Mad bishops and knights

Mad bishops and knights | ChessBase

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by Frederic Friedel

4/14/2021 – Recently we showed you a unique theme in chess endings: the defending side puts his king into a stalemate position, after which the remaining piece – a rook or even a queen – becomes suicidal, offering itself for capture. Many readers found that fascinating, and asked for more. Today we look at two other pieces that can do the same. Have fun with some astonishing new examples.

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It all started with this game in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational in which Jorden van Foreest miraculously saved a lost endings against world-class GM Teimour Radjabov with a seldom seen “mad rook” strategy. There are some very deep studies that illustrate this motif. The kamikaze piece is usually a rook or a queen, and it takes great strategic insight to avoid taking it without at the same time relieving the stalemate.

Now the question arises: can other pieces become similarly suicidal? Before we answer this question, here are some further remarkable examples that were sent to us, by Emil Vlasák, the author of the original Mad Queen article

Thank you, Emil, for these positions. I spent an hour checking all the lines – and wondering how this kind of thing in a composition can even be possible. It boggles the mind!

Mad bishop

We now come to the next mad piece. Here’s a study that makes use of a suicidal bishop:

You might think the correct win begins with 1.Bxg6. But think about it. 1…Bxg5 2.Be4 Kf2 3.Bxc6 Kg3 4.Bf3 Bd2 5.Bb7 Bxa5 leads to a win by Black. You know that you can move the pieces on the board to follow what I am saying?!

The only way for White to draw starts with the improbable move 1.g3!! Bxg3 2.a6! Kf2 (threatens 3…Bg2#) 3.Be4 Bxa6 4.Bd3! Bc8 (4… Bxd3 is stalemate, and 4…Bb7 doesn’t work because of 5.Ba6 Ba8 6.Bb7 Bxb7 stalemate). 5.Ba6! Bd7 6.Bc8! Be8 7.Bd7 Bf7 8.Be8 Bg8 9.Bf7 Bh7 10.Bg8 Bxg8 1/2-1/2. Now we know how a mad bishop can save a game.

Mad knight

Black threatens to capture the bishop. The black knight cannot be taken because that is stalemate, so White must play 1.Bb8! Nd6! After 1…Kxb8 2.Kxb5 White easily wins, e.g. 2…Ka8 3.Nc6 bxc6+ 4.Kxc6 Kb8 5.b7 Ka7 6.Kc7. So 2.Bc7 (2…Bxd6 is stalemate) Now the black knight becomes suicidal: 2…Nc4! 3.Nb3! Nd2 4.Nc1! Nb3 5.Na2 Nc1 6.Nb4 Nd3 7.Nc2 Nb4 8.Na1 Nc2 9.Nb3 Nd4 10.Na5 Nb3 11.Nxb7 Nc5+ 12.Kb5! (12. Nxc5? is stalemate, and 12.Kb4 Na6+ is a draw) 12…Nxb7 13.Kb4! 1-0.

You may, like me, not immediately believe that the above two positions could be sound, and may have a number of “but-what-if” and “why-not” questions. Then analyse them on our replayer below, clicking on the fan icon to get engine analysis for the moves you try.

Did you enjoy the escapades of these crazy pieces? We are still in search of crazy pawn studies, if they are actually possible. Any suggestions?

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Frederic Friedel
Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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