On Saturday, December 10, 2022, Fox Lana of the Decorah Sjakklubb participated in the Dubuque Scholastic Open. Fox played five games where each player was given 30 minutes on a 5 second delay. He brought home second place!
Fox shared a few of his tournament games with me at our regular Sjakklubb meeting, and gave permission to share a few of his positions.
In this first position, Fox was playing black. White had just pushed the pawn to a5 and it is Fox’s move. He found a mate-in-5 from this position. Try and solve before reading on! (There are two paths to the mate in 5).
Technically, there are many more paths than 2 as you could interchange whites first and second responses in both paths that I’m referring to. Here is what happened in Fox’s game:
1. Qxh2+ Bxh2 2. Rxh2+ Rxh2 3. Rxh2+ Kg3 4. Nf5+ Kxg4 5. Ne5#
The other path is if white’s king decided to go to f1 on the third move: 3 … Kf1 4. Rh1+ Kg2 5 Rg1#
Owning the h-file proved to be a great tactic for Fox, and seeing the mate-in-five starting with a queen sacrifice was brilliant! The last two moves would have been challenging to calculate.
This second puzzle I thought was even more brilliant, and I’m not sure if I could solve this puzzle. Even the Stockfish engine had to take a second to find the move. Fox, playing white, took 2 minutes to find the only good move in this position. See if you can find it! Black had just pushed the pawn to c5.
Although this is not technically a mate-in-3 puzzle, this turned out to be a mate-in-3 during the tournament. Don’t feel bad if you cannot find the move, as it is really tricky.
Fox found 1. Rxf6!!
Fox saw that if white decides to capture his rook with either 1 … exf6 or 1 … Bxf6, he has a mate-in-2. Although easier than the first puzzle, this may still be a challenge! Can you find it?
After either 1 …. exf6 or 1 … Bxf6, the line continues 2. Qxh7+ Bxh7 3. Nxf7# for a brilliant and unique smother mate. If black wanted to avoid the mate-in-3, their best response was 1 … Ne6 which still would have put them at a disadvantage engine-wise.
I’d like to close with a big congrats and thank you to Fox for his achievement and for sharing a few of his games with us.