Pandolfini's Puzzler #70: Three Easy Pieces

Pandolfini's Puzzler #70: Three Easy Pieces

| 28 | Scholastics

Professor: For the 70th time, hello class.

A few indistinct words, some smiles.

Lucian: I can't believe I've been here 70 times.

Zephyr: For once we're in agreement.

Professor: Anyone want to talk about the class in general? 

Zephyr: In general, it's okay. I guess.

Lucian: We're just a bunch of smart chess-playing kids. That's all.

Thomas: That's all? 

Rachel: Hey, maybe we do better as a group than as individuals.

Wei: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Idris: Synergy.

Rachel: Like a bishop and knight team are worth more than three plus three.

Lucian: They often add up to seven.

Rachel: Seven what?

Zephyr: Classmates?

Wei: I'm here to stay, so you better think in terms of eight.

Thomas: The new chess math.

Hale: More like the old chess math. 

Professor: This levity suggests what we'll do today.

Ryan: What's that, Professor?

Professor: First a question. Would you rather have a queen, or 2 bishops and a knight?

Lucian: If the queen is centralized and safe, the queen.

Zephyr: But what if the queen is placed badly and the pieces well?

Professor: That's where we're going today.

Zephyr: Are you taking us somewhere?

Professor: Yes, on a trip from Horwitz to Berger to Rinck.

Zephyr: Sounds like a double play team in baseball.

Lucian: Sounds more like a triple play team of chess people.


Professor: Let's look at our first position.

Question 1: How can Black move and win White's queen?

Synergy and all, this problem proved too easy for the group. They let the professor know about it immediately.

Lucian: The white king and queen were stumbling over each other in the corner.

Zephyr: No wonder the pieces triumphed.

Professor: So let's split the king and queen up a bit.

Question 2: How can Black move and win White's queen?

This one was solved as quickly as the first. Once again, the class let the professor know this problem was too easy.


Lucian: Professor, can you at least get the white king off the perimeter?

Zephyr: I know, it's putting me on the edge.

Professor: Okay, let's get more centered.

Question 3: How can Black move and win White's queen?

No trouble here either. Separately and as a group, the problem seemed to solve itself. Naturally, Zephyr was the first to complain.

Zephyr: Professor, that wasn't much better. The white pieces were surrounded.

Ryan: Hey, surround yourself with good people and of course you're surrounded.

Professor: Tell you what. Let's separate the white pieces once again.

Question 4: How can Black move and win White's queen?

More complaints. But at least everyone was smiling.

Zephyr: You put the queen back in the corner.

Rachel: And the white king was still encircled.


Hale: What goes around comes around.

Zephyr: Please.

Professor: Here's our next problem.

Question 5: How can Black move and win White's queen?

Another easy problem. The wisecracks came even more easily.

Lucian: What are you trying to do?

Zephyr: Make us add the habit of giving up the queen for three minor pieces?

Professor: Not at all.

Zephyr: That's reassuring.

Professor: As a class, you've been so good, I'm going to reward you with a sixth problem.

Hale: Is that a synergistic thing?

Professor: No, just the last problem of the day.

Question 6: How can Black move and win White's queen?

For the sake of consistency, the class solved this problem as easily as all the others. And they had some parting words.

Wei: These situations are pure, but they're not likely to happen often in practical play. 

Idris: They're still interesting. 

Wei: I agree. That is, I am in concurrence.

Most of the class smiled.

Zephyr: I don't think that was so funny. Or satisfying.

Hale: Why not?

Zephyr: It doesn't leave me at a high point.

Idris: Zephyr at her zenith?

Wei: More like Zephyr at her nadir.

Ryan: You're not smiling, Zephyr.

Zephyr: Am I missing something?

Lucian: Possibly.

Zephyr: What? Sometimes, the whole is less than the sum of the parts?

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

Answer 1: Black wins the queen very quickly.

Answer 2: Black wins the queen.

Answer 3: Once again, Black wins the queen.

Answer 4: It's no surprise. Black wins the queen.

Answer 5: The queen is soon won.

Answer 6: Black wins the queen one more time.

Take Note

While it's true that such endgames rarely occur, there's still value in learning how minor pieces can coordinate with the friendly king to mark off territory and work together as a unified team.

In many situations, the pieces don't harmonize so well. Rather, the forking attributes of the queen reign, especially when there are other forces on the board, such as pawns and things to plunder.

That's when the queen might be able to pick them off with forking checks and threats. Nevertheless, as Tarrasch, Lasker, Capablanca, and other  teachers have urged in classic texts, understanding how pieces can fare in basic positions lays the groundwork for penetrating the mysteries of more compex setups.


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