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December 6, 2012

The untouchable bishop: What is white’s best move?

The prestigious London Chess Classic runs from the first to the tenth of December. Instead of a win being worth a point and a draw half-a-point, the tournament awards 3 points for a win and a point for a draw. In the first round former world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik, who is white, garnered 3 points by defeating Judith Polgar, who is black.

In this week’s position black is down a piece but has two extra pawns. Polgar seeks to roll her queen-side pawns toward the promotion rank. To that end, she is attempting to coordinate her queen, rook and bishop. But Kramnik throws a bishop in the works. With this hint in mind please try to find white’s best move.

Kramnik disrupts black’s position and indirectly unleashes his bishop pair by moving the h3 bishop to d7 (bd7).

The d7 bishop is untouchable. If Polgar grabs the bishop with her queen, white’s queen checks black from b8. This forces the enemy king to g7. White then mates with the geometrically sweet queen to f8.

The only reasonable reply to bd7 is to retreat the unprotected bishop on d5 to f7, which Polgar played. Kramnik then opted to capture Polgar’s f7 bishop with his f1 rook. After Polgar took Kramnik’s rook on f7, Kramnik maneuvered his d7 bishop to b5, forking black’s a6 rook and c4 pawn. Polgar responded to this by moving her rook to f6. Kramnik’s b5 bishop captured black’s c4 pawn, checking black.

Polgar moved her king to g7 and Kramnik ate black’s e4 pawn. Now the pawn count is equal, but white owns a formidable central pawn pair on d4 and e3. In addition, white has the bishop pair to black’s rook. Polgar resigned seven moves later.

This week’s position illustrated the tactical theme of interference. Kramnik’s light-squared bishop interfered with the coordination of black’s pieces, was as untouchable as a low-caste Hindu, and prepared a fork all the better to eat black’s pieces with.

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