That Combination I Mentioned

In yesterday’s post I mentioned a chess combination that arose during a tournament game I played a while back. For the benefit of my chess-playing readers I thought I would conclude the week by showing it to you.

This was played at the World Open a number of years ago. I was black. I had blundered out of the opening and had been defending grimly for some time. My opponent, happily, had been playing very sloppily, and missed several clear wins. It is not immediately clear how white should make progress in the endgame below, but you kind of get the feeling that his material advantage ought to prove decisive in the end.

In the position below, my opponent has just moved his queen from e8 to e4. Bad move.

Black to play and win.

I trust someone will leave the solution in the comments. Let me suggest you not read the comments if you want to try to solve it yourself.

Incidentally, to get the full effect you need to imagine how annoying my opponent was. he was getting up from the board after every move. Often he would return to the board, note my move, and reply without even sitting down. Other times he would bang out his reply instantly even when there was no issue of time pressure. He plainly thought the position would win itself. That made my little combo all the more satisfying!


  1. #1 386sx
    September 18, 2009

    Move the black pawn thingy up one space and attack the white king thingy!!

  2. #2 Mike
    September 18, 2009

    no…Rook takes H3 wins the queen with future KxR and Knight to G5 and puts you up by one piece and should give you the win.

  3. #3 Chris Bell
    September 18, 2009

    No, 386 is right. The pawn has to go first to clear the space for the knight.

    1 … g5
    2 f x g5

    The f pawn has to take because moving the king will result in checkmate after rxh3.

    2 …. R x h3+
    3 K x h3 N x g5+
    4 Kh4. N x e4

    knight and a pawn versus one pawn.

  4. #4 Steve Reuland
    September 18, 2009

    1. Black moves pawn g6 to g5, check.
    2. White must capture pawn with pawn, f4 to g5.
    3. Black captures pawn with rook, f3 to h3, check.
    4. White must capture rook with king, h4 to h3.
    5. Black captures pawn with knight, f7 to g5, check.
    6. White must get king out of check (3 possibilities)
    7. Black captures queen with knight, g5 to e4.

    That’s the best I can come up with. It gives you the advantage because you’re left with a knight and a pawn whereas white has only a pawn.

  5. #5 smijer
    September 18, 2009

    1 … R x p
    2 Q x R … p knight5
    3 K knight 2 … p x Q!
    4 K x p … Oh! I guess that wasn’t it!

  6. #6 DazedNConfuzed
    September 18, 2009

    I’m no chess expert, but if rook takes H3’s pawn then can’t the king take the rook? Thus it’s a rather useless check isn’t it?

    Meanwhile Chris, lemme see if I understand your analysis, because I’m trying to learn chess:

    Black moves his pawn in to threaten the king, and forces white to take with his pawn beside the queen. Black flattens the pawn on the H-file with the rook, and the king has to take the rook (no choice since it’ll be in check otherwise), move the knight in to flatten the pawn, and again put the king in check, king moves up to threaten the knight (could move down too but it’s not as forceful a move) and the queen takes it in the keyster. *bang* you’re left with a knight and a pawn to post it on :), he’s left with bubkis? 🙂

    That about right?

  7. #7 smijer
    September 18, 2009

    Dazed – that looks right to me. for the record, I was talking about rook taking pawn on the knight’s file, not the one behind the king. But I think your solution is the one Jason had in mind. cool.

  8. #8 D
    September 18, 2009

    Pawn check, takes, rook check, takes, knight fork…endgame seems obviously winnable

  9. #9 D
    September 18, 2009

    That was a cute combo…it’s the sort of thing I tend to see only when I know there’s something to find. Finding it in a real game must have been wonderful 🙂

  10. #10 Jason Rosenhouse
    September 18, 2009

    D –

    It was pretty sweet, especially since I didn’t see it immediately. I was mostly thinking, “This sucks. Why do I keep playing this stupid game? ” Then at some point the combination just hit me. Suddenly I was thinking that chess is the most marvelous game in the world.

    Just to be clear for everyone, the winning sequence is this:

    1. … g5+

    If white now plays 2. Kh5 then 2. … Rxh3 is checkmate. The only alternative is

    2. fxg5

    But now the square g5 is no longer protected by a white pawn. Black continues:

    2. … Rxh3+

    White’s only way out of check is to play

    3. Kxh3

    Happily, at least for me, white’s king and queen are now perfectly placed for

    3. … Nxg5+

    After white moves black captures the white queen. The resulting endgame, in which black has an extra piece and one more pawn, is a trivial win.

  11. #11 D
    September 19, 2009

    I was mostly thinking, “This sucks. Why do I keep playing this stupid game? ” Then at some point the combination just hit me. Suddenly I was thinking that chess is the most marvelous game in the world.

    See? Chess is a wonderful way of knowing heh 🙂

  12. #12 paul01
    September 19, 2009

    Black: pawn H7 to H5
    White: pawn G4 to H5 x pawn
    Black: rook F3 to F4 x pawn
    White: king G4 to F3
    Black: rook F4 to E4 x Queen

    after that not sure

  13. #13 sikiş
    September 20, 2009

    Even some of the top pseudonymous bloggers who are out there busily defending pseudonymousness can’t seem to avoid conflating opinions and statements that people are making, taking any use of the word “pseudonym” as an anti-pseudonymous act regardless of what is actually being said, if the term is uttered by someone they have classified as “against” them.

  14. #14 MarkusR
    September 20, 2009

    Ok, I just had to learn chess notation.

  15. #15 Modusoperandi
    September 21, 2009

    King me!

  16. #16 Joe
    September 21, 2009

    P-KN5 +

    I can’t believe I’ve still got it!

    That was sweet!

  17. #17 rmp
    September 21, 2009

    Jason, maybe it’s the gin and tonic talking but are you consistent in your nominclature? Using the queens move of E8 to E4 as the key, I don’t understand the first move to g5???

    What am I missing?

  18. #18 Jason Rosenouse
    September 21, 2009

    rmp –

    It is black to move in the position, and he should move his pawn to g5 as I indicated. White’s last move was Qe8-e4, and that is how the diagrammed position arose. It was a bad move on white’s part.

  19. #19 Fleegman
    September 22, 2009

    So can you describe the expression on his face when he realised he’d been pwned?

  20. #20 jdcurmudgeon
    September 22, 2009

    Cool combo. Did your opponent resign immediately after Nxe4 or did he force you to play the endgame?

  21. #21 Kevin (NYC)
    September 22, 2009

    and if he had not moved to e4? seems like bad play to get tied up in knots like this..

    can’t move the king. can’t move the pawn…must move e8-b4 or b8.

    is this a draw? whites needs to move his pawns and force black to exchage a piece for a pawn.

    how could white have gotten his pawns mobile? (queen should have already been behind the pawns I think..)

  22. #22 Joe
    September 22, 2009

    @20 “Cool combo. Did your opponent resign immediately after Nxe4 or did he force you to play the endgame?”

    Yes, my greatest achievement was in 1969 when I announced “mate in four” with lots of time to go. My opponent exercised his right to sit there (pondering) till his clock ran out; I wanted to go get lunch.

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