Sunday, May 8, 2016

Practical Rook Endgames 09: A Helpswindle

In 2000, at the Venice International Film Festival, a not-so-famous Christopher Nolan debuted his film "Memento" about a man with short-term memory loss seeking revenge on those who had wronged him. The main character Leonard copes with his memory loss by using tattoos and annotated Polaroids as mementos to redirect him towards important information. Short-term memory loss would inspire comedic characters such as Dory of "Finding Nemo" and Lucy Whitmore of "50 First Dates".

But also groundbreaking in "Memento" was the use of reverse chronological order. The fact that the Leonard often began each cut with a jarring amnesiac disorientation helped to enable this nonlinear storytelling device. It is with this reverse order that I'm going to overanalyze one of last year's games. It was the second game of a 4-game match in the club championship semifinal. Game 1 had been a draw, to be blogged later. I played black in this game.

Here is the end, with White to move. What is the worst move? What is the best move?

Regarding the worst move, I was gifted an extra and undeserved half point when my opponent resigned??? in the position above. Savielly Tartakover said, "No one ever won a game by resigning." No one ever drew a game by resigning either. White must prevent 60...h1=Q so 60.Rh8! is necessary. But then, like the myriad zombies on today's video entertainment, Black continues 60...f2! How does White stop this f-pawn from queening?

61.Ke3! It looks like chasing a pawn while out of its queening square is futile, but the rook gives the king just enough help. 61.Rxh2? fails to 61...f1=Q and 61.Rf8+ Kg7 62.Rxf2 fails to 62...h1=Q. Now it is Black who has to play accurately.

61...Kg7! 61...f1=Q fails to 62.Rf8+ and 63.Rxf1 and the h-pawn is no threat. Now it's White's turn.

62.Kxf2! Kxh8! 63.Kg2! Best play for both sides means there is no getting around the sacrifice of the rook and the two-pawns-who-would-be-queen. In the ensuing race toward the a-pawns, Black's king is 1-2 steps ahead and can capture on a7, but White's king has enough time to reach the critical square c7 immediately after Kxa7, and save the draw.

I think that my opponent probably thought that two pawns on the seventh beat the rook, but the particulars of having the Rf8+ skewer and the White King being barely close enough did not enter into his resource inventory.


Todd Bryant said...

Great post. I'm happy this blog is back.

I failed to find Ke3! I thought the idea was to get into some kind of Rook and pawn vs Queen fortress.

Soapstone said...

Thanks for your feedback. It helps to keep me going.