6

I was spectating an online simul given by a GM (this game in particular) and as the game was played I was very surprised to see GM Chessweeb play 24... a6.

Here is the position.

[Title "Black to move"]
[StartFlipped "1"]
[fen "7Q/ppk1qp2/4p3/3pPp1P/5P2/2P5/PP4r1/1K1R4 b - - 0 24"]

I was expecting a continuation like 24... Qh4 25. h6 Qxf4

Stockfish confirms that a6 is indeed the best move but I'm having trouble understanding why that is. The only thing I can think of is perhaps a6 gives the king a hideout to prevent future perpetual check?

  • 3
    Stockfish on Lichess evaluates almost every move as a dead draw. – Sleafar Nov 21 at 20:40
  • 25. h6 in your expected variation is impossible. Do you mean 25. h3? – user58697 Nov 21 at 21:30
  • 1
    @user58697 Seems like you've misinterpreted something. 25. h6 is fine and 25. h3 doesn't make sense. – James Martin Nov 22 at 10:34
3

You're correct. The idea of 24...a6 is to allow the king to avoid a perpetual. This could be of relevance if Black's queen moves away to go after White's king (e.g., ...Qc5). It could also be useful for the king to hide on a7 if things go haywire and a dangerous attack happens, such as the h-pawn promoting or White's rook getting involved. Although, in the position before 24...a6, Stockfish gives an evaluation of 0.00 no matter whose move it is. So purely in an objective sense, ...a6 isn't a necessary move -- but practically it's quite nice. Your anticipated move of 24...Qh4 is also evaluated at 0.00 by Stockfish, so it's just as good.

One interesting line goes 24...a6 25.h6 (White has other moves that are fine too) 25...Qc5. Now White's going to get mated from ...Qf2 if he's not careful. For example, 26.Qe8 Qf2 27.Qe7+ Kb8 28.Qf8+ Ka7. Now White can't stop the dual threats of ...Qxb2# and ...Qc2+ (picking up the d1-rook with mate). Another faulty try is 26.Qg7. The idea is that 26...Rxg7 27.hxg7 sees White about to promote, leaving him up a rook. However, Black has 26...Qf2, and 27.Qxf7+ Kb6 28.Qxe6+ Ka7 sees Black's king being safe, again thanks to the a6-pawn. Therefore, White's only 26th move which maintains equality is 26.Ka1!, preparing to defend with Rb1 if needed.

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