, Muskogee, OK


October 3, 2013

Sometimes it's better not to use the fork

The fork is one our oldest tools. It is simple and versatile. But it is not always the right tool.

With this hint in mind, please try to find white’s best move.

Black owns a dangerous passed pawn on d2. What makes this pawn especially dangerous is that black also owns a light-squared bishop, which is the same color as the d2 pawn’s promotion square.

At the same time, black’s rooks are vulnerable. They are a sitting fork, as it were. White’s knight is poised to move to c2, forking black’s rooks and threatening to win the exchange. However, falling prey to this temptation loses.

Black’s bishop first checks from c4. This forces the white king back to g1. Black then drops its b4 rook to b1.

Black’s b1 rook cannot be captured, or else black’s d2 pawn promotes and white’s position collapses. White’s best reply is to move its knight back to e3, protecting the d1 rook. Black trades rooks on d1 and then moves its bishop to e2, attacking white’s knight on d1. White then retreats its rook on a3 to a1.

Black’s bishop takes the knight, and white’s rook takes the bishop. Black now marches its c6 pawn to c3. It reaches and protects the d2 pawn from c3 just after white’s king moves onto e2. The black c3 pawn stops white’s king and rook from capturing black’s d2 pawn on white’s next move. Black’s advanced pawns are too much, and white loses.

This is why white’s best initial move is to move its king to e2. The timing of this move saves white.

Now black does not have a winning tactic leading to the promotion of the d2 pawn.

Black responds by moving its rook to b2, which protects the d2 pawn and escapes the fork.

The game is even and white fights on without using its fork.

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