Chess Puzzle of the Week (26)

puzzle25

Last week I left you with this rook and pawn ending, taken from my game in our 1976 match against Islington. Playing Black, I’d been a pawn down in a pretty hopeless position since the opening and it was now deep into the second session. My opponent had to make a critical choice between capturing on h5 and the immediate push: a5.

Fortunately for me, and for Richmond, he chose the capture and the game continued:

52. gxh5 Rxh5 53. Rc6 Rh1 54. a5 Rb1+ 55. Ka7 Kd7 56. Rb6 Ra1 57. a6 Kc7 58. Rh6 Rb1 59. Rh7+ Kc8 60. Rh2 Rc1, and, as White can make no progress, a draw was agreed.

Instead, the immediate push would have won. A couple of sample lines:

52. a5 hxg4 53. a6 Rg6+ 54. Kb7 Rg7+ 55. Kb8 Rg6 56. Rc8+ Kd7 57. Rc7+ Kd8 58. a7 Ra6 59. Rb7

52. a5 Rg6+ 53. Rc6 Rxg4 54. a6 Rb4+ 55. Ka5 Rb8 56. a7 Ra8 57. Kb6 Kd7 58. Rh6 Rc8 59. Rh7+ Ke6 60. Rxh5 Rd8 61. Rc5 Kd6 62. Ra5 Ra8 63.Kb7

As a result of this rather undeserved half point we drew the match and, as you’ll see in a few days time, won the league for the first time in our history.

March 24 is a big day for chess. On this day 98 years ago, in 1921, the great world champion and endgame virtuoso Vasily Smyslov made his first move. 73 years ago to the day, March 24 1946, the legendary Alexander Alekhine made his final move, being found dead in a hotel room in Estoril, Portugal, under mysterious and still unexplained circumstances.

I could have given you a position from one of Smyslov or Alekhine’s games to solve, and perhaps I will another time. Instead, I’d like to move forward another 12 months and celebrate the 72nd birthday of Chris Feather, one of our two famous helpmating Christophers, the other being Christopher Jones.

Many of CJF’s puzzles are privately published in booklets with titles pertaining to his avian surname. Here’s one (Moultings 3, 1991). It’s a helpmate in two moves: Black starts and the two players cooperate to reach a position where White mates on the second move. There are two (thematically related) solutions: you have to find both to solve the puzzle successfully.

puzzle26

Do let me know how you get on!