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Features

October 25, 2012

The patterns of a perpetual chase

— In chess, the number of possible combinations in one game is infinite. This is because patterns may emerge.

Some patterns permit infinite repetition. The queen-pawn endgame is a good example.

In such an endgame, the queen can usually force a perpetual check if only a few pawns remain on the board.

Conversely, if most of the pawns are still on the board and have not been exchanged, a queen may easily maneuver into a strong attacking position if the opponent does not accept a draw.

In this week’s position, white snatches a draw from the jaws of victory because of this idea. Even though black has two extra pawns, white’s next move compels black to soon accept a draw. What is this move?

If white is down three pawns, what is another pawn?

White orders its pawn on c5 to march to c6 without the cover of its queen.

White actually threatens a winning attack with queen to b7, check.

Black must capture the pawn with its queen. White’s queen now checks from f8.

The king must retreat to the seventh rank. It doesn’t matter if the king flees to b7, c7 or d7. Moving to b7 allows the king to defend the a7 pawn; moving to d7, the e6 pawn.

Regardless of where the king flees, white’s queen takes black’s f7 pawn and checks, then follows by taking black’s g6 pawn.

White’s queen can either win a pawn or start checking black.

Both kings are vulnerable to repeated harassment by the other’s queen, as are the pawns.

The queen in such a position surveys the board like a lion and with only a few strides can attack.

The position, absent a huge blunder, is thus drawn because no player allows the other the initiative.

And even then, the initiative may only mean an endless series of checks, checks that have many faces, like karmic deities that keep coming back in one pattern or another.

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