Pandolfini's Puzzler #51: Some Queens Are Never Safe

Pandolfini's Puzzler #51: Some Queens Are Never Safe

| 26 | Scholastics

Professor: Happy July 18, class!

Class: Happy July 18 to you, Professor.

Rachel: What’s so special about July 18?

Professor: I don’t know. It just seems like a beautiful day.

Thomas: Actually, on this date, in the year with the very nice number of 64, Emperor Nero started the great fire of Rome.

Ryan: Moving ahead a couple of millennia, what have you planned for today, Professor?

Professor: More queenly skewers.

Lucian: Didn’t we look at queen skewers last week?

Zephyr: That’s right: we did, as they related to promotion.

Professor: Even so, I thought this week we’d examine some everyday queen skewers.

Hale: You mean those not having to do with promotion?

Professor: Exactly. Let’s start with a typical setup.


Question 1: How can White win Black’s queen?

Rachel: That’s a typical setup?

Hale: I’d say it’s rather atypical.

Professor:  Actually, that problem was just a fun way to get us going. Let’s check out this next one.


Question 2: Is Black’s queen safe?

Ryan: This problem is a lot easier than the previous one.

Hale: But that’s only because it’s not as hard.

Rachel: It’s also a twinge more likely to occur.

Professor: True. Let’s see if you can find any skewers, obvious or not, in the next problem.

Question 3: Is Black’s queen safe?

Zephyr: Black’s queen is centralized. In the previous problem, the black queen was off in the corner.

Thomas: So it had less scope.

Lucian: Still, I somewhat agree with Zephyr on this occasion.

Some discussion and disagreement ensued, but the class was able to compromise. After the exchange of a few wisecracks, they were able to work out the position’s intricacies and win the black queen.

Professor: How about tackling another problem?

Lucian: Also a queen skewer?

Professor: Well, you tell me.


Question 4: How can White win Black’s queen?

Rachel: It seems a trifle trickier.

Ryan: But surely not for us.

Personality clashes aside, the group had no difficulty with its analysis. The professor was very pleased and so was the group.

Professor: I think we can all do with one last problem.

Lucian: I can’t wait. OK, I can...but do I have to?

Hale: Gnomic as always.

Zephyr: Gnomic or troll-like?

Professor: Why don’t we skip that question and move ahead to our last problem?

Question 5: How does White force a win?

Rachel: How extraordinary!

Thomas: What an interesting queen maneuver.

Lucian: It reminds me of a game where Korchnoi shifted his bishop from d8 to a5 to e1 to h4.

Zephyr: Oh, so that’s what it reminds you of.

Ryan: Who can say why one thing reminds us of another?

Zephyr: Indeed, who can?

Professor: Come back on July 25 and I’ll tell you.

Answers below -- Try to solve NM Pandolfini's puzzles first!


Answer 1: Black’s queen is not safe. In fact, it’s lost immediately by the incredible skewer, 1. Qf8+!. Either Black must abandon his queen or allow 1…Kxf8  2. Ng6 mate.

Answer 2: Black’s queen falls practically at once: 1. Qh7+  Kg4  2. Qh3+ Kf3  3. Qg2+, and that’s all she wrote.

Answer 3: Black’s queen is lost. The main line is 1. Qd8+ Kc5  (1…Kc6 drops the queen to 2. Qa8+) 2. Qb6+ Kc4 (2…Kd5 loses the queen to 3. Qb7+) 3. Qb4+, and now there are two possibilities.

If 3…Kd3, then 4. Qb1+ skewers king and queen, winning the queen.

And if instead 3…Kd5, then 4. Qb7+ also skewers king and queen, winning the queen.  

Answer 4: The win of Black’s queen begins with 1. Qf2+. The main line thereafter is 1…Kd5  2. Qd2+ Kc5  (on 2…Ke5, White has 3. Qc3+ Kd6  4. Qd4+ Kc7  5. Qa7+, a different winning skewer; or 3…Ke4  4. Qc2+) 3. Qb4+ Kd5  4. Qc4+ Ke5  (or 4…Kd6  5. Qd4+ Kc7  6. Qa7+) 5. Qc5+ Ke4  6. Qc2+, winning Black’s queen again by a skewer.

Answer 5: In this fun problem, White’s queen completes a four-sided maneuver. The winning line is 1. Qg2+ Qe4  (on 1…Kc4 White has the winning skewer 2. Qa2+) 2. Qg8+ Qe6  (on 2…Kc6 White has the winning skewer 3. Qa8+) 3. Qa8+ Kc4  4. Qa2+, skewering king and queen. In this line White’s queen hits all four corners of the square g2-g8-a8-a2.

Take note:

A key principle in queen endgames advises us to centralize our queen. The reasons are at least twofold. A centralized queen is poised to attack in all directions, able to support operations on all sides of the board. At the same time, a centered queen does something else: It greatly reduces the scope and functionality of the opposing queen.

So in a queen endgame, head for the center!


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