Black to play and offer a rook exchange?
Acs - Berkes, 2008
Returning to my review of the rook endings I've played in 2013 thus far, I have to admit that they haven't all been peaches and cream. Not even the ones I played at Golders Green.
One in particular that I didn't close down as I could have done stands out in my memory. It was the last round at the February tournament. I discovered afterwards that if i'd won I'd have shared first place. As it was I finished equal third and out of the money. Close, but not close enough.
I was White in this position, having just swapped queens to get here. My opponent offered me a draw hereabouts, but I was never going to take it. I felt I was on my home ground and not his for a start, but objectively I thought I had a little something to play for.
Although I quickly realised that things might not be as easy as I'd hoped. He activated his rook so I felt I had to retreat mine to protect my second rank.
Still I had a plan: use the Rubinstein Method to protect my pawns, pushing forward on the kingside, create a weakness in the enemy camp. And lo, mucho shuffling later, I got exactly what I was aiming for.
My next idea was to be able to protect f3 and b3 with the rook and push the a-pawn forward to try to create a second target on the queenside. I remember nearly playing Re3 here - which would have been embarrassing - and then realising I'd have to go to c3 instead.
I had two main problems. Firstly, Black didn't let me push my pawn to a5 ...
... and secondly I was nearly out of time. I'm not sure how much I had left on the clock, maybe a minute and a half to my opponent's 10+, but I felt like I'd lost the thread. I'd got a weak pawn to attack on h6 just like I wanted, I just couldn't see how to get at it. So here I accepted my opponents second offer of a draw.
After the game I quickly realised something that simply hadn't occurred to me during it: I can try to put my rook on g6. I'd seen this idea before, it just didn't come to mind while my flag was hanging.
Given another minute, would I have found the right plan? Gone on to win? Maybe, maybe not.
I know that I spent much of the tube ride home kicking myself for missing the opportunity, but on reflection I'm prepared to break the habits of a lifetime and see this as a glass half full situation rather than 50% empty. Yes, I should have done better at the end, but I felt that I'd played pretty well to get to a position where I could screw up. This time last year I simply wouldn't have had the first clue as to what was really going on in this type of ending. At least now I knew that I'd let a chance slip by.
Anyhoo, here - via our regular visitor John Cox's Declining the Queen's Gambit - is somebody playing a very similar ending. With a good deal more competence than I managed, I should say.
In the position at the head of today's blog Black did indeed choose to play ... Rg2-g3 and White didn't swap. There are a few tricks to work your way through in the pawn ending, but if you have a look at it you'll see why White didn't want to go there. Not that his Rf5 saved the game either.
So nicely done for Berkes and a point on the board for him. For me it's halfway there and better luck next time.
Rook and pawn Index