Sunday 15 July 2007

A Little Gem from the Emerald Isle

Here's a poser for you - WHITE TO PLAY.

This position is from the game Nick Pert vs Gavin Wall and was played in round six of the recent Irish Open Championship. White has just played a fairly standard sacrifice to break through on the queenside: Bd3xa6 followed by Qa4xa6, but Black has replied Rc7-b7 and it is not at all obvious how White pursues his attack. Can you find the right plan?


  1. Nf4 looks pretty devasting, threatens a making attack with. Qa8+, Nxe6+ etc. and I can't see a good defence, maybe Bg6+ but I think White can just play Ka1.

  2. Nf4 threatens Rh3 as well, just to make it even stronger.

  3. Yes, that's right, Nf4 is the winning move. It is not often you see a knight pack such a powerful punch. One of the strange things about it is that White has just sacrificed a bishop to open up the queenside, but perversely the only winning follow-up is a knight move in the direction of the opposite side of the board. The big threat is Rh3 winning the queen. If Black moves the queen out of the way, then Nxe6 is a killer, depriving the black king of its only useful escape square. And the third function of the knight move is to defend the g2 pawn (if Black could have taken it, he would have been threatening mate on b2).

    So the knight performs a highly unusual triple whammy - two monster threats and a vital defence, rolled into one. A paradox comes with the next move, when Black played 1...Bg6+ - and this time the knight cannot help because 2 Nxg6? and White is in big trouble after 2...Qxg2!. But 2 Ka1 leaves the knight performing all three of its functions. Actually Black did find a way to cover both the threats - 2...Bf5 (stopping both Rh3 and Nxe6) but that allowed 3 Qa8+ and the h8 rook dropped off after 3...Kc7 4 Qxh8. Black then tried to kick the knight away from the defence of g2 with 4...g5 but White simply replied 5 Ra8 and it was all over.

    I've a feeling that Nf4 is harder to spot if you go back a few moves in the game before the bishop sacrifice. Having to see a quiet kingside move after calculating a queenside piece sacrifice is not easy.

    Nick Pert's knight on f4 should win the 'Horse of the Year Show'...

  4. Thank you for a excellent problem. I did not solve it.