh) and was excited that I thought I had the Thursday puzzle. When I saw that move though, I did quickly see the next Nxf3+ sac and the difficulty gxf3 gave white but the ping pong with the knight escaped me. I must be more vigilant it seems to be a good puzzler. Thanks for the great explanations and thinking analysis you guys/gals give; it helps.
Sep-25-14  jpolchinski: I'm having trouble with 42.Kd2. For example, on <agb2002>'s B.1, Qxg2+ 43.Kc1 Qxf3 44.Qxf3 Nxf3 45.Nxc6 g2 46.Ne2 Nd4 47.Ncxd4 exd4, then 48 Ng1 seems to block the K-side pawns, while the c-pawn occupies the bishop.
Sep-26-14  patzer2: As we progress through the week, and the daily puzzles get harder, the more difficult puzzles toward the end of the week (i.e. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) usually combine a number of tactical themes.

Yesterday's Thursday puzzle solution is a case in point. The winning combination, starting with <41...Qh1+!>, integrates the pin, deflection, knight fork, clearance and passed pawn tactics.

The forced reply <42. Qf1> leaves the White Queen pinned. It also leave the pinning piece (i.e. the Black Queen) under attack and momentarily unprotected.

However, the stunning deflection sham sacrifice and check <42...Nf3+!> leaves the "unprotected" Black Queen perfectly safe due to the priority of check rule.

If 43. gxf3, then, as <Once> so clearly illustrates, simply 43...g2 creates a winning passed pawn.

After <43. Ke2> (forced since 43. Qxf3 with the pinned Queen is not possible and 43. gxf3 g2 loses on the spot), the combined deflection and clearance move <43...Nd4+> forces 44. Ke1 (forcing the King from e2 and to e1 to protect the Queen).

More importantly <43...Nd4+> clears the way (i.e. clearance tactic) for the deflection <44. Ke1 Nc2+! 45. Ke2 f3+! >.

If 46. Qxf3, then 46...Nd4+ wins the Queen with a royal knight fork.

If 46. Kxf3, then simply 46...Qxf1 wins the undefended Queen.

If 46. gxf3, then 46...Nd4+ 47. Ke1 g2 leaves us once again with a winning passed pawn.

P.S.: Some time back we discussed the A (move away), B (block), C (capture), D (defend), E (something Else) options for defending an attacked piece. In this case, the surprise move 43...Nf3+! is "something Else."

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