, Muskogee, OK


December 5, 2013

Be like Napoleon: study the board

In 1805 Napoleon’s French Empire defeated the Russo-Austrian army in the Battle of Austerlitz. This victory ended the Holy Roman Empire. Critical to Napoleon’s success was the terrain on which the battle was fought. This was the Pratzen Plateau. It had natural barriers on the south and west, and the north offered a plain that would serve his cavalry.

In this week’s position, black has made itself dominant on the terrain of light-colored squares. Black, like Napoleon, uses this terrain to secure victory. With this hint in mind, please try to find black’s winning plan.

White has neglected the light-colored squares near its king. There are holes on f3, g2 and h3, which invite invasion. The principal defender of these squares is white’s light-squared bishop. It is on the other side of the board and blocked in by its own pawn on c4.

Black immediately threatens mate by moving its queen to e4. The bishop-queen battery threatens mate on g2 and h1. If the white king flees to f1, black’s queen checks from h1, forcing the enemy king to e2. Black’s bishop then mates from f3, as shown in diagram 2.

White’s best reply to the mating attack is to interrupt the bishop-queen battery by moving its d1 rook to d5. Black’s d8 rook takes white’s rook, which is in turn taken by white’s c4 pawn. Black’s bishop now scoops up this pawn and maintains the bishop-queen battery.

White’s best option now is to move its king out of the corner to f1. Black blocks in white’s bishop by moving its b3 pawn to b4, as seen in diagram 3.

White has two losing options: moving its king to e1 or its queen to c7. In both lines black’s bishop posts itself on c4 with the support of its b5 pawn, as black maneuvers toward mate or the massive capture of white material. For example, if white’s queen moves to c7, black’s queen checks from g2. White’s best reply is to move its king to e1. Black’s bishop now posts itself ominously on c4, as seen in diagram 4.

Like the Russo-Austrian army at Austerlitz, white has been routed. White’s best move is to move its rook to d1. Black queen checks from f1, forcing the king to d2, and then takes the f2 pawn with check, forcing the king to c1. The black queen takes the e3 pawn with check, pushing the king over to b1. The black queen now retreats back to b6 and soon snatches the blocked-in bishop.

“Study the ground well; it will be your battlefield,” opined Napoleon at Austerlitz. The lesson this week is to study the chessboard well; it’s your battlefield.

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