Healy-Scallan, Armstrong Cup 2014-15

Some interesting games from this year’s league campaign featured recently on the St. Benildus C.C. web pages. Among these was a rare bishop + knight versus king ending, from the game Healy—Scallan, St. Benildus v. Rathmines, Armstrong Cup.

healy-scallan-2014The critical position is shown in the diagram, with Black to play his 66th. Fiachra Scallan played 66. … Kc5?, apparently under the impression that bishop and knight v. king was a draw. Though John Healy’s notes don’t mention it, with 66. … Kc7! Black draws. White can only extract the bishop by giving up the a-pawn, e.g., 67. Nd4 Rxa7 68. Bc6, but the resulting B + N + P v. R ending (once the h-pawn drops) is easily drawn. (Coincidentally, we recently had another example of a B + N + P v. R ending here). Otherwise Black follows up with 67. … Kb6 and 68. … Kxb5 69. Bb7 Rxa7 70. Nxa7+ Kb6.

In the present game Black made it easy for White by heading quickly for the ‘right’ corner (from the B + N point of view). Tim Harding gives the useful practical advice to defenders of this ending that they should head for the ‘wrong’-coloured corner on the opponent’s side of the board, on the basis that many players have practiced the winning manoeuvre with the defending king on the ‘top’ side of the board, and sometimes find it difficult to translate into the reversed setup.

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