Gao – Zhou, Hefei 2011.
Black to Play
What is happening here? Black is rook ahead but White has plenty of threats. The passed pawns, which are extremely well supported, look all set to influence the outcome of the game. Who has the safer king? What should Black do now?
As grim as this undoubtedly looks, White turns the tables in fabulous fashion, starting with 23.Na4!!
‘A killer move! White discards the unnecessary knight without wasting time and defends against the mate on a1.’ It still looks bad for White after 23…Qxa4, but there is another shock in store for Black. 24.Bxe6!!
The bishops defend the key squares, albeit temporarily. There is another point to the move too; the bishop is no longer blocking the h-file, and after 24…Nxe6, White has a standard checkmate pattern with 25.Rh8+! Kxh8 26.Qh2+ Kg8 27.Qh7 checkmate.
White is targeting the black queen, which looks active but has surprisingly few safe squares. The star move is 1.Rf5!!
Of course, the rook can be captured – but the point is that the black queen can longer move to e5 to escape White’s clutches. 1…Bxf5 2.h4!!
The queen is trapped. If 2…Qg6, then 3.Ne7+ is a typical knight fork. If instead 2…Qh5, then 3.Nf4 traps the queen on the side of the board. Aren’t knights wonderful pieces?
Black plays the remarkable move 1…Re8!!
‘An amazing resource! Black makes quick use of White’s weak back rank.’ Yes, White’s king turns out to be weaker than Black’s after all, as shown by the line 2.fxe8=Q Qxf1+ 3.Bxf1 d1=Q checkmate.
It seems whatever White tries, Black will always be much better once the smoke clears. In the game, White found nothing better than 2.Qc7+ Ka7 3.Rd1 Re1 4.Be2 Rxe2! and Black had a winning position.
Head for the Brutal Chess Tactics Chessable course if you would like to test and stretch your tactical skill even further.