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Features

April 25, 2013

Control battlefield’s chaos for victory

— The chessboard is a battlefield with many fronts. In this week’s position, white’s rook is thwarting the advance of black’s e2 pawn to e1, as white’s bishop targets black’s rook on d1. Black’s knight holds together its a6 and b5 pawns and eyes the ambitious white e5 pawn. Meanwhile, each side’s king has crawled into a corner on either side of the board. With this hint in mind, please try to find black’s best move.

It’s tempting to capture white’s rook on e1 with black’s d1 rook. This wins a whole rook and prepares the advance of black’s e2 pawn. It also saves black’s d1 rook from capture by white’s bishop.

The white rook on e1 is poisonous, however. If black captures the rook, white mates in four. First, white’s rook checks black from f8. This forces the black king to h7. White’s bishop slides over to g8, checking black and forcing the black king back to h8. The bishop then maneuvers to f7, as the f8 rook again checks black.

The black king is again forced back to h7. Now the white bishop mates from g6 with the support of its h5 pawn.

Black’s best move is to capture white’s bishop on b3 with its e3 rook. White cannot recapture black’s rook with its a2 pawn, because black’s rook then takes white’s e1 rook and the black e2 pawn soon promotes. White also cannot trade rooks on d1 because this results in promotion for black’s e2 pawn. White must accept the loss of its bishop and capture black’s dangerous e2 pawn. Black’s b3 rook then escapes to d3 and black is better.

This week’s position shows that Napoleon was of course thinking about chess when he said: “The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his and the enemy’s.”

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