, Muskogee, OK

March 20, 2014

The knights on the rim are dim

— White to move and win

The other story taking place in Russia this month is the Candidates Chess Tournament, which runs from March 13 to March 30. The winner plays reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen for the crown later this year. Carlsen took the crown from Vishy Anand last November. Anand is currently leading the Tournament.

This week’s position is from Anand’s game against Levon Aronian. Anand is white; Aronian, black. Anand demonstrates the truth of an old chess adage that “knights on the rim are dim.” With this hint in mind please try to find Anand’s winning line.

The first move is not that hard to find. Aronian’s rook threatens white’s bishop. Anand both defends the bishop and attacks the black knight by moving the white rook to c4.

The black knight is trapped. Aronian defends the knight by moving his bishop to d7.

Anand threatens the knight with his b2 pawn by advancing it to b3. Aronian complicates the position by moving his bishop to b5, as seen in the next diagram.

If the white b2 pawn takes the knight, the black bishop takes white’s rook. Anand slides his rook over to b4 and out of danger. Now the black knight is dim, its death imminent. If Aronian tries to further complicate matter by pushing his a6 pawn to a5 and attacking the white rook, Anand’s rook captures black’s bishop. This allows black’s rook to capture white’s bishop on d4. But then white’s king moves to e3, threatening the black rook, followed by white’s b3 pawn capturing the knight.

Aronian instead moves his knight to b2. White cannot immediately take the knight with its d4 bishop because black’s rook moves to d2, forking the white king and bishop. Anand thus first trades bishops on b5 and moves his king to e3 so as to avoid a fork on the 2nd rank (see next diagram).

Aronian spite checks white’s king from e8 with his rook. The white king steps over to d2. Aronian pins white’s d4 bishop by moving back to d8. White’s king moves out of the pin onto c3.

Now the knight is ready for capture, so Aronian resigned.

The lesson this week is that knight’s on the rim are dim. Even the world’s best find themselves trapped by this truth.