Sunday, April 29, 2007

Endgame tactics 2

Last time I showed a rook ending in which a tactical device simplified the task of converting an extra pawn. Today there is a similar example on the menu.

The position in the diagram arose in one of my games from the 1976 B.C. Championship. After an unusual opening a weak pawn had appeared on e4, and in the middlegame that followed I managed to exchange off every piece that could reasonably defend it. We have now arrived in a rook ending with the pawn about to be captured.

34.Rxe4 Kd6 35.Ke3 Rf7
No better is 35...Rb5 36.f4 h5 37.Kd3 g6 38.Ke3 and Black is in a mini-zugzwang; for example, 38...Rd5 39.Rd4 or 38...Kd7 39.Re5.
Of course the natural move here is 36.f4, so my actual move 36.Rd4+ requires a bit of explanation. After 35...Rf7 it didn't take me too long to work out my opponent's defensive strategy, which in simple terms consists in defending the b-pawn laterally with his rook and keeping his king centralised in order to prevent the advance of White's king. With these thoughts in mind I worked out a few variations and in so doing spotted an unusual tactical trick.
As predicted!
37.f4+ Kf5 38.g4+!
This appeared to take Black by surprise.
38...Kxg4 39.f5+! Kxf5
This loses immediately, but after 39...Kh5 40.fxe6 Re7 41.Re4 Black cannot hold the position; for example, 41...g5 42.hxg5 Kxg5 43.Kd4 Kf6 44.Kd5, etc.
40.Rf4+ Kg6 41.h5+!
The main point of White's play. Black's king is deflected away from his rook, which is then captured by White for an easy win.

Being able to foresee and make use of tactical devices in order to simplify the task of converting an advantage is part of what is known collectively as endgame technique. It is very important that in playing for such tricks we analyse carefully and do not allow the opponent any surprise defences that may bring him back into the game. For example, in this game it was very important that the alternative 39...Kh5 did not bring any relief to Black.

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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.