The Extra Knight

The Extra Knight

| 44 | Scholastics

Professor: Hello, class.

Idris: Hello, professor.

A number of people were smiling.

Rachel: So, is there a plan for today?

Wei: What kind of chess player plays without a plan?

Zephyr: I never thought of the professor as being a player.

Lucian: He's more like a talker.

Thomas: He must have played a game at one time.

Zephyr: Perhaps.

Professor: So let's talk about the situation of queen and knight vs. queen.

Wei: That's often a draw.

Idris: Quite right.

Ryan: But there are positions where having the knight and the move can lead to a win.

Professor: And those are the ones we'll be looking at today.

Zephyr: Can't wait.

Ryan: May we see the first position, professor?

Professor: Sure. Most of it comes from a blindfold game played many years ago.

Thomas: What do you mean, most of it?

Professor: There were a few irrelevant pawns on the board.


Rachel: Who played it?

Hale: Where?

Professor: Let's just say it was played by someone you know, somewhere in time.

Zephyr: I don't like the sound of that.

Question 1: How can Black force a win?

It didn't take long for Idris and crew to work this one out. There was a call for more.

Ryan: That was not too uninteresting a setup.

Lucian: Were you the guy who played, somewhere back when?

Professor: Who said I had anything to do with it?

Zephyr: No one is accusing you of being the guilty party, Professor.

Lucian: Could we please see the next problem?

Professor: Your wish is my command.

Zephyr: Does that mean he's going to get an A in the course?

Wei: Not unless I get an A-plus.

Idris: Probably more than that.

Question 2: How can Black force a win?

This wasn't hard either. But it had a nice feature to it, the group thought. The group thought a lot of things.

Ryan: I like the circumambient knight maneuver.

Zephyr: Yeah, it was a good knight.

Wei: But it wasn't a hard position. 

Rachel: Did it come from a blindfold game?

Professor: No, like most of today's offerings, this was a variation on a well-known composition. 

Lucian: Yeah, some kind of mutation variation.

Wei: May we see another mutant variant?

Professor: Please consider our next problem.

Question 3: How can Black force a win?

Once again, the kids breezed through the analysis. They also let the professor know the problem was too easy for a class of the present caliber.

Lucian: That wasn't hard either.

Rachel: But the queen manuever wasn't bad. 

Hale: It's amazing how many different ways the white queen can be lost.


Zephyr: I don't think it was that amazing. 

Ryan: What then? Astonishing, startling, or just plain mind-blowing?

Zephyr: May we see your fourth problem please?

Question 4: How can Black force a win?

This problem didn't come off as being any harder. So the kids had some snacks.

Ryan: Those were some fancy footsteps.

Thomas: Yeah, there were some nice checks.

Lucian: I like the chips. 

Zephyr: You would.

Lucian: I like the other snacks, too.


Professor: What do you say we look at problem five?

Question 5: How can Black force a win?

Lucian: Very interesting.

Ryan: Well, again, not uninteresting.

Hale: Why is everything said in this class so negative?

Lucian: Negative? You should see Zephyr when she really gets going.

Professor: Okay. Let's have one more problem and call it a day.

Zephyr: Maybe I'll want to call it something else.

Question 6: How can Black force a win?

Lucian: Wow. I guess I should play for endings of queen and knight vs. queen.

Zephyr: I don't think that's something one can play for.

Lucian: Yeah, I guess you're right. 

Zephyr: Duh. 

Lucian: Are there any snacks left? 

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

Answer 1: A few checks and White's pieces wind up out of position.

Answer 2: A circular maneuver by the knight sets up the win.

Answer 3: The black queen forces the white king onto bad squares.

Answer 4: Once again, the black queen makes the white king go where no king wants to go.

Answer 5: The trick here is to avoid stalemate.

Answer 6: A quiet move starts things off.

Take Note:

We've discussed this here before, but these positions bring to mind a related subject. Which force is better as a team: a queen and bishop, or a queen and knight?

Theorists don't always agree on this, and statistics do not provide much clarity on the subject. Capablanca is the usual authority cited. He preferred the queen and knight combination.

There were various reasons backing up his thinking. Essentially, Capa felt that the queen is the main attack force in the combination. The bishop can support the queen only on squares of one color (though bishops do have other attributes, such as being able to lend a hand from far away).

The knight, however, can provide assistance on all the squares of the board, light and dark.

But there's something else. From earliest childhood, there's evidence that Capablanca loved the knight and its maneuverings.

The simple truth is, it's hard to overcome thoughts and feelings laid down in our earliest years. They stay with us forever, even after we've reached the top of the pantheon.


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