Monday, July 24, 2017

A Fairly Simple Miss

My chess enthusiasm has been waning a bit even as my rating hit a peak of 2140 after winning a semifinal match in the club championship. I'm currently down 0-1 in the finals, so the struggle continues. Much of what brings me to chess can be attributed to two things: 1. defending my repertoire as the right way (at least for me) to play; and 2. other people's enthusiasm. By this I mean that I spend time with club players who seem to have a purer enjoyment of the game than mine. A new kid came to town and seemed quite keen on playing blitz with some skill. I invited him to our favorite coffee shop chess hangout and played a few games with him on Sunday.

One endgame stuck out in my memory and after I reconstructed it at home, I discovered something both of us missed. My opponent lost the exchange at one point and was annoyingly hanging on. I knew that my rook was better and that at some point, I needed to trade rook for bishop and pawn and win in the pure pawn ending. Here was a position right before that exchange took place. I was actually playing Black, but the diagrams work out better this way. White just played Rg4. Black to move:

I have surrounded the g5 pawn and plan on taking it soon. The rook is preventing Black from breaking through on the queenside. I could see my opponent do some quick calculations and decide that the pawn ending was drawn. He then played Bf4, probably as a prelude to Kb4 and Kxb3.

White to play: What's the best move? I had been prepared to take the bishop for a while. Now that the opportunity was present, I lost objectivity and only looked at my rook and his bishop disappearing from the board. I played Rxf4? and gxf4 Kxf4 quickly ensued. Now with Black to move, this is the position:

We soon found ourselves in a drawn Q+PvQ ending, confirmed by tablebases. In the previous diagram, what should I have played? I could have gained one critical tempo with the killer move Rxg5. Now if Black wants to regain the exchange with Bxg5 Kxg5, my king is magically transported from f4 to g5 with Black to move:

But this time my pawn queens quickly enough to win.