The Nihal Challenge

by Sagar Shah
5/18/2020 – Here's a very interesting analysis task for you during this lock-in days: imagine you have reached a fairly complex position where you spot a beautiful queen sacrifice. Before you play it you have to analyse all the lines, in your mind, and come to the conclusion whether it wins, holds a draw or loses. Try it with our challenge position. You can move pieces on the analysis board, but must not consult an engine. Have fun, test your analysis skills.

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Here is the position we want you to analyse. It is quite challenging. We will tell you more about it in a couple of days.

 

As you know you can move pieces on the above board to analyse.

The first thing you notice here is that Black is two pieces up – he has the two extra bishops – but the black king is in trouble. White can play 1.fxg7, which seems pretty good: if you take the pawn then there is 2.h6, and when the bishop moves (say ...Bh8) you have 3.Qh5 with the threat of Ng5+, and this is very strong. Maybe Black's best defence, after 1.fxg7 is ...Be7, and the game goes on.

However, let's take a look at 1.Qg6+!?, which is clearly very interesting. If the king moves to f8 or g8, because Ng5 comes with great force – it actually leads to mate. So Black must take the queen, and then 2.Ng5+ (if you play 2.hxg6++, then after 2...Kxg6 it looks like Black is completely fine) when 2...Kh8/g8 again result in mate (after 3.hxg6).

But Black plays 2...Kh6 after which 3.Nf7+ Kh7 is pretty much forced. So that would continue 4.Ng5+ and repetition. But wait a sec, White can try to win! How about 4.hxg6++ Kxg6 5.Nh8+ Kg5 (the only flight square available to the black king). Now you can think about a lot of interesting checks, like 6.Rh5+ or 6.Nf7+, until you hit on 6.Rd4, after which White is winning. Or is he?

You can try some of this on the next diagram, which will play against you. We have given the engine five seconds per move so it can find reasonable defences.

 

On the above board the engine will play against you

This is where we leave you to your own devices. Try to analyse the position comprehensively – of course without downloading it and then asking an engine to show you. Imagine you are sitting at the board at a tournament and contemplating 1.Qg6. You have to decide whether this move is winning, or it's a draw, or losing. To what conclusion would you come?

We will post the answer, with background (why is it called "The Nihal Challenge"?) and with video analysis, on this page in two days. Until then happy analyzing.



Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.

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