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December 12, 2013

Crowning of a queen brings down a king

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the queen of both France and England in the 12th century.  Her first marriage, to King Louis VI of France, was annulled.

She then married Henry, Duke of Normandy, who soon became King Henry II of England. Once again, she was promoted to queen.

With this hint in mind, please try to find white’s winning attack against black.

White’s knight on f5 dominates the position, as if it were Sir Galahad. It controls e7 and g7 and boxes in the enemy king. This causes the first move in white’s combination – rook to e8 check – to contain a mating threat.

Black must take the new queen on e8 with its rook, or else black is mated. White now has two options. White may capture black’s rook on e8 with its pawn and promote to a queen, checking black. Black’s king takes the new queen. As the diagram shows, white maintains better position but has lost a pawn.

The other option is for white to not take black’s rook with its pawn after white’s e2 rook checks black from e8. Instead, white should advance its d7 pawn to d8 and promote it to a new queen, as illustrated in the diagram.

The new queen is safe from capture. This is because if black’s rook takes the queen, white’s d8 rook recaptures black’s rook and delivers mate. As a consequence, white wins.

Queen Eleanor has been celebrated in plays, music, books and movies. In the movie “The Lion in Winter” she famously avers:

“I even made poor Louis take me on Crusade. How’s that for blasphemy.

“I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus.

“Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn ... but the troops were dazzled.”

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