Strike first!
Akademia Szermierzy's medieval longsword techniques from the Fior di Battaglia

Strike first!

Apr 7, 2019, 8:54 PM |

This post is a sequel to my most recent post, Disarm your adversary.

As we learned, when we find ourselves in a heavy piece endgame with both kings vulnerable, we need to immediately seize the initiative to attack the weakness of our opponent's exposed king.

Strike first!
Gif from Follow Akademia Szermierzy's YouTube channel here.

Since I put up my last post only a couple of days ago, I didn't expect to find myself in exactly that type of endgame so soon but I did in a 3/2 blitz game I just played this afternoon. While I won the game with an Anderssen's mate, I missed a spectacular way to force the win. 

Here's a puzzle covering the first six moves of the winning line from this position.

I'm rating this problem as very hard. If you get it on your first try, I'm betting you're rated 2000 or higher. Even if you're rated lower (like I am), I think it's useful to try to tackle tough positions so we can learn how to play them during our games.

The only hint I'll offer right now is to strike first!

Fair warning, there're spoilers below (and in the comments). After the following image, I'll offer my analysis of the position and the winning line so now's the time to try your hand at this puzzle.

Detail from the 15th century fencing manual, the Fior di Battaglia

Let's look again at this position, which I reached as White with 0:17 on the clock vs 1:22 for my opponent with White to move.

Material is equal. Both sides hold a queen, two rooks, a minor piece and five pawns. 

Black's pieces appear to be more active. White's knight on h4 appears to be trapped away from all the action while Black's bishop is well placed on g7 controlling the long dark diagonal.  

Although both kings are exposed, White's king appears to be more vulnerable. White has no immediate threat to mate Black's king; however, Black is threatening mate in one with ...Qb2# as soon as White leaves the second rank unguarded and Black reclaims the initiative. Moreover, there doesn't appear to any easy way for White to drive Black's queen away from a3 or Black's bishop off of the long diagonal, meaning that White needs to play with the threat of immediate mate hanging over its head.

As if that weren't enough, Black is also threatening ...exf3 (or worse), capturing one pawn, threatening White's queen and also threatening to capture a second pawn.

All in all, it might appear that Black holds the advantage and, with quality play by both sides, should draw at worst and likely win.

In this case, appearances are deceiving. White has a surprising way to force a win. Here's how the game might go with best play by both sides.

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