Stalemate is a favourite device of the composer, even in studies where White is playing to win. This is illustrated by our first study, in which perpetual check also figures.
3rd Prize, Problem, 1971
White to play and win
Setting up a battery straight away only draws - 1.Qe5? Re4 2.Qc7 Bg3+ 3.Qxg3 Rg4 4.Qh3 Qe4 (4...Qb8+ 5.Kh1 Qxb1 6.Qxh5+ Qh7 7.Qxh7+ Kxh7 =) 5.Qxh5+ Kg8 6.f7+ Kf8 (6...Kg7 7.f8Q+ Kxf8 8.Qh8+ = is similar.) 7.Qh8+ Kxf7 8.Qf6+ Ke8 9.Qh8+ Kd7 10.Qg7+ = with perpetual - and Black can defend against a mate threat - 1.Qd7? Qg8! 0-1 1.g6! Now that White has covered another square next to the black king, stalemate is in the air, persuading Black to sacrifice his bishop and rook. 1...Bg3+! 2.fxg3 White is forced to capture. Alternatives lose very quickly - 2.Kxg3?? Qf3+ 3.Kh2 Rh4# or 2.Kh3?? Qh1+ 3.Kxg3 Rf3# 2...Rh4+! The rook has to go as well. Otherwise White can, with care, steer through the perpetual check and stalemate possibilities - 2...Qa2+ 3.Nd2! (3.Kh1? Rh4+ 4.gxh4 Qd5+ 5.Qxd5 = (stalemate, a possibility that dictates White's remaining play.); 3.Kh3? Qe6+ 4.Kg2 Qe4+ 5.Kh2 Rh4+ 6.gxh4 Qf4+ 7.Kg2 Qg4+ 8.Kf2 Qf4+ 9.Ke1 Qc1+ 10.Kf2 Qf4+ =) 3...Rh4+ (3...Qxd2+? 4.Kh3 1-0 and Black can't cover the mating threats.) 4.Kg2! (4.gxh4? Qxd2+ =) 4...Qxd2+ 5.Bf2 Rh2+ 6.Kxh2 Qxf2+ 7.Kh3 Qxf6 8.Qxh5+ Kg7 9.Qh7+ Kf8 10.Qf7+ Qxf7 11.gxf7 Kxf7 12.Kh4 1-0 3.gxh4 Qa2+ 4.Kg3 Other king moves succumb to stalemate - 4.Kh3? Qb3+ = or 4.Kh1 Qd5+ =, while sacrifices are premature - 4.Bf2? Qxf2+ 5.Kh1 Qf3+ = with a perpetual we have seen before; 4.Nd2? Qxd2+ 5.Kh3 Qc3+ 6.Kg2 Qd2+ 7.Kg3 Qd6+ 8.Kh3 (8.Kf2 Qf4+ 9.Ke1 Qc1+ =) 8...Qe6+ = 4...Qb3+! 5.Nc3! Qxc3+ 6.Kf4! The king has to step carefully again - 6.Kf2? Qd4+ 7.Ke1 Qc3+ 8.Kd1 Qb3+ 9.Qxb3 = - while throwing the bishop overboard leads to perpetual or stalemate, starting with - 6.Be3? Qxe3+ 7.Kg2 Qe4+ 6...Qc4+ Instead of pursuing his stalemate idea, Black could also lose by 6...Qxf6+ 7.Qf5 Kg8 8.Bf2 Qd4+ 9.Kg5 Qd2+ 10.Kxh5 Qd1+ 11.Kh6 Qc1+ 12.Qg5 1-0 7.Bd4! Qxd4+ 7...Qc1+ 8.Ke5 Qc7+ 9.Ke6 Qc8+ 10.Ke7 Qf8+ 11.Kd7 1-0 8.Kg5 Qd5+ Non-stalemate attempts all lose quickly - 8...Qg4+ 9.Kh6 Qf4+ 10.Qg5 1-0; 8...Qe3+ 9.Kxh5 Qf3+ 10.Kh6 Qf4+ 11.Qg5 1-0; 8...Qd2+ 9.Kxh5 Qd5+ 10.Kh6 1-0; 8...Qg1+ 9.Kxh5 Qd1+ 10.Kh6 Qd2+ 11.Qg5 1-0; 8...Qd8 9.Qb2 Qa5+ 10.Kh6 1-0; 8...Qc4 9.Qe8+ Qg8 10.g7+ Kh7 11.Qxh5# 9.Kh6 Qxb5 9...Qd2+ 10.Qg5 1-0 10.f7 1–0 There are too many mate threats for Black to defend against.
There are two aspects of this study that I find pleasing. The first is that Black gets to play well and the second is that Black sacrifices two pieces for a stalemate and then White sacrifices two pieces to avoid a stalemate! A study that I am sure cannot be described by its composer’s name, as written above the diagram.
Our second study is taken from an Italian chess magazine of over thirty years ago, where it won an award. Why not have a go at solving it?
2nd HM., L'Italia Scacchistica, 1977
White to play and win
1.Kb3! 1.Nbd7? Kc4 0-1 1...Rxf8 1...Kxb6 2.Nd7+ Kb5 3.c4#; 1...Re3 2.Nc4 1-0 2.Na8! 2.Na4? Rf3 0-1 2...Rxa8 2...Rf3 3.Nxc7+ 1-0 3.c4+ Kb6 4.Ka4 Bb8 4...a5 5.c5+ Ka6 6.b5# 5.c5+ Ka7 6.Ka3 a5 7.b5 a4 8.Kb4! a3 9.Ka5 a2 10.b6+ cxb6+ 11.cxb6# 1–0