Criminal on the Loose

P. Michalik (2508) - E. Hansen (2539), Groningen Open 2012

Aron Nimzowitsch once said, "A passed pawn is a criminal which should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient."

In the present position, the above could not be more true. Black, though down an exchange, has an excellent position due to his passed a pawn. Furthermore his dark-squared bishop which holds together his kingside is also controlling the vital promotion square.

After White's last move, 1. Qa7, Black can force a win.

Click below for a hint:

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Look for a way to advance the pawn.

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With White's queen and rook both eying a2, the advance of the pawn is currently impossible. However, his rook on e2 is loose.

1. ... Qc4! 2. Re3 (Trying to maintain the blockade with 2. Rd2 fails to 2. ... Ne4. Also 2. Kf1, with the same idea, is met strongly by 2. ... Bb2! when the a pawn's advance is already threatened. 3. Qb6 Qc1+ 4. Re1 Qxe1+ 5. Kxe1 Bc3+ 6. Ke2 a2 with an extra piece for Black.) However, now Black's "surveillance" of the pawn proves insufficient. 2. ... a2 3. Ra3 Qe4+! The queen will find a way to support the pawn's promotion, thereby winning a whole rook. 4. f3 Qe2+ 5. Kg1 Qe1+ 0-1


In the game, Hansen played 1. ... Nf5, nevertheless creating difficult problems for his opponent, whose attempt to stop the pawn falls short. 2. Re4? a2 3. Ra4 Qxa4! 0-1 Black ends up with an extra knight.

Instead, 2. d6! a difficult move to see, but with the point of diverting the knight to an inferior square, would've put up greater resistance. In this complex ending, every tempo counts 2. ... Nxd6 (Black cannot allow White his own passed pawn. If 2. ... exd6 3. Qa8! and White seems to be hanging on. For example, his previous tries at pushing the pawn no longer work: 3. ... Qc4, attacking the rook, is met by 4. Bf3 and 3. ... Bb2 by 4. Bd5.) And only now can he effectively prevent the pawn's advance 3. Qa4 Qxa4 4. Bxa4 Here, the attempt 4. ... Bb2 does not work due to the simple 5. Bb3. With the knight back on f5, Black would have 5. ... Nd4, forking rook and bishop. Though there is no immediate win in sight, Black should still be able to successfully push for the win--though at least here, he must work for it!