Which way to capture?

I got an e-mail today about one of my tactics problems from one of my newsletter readers. 

Here is the position in question with Black to Move:

See if you can find the best move for black.

Black to Move

The question I received wasn’t about the best move for black, but the best followup for white.

The correct move for black is 17…Rxd3

In the newsletter I gave the variation 18. Qxd3 Qxd3 19. Rxd3 e4 which is a pawn fork of rook and knight.  This would have allowed black to get back in the game with two minor pieces for the rook.

But what about 18. Rxd3 as a reply?

Is this worse than 18. Qxd3 as a reply?

Go back to the problem, and think about this.

Here is the complete game.  Black actually missed Rxd3 in the game, but used it to “win the postmortem”, which was the topic of the newsletter.

Queen takes Variation after the smoke clears

The main difference between 18. Rxd3 and 18. Qxd3 is that white’s pawn structure will get more messed up with Rxd3 (doubling the f pawns after the smoke clears).

For example with 18.Qxd3 Qxd3 19.Rxd3 e4 20.Bf4+ Kc8 21.Re3 exf3 22.Rxf3

Here the rook takes back on f3 after the e pawn captures the knight, and white’s pawns are still nicely placed, see diagram

Rook takes Variation after the smoke clears

but after

18.Rxd3 e4 19.Bf4+ Kc8 20.Re3 Qxe2 21.Rxe2 exf3 22.gxf3

The Rook is now on e2, and the g pawn has to capture on f3 leaving the white pawn structure a mess. 

The material is the same in each variation, but in the second variation white has doubled pawns.  Sometimes small differences like this can be the difference between winning or losing, or may cost you a draw in a winning position.

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