Chess Puzzle of the Week (222): Solution

On Monday I left you with this position to analyse, with White to play, telling you it was taken from a match between Richmond and Surbiton.

Although the two clubs are today rivals in the Thames Valley League, this game was played in a match back on 18 October 1907. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time it’s seen the light of day for more than 115 years. White was Richmond top board Charles Redway, whose son gave his name to Redway Drive in Whitton. Joseph Henry Blake, with the black pieces, was one of England’s leading amateurs for many decades. He’d later be associated with Kingston Chess Club but at this point he was representing Surbiton.

This is a great position to analyse. White has the makings of a kingside attack, with his knight on e5 a pawn on f4 and an aggressively placed queen, but his minor pieces on b3 and c3 seem misplaced. Who stands better?

The answer is that White has a clear advantage, but only if he really understands the position, which, sadly for Richmond supporters, he didn’t.

White correctly continued 16. Bxf6! (16. g4 was second best: Stockfish only prefers the immediate Bxf6 at 40 ply) 16… Nxf6, and should at this point have followed up with 17. g4!.

Black has to decide where to move his bishop and has two plausible choices, c8 and e4 (Bd7 gets the knight trapped after g5). To gain full marks I expected you to analyse both correctly. 17… Bc8 allows White to sacrifice two knights for a winning attack: 18. g5 Nd7 19. g6! hxg6 20. Nxg6! fxg6 21. Nxd5! cxd5 22. Bxd5+!: White’s misplaced bishop suddenly springs to life.

So his best chance would be 17… Be4 when White should sacrifice the exchange, when play might continue 18. Nxe4! Bxe1 19. Nxf6+ gxf6 20. Qxf6 Ba5 21. Qg5+ Kh8 22. c3 with Bc2 to follow. The computer tells me White has a decisive advantage here despite his slight material deficit as the black king is too weak.

Disappointingly, Redway played 17. Qg5 instead, after which Black stood better: 17… Bxc3 18. bxc3 and White’s bishop on b3 is shut out of the game. After further inaccuracies on both sides, the Richmond man managed to get his queen trapped and Surbiton scored the full point.

A great test of your analytical skills as well as your assessment of both static and dynamic features of a position.

Here’s the whole game for you to play through: click on any move for a pop-up window.