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Features

May 15, 2014

Pawn plods to promotion and victory

In basketball, a fast break is an offensive strategy that entails having a player race ahead of the opposition to score. Chess, too, has its own version of a fast break, although it might more aptly be described as a slow break.

In this week’s position, white strikes with an unstoppable slow break that scores a new queen. With this hint in mind, please try to find white’s winning slow break.

Black owns more pawns, but white’s outside passed pawn on a4 is worth all of them. If the queens are removed from the board, white wins based on the distance between black’s king and the a8 square and white’s racing a4 pawn. White’s a4 pawn runs ahead of black’s king and cannot be caught before the pawn promotes on a8 to a new queen.

White seizes on this and immediately forces a queen trade by checking black from f5 with its queen. If black’s king retreats to h6, white’s queen grabs black’s queen for free. Black thus takes white’s queen on f5, which is then captured by white’s e4 pawn, checking black.

Regardless of whether black’s king takes the pawn or moves to f7, black’s king cannot outrun white’s a4 pawn. The pawn is too far away.

The lesson this week is that simplifying a position — like a sculpture breaking free of its marble — reveals structural and positional truths. Hence, keep an eye open for a possible hidden slow break written into a position.

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