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January 30, 2014

No penalty for interference

Levon Aronian won the prestigious Wijk Ann Zee chess tournament. By the last round, he had clinched first place, but he lost in the last round to Loek Van Wely.

Van Wely, who had the black pieces, employed the tactic of interference to win. Interference is sacrificing a piece to thwart the movement of an enemy piece along a specific line or angle. With this hint in mind, please try to find Van Wely’s winning strike.

Black’s knight dominates white’s king. It locks in the white king on the back rank, preventing the king from fleeing to f2 or h2. Thus, if black could limit white’s ability to defend against checks from white’s bank rank, black mates white.

This gives birth to black’s tactical shot. Black uncorks bishop to d4 check.

White can only stop mate by taking the bishop with its queen, a losing move because of the material imbalance that results once black’s pawn captures the queen. Otherwise, white is mated because the bishop interferes with the queen’s ability to defend the back rank and the d3 square.

If the white king moves to f1, black’s queen mates from d3. If the white king moves to h1, black’s queen checks from b1. White throws its knight or bishop onto e1 to block the queen check. Black’s rook takes that piece, and is captured in turn by either the knight or bishop. Mopping up, black’s queen takes the second piece and thus mates from the back rank.

If white takes the bishop with its c3 pawn, which also interferes with the white’s queen’s ability to move along the “d” file, black’s queen checks from b1. Again, white blocks this check with either its knight or bishop.

Black’s rook captures the blocking piece with check. White’s knight or bishop takes the black rook. That piece is then taken by black’s queen, which delivers mate.

The lesson here is that even if you are the world’s best chess player, a quick tactical shot may interfere with your success.

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