Saturday, March 3, 2007


Positions in which all the minor pieces have been exchanged and the players are left with a queen and two rooks each were examined by Alex Angos in a fascinating 1982 monograph entitled Endgame Artillery. Such positions present an interesting blend of middlegame and endgame features. If there are no passed pawns or serious pawn weaknesses and the two kings are relatively safe the outcome is often an uneventful draw. But when there are significant imbalances the initiative becomes a key factor and the play can be extremely complicated. In this regard the classic encounters Rubinstein-Alekhine, Dresden 1926; Alekhine-Euwe, Nottingham 1936; and Korchnoi-Spassky, Belgrade (m/7) 1977/78 are recommended for further study.

In a recent team match I managed to win a pawn but at the same time had to give my lower-rated opponent dangerous kingside pressure. After some exertions I managed to exchange off the minor pieces and blunt the attack, arriving at the “endgame artillery” position shown in the first diagram. My opponent's last move had been 42...Reg8 and I could sense that he was now looking for a draw by repetition in the variation 43.Rg1 Re8 44.Re1 Reg8, etc. In unhappily typical fashion I had left myself five minutes for all the rest of my moves; meanwhile my opponent had nine minutes on his clock. I briefly considered acquiescing to the draw because the match score at that moment was 4-0 for our side with three games to go including this one. But I rejected this notion almost immediately – I was a pawn up and I wanted payback for the difficult defence I had conducted! On top of it all there was an interesting counterattacking line available, so without further ado I plunged ahead...

43.e4! fxe4
After 43...Rxg3 44.Rxf5+ Black is forced to play 44...R8g5 because 44...Kh7 loses immediately to 45.Rxh5+ while 44...R3g5 allows the simplifying operation 45.Rxg5 Rxg5 46.Rg1 Qe7 47.Qxg5+ Qxg5 48.Rxg5 Kxg5 49.Kg3 with an easily won pawn ending for White. After 44...R8g5 White must play 45.Re2 (definitely not 45.Rxg5? Qh3#!) and now there are two lines:
a) 45...Kg6 46.Qf4! R5g4 (the alternative 46...R3g4 47.Rxg5+ Rxg5 48.Rg2 leads to a queen ending that is very difficult for Black to defend) 47.Qb8! Rd3 48.Qd8! (taking control of key squares) 48...Rgg3 49.d5 Rh3+ 50.Kg2 Rhg3+ 51.Kf1 Rd1+ 52.Kf2 and Black is losing at least a rook;
b) 45...h4 46.Qf4 Kh5 47.Rxg5+ Rxg5 48.d5 Qd7 ( or 48...Qe5 49.Qxe5 Rxe5 50.d6 Re8 51.e5 and wins) 49.Rf2! and White will either mate, win material or promote a pawn (and then mate!)
Stronger was 44.Rexe4; for example, 44...Qd7 45.Qe3! R8g6 46.Re8 Qg7 47.Rff8 Kh7 48.Re7 and wins.
44...Qf5 45.Rf4 Qd3?! (second diagram)
Perhaps Black was afraid for his king but in the circumstances he should not be the one forcing off the queens. More tenacious was 45...Qg6 although after 47.Re7! Rg7 48.Rxg7 Kxg7 49.Qe3! White should still win with proper technique.
The time factor... Black's last move had surprised me and I was forced to spend one of my remaining minutes seeing if I could win after exchanging queens. This left me with two minutes to play the rest of the game and no time to look at the alternative 46.Rf6+! which is in fact much stronger. The main line then is 46...R8g6 47.Rxg6+ Kxg6 48.Re6+ Kf7 49.Qxg5 Kxe6 50.Qe5+ Kd7 51.Qxb5+ Kc8 52.Qe8+ Kc7 53.Qe5+ Kd7 54.d5 Qf1 55.a4 with two passed pawns for White and no visible counterplay for Black.
46...cxd3 47.Rf6+ Kh7?!
This loses quickly. Black should have abandoned the attack on g3 and played 47...Kg7! After 48.Rf3 Rc8! 49.Rxd3 Rc2+ 50.Kh3 Rxb2 51.d5 Rf5 52.d6! (not 52.g4!? immediately because of 52...hxg4+ 53.Kxg4 Rf8 54.d6 Rg2+ 55.Kh3 Rg5 56.Re4 Rh8+ 57.Rh4 Rd8 58.Rg4 Rxg4 59.Kxg4 Kf6 60.Rd5 Ke6 61.Rxb5 Rxd6 and White cannot win) 52...Rff2 53.g4! Rh2+ 54.Kg3 Rbd2 and now White must find 55.Ree3! (stronger than 55.Red1 because it creates a safe passage for White's king) 55...Rdf2+ (or 55...hxg4+ 56.Ke3 Rxd3 57.Kxd3! Rg1 58.Kd2! Rg2+ 59.Kc3! and wins) 56.Ke4 Rxg4+ and now after 57.Kd5! it is clear that Black will be resigning soon. The problem with the text move 47...Kh7 is that White can immediately force off a pair of rooks. The resulting single rook ending can then be won with almost no thought, a pleasantly untroubling task when one has only two minutes left on the clock.
48.Re7+! R8g7
Much weaker is 48...Kh8? 49.Rh6#!
49.Rxg7+ Rxg7 50.Rf3 Rc7 51.Rxd3 Rc2+ 52.Kh3 Rxb2 53.d5 (third diagram) 53...Rc2 54.d6 Rc8 55.d7 Rd8 56.Kh4 Kg6 57.Rd5!
Winning the h-pawn and bringing White's g-pawn into play. The rest requires no comment.
57...Kf6 58.Kxh5 Ke6 59.Rd3 Rh8+ 60.Kg4 Rg8+ 61.Kf4 Rf8+ 62.Ke4 Rd8 63.g4 Rg8 64.d8Q Rxg4+ 65.Kf3

Black resigns 1-0

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.