"The" way to solve this study
This was the puzzle dated 5/13/2011 on chess.com. As usual, you had people solving it in less than a minute, comments saying that the puzzle was not correct, not interesting, very long, very good, very bad...
But cyrooski asked the following:
so the question is: if a computer figured this out in a minute, and it uses purely the results of various permutations to find the best moves, is this what the supposeed real player did too, or was there an insight, a stroke of genious that went beyond mere calculation?
It took me a lot of time but I solved the puzzle and there's no need to be a genious for it.The composer of the position, on the other hand, was very gifted. A genious? In order to solve this study, there is no need to make permutations like a computer. There is a more human approach.
First of all, I doubt that many humans have a method as straightforward as described below. Sometimes, you're just watching the board, asking yourself what you're doing. But the main steps are probably correctly pointed out for most of us.
The position looks hopeless for White because Black is going to queen in 3 moves. Without this pawn, black would be lost.
What can White try?
I. Take the pawn
Impossible if you don't win a tempo somewhere. You are just chasing it. This is easy to see by moving the pieces: 1. Ng6 f3 2.Ne5 f2 3.Nd3 f1-Q. If you don't like the intuitive way, you could think: is there a way to come with the Knight to f1 in 3 moves or to f2 in 2 moves or to f3 in one move? No, there isn't.
II. Attack the Black King
If you can't take black's pride, the only hope is to mate. How could a mate look like? At the moment, it's not about moving the pieces, it's all about finding a goal on the board. What is the position we would dream of? Then you start trying to find the ideal position.
e.g. You put a Knight on e5 to play c4 but it doesn't work because the King escapes on a4:
Or you put your Knight on c5 to play a4 but again the king escapes, via c4 this time:
Then maybe you'll think about the following mate:
Take the pawn on c7, put the Knight on b6 and play either a4 or c4 no escape.
Or maybe you'll think directly about putting the Knight on b2 and mating with c4 or a4:
Now it is time to look for a concrete variation and this part goes surprisingly smoothly:
here is the path for the Knight to b2: Nh8-g6-e5-d3-b2
What a coincidence! While you're going to b2, you're also attacking the black pawn, keeping Black busy! Yes but there is still a problem: when you play Nb2, Black has already a queen. It means that he can play Qg2 check and attacking the Nb2 at the same time. We have to avoid this check at any cost to make it work. And there is only one move allowing it: 1. Nc6+. If black takes it, there is no check anymore, if he doesn't the Knight will go after the pawn and will stop it.Therefore, the last move to be found is actually the first one to be played!
We have found the main idea, but there are a lot of things to check to make sure that it works: what if...?
e.g. What if after Nc6, the King goes to c4? But these questions are then relatively easy to answer.
And we can now confirm: there is no escape for Black.