Leko-Khalifman, Fide world championship 2000. White to play.
RB Hands up those of you who plumped for 1 Rb1. There’s no disgrace if you did. Peter Leko, rated 2743 when he played this game, opted for exactly that and went on to draw. It’s the move I thought of when I first came across the game, in Drazen Marovic’s Secrets of Positional Chess â€“ but is it the best? After a series of miserable failures on my part, the boot’s on the other foot this week â€“ it’s Dan’s turn to solve the puzzle.
DK Black’s rook has just swept down to c2 attacking the pawn on b2, and although that could be defended with 1 Rb1, my gut feeling tells me not to look at this too deeply â€“ it drags a rook away from an active position and I would fear losing the initiative. Instead of defending let’s try to meet a threat with a threat.
1 Rxg5 is the obvious way ahead, continuing the attack. It might not work, but this is what I would look at first. Black should respond in kind â€“ backing down would be fatal â€“ so 1…Rbxb2. Now Black threatens instant destruction, so White has no choice but to continue with forcing moves: 2 Rg8+ Kxh7 and now I see only one way forward: 3 Rh8+ Kxh8 4 Qh6+ Kg8 5 Qg6+ Qg7 6 Qe8+ Kh7 7 Qh5+ and this looks like a draw by perpetual check. Assuming my calculation is correct, 1 Rxg5 is probably what I would go for instead of 1 Rb1.
RB Dan’s instinct was right. Attack, as we are always told, is the best form of defence, and 1 Rxg5 is definitely attacking defence. But after 1â€¦Rbxb2 2 Rg8+ Kxh7, White has a better continuation, according to Marovic (and Fritz), than Dan’s suggested 3 Rh8+. The unlikely 3 Rb8 gives White a forced mate after 3â€¦Rxb8 4 Qh3+ Kg8 5 Rg1+. Black can prolong things with 3â€¦Rxa2+ 4 Kb1 Rh2, but after 5 Rf3 Black’s exposed king will either be mated or he will have to give up material. More on defence next week.