Monday, December 3, 2007

Minority Report

Back when Tom Cruise’s career wasn’t in freefall, he starred in a weird futuristic crime thriller called Minority Report. Cruise played a detective in an advanced “pre-crime” task force whose secret weapon was a group of three tank-immersed psychic “pre-cogs”. A computer recorded the pre-cogs’ dreams of homicides before they would happen and Cruise would spring into action to prevent the crime. The title’s obscure reference was when one of the pre-cogs didn’t agree with the other two on how the crime went down.

In some ways, watching how a game of chess develops is like trying to solve a crime before it happens. Based upon a lot of information available in the position, players calculate variations that are good, bad, and indifferent to their goals. If there is a “best play” line and both players are good enough to find their moves, the future position is fairly predictable. If your calculation is accurate, there will be action between certain pieces (suspects) on certain squares (scene of the crime), and hopefully after you solve the crime in advance of its happening, the evaluation will be in your favor.

Last Thursday, two endgames at the club boiled down to pawn minorities triumphing, endings that completely took me by surprise. In the first ending, two pawns beat three, but the player with the new queen gave up trying to beat the last knight and two pawns, so he agreed to a draw. In the second endgame, two pawns beat five.

(106) Fleming,G (1884) - Filipas,M (1610)

Sweet November (4), 29.11.2007

White has the advantage of the outside a-pawn, but Black has the advanced d-pawn.1.Kd4?= The juicy targets lined up on f5, g5, and h5 are too difficult to resist. [ 1.Nb3! Grant told me he had seen this move, but was annoyed that Black can ignore it since Nxc5 loses to d2. However, the move is useful for some tactics on f5. 1...Kd6 ( 1...Ne6 2.g3 f4 3.g4 hxg4 4.hxg4 Nc5 5.Nd2 Kd6 6.Kd4 Kc6 7.Ke5 Kb5 8.Kf5 Kxa5 9.Kxg5 Kb4 10.Kxf4 Kc3 11.Ke3) 2.g3 h4 3.gxh4 gxh4 4.Kc3 Ne6 5.Kxd3 Nf4+ ( 5...Ng5 6.Nd4 Kc5 7.f4 Nxh3 8.Ke3 Kd6 9.Nxf5+) 6.Kc4 Nxh3 7.Nd4 f4 8.Kb5 Ng5 9.Nf5+ Kc7 10.Nxh4 Kb7+/=] 1...Kb5 2.a6 Nxa6 3.Ke5?! [ 3.Kxd3 Kc5=] 3...Kb4 4.Kxf5 Kc3

White to move and draw

5.Ne4+?-+ [ 5.Nf1!= Kc2 6.Kxg5 Nc5] 5...Kc2! 6.Kxg5 White now has a three to two pawn advantage and the knight seems to blockade the pawn. [ 6.Ng3 Nc5 7.Nf1 Kd1! 8.Ne3+ Ke1 9.Nc4 Nb7! 10.Ke4 Nd6+ 11.Kxd3 Nxc4 12.Kxc4 Kf2-+; 6.Nd6 Nc5!] 6...Nc5! 7.Nxc5 [ 7.Nf2 d2 8.Kxh5 Nd3-+] 7...d2 8.Ne4 d1Q 9.Kxh5 Qf1 10.g4 Qxf3 11.Ng5 Draw eventually agreed. 1/2-1/2 I hate knight endings.

(109) Parreira,D (1370) - Hall,A (1585)

Sweet November (4), 29.11.2007

White has three extra pawns and a very well-placed knight helping to make a giant wall against the Black King's incursion. Black has two advanced pawns and a fairly active knight supporting them.1...d2+ 2.Ke2 Bh5+ 3.f3 e3 4.Bb3 seeking to undermine the support of the pawns. However White's plan is shallow. [ 4.Nf5! Although the beautiful blockade is released, this plan would have made the win much safer and clearer. 4...Kc6 5.Nxe3 Na5 6.Kxd2 Kxc5 7.Kc3+-] 4...Bf7 Now Black has a counterthreat. If there is a trade, the White King has to retreat to d1. The knight at d4 prevents Bb3+ followed by d1Q. 5.Bd1?! This belies the threat White made one move ago. [ Following through with the trade isn't so bad. 5.Bxc4 Bxc4+ 6.Kd1 Bd3 White's King and Knight are virtually paralyzed, but the White pawns can start a full court press. 7.g4 Kc7 8.f5 Kd7 9.g5 Bc4 10.a5 Kc7 11.g6+- ] 5...Nb2 6.Nf5?? White loses the game to a fairly straightforward combination of capture, check, promote. 6...Nxd1 7.Kxd1 Bb3+ 8.Ke2 d1Q+ 9.Kxe3 0-1

A surprise plot twist. It's too bad for Mr. Parreira who had defeated a player rated 546 points higher than him the previous week and here he was punishing another player 215 points higher. It's easy for me to criticize with my sharp backward vision and my curiously strong arm on Monday mornings, but I guess the moral is that that suspense and surprise plot twists are good for Hollywood scripts, but not good for chess. It's best to try to know the future as well as you can calculate it (see Dan Heisman's Secrets to Real Chess article).


Wahrheit said...

Didn't Grant come up while I was nearby and say he had a "beautiful ending" against Mike? I think he got a little too fancy somewhere. Anyway, it's easy to hate knight endings, isn't it, after seeing these examples? I'm going to try and love them so as to play them better!

Soapstone said...

Wahrheit, you recall correctly. I guess this is a case of counting your chickens before the fat lady sings.