Monday, July 30, 2012

Penarth 2012 : a bit previous

South Wales International, round two, position after 18...Rxa4. White resigned.

South Wales International, round one, position after 43...a5. White resigned.

South Wales International, round two, position after 18...Nfe3. White resigned.

Three positions, three resignations. You've seen the first of them before, on Wednesday when the third of our encounters with grandmasters in Penarth ended a little earlier than it might have done.

Jonathan resigned here because if he tried 19.Rxa4 Qxa4 20 Rb1 Qxe4 he'd just be a couple of pawns down for nothing: but the only alternative was 19.Rab1 Bxb5 20.Qxb5 Qxb5 21.Rxb5 Rxe4, which is no better than the previous line, while if 20.Rxb5 Qxc3 and again, Black is two pawns up for absolutely nothing.

Except he's not, because (as noted by Michael Yeo in Wednesday's comments, and by Jonathan after the game) White has 21.Rxb6 saving the pawn after 21...axb6 22.Qxa4, and bringing about a position where Black has a still a lot to do to prove a win.

Or Black could play 21...Rxe4 22.Qxa7. But then all the pawns are on the same side of the board and provided White takes care not to get mated (e.g. 22...Rfe8 23.Rb7?? Re1 -+) I don't think he should lose at all.

Certainly Jonathan shouldn't have resigned when he did. Nor, for that matter, should Jonathan's opponent in the previous round.

Matter of fact he shouldn't have had to resign at all, since far from being lost, the position is completely drawn.

It's not at all an unusual trick in pawn endings. In this specific position, 44.c5:

and after 44...bxc5 (the simpler choice, though 44...dxc5 also draws) 45.c4 and nobody wins. Except maybe White, if Black should blunder with 45...Kf7, which possibility, I reckon, would be worth hanging on for.

All right, White didn't see it. But why not? There's not that many possible moves to choose from and he'd only just passed the time control! He could see that moving the king lost, which is why he resigned - why not have a look and see what else might be possible? Why not play something else and see how it turns out?

Then there's my stroke of luck in the second round. Having won a pawn for nothing early on, and then unwisely chosen the path of over-elaboration rather than the path of simplicity, I had given the pawn back, albeit retaining the advantage, and then played the unnecessary 18...Nfe3 to reach the position below.

I played the move because I thought it won material, but while I was waiting for my opponent's reply I began to worry about 19.b4 Be7 20.Bd4, before I realised that all was well after 20...Qc7 threatening mate on h2.

I felt reassured. I felt even more reassured when my opponent suddenly resigned.

I expressed my surprise and he said he "couldn't see any way of getting out of it", which, to be fair, I couldn't either, but I didn't thik he was losing more than a pawn in the short run. And he might have tried 19.b4 anyway in case I missed 20...Qc7.

He certainly might, as my surprise was renewed the following evening when a gentleman on the EC Forum was kind enough to point out that after 19.b4 Be7, instead of 20.Bd4? White has 20.Rxe3!

and after 20...Nxe3 21.Bd4 Black no longer has the ...Qc7 trick, since there's no longer a knight on g4 to assist with the mate threat!

So it's desperado time and Black has to play 21...Nxf1 22.Bxb6 Nxd2 23.Bd4 a6

when White's positional advantages at least offset the nominal disadvantage of queen against two rooks. No need to resign at all. No need even to think White's worse.

All right, again, he didn't see it. And he took time to have a look around before resigning. But even so, it was early to pack it all in.

Moving back to Jonathan's second round game, which was finishing at around the same time as mine - same number of moves, anyway - would 19...Rxe4 have been better than 19...Bxb5 had Jonathan continued with 19.Rab1?

Might be: I've not spent too much time on it because endings with most or all the heavy pieces on take far too long (as well as being highly susceptible to over-the-horizon perpetual checks) but after, say, 20.Nd6 Re6 21.c4 White seems to be clinging on, for instance after 21...Qe5 22.Qxa7 Qxd6 23.Qxa6.

Quite likely Black is winning: almost certainly Black, a grandmaster with a rating advantage of more than five hundred points over his opponent, would win in the end. But that was also true at move 1.

Everybody does it at one time or another: these three premature resignations just happened to stand out because they occurred practically together. So I don't want to get excessively didactic on the back of a small number of examples. Besides, one can't necessarily draw one single lesson from all three.

But perhaps one can draw a couple of hints, at any rate. One is that even if you think a line is lost, why not play it out? It's surely worth playing on a bit just to find out. The position may look different when you actually get there. God knows that's been true often enough from the other side of the board, with players playing into a "won" position that, when they reach it, turns out to be otherwise.

The other would be - don't just sit there resigning, do something! You never know what may be there in the position, waiting to be found.

Or did chess suddenly become obvious and simple, now that you think you've lost a game?

[Penarth 2012 index]


Tom Chivers said...

GMs often resign games in positions where I have no idea why they have done so. Apparently it's catching!

Jonathan B said...

I'm never resigning ever again.