USCF Home Chess Life Magazine The Lazy Person’s Guide to Endgames: [continued from the January issue]
|The Lazy Person’s Guide to Endgames: [continued from the January issue]|
|By GM Ian Rogers|
|January 27, 2010|
Part 4 (continued)
More pawns mean more troubles for a lazy player. If Magnus Carlsen can twice lose simple R+1 versus R+2 endings, what hope is there for mere mortals to cope with rook endings with even more pawns?
Fortunately, a few general rules help ease the burden:
Rule 4—Use your king to do the big jobs.
Whether it is helping out your extra passed pawns or stopping your opponent’s advance, an active king is a lazy player’s friend. If you find your king near the back rank, you know you have work to do, and who wants to do work?
Rule 5—Harass with your rook.
If you can’t simply take pawns, tie your opponent to their defense with your rook. Then your king (and pawns) will have time to do their thing.
As a generic rook endgame, this is hard to beat. You may have heard that four pawns against three on the same side in a rook endgame is a draw. Well, a not-so-lazy player named Kasparov lost this position with black so it can’t be that easy.
In fact White has all the ingredients needed for success; in particular a great king. (The white king is so good, in fact, that if Black had his rook on ... e2 here, White could force a winning pawn endgame with the pawn sacrifice 1. e6!)
While it is bad luck that here 1. e6 Ra5+ 2. Kh4 Kf6! (the active king!) hangs on for Black, not surprisingly there is a different way to break through: 1. f5! gxf5 2. e6! Rxh2 3. Rxf7+ Kg8 (the back rank = death) 4. Kf6! and the e-pawn will soon run through.
Sadly, rook endings need precision and general rules will only get you so far. Perhaps the best advice one can offer to the lazy player is to buy a copy of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual. There is no need to read it; just place it next to your board when you are playing a rook ending and your opponent will hopefully fold in the face of your awesome endgame skills (acquired through osmosis).
Many moons ago I had the misfortune of watching two strong players reach the following position:
White to play
White had cashed in a big material advantage to reach this position and after 1. b5! his opponent quickly realized that both 1. ... axb5 2. a6 and 1. ... Kd6 2. b6 were hopeless and resigned.
I was flabbergasted. Until then I had assumed that almost everybody knew that the position after 1. b5 Kd6! 2. b6 Kc6 was a dead draw—an exceptional case when a protected passed pawn is not enough for victory. Even playing carelessly Black can hardly lose this position, because after 3. Kd4 Kb7 4. Kc5 Kc8?! 5. Kc6 Kb8 6. b7 Ka7 7. Kc7 is stalemate!
This is just one of chess’ many ‘injustice patterns’—positions where logic tells you that one side should be winning easily but the defender’s resources prove to be sufficient.
The term ‘injustice pattern’ was coined by John Purdy, the son of the first World Correspondence Champion Cecil Purdy. I first saw many of the examples which follow in an article John Purdy wrote for the Australian medical journal Drug Therapy in the 1970s, and this article owes a great debt to his pioneering work. The two most obvious examples of injustice in chess are the bishop and ‘wrong’ a- or h-pawn and the endgame 2Ns versus K. Surely an advantage of bishop and pawn, or two knights should be enough to force checkmate, but it isn’t!
However one shouldn’t forget the classic knight and ‘wrong’ a- or h-pawn:
An easy draw
The draw is easy for Black, who simply moves in and out of the corner—just as easy as if the knight had been a dark- squared bishop.
Or how about the b-pawn and entombed bishop?
b-pawn and entombed bishop
A useless piece of knowledge, you might think, until you reach the following endgame ...
White to play
The lazy player might think that, with Black’s king kept out of the corner, the win should be simple. It is, but not after 1. Kc4 b5+! 2. axb6+ e.p. (otherwise 2. ... Kb7) 2. ... Kb7, giving the diagram labeled “b-pawn and entombed bishop.” Once you recognize the danger, 1. Kb4! b5 2. a6 is not hard to find and the win is not far away.
Injustice patterns are counter- intuitive and therein lies the problem for the lazy chessplayer, one who likes to say “That looks good—I’ll work it out when I get there.” However all that glitters is not gold; much as it may cost time and effort, there could be some merit in trying to remember some of these examples.
The bishop seems to be particularly vulnerable to injustice patterns:
An injustice pattern
Draw! Despite the extra bishop, Black’s king cannot be forced from the squares b8, c8 and, if necessary, a8. This pattern works without the c pawns and even without the c- and b-pawns.
Not for the lazy player!
Another strange case where an extra bishop is worthless— and it doesn’t matter if White has a dark-squared bishop instead of the d5-bishop. Of course a player who doesn’t know about the first diagram in this section might think that 1. Bxb7+ led to a win, but Black’s defenses are sufficient. Had Fischer recognized this pattern early enough, the Ameri- can legend would have saved game one of his 1972 match against Boris Spassky—the famous game where Fischer gave up a bishop for no apparent reason.
The bishop can cause some injustice of its own, especially when faced with the seemingly overwhelming force of rook and pawn.
White’s king cannot get close enough to cause any damage—so long as Black remembers to answer 1. f7 with 1. ... Kg7!
The following example is even more surprising:
White has succeeded in forcing Black’s king from the corner but he cannot extricate his own king from the h-file without allowing the black king back to h8. (It is possible for White to win if the pawn is back on h4 but the technique is so convoluted that no lazy player should even consider learning it.)
White to win
There is nothing terribly unfair about White being unable to win this position, until you consider what would happen if Black had an extra pawn on e6. Then Black is completely defenseless! Adding the black pawn on e6, White plays his king to e7 and rook to f8, forcing ... e5. White plays fxe5, moves the rook around to f6 and wins with e6! Bxe6, Rxe6!, when the pawn endgame is trivial, or ... fxe6 Rf7+ and Kf6.
Winning with queen and pawn versus rook and pawn is usually just a matter of swapping pawns but here it can’t be done. However, this injustice pattern applies in only a few positions; for example, move White’s pawn to g4, and the win will be easy after Kh4 and g5.
The final example is one of the most remarkable injustice patterns yet. Few players appear to be aware of it.
Normal practice would suggest an easy win for Black yet White can manage to hold a draw by keeping the opposition—1. Kd6 Kb7 2. Kd7!. Now, even with its new-found freedom, Black’s knight cannot find a better square from which to defend the e-pawn, e.g. 2. ... Nd4 3. Kd6 Nf3 4. Kd5 followed by 5. Ke4.