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.

Topics: Nihal Sarin

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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bald bishop bald bishop 5/21/2020 01:20
Black gets mated at the end.
nicholasjamesproudfoot nicholasjamesproudfoot 5/19/2020 08:29
@tkbrownscombe Yes, that looks good!
tkbrownscombe tkbrownscombe 5/19/2020 08:11
11. Rf3 combining mate threats with threats to win more material seems to win easily. I haven't checked it with an engine, but I can't find a defense for black.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 5/19/2020 06:55
Sorry Guys, I did not have a Pb4 as you said, so my analysis is kaput.
nicholasjamesproudfoot nicholasjamesproudfoot 5/19/2020 04:55
@PhishMaster There is no 6...Qe1 because there is a pawn on b4.
JoshuaVGreen JoshuaVGreen 5/19/2020 04:36
@PhishMaster, an annoying property of the ChessBase online diagrams is that pieces tend to randomly disappear and reappear when one is playing through games. In the diagram here there's a Black pawn on b4 which prevents 6. ... Qe1+, but perhaps it vanished during your analysis.
nicholasjamesproudfoot nicholasjamesproudfoot 5/19/2020 03:29
I wonder if there is an improvement to the following line:

1. Qg6+ fxg6
2. Ng5+ Kh6
3. Nf7+ Kh7
4. hxg6+ Kxg6
5. Nh8+ Kg5
6. Rd4 Qxa2+
7. Kxa2 Rxc2+
8. Kb1 Rh2
9. Rxh2 Bd3+
10. Rxd3 gxf6

Now White has an extra exchange (for some pawns) but does not seem to be winning.
psamant psamant 5/19/2020 08:21
I think we can continue the analysis of MJFitch... after 5. Rxd3 gxf6, we may have: 6. ef6 Nb5 7. Rf3... now look at this position. White is up an exchange but down a pawn with one more falling. But, he has the black king on the ropes, he has the f and h files and his knight can be saved. On top of it, the white king is relatively safe and can escape on the white squares. I think this position should be winning for white. Exchange the knights and rooks. Then, white king blockades the pawns on the white squares while the white rook mops up the black pawns.
MJFitch MJFitch 5/19/2020 12:13
No 1. Rd4 doesn't win 1...Qxa2!+ 2. Kxa2 Rxc2+ 3. Kb1 Rh2! 4. Rxh2 Bd3! 5. Rxd3 gxf6
Frederic Frederic 5/18/2020 09:27
Incidentally some text between the diagrams was lost (in the bowels of the CMS). I have restored it.
Frederic Frederic 5/18/2020 09:25
Okay, I have removed the request to not post the lines you discover in our feedback section. So go ahead, discuss your analysis here. We will post the full solution and analysis on Wednesday (or Thursday).
Toptier Toptier 5/18/2020 07:37
It was pretty easy, as the variations were mostly forced. Reached to a conclusion in about 2 minutes and then verified it with the engine. My calculations were right and the evaluation of the resulting position too. Although it could have been a bit faster if I was using a board. The position was interesting indeed!