mia analisi: Il
La lezione del GM Schwartzman: I hope you have enjoyed looking at this beautiful endgame, and I am sure that's even
more true if you managed to find the right solution - one that is not at all easy!
You must admit that the position is quite interesting. I would say that white's advantage is hard to overlook. We do have the two bishops, we own the only open file on the board, and our pawns structure is pretty strong, especially in the center.
However, black has some advantages, of which the main one, by far, is his a-b pawn duo on the queen side. Under normal circumstances, those pawns, with a rook behind them, would be simply lethal. But, the good news is that our king is so centralized (especially when compared with the black king) that really, the pawns do not pose too much of a danger - we can always stop them with our king.
To summarize, we are indeed looking at a superior endgame, without a doubt, but at the same time, it is clear that winning it won't be that easy. Or will it?
Well, it all depends on how we treat the position. Obviously, the decision ahead of us is not too hard to see. Since our bishop is under attack, there are really only four moves that should come under consideration: Be6, Bd5, Bc2, Bd1. Since I can't even look at Bd1, that only leaves three moves to consider in our decision. It should be pretty easy, right?
Unfortunately, this is a situation where we might be tempted to eliminate more than just Bd1 from our candidate moves. I mean what do you really think of 1.Be6? We have the pair of bishops - it is actually one of our main advantages. The light bishop also happens to be a very strong piece, whether it goes to d5, or c2. Furthermore, we have done a terrific job of containing the black knight, who right now does not have that much to do, or that many squares to head to.
So, how in the world could we even consider trading our beautiful bishop for that ugly knight? I have no choice but to agree - it is not an easy move to take under consideration. However, there is a deeper layer to this position, that once understood, can provide the right direction. You see, if we were to look at black's pieces, and judge which one is really the worst, it is actually not the knight, but the bishop. Why?
Quite simple: the knight, despite its apparent lack of destinations, is centrally located, and controls a lot of squares. The bishop on g7, on the other hand, suffers from a peculiar disease: it can't see very far. Causing this disease is no other than our pawn on d4, but the real question is how can we take advantage of it?
And here is quite an interesting concept in the game of chess. We rarely say that we are up a bishop, if we are not up a bishop, right? Grandmasters, however, will often say something like "I am up a bishop on the queen side." You see, what we do is spot areas of the board, and see whose pieces can reach it. This provides very important information, as to who is superior on which side. In this case, our pawn on d4 is causing the black bishops to be shortsighted, meaning that it can't reach the queen side, at least without considerable effort. In the meantime, our bishop on g3, has absolutely no problem heading over there.
So, we established that we are indeed a bishop up on the queen side. But how does this really help us? Apparently, it does not. But this appearance is mainly caused by the fact that black does have two pieces in the area: the rook and the knight. So, there is really very little we can do to get around these pieces and cause a lot of damage. Which is exactly the reason for which some of the history's best players have come up with an interesting concept for this type of situations: trade pieces!
The more pieces you trade, the more chances you have of ending up in a one-on-one situation: our good piece vs. the opponent's bad piece. It is really at that time only, that the superiority of the good piece becomes clear, as it can roam freely on that particular area of the board, without a challenge for the opponent's counterpart.
Interestingly enough, this theory applies to use from two perspectives. Because our dark bishop is not the only better piece - the king also fits that category! Just look at how many moves it would take black's king to reach the queen side, and compare it to our fast track to there.
The conclusion of all this reasoning, is that if we could get rid of black's knight and rook, the queen side will suddenly fall into our hands, without the slightest difficulty. The direct result of this reasoning is to look for ways to trade these two pieces. And obviously, as we reach this point, finding the right answer is not hard at all: 1.Be6!
The move that appeared so ridiculous we were about to drop it from our
list of candidates is the right one, thanks to the next few moves, and the resulting
1...fe6 2.Rb8! This is how the second trade is forced. 2...Rb8 3.Bb8 Now let's just look at the position.
Can you see now how effective our strategy was? Suddenly, after just
a few moves, black has practically found himself in a completely lost position. Yes,
the material is equal in number, but now equal in distribution. While our pieces,
king and bishop, can quickly reach the queen side, black's pieces are stuck on the other
side of the board, and with no hope of getting out.
Here is how white made sure that this situation stayed this way: 3...b4 4.Kd3 Bh6 5.f4! g5 6.g4 hg4 7.hg4 gf4 8.gf4 and black actually resigned!
The reason is quite simple: both of his pieces are arrested on the wrong
side of the board. White will put his bishop on e5, and then get rid of all the
pawns on the queen side. Then, the white king can head to d7, and using some endgame
technique, white will have no problem winning one, of the weak 'e' pawns, at which point
the game is over. Amazingly, even if black trades the bishops on e5, his king will
still find himself arrested, thus reaching exactly that kind of one-on-one match up
for such situations!
I hope you agree with me that looking at such endgames does remind us of the beauty of this game we play, even after we lose a few, or have one of those less than stellar tournaments...