What is white’s best move?

DIAG 1

The first Fisher Random Chess World Championship was held this past month in Norway. America’s Wesley So defeated Magnus Carlsen (the classic chess World Champion) in the finals to become the first American World Chess Champion since Bobby Fisher. This week’s position is from their final game.

Fisher Random Chess involves shuffling each side's back row every game. The king must be placed somewhere between b1 and g1 for white and b8 and g8 for black. The castling rules are then applied to the new position. The point of Fisher Random Chess is to eliminate well-known opening lines. Players must rely entirely on their skill over the board without the benefit of their knowledge base.

In this week’s position, So is white; Carlsen, black. So has a strong material edge but black’s advanced pawns on white’s king-side give Carlson hope. While taking the black’s knight on e8 maintains a decisive edge for white, So’s next move removes all hope and caused Carlson to resign. With this hint in mind, please try to find So’s winning move.

The black king is cornered on a8, as white’s queen prevents the king from moving to b8. If a rook were to attack black’s king from a4 in this position, black would be mated. Hence, So lifted his rook from f1 to f4 by taking black’s f4 pawn, So that mate is threatened.

The only way to stop mate is for black to move its b3 pawn to b4. White still checks from a4 with its rook. The pawn takes the rook, which is followed by the queen checking from a5 (see next diagram).

DIAG 2

The black king retreats to b8. White’s queen takes black’s rook with check. The king runs back to a7, and then white’s knight on b3 hops to c5. Now the knights each support a knight to d7 maneuver and mate is in the air. Carlsen, as previously indicated, resigned after rook takes f4 and didn’t wait for the final blows.

The lesson this week is that World Champions know the best move is not always the greediest move. 

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