, Muskogee, OK


April 24, 2014

Free motorcycles — Should black capture the pawn?

During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese would abandon motorcycles in areas where American soldiers partied. The motorcycles were booby trapped with explosives.

In this week’s position, white’s pawn on d4 is booby trapped. Please try and find the bomb.

The critical positional point is that white’s queen, d4 pawn and black’s king all sit along the same diagonal. Thus, after black’s rook on d5 takes white’s d4 pawn, white’s queen pins the rook. The black rook is sufficiently protected at the time of capture. However, the pin gives white time to pile up on the black rook by moving the c1 rook to d1.

Now the black rook is not sufficiently protected and is lost.

Instead of capturing the pawn, black’s best move is to slide its queen over to f6. This breaks the pins and maintains the pressure on white’s d4 pawn.

The lesson this week is that pawns are sometimes booby trapped, even if the pawn looks like a free motorcycle.

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