Sunday, August 12, 2012

Practicing End Games Part 2


Working with endings not only helps in winning (or at least not losing) games at a critical point but I think also helps in other key ways.

My recommended method for practicing the endgame is to find a position from a master game where one side wins. Don't look how the master did it and try to get the same result. After many, many attempts, then check out the master's plan and figure how it was different than yours.

After awhile you will get a practical feel for the concepts needed to win an endgame.

Some of the most intsructive endgmes come from Bobby Fischer, though well known as a premier openings and middlegame player, he was also outstanding in the endgame.

Here are two of his endgame's that I found helpful:

Berliner-Fischer 1963 Bay City

After 42. Rc1


The game continued

42...Rd3

A key move. Putting the rook behind the passed pawn, an often used tactic lets the White King be more mobile and restricts Black's mobility. While 42...Rc8 probably still wins, the text provides Black more options.
 
43. Rb1 Kg7
44. Rb5 a4
45. Rc5 a3
46. Kg2 Re3

Fischer pretty much freezes White's play and lets's the Black King roam freely.

47. Rc4 Kf6
48. h4 Ke5
49. Kf2 Rh3
50. Kg2 Rd3
51. h5 Kf4
52. h6 Ke3
53. Rc7 Kd2
White Resigns


Fischer-Taimanov 1971 Cand. Match Game 4

After 60...Ne7



61. Be8 Kd8

In zugzwang, Black is forced to retreat from protection of b6.

62. Bxg6 Nxg6

Fischer has calculated that the liquidation and two pawns on the Qside is worth the Bishop with Black's forces away from the key a & b files.

63. Kxb6 Kd7
64. Kxc5 Ne7
65. b4 axb4
66. cxb4 Nc8
67. a5 Nd6
68. b6 Ne4+
69. Kb6 Kc8
70. Kc6 Kb8
71. b6
 Black Resigns

A masterful performance of calculation, mobility and position in the end game.

Anatoly Karpov is also known as a great endgame player.

Here's a position from the WC Match in 1984 versus Garry Kasparov.

Karpov-Kasparov, 1984 WC game 27 

After 47...Kd5



Karpov is a pawn up and looks better but must watch the Black  h-pawn. How does he recognize his advantage?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Practice With End Games



I've always like analyzing chess end games. I must have practiced hundred's of end games when I was first starting out and I think it it helped improve my game very quickly.

Working with endings not only helps in winning (or at least not losing) games at a critical point but I think also helps in other key ways.

End game practice helps in calculation. With fewer pieces on the board it is easier to picture and calculate much deeper into a position.

Practice also helps in positional feel. It is usually critical to put your pieces in the right position in an endgame. With even one piece out of position, even the King, an equal position can soon turn into a lost endgame.

The end game also helps one appreciate the power of tempo. When practicing a lot of endgames, it doesn't take long to experience the power (or pain) of "zugzwang". Zugzwang is when one player has the move and forces the other player to make a move (put's him in zugzwang) that necessarily weakens his position.

And the endgame also helps one appreciate the power of a single pawn. In many instances a single pawn advantage assures a win in an otherwise equal game.

During my practice I never used an endgame book. I got Reuben Fine's "Basic Chess Endings" long ago and I don't remember ever opening it. Awhile ago I did buy Pal Benko's "Endgame Laboratory", which I recommend, but only occasionally browse through it without a board. More for entertainment than analysis.

My recommended method for practicing the endgame is to find a position from a master game where one side wins. Don't look how the master did it but try to get the same result. After many, many attempts, then check out the master's plan and figure how and why it was different than yours.

After awhile you will get a practical feel for the concepts needed to win an endgame.

When I was doing the bulk of my practice I tended to look at Fischer & Karpov endgames.

Fischer, though well known as a premier openings and middlegame player, was also outstanding in the endgame.

Here are two of his endgame's that I found helpful:

Berliner-Fischer 1963 Bay City


After 42. Rc1

Fischer is a pawn up and it's on the sixth so he should have a won game? What's a way to win it?

Fischer-Taimanov 1971 Cand. Match Game 4


After 60...Ne7

The game looks pretty even but Black has a couple of subtle endgame weaknesses. What are they and how does Fischer use them to win?

Related, last time I mentioned a recent endgame where I was connected passed pawns up but couldn't find a win.

Here's the position.


Next time we'll look at a couple of Karpov endgames.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Out Of Position Pt. 2


Getting out of position just about always ends up in a loss against a good player. For the pro's it's suicide.

Here's the continuation of a couple examples we looked at last time:

In 1973 at the Petropolis Interzonal, Sammy Reshevsky had some tough games. The author of  "The Art of Positional Play" found himself in some poor positions.

In Mecking - Reshevsky, in a Ruy Lopez - Breyer, Reshevsky tried an aggressive Qside liquidation and just played 17... Rxb5



Here Mecking played the tactically alert 18. Bb3. focusing on f7.

Reshevsky has to cover f7 with 18...Re7 and as Master Julio Kaplan writes, "Black's QR and QB were badly placed and now the KR and KB also make a sorry sight. But White was threatening 19. Bxf7+ Kxf7 20. Rxb5 Bxb5 21. Qb3+, etc. The immediate 18...Rb8 19. Ng5 Re7 20. f4 is worse for Black than the game because the Queen could go to the Kingside."

Reshevsky, in such poor position, later sacrifices a pawn to make White's win more difficult but in time trouble blunders and loses at move 32.

In Kaplan's note, why are Black's Rooks and Bishops badly placed after 18...Re7? 

In Portisch - Reshevsky, with the Maroczy Bind Portisch dominates the center. In counterplay, Reshevsky plays 17...Qa5.


Here Portisch takes advantage of Black's weaknesses on the e&f files with 18. f5. Here Master Pal Benko writes, "17...Qa5 was definitely a mistake, losing time because the Queen soon has to retreat. Anyway, it is difficult for Black to find a good plan. His position is cramped and White is ready to roll up the Kingside.


When Sammy and I looked at the game after it was played, I suggested the surprising 17...d5 as a freeing maneuver, Sammy told me he had not even considered it, and later Portisch told me the same thing!


After 18. f5, Black has no more chances to find a good defense of his Kingside."

The game continued:

18...Bd7
19. Nd5 Qd8
20. Qf2 Bc6
21. Qh4 Bxd5
22. exd5 Re8
23. Rf3

Benko writes, "Now that the Rook is added to the attack, Black can only wait to be crushed." 

Reshevsky resigned five moves later.

In Benko's note, what continuations from his suggested 17...d5 (instead of 17...Qa5) would help free Black's position? 

On a side note, I always enjoyed endgames and in a recent skittles game I was two pawns up (connected as well on the a & b file) and had another pawn on the h-sixth that was blocked but easily protected, there were other blocked pawns (me on f2 & my opponent on f3), and a minor piece each. I figured I had a win but couldn't find it! 

Maybe I'm wrong but it might be a book draw. Can you guess what this type of endgame position might look like? I'll show it next time.