As I'm about to reach the age of seven squared in two days' time, I'm treating myself a little in today's article by focusing on two seven-letter words that I love dearly: "friends" and "puzzles". In general, I love people and puzzles so much that I always look forward to seeing more of both. So, you can imagine that a Gambit book such as GM John Nunn's 1001 Deadly Checkmates – see www.gambitbooks.com – is like a feast for me. The long list of chess stars to be found there includes hundreds of players with whom I am either very well acquainted, or at least slightly so, and it's a lot of fun to try to find the same brilliant moves that they actually played at the climax of real battles.
Though the book is quite thick and heavy, weighing in at more than 300 large pages, its content is so enjoyable and easily readable for me that my feeling when packing it in my summer holiday suitcase is that I'm taking along a light yet precious companion.
Let's now take a look at a few puzzles from John Nunn's great book, beginning with one starring super-GM Boris Gelfand, winner of the recently completed World Championship Candidates Matches. I'm slightly modifying this first puzzle by giving you the position wKh1,Qg4,Re6,Bb2,Pa4,b3,c4, g2,h3; bKh7,Qf7,Bc5,Pa5,b6,f4,g5,h6 and saying that Black (to move) also has an invisible rook somewhere on the 8th rank. What are the two best 8th-rank squares for the black rook?
The solutions to this, and the following two puzzles, appear at the end of the article, but can you now find how GM Matthew Turner, playing White, forced a quick win from the position wKg4,Qf5,Re1,f1,Ba3,Ng3,Pa2,b3,f4,g5; bKh8,Qg8,Rc3,d2,Bb6,Nc6,Pa7,b7,c7,g7,h7? Your next challenge is to discover how IM Vladimir Lazarev, playing White, got a speedy victory from the position wKg1,Qe6,Re1,Bc2,Nh4,Pa2,b2,c4,f2,g2,h2; bKh8,Qa5,Ra8,e8,Nf6,Pa7,b7,c5,g7,h6.
1) With a rook on e8 or on d8, Black wins with 1...Qxe6. In the latter case, the finish could be 2 Qxe6 Rd1+ 3 Kh2 Bg1+ 4 Kh1 Bf2+ 5 Kh2 Bg3 mate.
2) 1 Qxh7+! Qxh7 2 Re8+ Qg8 3 Rh1+ or 1...Kxh7 2 Rh1+ Kg6 3 f5+ Kf7 4 g6+ Kf6 5 Nh5 mate.
3) 1 Ng6+ Kh7 2 Ne5+ Kh8 3 Nf7+ Kg8 4 Nxh6++ Kh8 5 Qg8+! R/Nxg8 6 Nf7 mate.