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June 13, 2013

Hannibal’s lesson: Attack from several points

— In 217 B.C., Hannibal led Carthage to victory against the Romans’ larger army by attacking from multiple points at the Battle of Cannae. With this hint in mind, please try to find white’s winning move.

Black’s rook on a8 is unguarded. White’s bishop on f3 is on the same diagonal but is blocked by its own pawn on e4. White wins by advancing the e4 pawn to e5.

The e5 pawn attacks black’s bishop on f6, and the bishop’s attack against black’s rook on a8 is unveiled. Black’s best reply is to take white’s e5 pawn with its d6 pawn. White’s bishop captures black’s rook, followed by black’s e5 pawn capturing white’s knight on d4. White now hops its c3 knight to d5, which rains down terror on black’s position like arrows from Hannibal’s forces.

If black tries to counterattack by moving, for example, the f6 bishop to h4, attacking white’s e1 rook, white ignores the threat and captures black’s d4 pawn with its queen. The bishop cannot capture the rook because of the queen-king fork on f6, which is left unguarded if the bishop takes the rook. White is poised to destroy black, as if they were so many Romans at Cannae.

Black’s best reply to the knight hop to d5 is to retreat its f6 bishop to g7. White then pushes its f5 pawn to f6, forcing the bishop to retreat again, this time to f8, where it protects its knight on c5. White’s queen takes black pawn on d4.

White is up in the exchange. More important, white’s superior position, including the powerful pawn on f6, is crushing. A devastating check by the knight from e7 is in the air.

The lesson this week, as demonstrated by Hannibal more than 2,000 years ago, is that a well-timed attack from multiple points can defeat even the most formidable enemy.

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