11 August 2010

Blindness and Insight

Chess Training Pocket Book II by Lev Alburt and Al Lawrence arrived in the mail yesterday. I've been going through the problems in the first edition off and on for close to ten years and wanted to see how the new edition changed. The second edition is easier to recommend to mothers of the children that I coach because the cover art is not skanky as the first: what does a woman wearing a short dress and standing over a chess master twice her age as he studies an endgame position say to potential readers? Chess skill will get you amorous opportunities!

Just before sleep I started through the problems in the book. The first two were easy for me. The third was familiar because IM John Donaldson has shown it as part of one of his lectures the evening prior to the annual Dave Collyer Memorial Chess Tournament a few years ago.

White to move

My familiarity connected it to this classic by Reti:

White to move

White draws by simultaneously chasing the pawn and threatening to assist his own. Either both pawns come off the board or both queen and the game is theoretically drawn. Donaldson presented these two together and talked about a book that he was then reading (I bought it a month later): Andy Soltis, Rethinking the Chess Pieces.

Despite knowing the idea and immediately recognizing the pitfalls, I went to sleep without solving my battle against White's bishop and pawn.

I tried again this morning. After ten minutes, I thought I had figured out the maneuver. I set up the position in my trusty engine and played it out. I failed. I tried again. After the third failure, I cheated and looked at the solution on the facing page.


  1. I believe the second diagram is a draw with first move c7. Not completely know how anymore since i forgot how it continues, something to do with bringing the king diagnal upwards and if black just runs with his pawn then white king can defend his pawn and promote earlier or with check.

    First diagram i think black is winning since white has Bf5 or either a run of the pawn towards promotion.

    But i am sure you are gonna prove me wrong in both accounts. :-)

  2. Both positions are drawn with correct play; both are tricky, though.

  3. LOL, I was wondering the same thing about books cover. Speaking of Alburt, there was another photo in Chess Live with him holding two girls (can't remember who)... that looks quite bad imho...

    I believe solution of the problem is to attack pawn (first move), then to move step back, and after bishop check, move first toward bishop and than after black's pawn, forcing black to unprotect pawn with queening.
    iirc, tactical chess trainer has this in it's db.

  4. Is it like trying to keep an eye on the b pawn as well as the Bishop, travelling diagonally, like it did in Reti's problem?? and then eventually reaching the B pawn in time??

  5. Amazing that advancing the b-pawn and handing the move to Black saves White!