Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TPS Report #14

Been experiencing an ebb in my chess enthusiasm lately, partly because the seasonal viruses knocked me flat on my back for a while. Partly because observing some poor sportsmanship has bummed me out about some chess players. I wrote some stuff about sportsmanship, but am reluctant to publish for fear that I'll become known as some kind of moralista and also for the negative repercussions of airing others' dirty laundry.

Annotated my most recent loss.

Tried to work on tactics at Chess Tempo with the following result:

I don't drink or bang my head on the wall, but I occasionally have this fear that all my chess brain cells are jumping off a cliff somewhere in my head. There's some new research on bombarding the head with infrared radiation leading to new growth of brain cells. Perhaps they'll have that perfected in a decade or two when I might need it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jaws Of Victory

A while back, I said that one of my fellow club players had a habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I guess we all have those days, as evidenced by Van Wely-Carlsen in Round 10 of Wijk aan Zee.

I came home Thursday night after my fifth loss in six games. What was really annoying was when Fritz showed me how many wins I missed. I've given away most of the challenge of the tactical quiz, but here are six of the positions that I had with Black to move. In the annotated game below, I estimate how strong a player would have to be to see the best line.

16.Black to play and gain the advantage

24.Black to play. Can he play axb5?

25.Black to play and win

28.Black to play and win

34.Black to play. Can he play g6?

37.Black to play. Where should the rook go?

I have either chess blindness or chess myopia. In a lot of variations, I'm truncating the analysis due to fear of a certain move without seeing that I have resources to refute it. I think I need to study Kasparov's dynamism and of course, work on my calculations.

So I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. At least I put myself in a position to win this time and I was brave enough to play the gambit line.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Endgame Caveat #3 Bahr's Rule

Bahr's Rule is a shortcut that allows you to evaluate some long pawn endings without actually going through long calculations. It involves the situation where blocked rook pawns are on one side of the board while the kings and one additional pawn are on the other side of the board.

It is somewhat difficult to write Bahr's Rule in a succinct manner, but here's my attempt. From the DEFENDER's blocked rook pawn, draw a line diagonally backward (toward the defending player's seat) to the nearest bishop file. Once at the bishop file, continue the diagonal line forward diagonally to the edge of the board. If the ATTACKER's extra pawn is ON OR BEHIND this line, then he wins. If the pawn is in front of the line, it's a draw.

Here's the typical situation where the blocked pawns are both on their respective fourth ranks.

The line of Bahr's Rule has been drawn and the h2 pawn falls on the line. This means that White can win this ending. The line goes: 1.Kg1 Kh4 2.Kg2 Kg4 3.Kf2 Kh3 4.Ke3 Kxh2 5.Kd4 Kg3 6.Kc5 Kf4 7.Kb5 Ke5 8.Kxa5 Kd6 9.Kb6 Kd7 10.Kb7 and the a-pawn will walk right in to a8.

Here's a less typical situation where the attacking pawn is blocked on its third rank.
The same method of drawing the line applies. Here the h-pawn is ahead of the line, so the result is a draw. e.g. 1.Kg1 Kh4 2.Kg2 Kg4 3.Kf2 Kh3 4.Ke3 Kxh2 5.Kd4 Kg3 6.Kc4 Kf4 7.Kb4 Ke5 8.Kxa4 Kd6 9.Kb5 Kc7 10.Ka6 Kb8 and White can't win.

How about the situation where White's pawn is on the fifth rank?

This is a trick question because you may draw the line, but it means nothing. White wins almost no matter where the pawn is because he has enough lead on the Black King to grab the important b7 square right after capturing on a6. This means that if the defender is to have any hope of defending this kind of ending, he needs to stop the rook pawn on the fourth rank. If the rook pawns aren't blocked yet then a4 should be met by a5.

There are a few more caveats mainly concerning situations when the extra pawn is very close to the blocked rook pawns or when one king is out of position, so remember that Bahr's Rule is a guideline that can accelerate your calculations, but you should double check through concrete analysis if you have time.

The following game occurred in Round 1 of the Class C Championships.

61...Ke7? Black chose to give up b4 in order to eliminate e6, an even trade, but why give up b4 if you don't have to? The defender of e6 is nowhere in sight. 'Do not hurry' - Shereshevsky. [ 61...a5 62.Kf1 Ke7 63.Ke2 Kxe6=] 62.Bxb4+ Kxe6 63.Kf1 Ke5 64.Ke2 Ke4 65.g3

[ Following the adage, "When behind, trade pawns not pieces," better would have been 65...f4!? 66.gxf4 Ne3 67.h5 Nf5 68.Kd2 Kxf4 69.Bc5 Kg5 70.Kc3 Ng3 71.Kb4 Ne4=] 66.Bd2 Nh5 Black flirts with being dominated. A knight on the rim is dim, but a dominated knight on the rim has three hooves in the grave. 67.Kf2 Kd3? [ 67...Nf6 going back to g4.] 68.Bb4?! [ 68.Bc1!
Kc2 ( 68...Kc3 preventing Bb2 but allowing 69.Kf3 Ng7 70.Bg5 Kc4 71.Bf6 Ne6 72.h5+-) 69.Bf4 Kb2 70.Be5+ The knight is dominated. Giving Black the passed a-pawn is not to be feared. 70...Kxa2 71.Kf3 Kb3 72.g4 fxg4+ 73.Kxg4 Kc4 74.Kxh5+- White's h-pawn will queen easily, while the White Bishop prevents Black's a-pawn from ever ascending to royalty.] 68...Ke4 69.Be7? [ 69.Bc3! Domination.] 69...Ng7 70.Bf6 Nh5? Allowing domination again. 71.Bh8

Between the White Bishop and the White King, the Black Knight can't get out to participate in the game any more. If the Black King moves to e6 to help the knight get out at f6, White simply exchanges into a won pawn ending. The endgame is already lost for Black with best play. 71...f4

White blew his last chance for a win with 72.gxf4?= [ 72.g4! Ng3 73.h5+-] 72...Nxf4 73.Kg3 Kf5 [ If Black is confident of his endgame knowledge, he can go for 73...Ng6 74.Bb2 Nxh4 75.Kxh4 Kd5 Once Black lodges his king at a8, he doesn't need the knight or the a-pawn to draw the the ending against Bishop and wrong rook Pawn. The Bishop cannot dig the king out of the a8 corner as it could for an h-pawn heading toward the h8 corner.] 74.Kf3 Ng6 75.Bc3 Nxh4+ 76.Ke3 Ng2+ 77.Kd4 Nf4 78.Kc5 Ke4 79.Bd2 Nd3+ 80.Kb6 Kd5 81.a4 Nb2 82.Kxa6 Nxa4 Drawn since neither side has mating material 1/2-1/2

In the post-mortem, the question came up, could Black hold the ending from this position with 71...Kd5? 72.Kf3 Ke6 73.g4 fxg4+ 74.Kxg4 Nf6+ 75.Bxf6 Kxf6 76.a4 a5

We have blocked rook pawns and an extra pawn. We could apply Bahr's Rule. The pawn seems to be ahead of the line implying a draw, but the king position here is important. Under normal circumstances in applying Bahr's rule, the defending king can only be pushed around so that it is two moves away from capturing an abandoned h-pawn. Here Bahr's Rule is subject to a caveat because Black's King is three moves away from capturing h4. If it were Black's move from this position, Kg6 would draw. 77.Kf4 Kg6 78.Ke5 Kh5 79.Kd5 Kxh4 80.Kc5 Kg5 81.Kb5 Kf6 82.Kxa5 Ke7 83.Kb6 Kd8 84.Kb7+- So the answer is No, Black was still lost after 71...Kd5.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Deus Ex Machina

Back in the days of ancient Greek theater, there was this crane that plucked people off the stage in representation of a divine intervention, producing a miraculous ending to a drama where everything seemed doomed. The intervention of the crane was called Deus Ex Machina, literally “god from a machine”. Nowadays the phrase represents miraculous endings to stories.

The problem with the Deus Ex Machina ending is that it comes from out of nowhere and the characters, seemingly through no merit of their own get to enjoy an unearned happy ending.

Last night, I was playing at the club, with the Black pieces against a relatively new player at the club, an expert. He beat a strong expert last week with the Black pieces, so I figured he was no slouch, but I just couldn’t psych myself up to prepare for this game.

Add to this some TD drama in that one of the Class A players dropped out and I had to organize a merger of the two quads. I was polling the players and hearing arguments for and against the change while being shushed by players who had already started their games. I didn’t have high hopes for breaking my 4-game losing streak.

Here’s the quiz. In the following diagram it’s White to move. If he goes forward with a plan to hammer g6 starting with 25.Bd3, how can Black defend g6?

In the opening phase, I tried to play a Budapest Gambit or at least a King’s Indian, but my opponent countered with a Veresov, probably offering a Blackmar-Diemer, so I tried to take it into Pirc territory. My opponent played a system I’m only vaguely familiar with, basically involving a rapid h4 push. I tried to react logically, but soon I found my play in the center and queenside squelched, leaving a tough defense on the kingside. Somehow I worked a rook into an awkward but active position, but my kingside was crumbling under heavy fire much like last week. I was certain I was going to get crushed.

But suddenly, my opponent sacrificed the exchange and got no compensation. He began shaking his head sorrowfully. A few moves later, I had swapped off queens and my rook was rapidly moving to scoop up pawns. My opponent resigned rather than suffer through while I figured out the best way to win an exchange plus pawn ending.

The answer to the quiz is that after 25.Bd3 Rxe1! 26.Rxe1 Rxh4!, if White takes 27.Bxg6??, he loses to 27…Rg4!, a minor for a pawn. Backward attacks just look so weird. The potential swindle from last week required several backward moves. I think I need more practice seeing them.

Afterward we agreed he was crushing me and simply blundered in an attacking line. When people asked me how I did, my response was, “I won, but it was through no merit of my own.” It was all luck and blunder.

Normally, I have this recurring experience where I win a game of chess and then I go back home and Fritz shows me how badly my opponent and I played. When I entered the game into Fritz, I expected it to show that I was being crushed in the moves leading up to the blunder. But the damn machine surprised me again and told me that I was doing a pretty good job of defending. It doesn’t ever show White with much more than a +0.7 which is an advantage, but Black can live in many openings with that against him. I’ve not had the experience of Fritz showing me that I was doing better than I thought. Even more surprising in a game where I thought I was dead for most of the time. I still think luck had a lot to do with it, but I’m a little more satisfied that at least I put up some stubborn defense to take credit for.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Goodbye, Bobby

Rest in peace, Bobby.

‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
-- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Endgame Caveat #2 5x5-1

I've been playing Starcraft again. If chess is my wife, Starcraft must be an old mistress I look up from time to time.

One of the units, the Terran Dropship (highlighted in green), has a pilot who responds to commands with, "In the pipe, five by five." This brought me back to chess and Endgame Caveats.

The 5x5-1 rule is for the ending Queen against rook Pawn when the defending King threatens to draw by queening the pawn or stalemating itself in front of the pawn. The attacker can win if he has his King in the 5x5 region around the queening square, minus the corner in the center of the board, 5x5-1, AND he must have the move. Again, this differs from the Rule of the Square where a pursuing King gets into the square, but his opponent who has the fleeing pawn has the move.
In this diagram, even with the move, White can only draw because his King is in the minus one square.

The reason the shape of the region isn't a square is that it's really composed of the regions of two winning methods, both allowing the pawn to queen, then checkmate following soon after. If the king is closer to the d3 or d2 squares, then this mate is what he is after.

But if the king is closer to the b3 square, then this position is what he is after, with Black to move and be essentially helpless to stop checkmate.

So if you start with this position,
the moves are 1.Kd3 a1Q 2.Qc2#.

But a friend had pointed out that White can win in this position.

The trick is that White blocks his own queen for a move, eliminating the stalemate threat for a move while the king runs inside the 5x5 square. 1.Kb6 Kb1 2.Ka5+ Ka1 3.Qh2 Kb1 4.Kb4 a1Q 5.Kb3 Qa4+ (spite!) 6.Kxa4 Kc1 7.Kb3 Kd1 8.Qf2 Kc1 9.Qc2#

In Basic Chess Endings, there is a diagram which looks like the 5x5-1 rule plus the six additional squares a7, b7, c7, a6, b6, and c6 from where the king can block the queen's laser beam for a move. I forget if it was Muller's Fundamental Chess Endings or Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual which shows the 5x5-1 region. Here I've color coded the squares, yellow for the method where White checkmates with Qc2, green for the method where White plays Kb3 while Black is helpless, and red where White can choose either plan.
The above position is my failed attempt to compose my own study involving the "block stalemate" idea. It's supposed to be solved by 1.Qb8 (1.Qb7 is already a cook of the study.) 1...Nb6 2.Nxb6 cxb6 3.Kxb6 Kb1 4.Ka5+ with play just like above. However, another cook is simply 1.Qc2 Nb6 2.Qc1 mate.

If the attacking King is in the vicinity of a7, c7, a6, or c6, the attacking queen can try to maneuver backward to b8 in order to give him passage to a5, but the defender should recognize this, and follow Qb8+ with Kc1 instead of Ka1, threatening to promote the pawn while the queen is far away.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh, what fun!

I know the holidays are gone, but here's a tune to prolong the season.

(to the tune of Jingle Bells)
Hashing through the moves
On a dual-core Intel chip
O'er the lines we go
At a heady clip.

Tablebases on.
Evaluation's right.
What fun it is to analyze
A GM game tonight.

Oh! Analyze, analyze.
Learn an endgame tip.
Oh what fun to analyze
On a dual-core Intel chip.

In Round 3 of Wijk aan Zee, Van Wely pressed Radjabov from the Black side of a RP v. BP ending. The ChessBase article was authored by GM Mihail Marin. His comments were very interesting as he talks about "human lines" versus "computer lines". He also discusses "fun" in going over such lines. I know I have fun going through lines where an ocean of variations compresses down to a narrow canal of winning lines. But to most, it's probably like watching paint dry.

GM Kasparov was watching the game in progress and he was able to speak from experience in a couple of his games where he had the same material advantage. Marin describes Kasparov getting very enthusiastic when the theoretical ending came up, even citing a Rubinstein game.

The analysis is very detailed and instructive with hidden kernels of truth comparable to "To defend, keep your king close...but not too close." All the while, I was thinking that the ending could transpose into the Rook and rook Pawn versus Bishop ending that I have already studied in some depth.

Now all I need is to put the Radjabov-Van Wely position into Fritz and train myself to see it through to checkmate. Fun!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Endgame Caveat #1 4x5-2

The subject of endgame rules has come up the last two weeks. Some rule or other was invoked as the shortcut to analyzing a position. The shortcuts are helpful in allowing one to get way deep in the plies of analysis, but the rules are a little hazardous to use. Sometimes, when misapplied, they create the exact wrong evaluation. Several rules came to mind that I wasn't too clear on, so I decided to launch another endgame series about basic endgame rules that have caveats. To the potential user of such rules, Caveat emptor!

One of the games in Class D finished with the following position.

The game continued 1...Qg4+ 2.Kf8 Qc8+ 3.Kg7 Qxh8+?? (3...Qa1+ 4.Kh6 Qcxh8+ 5.Kg5 Qag7 mate.) 4.Kxh8

Neither side realized that Black has just gift-wrapped a book draw for White. I don't have the rest of the game score, but apparently White didn't realize how to draw the bishop pawn versus queen ending and ended up getting his king trapped at f8 with mate following soon after that.

Trying to generalize about the drawn nature of the ending was difficult because we had a little knowledge, but not all of it.

Some key ideas include the following:
-If Black's Queen takes the f7 pawn while the White King is at h8, it's a stalemate draw.
-If Black's King can get to d7 to help the Black Queen cover the queening square, Black wins.
-If Black's King can get to g6 to help the Black Queen deliver mate at h7, Black wins.

The ideas are summarized as a region drawn in endgame books as a rectangle encompassing the 4x5 rectangle d8-h8-d5-h5 minus d5 and e5, or in shorthand, 4x5-2.

The problem with applying this 4x5-2 rule is that the attacking side, Black in this case, is supposed have his king in the region AND have the move. This is different from the Rule of the Square that we all learn early in our chess careers where the king defending against the queening of a pawn gets into the square region bounded by the pawn and its queening square. But once the king gets in, he's supposedly safe, but it's his opponent's turn. For the 4x5-2 rule, you need the king inside AND the move.

In analyzing this with another player, we discovered that White must not be lackadaisical in his defense. He must whenever possible, go to the a8 square. From the above diagram, the following line turned a draw into a loss.

4...Ke5 5.Kg8 Qg2+ 6.Kh8 Qh3+ 7.Kg8 Qe6
8.Kh8 Qc8+ 9.Kg7! (9.Kh7?? Qf8 -+) 9...Qd7

10.Kg8?? Kf6 11.f8Q+ Kg6 with White being helpless to prevent Qh7 mate. The Black Queen on d7 prevents the White Queen from having any safe checks. Since the ending position has the queen on d7 and the king on g6, Black needs to allow the promotion to a queen to deliver check to his own king. If he arrives at g6 one move before promotion, an underpromition to a knight will fork the King and Queen and draw.

10.Kh8! holds the draw since 10...f8Q+ 11.Kg6 Qg8+! 10.Kh6 Qe6+ (or 10...Qf8+ perpetual) 11.Qxe6 stalemate.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Swindle That Got Away

First, here’s a position from last night’s game. It’s Black to move. What is the best line and what is your evaluation?

I’d had a lot of free time to prepare this past week, but instead of trying to shore up my dilapidated opening repertoire, I mostly piddled my free time away at PlayChess.com trying to figure out how to get back my mojo and push my rating back into the 1700s.

My game last night game in the Expert Championship against Club Champion Bill Case was pretty close to a disaster. On move 10, I blundered into at least losing a minor piece for a pawn. I felt like resigning, but in a weirdly reckless stroke of stubbornness, I decided to turn it into more of an imbalanced a queen sac for two minor pieces and a pawn. I chose to defend until my opponent showed me my heart roasting on a stick.

If I may be so presumptuous, the sacrifice could be compared with Dana Mackenzie’s Immortal Game against IM David Pruess in the 2006 Western States Open. In the game, starting from move 6, Dana sacced a queen for two minor pieces and a pawn. Unlike his sacrifice, I didn’t get the bishop pair, a dominating mobile pawn center, or an enemy king on the run. I listened to Dana’s lecture on the game at ChessLecture.com and I wrote down his five principles:

1. Active pieces
2. Restrain the queen
3. Closed files
4. Don’t cash in too early
5. Trade for the bishop pair

Of these, I could only remember #1, #3, and #4 and practically, all I had to do was remember that opening of the files was likely to be my doom. I had to weather a kingside attack that eventually let to a queenside breach, but just when White was about to pounce, he made some inaccurate moves that allowed me to stir up a distraction. On one move, the distraction became a winning chance, but I failed to see it, made a few more weak endgame moves, and finally lost, as I should have 45 moves ago.

The answer to the pop quiz at the beginning, is 46…Nxc5! 47.dxc5 Bd3! 48.Rh1 f2! 49.c6 f1Q 50.Rxf1 Bxf1 51.c7 Bh3 and Black is totally winning!

I think the reason why it was so hard for me to like Nxc5! is that my bishop has been stuck in the advanced position for most of the game. And creeping backward moves are psychologically hard to see. My analysis was very superficial and I rejected Nxc5 at the second ply after dxc5, thinking that my bishop was never going to stop the fast passed pawn. What I failed to realize was that my pawn was faster and that once I netted the rook with my f-pawn, my bishop could stop his queening threat in all lines.

On the one hand, I feel really disappointed that I let the winning opportunity get away. I waited for Opportunity for thirty moves and when it knocked, I was on the toilet, unable to hear it. However, I believe there’s a certain amount of justice in the Kingdom of Chess and getting away with such a big swindle would make me feel like a fugitive felon. In the end, it was an interesting game.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

TPS Report #13

Is this chart:

A) My blitz rating on Playchess.com over the last 400 games.
B) The Dow Jones closing average for the past 6 months.
C) My mood indicator last night.
D) A and C.

Interestingly, B) is very similar as seen below.
Both graphs have a valley in the middle with a plummet on the right side.

Perhaps it is fitting that TPS #13 is about bad luck. I had my own Black Monday playing on Playchess.com last night. My blitz rating started at 1772, briefly climbed to 1807, and then went into free fall. Thirty-three games later, my rating was 1534. Briefly it was 1495. That’s a 300-point loss, folks.

It’s hard to describe the funk that I was in. It was 1:30AM. I felt dehydrated, with a headache, but the compulsive-addictive person in me kept saying, “One more game will turn it around.” An obscure movie I remember renting in the 80s is “Lost in America”. Julie Hagerty loses a fortune on roulette and has to be pried away from the table, all the while saying, “22, 22, come on back.” I'm not that serious about internet blitz, but repeated failures started to get to me and I had a small taste of despair. I can only look to the meteoric rise about 150 games ago and hope that I have a rebound. What goes down, must come up, right?

It was hardly likely that I was going to turn it around. My chess ability had degenerated into myopic, tunnel vision. I was thinking one maybe two half-ply deep in openings that I didn’t understand.

Pushed out my third Endgame Obsession.

Annotated my first game of the Expert Championship.

Pushed my Chess Tempo Standard rating to 2243 and my Blitz rating to 2599. What good is tactics training if I decide to use only one ply of my internal chess engine?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Endgame Obsession #3 RBvR

The ending of Rook and Bishop versus Rook has shown up at our club two or three times in the past year and now in a top-level GM game. Each time it shows up, people voice the canon that it is theoretically drawn and now verified in the tablebases, but in these anecdotal experiences, the defender tends to crumble and give the full point away. This suggests that studying such an ending might eventually pay dividends, so it has become my next Endgame Obsession. This post will become crazy long because I have to beat this thing into the ground in order to understand it.

Coincidentally, I recently was going over an ending whose solution was lost in cyberspace at Brian Gosling’s Practical Chess Endings. The diagram is given and the author of the study seems to be listed as Philidor, but the solution got deleted or misplaced. So I thought I’d use Fritz to help fill in the solution and help me learn what’s going on.

White has Black's King pinned on the back rank and nearly mated. The bishop’s reach extends to two squares on the eighth rank, b8 and h8, while the White King covers the seventh rank squares. The White Rook would like to execute the back rank mate, sometimes with the help of the bishop by landing on b8 or h8, but the Black Rook is placed the way it should for the defense, ready to interpose Rc8+ with Rd8, maintaining contact with its own King. If White were to start with Rh1, Black plays Rf7, mirroring the start position. The two-sided nature of the position actually favors White, a fact whose antithesis will appear when we move on to the grandmaster game below. First objective: White wants to get control of the seventh rank after which Black's King will be trapped in the narrow band between c8 and g8. 1.Rc8+! Rd8 2.Rc7!

First objective achieved. Now Black must move. If he plays 2...Ra8 or 2...Rb8, White mates starting with 3.Rh7, although the bishop will have to absorb the desperado sac after 3...Ra6+ 4.Bd6 Rxd6+. 2...Rd2! Black's choice of d2 is better than d1 or d3 in order to check the White King from behind. The bishop cannot control e2. (If Black moves his rook sideways 2...Ra8 3.Rh7 Ra6+ 4.Bd6 Rxd6++- ; If Black instead moves his king, 2...Kf8 it's mate in 9 starting with Rh7, eventually going through a weird curlicue Rg7-Rg5-Rh5-Rh8. 3.Rh7 Re8+ 4.Kf6 Kg8 5.Rg7+ Kh8 6.Rg5 Kh7 7.Rh5+ Kg8 8.Kg6 Re6+ 9.Bf6 Rxf6+ 10.Kxf6 Kf8 11.Rh8#; 2...Rd1 3.Bc3 White goes for the Bishop Round Trip (see below) to get the Rook to d3.; 2...Rd3 3.Re7+ White goes for the Rook's Long Detour (see below) to c4. 3...Kd8 4.Rh7) 3.Ra7 White waits a move to get Black to choose A)Rd3 or B)Rd1.

A) 3...Rd3

This loses four moves faster than Rd1. 4.Re7+ Now that the Black Rook is on the third rank, White embarks on a series of rook maneuvers, the Rook’s Long Detour, designed to get the Black King on d8 just before the White Rook moves to c4. Watch as the rook visits e7, h7, and c7 on its way to c4. 4...Kd8 (4...Kf8 5.Rh7 Black loses his rook to delay mate.) 5.Rh7 Kc8 6.Rc7+ Kd8 7.Rc4!

7...Re3 (7...Ke8 8.Bd4 preventing 8...Re3+. Any rook non-capturing move allows 9.Rc8#. 8...Kd8 allows 9.Bf6+ Ke8 10.Rc8+ Rd8 11.Rxd8#.) 8.Rb4+- The Black Rook can only stop 9.Rc8# by sacrificing itself either on e5 or on c3.


This resists four moves longer than Rd3. 4.Rg7! Since Black can interpose his rook at d8, White switches to the kingside, but there's a subtlety. From g7, White can defend a bishop sitting on g3, which is how White will achieve zugzwang after Rf1. (4.Rh7 Rf1 simply transposes to the mirror image of the last position.) 4...Rf1

5.Bg3! The White Bishop goes on a Round Trip from e5 to g3 to d6 to e5 while getting the Black Rook to go from f1 to f3.

(If 5...Kf8

Since the Black King and Rook are both on the f-file, White fast forwards to a Rg4 maneuver coupled with Bh4 which is analogous to the Rg4-Bf4 maneuver at the end of this study. 6.Rg4 Ke8 7.Ra4 Rd1 8.Bh4! Kf8 9.Rg4)

5...Rf3 Notice that Black's rook has been lured to the third rank like the variations after 3...Rd3. 6.Bd6 This now covers the interposing square on f8, but almost begs for the check in the back. 6...Re3+ 7.Be5 Rf3

This position is essentially a mirror of the variation after 3...Rd3. White now uses a Rook Long Detour e7-a7-g7-g4 in order to get to g4 with the Black King on f8. 8.Re7+ White would like Black to commit to f8 where the Black Rook doesn't help interpose. 8...Kf8 9.Ra7 This forces the Black King further toward a false exit at h7. 9...Kg8 10.Rg7+ Psyche! Kh8 allows Rg3+ winning Black's rook. Back to f8. 10...Kf8

11.Rg4!! Ke8 (11...Re3 12.Rh4+- The Black Rook cannot get to g8 because g3 is covered by the White Bishop.) 12.Bf4 This prevents Rf8 and Re3+. If the Black King goes 12...Kf8 to stop Rg8+, the Bishop swoops down 13.Bd6+ Ke8 14.Rg8+ Rf8 15.Rxf8#. 1-0

In the 2007 Russian Superfinal, in which Morozevich won in fine style, there arose an ending between GM Andrey Rychagov 2528 and GM Alexander Grischuk 2715. Rychagov sought refuge in the theoretically drawn Rook and Bishop versus Rook. Grischuk pressed the ending which was a tablebase draw from moves 59 to 90, but Rychagov’s stalwart defense began crumbling at move 90 and eleven moves later, he resigned. What happened between moves 90 and 100 will conclude this Endgame Obsession...at least for now.

Rychagov, Andrei – Grischuk, Alexander, 2007 Russian Superfinal
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 dxc4 5.Nc3 c6 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.exf6 gxh4 10.Ne5 Qxf6 11.g3 Nd7 12.Qe2 c5 13.Nc6 Bg7 14.Bg2 cxd4 15.Nd5 Qf5 16.g4 Qg5 17.f4 d3 18.fxg5 dxe2 19.Nc7+ Kf8 20.Nxa8 Bb7 21.Nc7 Nb8 22.Nxb8 Bxg2 23.Kxe2 Ke7 24.Nba6 hxg5 25.Nxb5 Bxb2 26.Rab1 c3 27.Rxb2 cxb2 28.Rb1 f5 29.gxf5 g4 30.Kf2 Bb7 31.Nc5 g3+ 32.Kg1 Bd5 33.Nc3 Bf3 34.Rxb2 exf5 35.Rb4 Kf6 36.Rf4 Ba8 37.Ne2 Re8 38.Nxg3 hxg3 39.hxg3 Re3 40.Nd7+ Kg5 41.Ra4 Bc6 42.Rxa7 Re7 43.g4 f4 44.Ra5+ Kh4 45.Nf6 Kg3 46.Nh5+ Kxg4 47.Nf6+ Kg3 48.Ra3+ f3 49.Nh5+ Kg4 50.Ra5 Re6 51.Kf2 Rh6 52.Rc5 Bb7 53.Rb5 Bc6 54.Rc5 Be8 55.Rc4+ Kxh5 56.Kxf3 Ra6 57.Kf4 Kg6 58.a4 Kf6 59.a5 Rxa5

If White can make it to move 109 without losing his rook, he draws by the 50-move rule. 60.Rb4 Bc6 61.Rc4 Rf5+ 62.Ke3 Re5+ 63.Kd4 Rd5+ 64.Ke3 Bb5 65.Rd4 Rh5 66.Kf4 Ke6 67.Ke4 Bc6+ 68.Kf4 Rf5+ 69.Ke3 Ke5 70.Rd3 Rh5 71.Rc3 Bd5 72.Kd2 Rh2+ 73.Ke3 Rh4 74.Kd3 Rg4 75.Ke3 Bc4 76.Kf3 Rh4 77.Ke3 Re4+ 78.Kf3 Be2+ 79.Kf2 Kf4 80.Rc2 Bd3 81.Rb2 Re3 82.Rb4+ Be4 83.Rb2 Rh3 84.Re2 Bd3 85.Rd2 Rf3+ 86.Kg2 Bf1+ 87.Kg1

I can't comment on the methods between move 60 and 86 to push the Black King to the side because I don’t understand them yet, but the edge is where winning chances start popping up. 87...Ke3 88.Rd5 Bd3 89.Rg5 Be4 90.Kh2 Kf4 Black narrows the gauntlet with this move.

91.Rg8?! Tablebase mate in 52.

(Better was 91.Rg3 Rf1 (offering 91...Rxg3 for stalemate.) 92.Rg4+ Kf5 ( 92...Kxg4 another stalemate.) 93.Rg1=;

Or White could also find 91.Rg7

Now why the heck does Rg7 draw, but Rg8 lose? Applying similar follow-up moves, it appears that Rg7 allows a saving Ra7-Ra3 maneuver which foils White's ideal setup. 91...Rf2+ 92.Kg1! Rc2 93.Ra7! Ke3 94.Ra3+! Bd3=)

91...Rf2+! 92.Kg1

92...Ra2?! Back to tablebase draw.

(92...Rc2! Tablebase mate in 50 moves, but the 50-move draw expires in 18 moves. The next 50 moves in this line are nearly incomprehensible and perhaps will have to wait for another installment of Endgame Obsession.)

93.Rb8?! Tablebase mate in 50.

(93.Rc8! Rg2+ 94.Kf1! Rd2 95.Rc4 Ke3 96.Rc3+! Bd3+ 97.Kg1 Kf3 98.Rc8! Rg2+ 99.Kh1 Ra2 100.Kg1! Tablebase draw)

93...Bd5?! Back to tablebase draw. (93...Rg2+! 94.Kf1 Rd2! 95.Rb4 Ke3! 96.Rb3+ Bd3+ 97.Kg1 Kf3! 98.Rb7 Rg2+ 99.Kh1 Ra2 100.Rb3 Tablebase mate in 43, but too late for move 109. ( 100.Kg1 Bc4! That this move is possible in this position seems to be the reason why 93.Rb8 loses while 93.Rc8! draws. Mate in 29, but again too late for move 109.))

94.Rd8 Kg3 95.Kf1! Bf3

96.Ke1?? This is the crucial error. White's previous inaccuracies could still be remedied by the 50-move rule, but now Black can threaten mate and win the rook around move 100.

(White can draw with 96.Rg8+ Bg4 97.Re8!=; Or 96.Re8=

If you compare this position with the Philidor study above, you'll see that Black has many of the same advantages, but the thing that is lacking is that his rook doesn't have much room to swing over on the king side. The White Rook can interpose a check at e1, but in the study above, the attacking rook had to move to the opposite side of its king. In order for analogous maneuvers to happen here, there would have to be an i2 and a j1 square available. I guess the lesson is that the White King is actually safer at f1 than e1, since Kg1 can prevent Rh1 (after White has forced Bg4 with Rg8+). If you remember nothing else about this post, I think this might be the kernel of what you need to know to draw this ending KEEP THE KING ON THE KNIGHT’S FILE OR THE BISHOP’S FILE WHILE KEEPING THE ROOK IN POSITION TO INTERPOSE OR TO CHECK ON THE KNIGHT’S FILE. If you ask me what to do if the attacking king is on the bishop file, I’ll have to do more research. 96...Rh2 97.Rg8+ Bg4 98.Kg1!=)

Now back to 96.Ke1??

96...Re2+! (96...Ra1+ 97.Kd2 Rd1+ 98.Ke3!= Rxd8 stalemate!) 97.Kf1

97...Re3! This is an important only move for the attacking side. The rook pullback relieves the bishop of its defending duties and stops Rd3. Black now threatens Bg2+ and Re1 mate. (If Black rushes to 97...Re7 White holds with 98.Rd3=) 98.Rg8+ Bg4! 99.Rg7

If White doesn't mark time with his Rook on the g-file, Black will play Bh3+ and Re1 mate. Black still needs to zugzwang the White Rook further out of position. 99...Re8 100.Rg5 (100.Rg6 Rd8!-+) 100...Rh8 0-1 (Black resigned in sight of 100...Rh8 101.Ke1 ( 101.Kg1 Rd8-+) 101...Rd8!-+; 100...Rf8+ also wins. Black is basically making sure that the White Rook has no interposition when his Black Rook goes to d8. 101.Ke1 Rd8-+; To illustrate the danger of incorrect technique, 100...Rd8?? leads to a tablebase draw again. 101.Re5!=)

Now that a super GM has shown that an ordinary GM can fail to hold the draw of Rook against Rook and Bishop, is it “bad manners” to press the stronger side in the hopes your opponent will screw up? I say no, because the burden of proof is on the defense to show that the attacker can't convert. I think I would say so even if I end up on the defending side soon.