Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beauty is truth ...

The competitive side of chess is not the only one there is. Players who have never pushed a pawn in anger can still enjoy the art of chess, through the realm of composition.

There are two basic types of composed positions. In problems, the player must mate in a specifed number of moves. The positions are often rather unlikely from a practical point of view, but the "themes" -- blocking, interference, attraction -- can be quite impressive.

Studies, on the other hand, set a task, to win or draw, and are usually more "gamelike." Endgame studies have only a few pieces on the board, and feature subtle maneuvering. More complicated studies often resemble middlegames, and illustrate such tactical ideas as diversion and overloading.

The study above, first published in Deutsche Schachzeitung in 1914, was composed by the great A. A. Troitzky, one of the giants of the field. It illustrates the theme of domination --
though it seems Black has the whole board to roam, his King and Queen will be forced into a fork.

The solution begins with the improbable 1. Rb7!. Now if 1. ... Qxb7, 2. Nd6+ picks up the Queen, as is also the case on 1. ... Qc8 or 1. ... Qe8. The try 1. ... Qf8 fails to 2. Ne5+ Kc5 3. Nd7+, and 1. ... Qa8 2. Ne5+ is similar -- 2. ... Kc5 3. Rb8! Qxb8 4. Nd7+. So only 1. ... Qg8 remains, and after 2. Ne5+ Kc5 3. Rb8, the Queen seems to escape with 3. ... Qh7. Then comes the final point: 4. b4+ Kd6 5. Rh8!, and Black is brought to bay -- 5. ... Qxh8 6. Nf7+, and White wins. It would never have occurred in a game, but the game is richer for it.

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