My Kingdom For A Chess Horse
Sometimes the knight is just what you need in a chess game.

My Kingdom For A Chess Horse

| 48 | Endgames

I learned the phrase "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" in school when I studied Richard III by William Shakespeare. These days, people use this expression when they want to underline the importance of something.

There is a story about a man who was about to sign a document that would finalize his very painful divorce. Eager to leave the nightmare behind, the guy exclaims: "a pen, a pen, my kingdom for a pen!"

Sometimes we have a similar situation in chess when a knight ("chess horse") makes all the difference, so you are about to repeat the classical phrase: "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!"

chess knight battle

We had a good example very recently:

Black has a huge material advantage and for the last 20 moves, Kateryna Lagno tried to break White's little fortress. Finally, when she had just one minute and 18 seconds left, she came up with a very drastic solution:

Please don't tell me that Black's move 67...Rxa2 is a mistake that leads to a draw, and that computers recommend 67...Rf8, which should win. Believe me, I know how to use a chess engine. I also know that if people could play like computers, chess would lose many fans. Decision making, risk taking and even bluffing are all integral elements of the game, so if they disappear, chess will be too boring to play or watch.

That's why here I can only express my utmost respect for the Russian grandmaster who was not afraid to sacrifice her rook in severe time trouble. Now it was time for her opponent to start thinking. Indeed the position looks utterly lost. The bishop on a2 is dead and the doubled b-pawns will each cost White a minor piece.

Tan Zhongyi had only 12 minutes left. She spent just three minutes and played a suicidal move:

I don't know what the former world champion missed there, as Black could have taken either bishop, winning easily in both cases. Probably after a long, tough defense she simply ran out of gas. Nevertheless, White had an amazing way to make a draw.

Can you find it?

This example demonstrates the amazing ability of a knight to stop passed pawns using forks. Surprisingly, to stop a passed pawn, sometimes a knight should start moving in the opposite direction, like in this example 71. Nh4!

Now look at the following position. Black has two connected passed pawns that can be supported by his king. Meanwhile White's king is far away. Time for White to resign?

Nope! Remember, "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse"? Find the way to save the game using the knight's unique powers. 

Here is a similar situation that looks lost for White, and yet he can stop the pawn.

Can you find the solution? Remember, the knight might need to start going in the opposite direction from the pawn!

Now you can see why the knight is usually considered the trickiest chess piece!

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