By Martin Smith -- 14 May 2021

One of our guys (Amar Adatia) was swindled (you might say) in a recent Online 4NCL match by his opponent who had deliberately liquidated into the notorious K, B, N v K ending. Amar had to do the mating, but couldn’t pull it off. Join the club: the grandmaster’s club. GM Epishin, for one, failed to win it in a game in 1971. 

The ending is a rare bird. Angus says that in his database of over 7 million (!!) games there are near enough 2000 such endings (I’ve done a bit of rounding), so – statistically speaking – you’d have to play about 3,700 games to get one yourself. Three-quarters were won, the other quarter were drawn.

I’ve never had to play it, though back in the mists of time I was shown how to do it. John Hodgson told me he’d only had it once in his long career at the board (his opponent managed the mate, but had an adjournment to mug it up). Justin Horton won it some years back, in tournament conditions to boot – well done Justin!

So you could win that odd point (and impress your mates) by knowing the method and executing it efficiently as your clock runs down. Conversely and perversely, you could salvage the odd half point if you knew the most frustrating defence (as did Amar’s 4NCL oppoment). On the other hand could you better spend your time learning something more practically useful (like how to draw/win those R v R and p endings)? Whichever: analysing it may teach you something about co-ordinating your minor pieces…

By the way, and off at a tangent, I was shown how to do it – once, many moons ago – by Neil Honan who was my form master at grammar school. Honan (‘that’s “Sir” to you, boy’) had been (unbeknownst to me) a school-boy champion and active in Universities chess in the 1950s. A school chess chum showed me (60 years later!) this game that ‘Sir’ had played in 1950. It was later published in an “Anthology of Chess Beauty” by I. Belov, et al in 1996.

One thing I do remember from Mr Honan’s mating demonstration all those years ago was that there is a right and a wrong corner in which to deliver the coup de grâce – though when I came to write this little piece, I realised that I couldn’t remember which corner you should aim for. Memory now refreshed: you must drive the King to the same-coloured corner as your bishop’s diagonals. The SAME colour. This is what swindled Amar in his recent Online 4NCL game (well, that and the clock etc). Go for the wrong colour corner and all you get is stalemate.

That is lesson #1 in this elegant post written by club member Jonathan Bryant in the erstwhile Streatham and Brixton Chess Blog (ten years ago!). It is a great post, and shows you the magic method of mating with K, B and N. Jonathan’s series of posts This is the End remains required reading (there’s also a lot about R and p endings).

[This piece first appeared in the Club’s members’ magazine Chess in Lockdown #15 May 2021]

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