Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barcza vs Rossolimo, Vrsac 1969

This ending appeared in Informant 8 with analysis by the winner, GM Gedeon Barcza of Hungary. White has just exchanged minor pieces on c6 and is ready to take over the b-file. Having the move is usually a valuable asset when both sides have pawn weaknesses, and that is certainly the case here.

36.Rb3 Ke7 37.Rb5 e4

Black could play 37...Ra6 with the idea that a passed c-pawn is less dangerous than a passed a-pawn, but that would give his rook less mobility than in the game. With the text move he is trying to prevent White's king from joining the action.

38.Rxa5 Ke6 39.e3 h5

If 39...f5 40.Ra7 Kf6 41.a5 (Barcza) and White is threatening Ra7-b7-b6.

40.Ra8 Rb6 41.Re8+

Worth consideration was 41.a5!?, for example: 41...Rb4 42.Re8+ Kf5 43.Re7 Kf6 44.Rxe4 Ra4 45.f4 Rxa5 46.Re5 g6 47.Kf3 and the simple plan of attacking the c-pawn will put Black in serious trouble.

41...Kd6 42.Rxe4 Ra6 43.Kh3 g5 44.f4 f6

(second diagram)


Rossolimo must have breathed a big sigh of relief after this move, a serious error giving away most if not all of White's advantage. The game is going to turn into a pawn race, and in these situations the race is usually to the swift. Much stronger was the immediate 45.g4! If Black continues 45...h4 as in the game, then White plays 46.f5!, fixing a weak pawn on f6. A likely continuation then is 46...Rxa4 47.Re6+ Kd7 48.Rxf6 Rxc4 49.Rg6 Re4 50.Rxg5 Rxe3+ 51.Kxh4 c4 52.f6!, when it is clear that White is winning easily. Black fares no better after 45...hxg4+ 46.Kxg4 gxf4 47.Rxf4 Ke5 48.Rf5+ Ke4 (or 48...Ke6 49.Rxc5 Rxa4 50.h4 Kd6 51.Rd5+ Ke6 52.Rd4) 49.Rxc5 Rxa4 50.Rf5 Kxe3 51.Rf3+! Kd2 (51...Ke4 52.Rxf6 and Black cannot capture the c-pawn) 52.Rf4 and White's h-pawn is the decisive factor. It is strange that a player of Barcza's calibre did not see these ideas when analysing the game.

45...fxg5 46.g4 h4 47.Re8 Rxa4 48.Rg8 Rxc4 49.Rxg5 Re4 50.Rf5 c4 51.Rf1 c3 52.g5

Barcza gave the line 52.Kxh4 Rxe3 53.g5 Kg5 c2 54.h4 Re2 55.h5 Rd2 56.Rc1 Ke7 57.Kh6 Kf8 58.g5 Kg8! and Black draws. If 59.g6 Kh8 60.Ra1 then 60...Rd8! and White cannot make progress.

52...c2 53.g6 Rxe3+ 54.Kxh4 Re2 55.h3 Ke6?

Black can draw easily with 55...Rd2 56.Rc1 Ke7 57.Kg5 Kf8 as given by Barcza, or in much trickier fashion with the immediate 55...Ke7!?, for example, 56.Kh5 Rd2 57.g7!? Rd5+!! (the point of this check is to drive White's king to one of a number of awkward squares) 58.Kg6 (other moves are no better, as the reader can verify) 58...Rd1! 59.g8Q Rxf1! 60.Qg7+ Ke6! and White must repeat moves after 61.Qg8+ Ke7! since 62.Qh7+? loses after 62...Kd6!

56.Kh5 Rd2

Black could try 56...Rf2!? but after 57.g7 Rxf1 58.g8Q+, he will inevitably lose either his rook or his pawn.

57.g7 Rg2

There is no time left for 57...Rd1 because White will simply queen with check.

58.Kh6 Ke5 59.h4 Kd4 60.h5 1–0

An endgame concealing some interesting subtleties.

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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.