Monday, April 20, 2015


White to play
Shaw - Hamdouchi, Gibraltar 2003

After last week’s detour to St Louis (We Need to Talk About Wesley) I’m still not quite ready to go back to reviewing Benjamin’s Liquidation on the Chessboard. A review which has morphed into a rambling dissertation on all chess books (most recently: On Lessons and Chapters), if I’m honest.

I feel the need to report that I have played my first king and pawn endgame of the year. It was not a lengthy affair - it lasted precisely half a move - but it was a pawn ending nonetheless.

We had travelled to Surbiton for a Surrey League fixture. With the end of the playing session drawing near, I sacrificed an extra pawn to force the exchange of the last pair of pieces and followed up with 49 ... Kd4-d3

at which point my opponent resigned.

Giving up your extra material to get a won pawn endgame is a standard winning procedure and my game was not a troublesome example of the genre. White’s king ends up so far out of play you can tell at a glance that Black will eat all of White’s pawns in fairly short order.

White to play

Shaw - Hamdouchi is a bit trickier. Partly because White has a pawn capture available himself. Why go back to level material when you could go 2-0 up instead? Well, maybe because while the rook ending must be winning, there would still be some work to do and things can always go wrong.

Forcing a trade of pieces could just win the game there and then. Unless you are in fact simply letting escape with a draw. Actually, not so much "letting" as "making".

Oh and it’s move 41 by the way. So you might have just got a big dollop of time to make a leisurely decision, but more likely that your clock will be running low.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock ... what’s it to be?

Take the pawn

Trade the rooks

BORP? Index
King and pawn Index


Anonymous said...

Having looked it up, I know the move that Shaw played and it's part of a theme that's been mentioned earlier. Checking for an engine opinion, the verdict was that one move was plus 4 and the other plus 2, so the choice was only going to affect the length of the game rather than the result. It's perhaps a choice of style, although you might expect that a World Championship standard GM would show off by calculating and then playing the more difficult but most exact win.


AngusF said...

I'm going for the rook-swap option as it seems to me that White wins:

1... Rxe6 2. cd Kxe6 3. Kc4 Kc6 (otherwise the White king will get to c5 and then win pe5) 4. b5+! ab 5. Kb4 and Black is lost (e.g. 5... b6 6 a6).

an ordinary chessplayer said...

In AngusF's line, 4...Kd6 had me momentarily stumped. But 5.Kb4 is still the answer. I choose the Blue pill.

an ordinary chessplayer said...

Oops, I meant Red.

Jonathan B said...

Funnily enough I had exactly the same reaction as you OCP. Couldn’t initially see a win after 4 ... Kd6 then the penny dropped.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with Roger’s "so the choice was only going to affect the length of the game rather than the result".

In principle that’s correct. White *should* win the rook ending of course, but it’s easy to go wrong there. Indeed, iirc Shaw’s own notes to the game say he had to find an only move at one point.

So while most of the time the choice would affect the length of the game only, some of the time, grabbing the pawn will lead to a draw.

an ordinary chessplayer said...

The reason I favor the Red pill is because black has few choices and white (me) has few chances to botch it. I can see what RdC means about the difference between +2 and +4 being in the length of the win. But in a practical game it's not the length of the win that makes my opponent resign (thereby giving me a breather before the next round), but the sureness of it. I learned young from a few painful experiences not to show off. Now I play not to checkmate his king, but to kill his hope.

Anonymous said...

The King and pawn ending was +4 and the Rook and pawn +2. The problem with King and pawn endings is that overlooking something deep in a sequence can be fatal whilst with a Rook and Pawn, it's a matter of finding the right move when such a choice has to be made. I think the Gibraltar tournament is one of those that awards extra time at move 40, so taking time to work out the King and Pawn ending ought not to have been a problem. Did Shaw in his notes indicate why he rejected it?