White to play. What should the result be?
RB Chess artistry is by no means confined to the chessboard. There are films, art and design inspired by the beauty, aesthetics and metaphors of chess, and also great novels, from Nabokov and Zweig, to name just two of the better known. But while many artists would say chess has been an inspiration, few can claim it saved them.
An exception is the London-Irish player John Healy whose 1988 autobiographical masterpiece The Grass Arena has been republished as a Penguin Classic, partly through the tireless efforts of Guardian writer Erwin James. Beautifully written, poetic and spare, the book describes a damaged man pursued by his own demons. Brutalised and rejected by his father, Healy took refuge in drink, eventually ending up in "the grass arena", the public parks where vagrants, beggars, thieves and social casualties try to make a home. In and out of prison for drunken misdemeanours, it was during one of his stays in Pentonville that Healy was introduced to chess. Its impact on him was immediate and total. His craving for alcohol vanished, he cleaned up and started writing. At a recent simul at Simpson's in the Strand, Healy scored 14.5/15 (the draw was against a computer).
This position is from one of Healy's early games. At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking Black has a straightforward win. The a-pawn is just two squares away from queening and is perfectly supported by the rook, which is also guarding d8. But here Healy spoiled Black's fun with 1 Ne7+ Kf7 2 Nc8, obstructing the rook from the defence of the queening square. Black has no choice but to push his own passed pawn with 2...a2.
In this kind of position, with new queens about to burst on to the scene, it's not always immediately obvious who will emerge with the advantage. But as long as White is careful not to give Black the opportunity to block a check by interposing the queen on f6, when the queens would come off and Black would win, he will be fine. Play continued: 3 d8=Q a1=Q 4 Qe7+ (4 Qd5+ works just as well) 4...Kg6 5 Qe4+ Kh6 6 Qf4+ Kg6 (if 5...g5 6 Qd6+), with a draw by repetition.