The question we all dread – solution

I left you with the above position, White to play. I hope you looked at the sacrifice on f7 – but did you play it?

After 1. Nxf7, it is clear that the only critical reply is  1…Kxf7 (1…Rxf7 2.Nxe6 simply regains the piece, with a good extra pawn for White). White then follows up with  2. Qb3

Now Black has no way directly to defend the knight on e6, so it appears that White regains his piece, with an extra pawn. I suspect that many players will have stopped there. However, Black has an indirect defence:

2…Qb6!

The point is that Black attacks the enemy queen, so now 3. Nxe6 is met by 3…Qxb3, and White has no checking zwischenzug to rescue his knight; after 4.axb3, Bxe6, Black is just a piece up.

If you saw this far, then you did well, and I imagine that the great majority who did so will have abandoned 1.Nxf7 on the basis of this variation. But in fact, White is winning. He just has to find one more good move:

3. Bd1!!

With this simple move, White maintains the pin on the knight and prepares to recapture on b3 with the bishop, still maintaining it. Black has no way to defend e6, and White regains his piece, with a substantial advantage.

If you managed to see all the way through to 3.Bd1!!, then you are clearly a very strong player, because this last move is really pretty hard to spot. It is one of those “invisible” moves, that so often escape a player’s attention. Diagonal retreats are reputed to be the most difficult moves to spot.  Once the position after 2…Qb6 appears on the board, many players would find 3.Bd1, simply out of necessity (else White is losing a piece), but over the board, White needs to see it before he plays 1.Nf7! Despite being only three moves deep, this is much harder to see than many, considerably longer, variations.

The position comes from a game Jadoul – Soos, played in 1985. I have no other details, as Hendriks’ book does not give any, and the game does not appear to be in Megabase. But the talented Belgian master playing White saw the whole line and played it,  so he deserves our respect.

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