Sunday, February 01, 2009

Three Points, One Position

The title of this post is meant to stimulate your interest by being a bit mysterious. Let me explain...

Muller and Lamprecht's excellent Fundamental Chess Endings gives this position as 4.16:

White to move

From Loginov-Loskutov 1996

Any serious chess player will recall playing positions similar to this one and how difficult it can be to win them even though a clear piece up.

So what are my "three points?"

1. I recently did a post on "What is a "Better" Position?" At a glance, Black is obviously "much" better, but is the position "won" for him? The conclusion of this game might make you rethink this terminology.

2. The end of the game will provide a position that all of us must know 100 percent stone cold in order to avoid endless heartache and tears for the rest of our careers.

3. It's been awhile since I did one of my Homer Nods posts ("...and yet I also become annoyed whenever the great Homer nods off." Horace, Ars Poetica). Even very good chess players sometimes play very bad chess, and examples of this can serve to encourage the rest of us, to say that maybe we shouldn't beat ourselves up over our own little blunders. In this case Black was an International Master trying to post a nice upset over a Grandmaster, and an IM should probably be able to win almost 100 percent of the time from this position.

Enough talk, let's go to the record. For convenience, here is the position again:

The first few moves are obvious: 1. Kh6 Bd3 2. Kg7 Bg6 3. f4 Kb2 4. Kf6 (if 4. f5 Bxf5 5. Kxf7 Kc3 -+) Kc3 5. f5 (diagram):

and now 5. ...Bh5 wins (and working out the variations is great exercise), but even if it only drew, I think that the choices are so limited most of us would play it right away; instead, 5. ... Kd4?? 6. fxg6 fxg6 7. Kg7 1-0 because after 7. ...Ke5 8. Kxh7 Kf5 9. Kh6:

Mutual zugzwang! Whoever is to move loses. Learn it, use it, LIVE IT! When pawns are locked in an ending, plan and scheme to get this position--with the right player to move, of course.

Going back to the first diagram, is there any way you would have thought an IM playing Black would be resigning after seven moves? Don't let it happen to you!


Polly said...

I haven't had time to work out the variations after Bh5, but my one question is "What was Black thinking about when he played Kd4?" Even at first glance I can't see any logical reason to give up the bishop at that point.

Wahrheit said...

Polly, the win after Bh5 is not simple or easy, it takes about 10 moves of bishop maneuvering to get White into zugzwang. I suspect that Black might have been in time trouble and thought he would get the final position with White to move and figured on saving a lot of time by going straight to the "winning" position.

I remember vividly when an opponent once simplified from an Exchange-up position to a pawn endgame that was lost for him. Ouch, that's painful!

Rolling Pawns said...

Funny game. Yeah, having a spare piece in the endgame doesn't guarantee a victory. Two our Canadian women at the last Olympiad were in that position, one drew and another almost lost, swindling a draw and they both are rated 2000+.

likesforests said...

I'm surprised an IM would sac his bishop here w/o calculating the consequences of the sac. If time was low, I would naturally opt to keep the extra piece with 1...Bh5.

As far as examining whether 1...Bh5 is a win (which wouldn't be necessary in a game, but is interesting):

2.g6 - easy to see it loses.

2.Kg7 - losing, but this took a bit of calculation to prove.

2.Kd5 - losing. this also took a bit of calculation to prove but I would be tempted to skip it in a real game because White is relying on opposition (zugzwang) to save him and Black has a bishop (zugzwang machine).

CW said...

Re- point 3, I think that's a big key. Games can go any which way sometimes. When the match isn't going well further distracting yourself with self-pity will only end the match sooner.