Pandolfini's Puzzler #32 - Seeing the Large in the Small

  • NM brucepandolfini
  • | Mar 7, 2014

Professor: Hello, Class. I hope you’re having a wonderful day.

Zephyr & Lucian: Thank you, Professor. We hope you’re having a wonderful day, too.

Professor: I am, especially now that I’m wearing my new jacket with its checkerboard design.

Lucian: Checkerboard? Don’t you mean chessboard?

Zephyr: Oh Lucian, both chess and checkers use the same board. You know that.

Professor: How true. But more importantly, do you like my jacket’s checkered chessboard pattern?


Zephyr: How could we not? It’s so dapper.

Lucian: How could we? It’s too dapper. And I can say that, never having used the word sartorial in polite thought.

Zephyr: Very funny. Well, somewhat funny.

Professor: You know, this three-way banter reminds me of a position. It’s not a hard position, but there’s a three-ness to the position that smacks of a chess triangle.

Question 1: In the position of diagram 1, can White force a win?

Professor: The situation offers White two virtues. White has an extra pawn. It’s also White’s turn to move, assuming that’s a virtue.

Lucian: If White plays 1. Kd6, Black has 1…Kd8, taking the opposition, when 2. c7+? only draws.

Zephyr: That seems pretty clear, Lucian.

Professor: What about if, instead of 1. Kd6, White tries 1. Kc5? Does that work any better?

Lucian: Not really, Professor.

Zephyr: Black replies 1…Kc7 and the white king still can’t get in.

pawn chasing white.png

Professor: Just a thought, class. We see that direct tries seem to go nowhere. What happens if it’s Black’s move to start?

Zephyr: Well that’s another story altogether.

Lucian: Sure thing. If Black goes first, and plays 1…Kd8, then it’s White who takes the opposition with 2. Kd6, and the c-pawn will soon queen.

Zephyr: And if Black instead tries the first move, 1…Kc7, then White plays 2. Kc5 and the white king moves into b6 next.

Professor: So are you suggesting that the winning idea is to create the same position, but with Black to move?

Lucian: I guess that’s what we’re suggesting, Professor.

Zephyr: Thanks for helping us put our thoughts into words.

Professor: My pleasure. Let’s move the triangle along. I’d love to hear specifically how you think White can win.


A little puzzled by the Professor’s remarks, the two students extraordinaire began to analyze. They quickly found a winning variation. In fact, they found two winning variations. That is, Lucian found one, and Zephyr found another. The two of them even understood what the Professor’s three-way talk was all about.

Professor: That’s wonderful, and I especially like the explanations you gave for your perambulation, or whatever you called it. But you know what? All of this reminds me of another position.

Zephyr: Oh Professor!

Lucian: Another position?

Professor: Why not? This way we can show “the other,” well, that is, another side to the triad. And I promise not to say anything about Hegel.

Lucian: Hegel?

Professor: How about we just take a look at the position?

Question 2: Can White force a quick win from the position of diagram 2?

Lucian: I know I’ve seen this position before. If it’s Black’s turn, I think he loses in five moves or less.

Zephyr: Yes, she either drops the rook or gets mated.

Professor: Wow, I see we have a little thesis/antithesis going on. To be sure, I’d love to hear about your synthesized answer. It should make everything absolute and clear.



Lucian: Can you clear it up a trace more and tell us exactly what we have to do, Professor?

Zephyr: This time in English?

The Professor explained everything, and the Whiz Kids went to work.

Overall, here’s what they had to do.

A) Answer question 1, showing that it is a win with White to move, making sure to give the two correct variations, Zephyr’s and Lucian’s.

B) Then show from diagram 2 that, by going first, Black loses the rook or gets mated in several moves, with sample variations for each first move for Black.

C) Then, for diagram 2, if it’s White’s move, show how White can achieve the same setup with Black to move.

D) Finally, explain how diagrams 1 and 2 are related in the Professor’s way of thinking.

king dreaming white.png

Answers below - Try to solve Professor Pando's puzzle first!


A) For diagram 1, there are two variations that immediately work.

Zephyr found 1. Kd4! Kd8 2. Kc4! Kc8 3. Kd5, creating the same setup but with Black to move. Zephyr called the maneuver of the white king triangulation.

Lucian found a similar idea, but he started with the move 1. Kc4!. After 1…Kd8, the variation continues 2. Kd4! Kc8 3. Kd5.Lucian called his king maneuvertriangulation also.

B) For diagram 2, if Black goes first, here are sample variations for all tries:

If 1…Kh6, then 2. Qf8 soon mates.

If 1…Rg6+, then 2. Qxg6+ mates next move.

If 1…Rf7+, then 2. Qxf7+ mates next move.

If 1…Rg8, then 2. Qh5 is mate.

If 1…Rg4, then 2. Qh5+ wins the rook.

If 1…Rg2, the centralizing queen check, 2. Qe4+, wins the rook.

Both 1…Rd7 and 1…Re7 hang the rook.

If 1…Rb7, then the centralizing queen check, 2. Qe4+, wins the rook.

queen chasing white.png

That leaves 1…Ra7, 1…Rc7, 1…Rg3, and 1..Rg1.

For 1…Ra7, the key connection point is g1. A sample winning line is 2. Qe4+ (a centralizing queen check) 2…Kg8 3. Qd5+ Kh8 (3…Kf8 allows 4. Qd8 mate) 4. Qh1+ Kg8 (on 4…Rh7 White has 5. Qa8 mate) 5. Qg1+, winning the rook.

For 1…Rc7, the key connection point is h2. A sample winning line is 2. Qe4+ (a centralizing queen check) 2…Kg8 (2…Kh6 is met by immediate mate) 3. Qg2+ Kh8 (or 3…Kc8 4. Qa8+; or 3…Kh7 4. Qh2+, forking king and rook) 4. Qh2+ Rh7 5. Qb8 mate.

For 1…Rg3, the key connection point is h4. A sample winning line is 2. Qe4+ (a centralizing queen check) 2…Kg8 (of the king stays on the h-file, the rook is lost to 3. Qh4+) 3. Qc4+, and either Black gets mated or drops the rook next move.

For 1…Rg1, the key connection point is a7. A sample winning line is 2. Qe4+ (a centralizing queen check) 2…Kh8 (2…Kg8 is no better) 3. Qa8+ Kh7 (3…Rg8 4. Qh1 mate) 4. Qa7+, occupying a connection point, forking king and rook.

C) If White goes first in diagram 2, the same setup, with Black to move, can be achieved by 1. Qe4+ (a centralizing queen check). If 1…Kh8 (or 1…Kg8), White has 2. Qa8+ Kh7 3. Qe8, and the white queen has triangulated to make it be Black’s move from the starting position! Note that 1. Qe4+ Kh8 2. Qa8+ Rg8 3. Qh1 is mate. From the beautiful center square e4, the white queen operates in all directions.

D) In the Professor’s way of thinking, the maneuvering pieces (for diagram 1, the king; for diagram 2, the queen) trace a triangle in their movements to make it the other player’s move. Thus, for diagram 1, the white king traces a triangle by going Kd5-d4-c4-d5 or Kd5-c4-d4-d5. For diagram 2, it’s the white queen that traces a triangle, going Qe8-e4-a8-e8. To the Professor, it’s seeing the large in the small.

Take note

In the variations above, a key theme is the importance of queen centralization. In the beginning of a chess game, it’s hard to establish a queen in the center, since there are usually useful ways the opponent can attack a queen and drive it from the center.

Indeed, bringing out the queen too early, without concrete purpose or necessity, can lead to loss of time, if not loss of the queen itself. But later on, posting a queen in the center can be a great advantage, since a queen in the center radiates in all directions. To be sure, a primary principle in queen endings is to place your queen in the center, to increase her possibilities while limiting the scope of “the other.”


  • PlayfulSquirrel has more advice in this video on how to use your queen in the endgame;
  • For the second puzzle, you'll have to remember how to mate with king and queen - take the lesson;
  • If you like complicated pawn endings like in the first puzzle, here's our complete lineup!


  • 2 years ago


    Hi. The Center Game Holds Gains of Spassky always made distilled the growth-medity of the Knights-Bishops. The positional and dynamic makes for no advancing holds for opponents and, therefore, is pedagogical and something novice players who have never forked a Knight or Bishop can learn from if they don't have an addled mind. Spassky knew the Bishops Opening and always held gains in chess-victories he earned. This endgame he played successful without making concessions in position and dynamic play. This is called Knights-Bishops-Gains-Holds. Spassky held for victory.

  • 2 years ago


    @birdbrain1987 No, black cannot force his own "triangle", for if he ever steps into c7 he loses by Kc5.. say, 1. Kd4 Kd8 (taking the distant opposition) 2. Kc4 Kc7 3. Kc5 Kc8 (Kb8 and Kd8 leave white with the opposition and the win) 4. Kb6 and the a6 pawn falls and white wins.

    For the second puzzle, my initial thought also included a line with Qh5, Kg8 followed by Qh6, but after Rg4 white has no checks and no forcing moves. Black can then delay the position with annoying checks and although white should still win, it will several queen moves before getting a better position.  After 2. ... Rg4 white best option is 3. Qe3 Rg7 (defending the rook from the fork) 4. Qe8+ Kh7 repeating the previous position enabling the winning move Qe4+ as was mentioned in the article.

  • 2 years ago


    What would happen if instead of 2....Kc8 black played 2....Kc7?  Would this allow black to use his/her own triangle (d8, c7, c8)?  Would this stop white's effort?

    For the second puzzle, my initial thought was 1. Qh5+ Kg8   2. Qh6......  Is there a line that will save black?

  • 2 years ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Derived I'm glad that the column proved of service to you. I don't know about Zephyr and Lucian, but I think I enjoyed taking part in the experience. I'd ask the two of them what they thought about it, but I'm afraid they might tell me. 

  • 2 years ago


    Damn, I just got schooled. I tried the first puzzle, and "proved" it was unwinnable by calculating all variations, only to find out when I looked at the solution that I had completely misunderstood the entire concept of triangulation. I thought "Black just triangulates with White, following him move for move".

    But I didn't realize that a successful triangulation has the third corner of the triangle on the most flexible square, from which you have two options to move back instead of one. I mistakenly ended my train of thought after Kc4 Kb8 Kd4 with "now they just shuffle between c8-b8 and c4-d4" instead of completing the triangle like I should have. To follow White's triangle Black would have to step on one of the squares covered by the c6 pawn.

    Well, I guess that's what the exercise is for, to uncover flaws in your thought process. I learned something, thanks sir.

  • 2 years ago


    thank you, MR.Pandolfini  for clearing my false idea regarding this opening.

    honestly,i don't play this opening as black but prefer to play sicilian against e4.

    however,when i am playing against this opening,i often end up getting a good advantage (which i sometimes throw it off because i start dreaming of win in the middle of the game).hence, i thought that this opening is bad.

    now from your reply,it is opening which is playable but care should be taken on black's part. looks like, my opponent's are not palying this opening correctly which lead me to a wrong conclusion about this opening.

    thank you for clearing my idea about this openingSmile

  • 2 years ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    rajnikant001, Thank you for your interesting reply. The Scandinavian Defense obviously is playable, since so many people play it successfully. And we all know that just because there's a principle taking the form "Don't bring out your queen early" doesn't mean you should never bring out your queen early. Principles and such pieces of advice are bad when they take on absolute prominence. They are merely guidelines, to be violated when entailing advantage or when meeting exigencies of the moment. Nevertheless, even though the Scandinavian Defense holds it own, I wouldn't recommend it for a newcomer who hasn't yet learned about the game's fundamentals and basic concepts. It could encourage unsound play before a player even knows what that is. You know, many of us used to call the setup in question the Center Counter Defense. Perhaps today's preferred nomenclature gives it more of an exalted status. My friend, play it, if you like, but with care!

  • 2 years ago


    in the note , you talked about centralising your queen in the endgame. should i say that scandinavian defence( 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 ) is bad opening but stands a good endgame chance if minor pieces are swapped off ?

  • 2 years ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Jonathan 116, It's always a pleasure to be appreciated. If only I could get my relatives to also like what I do.

  • 2 years ago

    NM brucepandolfini

    Jarredp, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. We're still learning how to do these. Hopefully, we'll get them right someday.

  • 2 years ago


    i love your articles, they're well written and have character! also, of course they're very informative, i particularly loved your article on the subject of castling, those were ingenius little problems to solve!

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