Monday, July 08, 2013

Amateur Hour II: One That Got Away

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


Anonymous said...

It's worth continuing if you have enough time, but according to the computer engines, the plan of Rc7 or Rc8 heading for g6 can be met with Kd5. The idea is to meet Rg6 with Re6 and Kd6, so the defence is to switch the squares of the King and Rook.

As with all Rook endings, you need to find the practical moves, but a judgement assessment of the start position after the Queen exchange would be that Black is a bit worse but not badly enough not to be able to draw.


Jonathan B said...

Hi Roger,

I agree I was over-optimistic heading directly for the start of the rook ending. Perhaps could have kept some more pieces on. Still, once the penny had dropped I still thought I could out play my opponent - and I nearly did.

I think the inclusion of a4 and ... a5 probably aid Black because his weak pawns are now on the same rank. Still i think the Rg6 plan was trying. Maybe not winning, but would have given me good practical chances. I doubt my opponent would have found the plan you suggest, for example.

Anonymous said...

Having taken a closer look at the game from John Cox's book, the defender has the alternative idea of the madhouse where you take each other's pawns and race to queen. With time to work it out that's worth a try, but with a shortage of time taking the draw by not doing anything is the pragmatic approach.


John Cox said...

Nice post - really good example of how studying position-types can help.