Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Practical Rook Endgames 05: The Emperor is Coming

JERJERROD: Welcome, Lord Vader. This is an unexpected pleasure. We are honored by your presence.
VADER: You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander. I am here to put you back on schedule.
JERJERROD: I assure you, Lord Vader, my men are working as fast they can.
VADER: Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them.
JERJERROD: I tell you that this station will be operational as planned.
VADER: [stops and holds up his finger at Jerjerrod] The Emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.
JERJERROD: But he asks the impossible! I need more men!
VADER: Then perhaps you can tell him yourself when he arrives.
JERJERROD: [alarmed] The Emperor's coming here?
VADER: That is correct, Commander, and he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.
JERJERROD: We shall double our efforts.
VADER: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.

I have milked this one game for several blog posts on rook endgames. This should be the fourth and last installment from this one game. When the rooks and pawns endgame first appeared on the board, there were several key variations that both sides overlooked.

After 45.dxe6

Black will shortly have a +2 pawns advantage. The a- and c-pawns are almost free to roam, but I never could find time to put a rook behind one without both becoming hampered by either a White Rook appearing on a8 and/or a White King blockading on the c-file. One thing that I never appreciated during the game is that the f-pawn is also rather dangerous. If the Black King can get to the g-file (short side of the pawn), it can help the pawn to queen. The rook on b2 helps block out the White King.45...Kxe6

After 45...Kxe6

White comes up with a fighting move. 46.f5+

When behind, the defending side seeks to trade pawns. if 46...Kxf5 47.Rxf7+ reduces White's worries to the a- and c-pawns on one side of the board. In fact, Shredder tablebases show draw for the position after 47.Rxf7+. A rook and bishop pawn on one side of the board with the defending king able to blockade seems to be a draw. However, Black has options. I rejected the best move because I didn't see far enough. 46...Kf6! avoids pawn exchanges. 47.Rh6+ might allow the White Rook to swing behind the a-pawn, but my f-pawn is no longer attacked. But I was discouraged from this variation when I saw that 47...Kxf5 48.Rh5+ skewers my c-pawn.

After 48.Rh5+

What I failed to appreciate was that having destroyed young Skywalker's good nature with 47...Kxf5, I can afford to sacrifice the Death Star if my emperor finishes bringing Luke over to the Dark Side. 48...Kg4

49.Rxc5 f5 50.Rxa5 f4+ 51.Kd3 f3 52.Ra8 f2

Luke is about to become a Sith

Going back to the game, instead I tried to find time to finish the Death Star (my a- and c-pawns).

White comes up with a fighting move. 46.f5+

46...Ke7 47.Rh8 a4 48.Rc8 Rb5 49.Ra8 Rb3+ 50.Ke4 a4 51.Ra6 c4 52.Kd4 c3

In the postmortem, my opponent cited this position as one in which he might have drawn. My opponent's hypothetical drawing attempt starts with 53.f6+ At the time, I thought that the Black King had to stay with the f-pawn. My initial analysis was 53...Ke8, but the Black King is vulnerable to back rank mate if he tries to get to g6 via f8. It turns out that if the Black King switches focus onto the Rebel Fleet (White Rook), Black might be able to win anyway 53...Kd8 54.Kd3 Now neither pawn seems close to queening and Darth Vader (Black Rook) can't seem to get the Death Star on track. The Rebellion's plan to disable the shields with Kc2 is coming, but suprisingly, Black can wait and give the Black King time to get in a better position.

54...Kc8 55.Kc2 Kb7 56.Ra4 Rb2+ 57.Kxc3 Rf2

And now if 58.Rxa3 Rf3+ 59.Kb2 Rxa3 60.Kxa3

Black can win this pawn ending. If White avoids the rook exchange, from two diagrams ago with 58.Kb3 The Death Star moves closer to the Rebel Base 58...a2 and the Emperor can eventually return to f6, which will be too much pressure for the Rebellion.

An extra Bishop Pawn and Rook Pawn on opposite sides of the board should generally be a win.

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