I like to think that I know a fair bit about chess but I have never heard of a player named Domenico Ercol del Rio. Admittedly, he was a little before my time having lived in Italy from 1718 – 1802. The reason that I mention him is because I have recently joined chess.com and last night was browsing through their site to see what was on offer. I came across a section on “articles” and one was titled “The Anonymous Modenese” which apparently was the name used by Ercol del Rio when he wrote a chess book in 1750. He was a player/problemist and the article gave a number of examples of his problems/games which were both difficult and really beautiful.
For this week’s puzzle I’d like to show you one of Ercol del Rio’s compositions which appealed to me. It’s quite hard so I’ll give you a hint. To win at chess normally one piece alone, even a powerful piece like a Queen, needs some help to force checkmate. Piece co-operation is a very important principle in chess.
In the diagram below White has lots of pieces but is faced with the loss of his N on a5, or if the N moves he will lose the B on c4. What can he do to achieve a draw?
[fen caption="White to Play and draw"]k7/2q5/3p2N1/N5P1/2B5/8/2K5/8 w KQkq – 0 1[/fen]