Today’s winning 5-second tactics


“Hate them more than you hate yourself, and you’ll stay free!”

― Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time



The following example is taken from the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix taking place right now in Monaco.

gm  Kosteniuk,A


gm  Stefanova,A

From today’s round.  Position after White’s 16th move (16.Nc4).  A sharp and complex struggle is taking place between the two former world champions.  Black has sacrificed a pawn in the opening and followed it up with Queen-side castling…amongst the interesting options at her disposal is 16…Ne5!?, and after 17.Nxe5 ( 17.Bf4 Nfd7 ) Qxe5 18.Bf4 Qxb2 and it is anybody’s game!


Stefanova (l) and Kosteniuk.  Beauty and brains!

INSTEAD, the Russian overestimated her chances and played

16…Nxe4 (?)


A very clever idea that Kosteniuk thought she had calculated thoroughly…but there is a very subtle refutation as we shall soon see.  Note that 17.Qxe4?! Bxg5 is just better for Black, and that  17.Bxe7 Nxg3+ 18.Kg1 Ne2+ 19.Kh1 Ng3+ is a perpetual check.



This move, too, Kosteniuk had forseen. Note that Black should not now play 17…e5 ?18.Qxe4 Bxh4 19.Nxe5! with a winning position: 19..Rde8 20.Nxc6 Rxe4 21.Nxa7+ Kb8 22.Bxc7+ Kxc7 23.Bxe4Bxg3 24.Nb5+ etc.



This is what Kosteniuk had been counting on!  Truth be told, there is no direct or obvious way for White to exploit the pin of the Knight: Rd1 is impossible because of the Bishop on h5, and Qd2 is refuted by the simple …Nxc4. The next move Black intends the consolidating …Nb6, with a strong position.



The refutation of Black’s little combination started several moves ago!  To be fair to the Russian, this move is very easy to overlook…NOW, however, the game is all over.  Black must lose lots of material.  In the game continuation Black decided to give up her Queen for two pieces with 18…exf5 19.Qxe7 Nxc4 20.Bxc7 Kxc7 21.Rae1 , but White had little difficulty in winning the game.  Black resigned on the 37th move.



Round I.  Kirsan in centre.  John Galvani (Casino Director) on the far right. Jean-Michele Rapaire (2nd from left) is the Grand Prix organizer.  The game is Mariya Muczychuk vs Stefanova.

gm  Stefanova, A


wgm  Muzychuk, Mariya

Monte Carlo WGP  2015.10.3  Position after 39 moves.  White stands better, possessing the Bishop-pair, as well as having the safer King position. In particular, the White pawn on h6 cramps the Black monarch’s freedom of movement. But it is not obvious how much better White stands in the above position, as Black is quite solid.  And how to make progress is not evident either: 40.Ba4!? Be5!  41.BxB?! QxB 42.QxQ PxQ followed by Nd6 nor 41.Qg4!? Nb6! would please White.  Perhaps 40.a4 might be investigated (with a slight edge)…BUT White came upon a surprising idea:



A brilliant solution to the position!  If now 40…Qxc2? 41.Qxc8+ Ke7 42.Bg5+! f6 43.Bxf6+! Bxf6! 44.Qe6+ Kd8 45.Qxd6+ Kc8 46.Qxf6 Qxc4 47.Qh8+ White is simply mopping up. Worse still is 40…Ne7?? as 41.Qd7! catches the Black monarch in a mating net.



There is nothing better. Black is now counting on 41.Qe2 Be5! when things would be under control….



Black is not given any reprieve!  If now 41…gxf5? 42.Qxf5+ Ke7 43.Bg5+ will soon be mate and if instead 41…Ne7 42.Be6! catches the Black King in a cage.  Black tries the best chance: 



Counterplay!  Wrong now would be 42.Bxc8? Qxf2+ 43.Kh3 Qf1+ 44.Kh4 Bf6+ 45.Bg5 Qh1+ 46.Qh3 Qe4+ 47.Qg4 repeating position as 47.Bg4?? Bxg5+ 48.Kxg5 Qe3+ is going to be mate!



A classy move that prevents perpetual check and at the same time consolidates White’s advantage.  What is more, Black’s position falls apart as his King is too exposed.  The game continued 42…Qxf2+ 43.Kh3 Ne7 44.Bxd6 Qe3 45.Qf4+! trading Queens with a won ending.  Black resigned on the 74th move. 

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