Pandolfini's Puzzler #61: Save the Knight and Lose

Pandolfini's Puzzler #61: Save the Knight and Lose

| 38 | Scholastics

Professor: It’s time for chess!

Silent acknowledgment ensued. No one said anything aurally detectable.

Professor: I’m not sure what to do today. Any thoughts?

Thomas: I had a curious position the other night.

Rachel: What kind of curious position?

Thomas: It was an endgame. I was up an Exchange and I stole a piece.

Lucian: Can we see it?

Thomas: Absolutely.

Thomas moved to the demo board and set up the position.

Thomas: I had just played rook to d1, attacking the knight.


Ryan: What happened?

Thomas: My opponent blundered.

Hale: How?

Thomas: He played the worst of four knight moves.

Rachel: The worst one? 

Thomas: Yes, and then he blundered again!

Question 1: Which is the worst knight move?

Once the position was understood, the class had a collective chuckle.

Ryan: So the curious position got curiouser and curiouser. 

Zephyr: Can we see another curious position?

Professor: Let’s leave “Alice’s world” behind us and move to another problem.

Question 2: Can White force a win?

The class found the answer almost at once. Still, it laughed over the winning idea.

Thomas: Wow! That’s really the same type of curious position I had.

Hale: Yeah, the knight couldn’t be saved in either case. 

Zephyr: May we see another weirdly related position, please? 

Professor: Weirdly related? No! But not unrelated, yes!                                         

Question 3: Can White force a win?

The solution was eventually found and the class had another good bout of humor. There was a call for more.

Ryan: It was good that Idris considered abandoning the knight.


Idris: Thank you, Ryan, but it didn’t save the game for Black anyhow.

Professor: So let’s see another oddly connected problem.

Question 4: Can White force a win?

Once again, the position proved of no difficulty. It was hard to say who found the idea first, since the class was so boisterous.

Thomas: I think we’re getting the idea.

Lucian: It’s obvious. Save the knight and you lose the game.

Professor: Let’s see what’s lost in our next example.

Question 5: Can White force a win?

Again, it didn’t take long to find the right move. But it was Ryan who got the answer first, ahead of Idris. 

Lucian: Is that the end of the class?

Professor: No, we have one more curiosity for the road.

Zephyr: Which road is that?

Lucian: The strange path of “Looking Glass” chess analysis?


Everyone seemed to smile.  

Question 6: Can White force a win?

It took somewhat longer to solve this one, but not that much longer. A smattering of jabberwocky was exchanged between some of the more chatty class members. 

Professor: That was fairly good, class.

Thomas: The problems weren’t too hard.

Rachel: But they were fun.

Hale: I enjoyed them.

Lucian: So did I.

Zephyr: You did?

Lucian: You didn’t?

Zephyr: No, I did, too.

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

Answer 1: The worst knight move is 1…Nb7?. That loses the knight to 2. Rd7!, and the knight can’t be saved. If 2…Nc5?, then 3. Rd4 mate.

Answer 2: White picks up a knight with 1. Rh7, since 1…Ng6 permits 2. Rh5 mate.

Answer 3: The simple attack 1. Kg7 garners the knight. If 1…Ng5?, then 2. Nf6 is mate. And if Black abandons the knight, trying to win White’s g-pawn by 1…Kg4, then  2. Kxh7 Kf3 3. Kh6 Kxe4  4. g4, and the pawn will soon queen.

Answer 4: After 1. Kc8!, Black must abandon his knight, since 1…Na5 allows 2. Nc7 mate.

Answer 5: The knight falls to 1. Bh3!, when moving the knight allows 2. Bc8 mate!

Answer 6: Black loses the knight after 1. Kc7 Na6  2. Kb6If  2…Nb8, the knight falls to 3. Kb7. And if 2…Nb4, then 3. Bb3 is mate!

Take note:

It’s often surprising, when considering positions with skeletal forces on the board, how artfully mate can suddenly arise. Some of the best places to learn about these fascinating setups are at the tail ends of creatively longer and fuller compositions.

Certainly, the variations leading to the final alignments may be quite daunting. In the end, however, the actual mating setups, once no longer relevant units are removed from the equation (they may have been vital at the start of the composition, but not necessarily at its end), can provide worthy material for study and assimilation.


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