Last week I asked you to adjudicate this position with White to move, a variation from my game with Black against Ivar Chavannes of Wimbledon.
If you switch the engines on they’ll tell you, correctly, that Black is winning, but they will give seemingly random sequences of moves followed by White giving away a piece for no very obvious reason.
In fact the position is a rather remarkable Zugzwang.
First of all, if the knight moves, then Rf2 will win for Black. Likewise, if the queen moves westwards, Rf3 will win for Black.
What seems to be happening is that Black has a slow threat of playing g5, Qg6, h6, Rf6, Qf7 and finally Rf3 with winning threats. White might try to defend by playing Be3 followed by Nf2, so Black has to be very careful with his move order.
If White plays 1. Bd2 the bishop is now loose in some variations so Black has the winning tactic 1… Bf1, for example 2. Rxf1 Nxh2 3. Qxh5 Rxf1+ 4. Kxh2 gxh5 and the white pawns will fall like the proverbial ripe apples.
If White tries 1. Be3, Black wins with 1… Nxe3 2. Qxe3 (or 2. Qxh5 gxh5 3. Rxe3 Rf1#) 2… Rf3 3. Qe2 Qg4 when 4. Qd2 is met by Qxe4 as the rook is tied to defending f1, while 4. Nc1, for example, allows the winning sacrifice 4… Rxg3 5. hxg3 Qxh3+ 6. Kh1 Bg4 and White has no defence.
If 1. Rd1 Black presses on with his slow plan: 1… g5, having spotted that if White tries 2. Be3, planning Nf2, he has the tactic 2… Bg2 3. Qxg2 (or 3. Kxg2 Qxh2#) 3… Nxe3.
You can have (and I have had) hours of fun looking at the different continuations for both sides in this fascinating position.
This week: something a lot more gentle: a mate in 3 composed by Frank Healey (not, as far as I know, related to Mike) and published in the Illustrated London News in 1858.