Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


For $400, can you solve this puzzle?

In the last round of the U1900 section of the NJ State Championship, there was one person with 4.5 points/5 (who I ended up playing at 4/5) and two others with 4/5, as well as a passel of people at 3.5/5.  Consequently, people were 
playing for wins up and down the board
s, since 4.5 points could be expected to be worth anywhere from $50-120 while 5 points might be enough for first place.  My game ended in a draw after a few hours of tough fighting, leaving the 4 vs 4 matchup the lone remaining game in the section, playing for all the marbles (well, $400).
Earlier in this game, White had offered a draw from a better position and Black declined....true battle!  I left the board, came back and saw the following position...

Here Black played  1. .... d4!    Clearly, taking the pawn on f4 is suicidal because the a-pawn can march while the White king covers the passed pawns.  Nevertheless, at first lazy glance I thought White was winning - after all, he has a passed pawn that can't be caught.  On noticing White's discomfort, I looked more closely and saw that the opposite was true... the straightforward line is 2. a6  c3!  3. Kd3  f2  4. Ke2 d3+!  5. Kxf2 dxc2

...and Black queens first, probably decisively.  All White can do is hold out a slim hope for a perpetual check.

Seeing this, White opted for another method:

1. ....    d4
2. Ke1         

For $400 and the trophy can you find the winning move for Black?  


The winning move is still 2.....c3!   The point is to freeze White's c-pawn and then play ...d3! on the next move.  With too many pawns to cover White is even worse than in the line shown above.  Afterwards I asked White why he played Ke1 which seemed so perilous.  His answer was that he knew ...c3 was the winning move in either case, so he wanted to discourage Black from thinking about it by making it not a check (!?).  Say what you will, this paid off handsomely in the actual game:

1. ....    d4
2. Ke1  d3??

Expecting 3. cxd3?? c3!   winning.  Instead, imagine Black's shock at seeing...

1. ....    d4
2. Ke1  d3??
3. c3!
And White wins.   Sic transit gloria New Jersey.

Odd fact:  White, rated about 1680, got steamrolled by yours truly in the first round and responded by winning his next 5 in a row in a tournament-of-a-lifetime performance to get a share of 1st.  Crazy stuff, hats off to him.  


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