|This article uses algebraic notation to describe chess moves.|
Leopold Adamovich Mitrofanov (July 2, 1932 – November 26, 1992) was a Russian chess composer, an International Judge of Chess Composition (awarded 1971) and an International Master of Chess Composition (awarded 1980). He was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and, by profession, was a chemical engineer.
Beginning in the 1950s, Mitrofanov published over 300 endgame studies, 40 of which were awarded first prizes in competitions. Between 1955 and 1992, he participated in the finals of eight USSR Championships for chess composition. In FIDE competitions, he and Vladimir Korolkov were jointly awarded 3 gold medals. Mitrofanov composed a number of studies jointly with grandmaster Alexander Beliavsky.
In 1967, Mitrofanov's most celebrated chess study was awarded first prize from 250 entries to a tournament commemorating the twelfth-century Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli. Former world champion Mikhail Tal was among the judges. Their report stated that Mitrofanov's entry "doesn't look like any other, and is beyond the rest of the studies." Another judge, composer Alexander Herbstmann, said: "Immediately after the first preview, Mitrofanov's masterpiece created a tremendous impression by the intensity and novelty of the idea. The ranking of the other studies was designated by us beginning with the second place."
Unfortunately, Mitrofanov's original study (as below, but with Black's knight on f3 rather than g2) was subsequently found to have a cook, a miraculous defense that enabled Black either to obtain perpetual check or reach a drawn ending. After correction, the study remains notable. According to Tim Krabbé, "[i]t would be my candidate for 'study of the millennium'".
From the position at above left:
- 1.b6+ Ka8
- Allows Black's bishop to interpose on b8 after White queens his g-pawn.
If 1...Kb8, then 2.Re1! Nxe1 3.g7 Nc4+ 4.Kb5 Nxb6 5.Kxb6 Bc7+ 6.Kc6! h1(Q) 7.g8(Q)+ Ka7 8.Qc8 wins.
- Sacrifices the rook to avoid checks along the first rank from Black's soon-to-be-created queen on h1.
- 3.g7 h1(Q)
- If 3...Nc4+, then 4.Kb5 h1(Q) 5.g8(Q)+ Bb8 6.a7 Na3+ (or 6...Qh2 7.axb8(Q)+ Qxb8 8.Qxb8+ Kxb8 9.Kxc4 +-) 7.Kc6 Qh2 8.axb8(Q)+ Qxb8 9.b7+ Ka7 10.Qg1+ Ka6 11.Qb6#.
- 4.g8(Q)+ Bb8
- Since 5...Qxd5+? is met by 6.Qxd5, Black must sacrifice the knight in order to enable his queen to give check.
- 6.dxc6 Qxh5+
- (see position at above right) Now what? If 7.Ka6 Qe2+ or 7.Kb4 Qh4+, Black will keep checking.
- Mitrofanov's amazing conception. Having previously sacrificed the rook in order to avoid horizontal checks by Black's queen, White now sacrifices the queen, with check, simply to avoid diagonal checks from Black's queen. At first blush, the move looks like a misprint. Upon being shown this move, grandmaster Leonid Yudasin reportedly said: "What?! The queen is given for nothing – and with check!" Victor Charusin, an ICCF International Master and author of the book Mitrofanov's Deflection, called it "a move from another world." Krabbé observed: "White lifts his mating threat, the pin of [the bishop on b8], lets his Queen be captured with check on an unguarded square, remains with a few pawns against Queen, Bishop and Knight – and wins."
- 7...Qe8 8.b7+! Kxa7 9.Qc5#
- Threatens 9.b7#
- If 8...Qb5+, then 9.Kxb5 Nc2 10.c7! wins. Following 8...Bxa7, White can resign after 9.bxa7?? Qc5, while 9.b7+? Kb8 10.c7+ Kxc7 11.b8(Q)+ Kc6 (11...B(K)xb8 is a stalemate) 12.Qb7+ Kd6 13.Kxa7 is only good for a draw
- (see diagram below) An incredible position. Black, with a queen, bishop, and knight against White's two connected passed pawns, is helpless against the dual threats of 9.b7# and 9.c8(Q)+. Note that if the queen were on any other square of the board where it is not already giving check, Black would be winning easily. Only on g5 does the queen have no checks that do not simply lose the queen.
- Neither 9...Qd5 10.c8(Q)+ Bb8 11.b7+ Qxb7 12.Qxb7# nor 9...Qg6 10.c8(Q)+ Bb8 11.Qb7# fares any better.
- 10.Kxa5 Kb7
- If 10...Bxb6+ 11.Kxb6 and mate next move. The paradoxical nature of this problem is highlighted by the fact that Black is now losing because of the two minor pieces. Without the knight, Black draws with 10...Bxb6+ 11.Kxb6 stalemate; without the bishop, Black draws with 10...Kb7 followed by Nd3-e5-d7xb6.
- 11.bxa7 1-0
- Black cannot stop both pawns. White queens a pawn and wins easily.