Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Terminator

I have never been into slasher movies, but if you replace the hockey-mask-wearing psychopath with a cyborg assassin, and throw in some time paradoxes and impending Armageddon, then I'd be popping some popcorn. TV Tropes gives The Terminator as an example of the archetype called Implacable Man.

Since his announcement on Monday that he fathered a love child about 14 years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been all over the news.

Coincidentally, I had been reviewing a problem I had missed at It had the following initial position. Black to play and win.

I had missed the problem on February 5, 2010 by playing Bh1. How do I know such detail? I broke down and bought a one-year Gold Premium Membership for $35. The information geek inside me couldn't resist the siren call of database drill-down to try to figure out why this game eludes me. Temposchlucker's post on the drills he was doing made me realize that I have to get back to fundamentals of tactical vision and calculation.

If you haven't tried your hand at the above diagram, then

Before the diagram, White had just won a pawn by playing the sequence:
40.Bd3xNf5 exf5

Black has impressive batteries along the a8-h1 diagonal and the a8-a1 file. Is White safe? Apparently not. The solution to the diagram begins with


Of course White can't capture because it brings the Black Queen to his back rank with deadly consequences. Perhaps he can wait for escape later, but for now he can try to hunker down with

42. Qf4

The key move brings the Terminator onto the scene. (See if you can guess why I call the queen the "Terminator")

43. Qd2

White runs for cover.

Now what? You might be tempted to put the queen in a mating battery with 43...Qe4, but after 44.f3 Rxc1+ 45.Qxc1 Qxf3 46.Qc8+ Kh7 47.Qc2+ g6 48.Qd2 Qh1+ 49.Kf2 Qxh2+ 50.Ke3 50.Qxg3+ Kd4, Black has a winning endgame, but more technique will be required.

A young Alexander Ivanov, playing in I think an under-26 championship in Riga in 1980, goes for the killer move.


Black keeps advancing to unsupported positions, purposely hanging the Black Queen as if it lacked any regard for personal safety. But the Black Queen is immune to capture (44.Qxd4 Rxc1+ 45.Qd1 Rxd1#) as is the Black Rook (44.Rxa1 Qxa1+ 45.Qe1 Qxe1#)


White tries one more retreat before throwing in the towel. White now has both heavy pieces on the back rank with his own battery threatening to capture Rxa1. Black plays his ace in the hole and only now goes to the a8-h1 battery. Now that g2 can't be protected by playing f3, Ivanov played 44...Qe4!, forcing resignation as the best White can do to avert checkmate is 45.Qxe4 Rxc1+ 46.Kg2 Bxe4+ a rook-down endgame with no chances.

Back at the 43rd move, I wondered what if 43.Qe3? It still protects the rook right?


All four heavy pieces are on White's back rank attacking each other!

45.Rxe1 Rxe1#

The unstoppable Queen reminded me of the unstoppable hanging Rook in the Steinitz-Von Bardeleben "Battle of Hastings" game.

That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. — Kyle Reese

I'll be back. — T-800