Sunday, March 31, 2013

EFing Rook Endings

[JMGB writes:
Don't let the fact that the Candidates' has served up another lovely dollop of rook endgames let you miss Martin's latest on
Mr Rosenbaum's Chess Painting]

It's hard not to agree with that. Aronian blows an apparently easy draw, Carlsen fails to hold a difficult ending against Ivanchuk and maybe the whole world changes for a few years. What a day it was.

As for chessers versus the world, though, so it is with me and those members of our fraternity that don’t care for rook endings. I can tell them how exciting yesterday was for me, but if they’re not already interested I don’t think I'll truly be able to explain it.

Anyhoo, I'm going to have a crack at it and I'll start with the Radjabov - Grischuk ending which I thought had many interesting features.

  • One pawn holding two on the kingside;
  • The little nuances of White's play - improving his king one square with 47 Kd3 instead of the immediate capture and then later taking the opportunity to force the defending back a rank with 55 Rh6+ before munching the rook’s pawn;
  • Radjabov’s suggested improvement 56 Ke2;
  • The sacrifice of the b-pawn for rook activity;
  • and best of all, rook plus f and h pawns against rook [SMA16; RRE V; Have you ever had one of these?]. A two pawn advantage and yet no chances to win if the king and rook play very well. How is this not fascinating?

It was Carlsen-Ivanchuk that got most attention, of course. By his own admission Magnus blundered on move 71 and ended up with something very similar to Radjabov’s game. How similar we can see if we reverse the colours for Radjabov-Grischuk and put the positions up side by side.

Shift Ivanchuk’s pawn one file to the right and Carlsen gets his draw. Push Radja’s one file to the left and he wins. These opinions, brought to you by Nalimov, you can take to the bank.

Just one file. That’s the difference between a trivial win and a theoretical draw.

One tiny difference and everything changes: that’s why I find rook endings so absorbing. Well, that and the fact that one small slip when you're playing one can mean chucking away your shot at the title.

Rook and pawn Index


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