Saturday, April 20, 2013

A defensive brilliancy

If you're White in the position diagrammed below, it helps to have nerves (and a brain) of silicon. Although White's queen and rook are potentially a lethal combination, they have no checks available that don't hang. White's bishop also isn't helping the attack. Meanwhile, Black threatens Qd1#, and if White stops that with 46.Re1, Black grabs the bishop with 46...Qc2+ 47.Ka1 Qxc4 wins with 46...Nbc2 or 46...Ndc2. Alternatively, 46.Qg1 seems a clever way to get the queen into the attack, but Black takes the bishop, 46...Qc2+ 47.Ka1 Qxc4, then hides his king from the checks on b5: 48.Qh2+ Ka8! 49.Re8+ Kb7 50.Qb8+ Ka6 51.Qc8+ Kb5 52.Qd7+ Ndc6.

Nonetheless, White has an amazing drawing line! Can you see it?

Stalemate seems impossible: after 45...Kb8 White has six pieces, including two pawns and his king, and all of them have moves! Yet it all clicks in problem-like fashion: after 46.Bb3!! Nxb3, White's bishop is gone, his king is stalemated, and his b-pawn is blocked. Then 47.Qf4+! gxf4 hangs the queen and blocks the f-pawn, leaving only the "crazy" rook at large. "Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?" Note that the knights stalemate White's king all by themselves, so White needn't worry about 50...Qxd7. Black has other moves available besides 46...Nxb3, but in all lines White has at least a forced draw. Glorious!

This is probably the greatest stalemating combination of all time, surpassing the likes of Boyd-Glimbrant, Alicante 1992, where Black had a mobile queen, rook, knight, and pawn before embarking on the stalemating combination. See my game collection for more fine stalemates. But this one is hard to beat.


Martin Thoresen said...


I am the tournament director of nTCEC, it is very cool that you made this little post. I too think that this is an incredible stalemate combination.

Frederick Rhine said...

Hi, Martin! I am amazed that you found my post about half an hour after I posted it. I saw this combination as the Position of the Day at, Googled the game and found your post about it before writing my own post. It really is a beauty! Hard to believe that such a combination could happen in a real game. And luckily White was a computer; a human would probably have missed it, as I did.

Anonymous said...

After 46. Re1 black cannot play 46... Qc2+ followed by 47... Qxc4 because that will give white a perpetual check with the rook. Instead black should play 46... Nbc2 and win.

Frederick Rhine said...

Thanks, Anonymous. You're right, except that my 47...Qxc4? actually gives White the advantage after 48.Re8+ Kc7 49.Rc8+! Kd6 50.Rd8+ Ke5 51.Qe4+ Kf6 52.Rf8+ Qf7! 53.Rxf7+ Kxf7 54.Qb7+ Ke6 55.Qxb6+ Nbc6 56.Qa6! (+0.47 Houdini 3). I have corrected the post accordingly.