mia analisi: Il
La lezione del GM Schwartzman: Looking back, the 1997 Continental Open was very good to me. It was an
exciting tournament with more than a dozen Grandmasters who came to compete for
the first prize of $10,000. In the seven rounds of the competition, I had the
pleasure to meet four of my fellow GMs. I am proud to say that I survived the
tournament with no losses, and only gave away three draws, thus scoring enough
for a tie with GM Nick de Firmian for third place. My best day was definitely
the last one, with two wins in the same day against two older friends of mine:
GM Serper and GM Wojtkiewicz. The tournament was won by Alexander Shabalov, who
seems literally unstoppable after winning the World Open. Ilya Smirin was the
one to place second and pocket $5000. Nick and I had to please ourselves with
less, but I hey, I was still happy!
I am also pleased to be able to redeem myself in front of you. If you have joined my Academy a while ago, you might still remember the fascinating rook endgame I showed you from my game against Serper, and how a minor mistake cost me that game. Well, it is time to show you another fascinating endgame, played against the same player, but with a much more pleasing result.
So, I was white in the position above against Gregory Serper. I must admit that I hadn't played a pawn endgame in a really long time, so I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, especially since I had forced this endgame to occur because of my conviction that I was better. This conviction of mine was not based as much on intuition, as on precise calculation, which in such endgames becomes vital.
The funny thing is that black actually has more space than me, thanks to his advanced pawns on the 4th rank. But in reality, this constitutes one of his main weaknesses. Because what it really means is that those pawns are closer to my king, thus more susceptible of being captured. However, the pawn on d4 does something useful: it takes away the e3 square and thus holds my king at bay.
The fact is that my king would have no problem going to f4. However, is that where I want to go with it? The answer is a loud no. Black's pawn structure on the king side is picture perfect, and any hopes of winning on that side are quite ridiculous. There should be no doubt that white's only winning chances lie on the queen side where the 'b' pawn is sufficiently advanced to make it vulnerable, or at least force the additional deployment of the 'a' pawn which could then in turn become an objective.
In other words, if I want to win this game, my king has to have access to the c4 square and thus to the queen side pawns. Unfortunately, even this doesn't mean a guaranteed win. You see, I too have some weaknesses: the doubled 'e' pawns. If black's king gets close enough to the e4 pawn, my king will have no other choice than to defend it. To give you a simple scenario: if I would take the long route to queen side with 1.Ke1, after 1...Kd6 2.Kd2 Ke5 3.Kd3 my situation wouldn't be that fantastic.
Why? Because going to snatch the black queen side pawns would give black enough time to mount the counter play in the center with the capture of my 'e' pawns. This means that I would have no other choice than to trade the e2 pawn on e3, but even then it looks like black has enough play on the king side to at least promote pawns at the same time I would be able to on the queen side, since there is still no way to hold on to the e4 pawn if my king moves.
However, once again, this sounds more like intuition and less like calculation, which is what is needed in these tricky endgames. Leaving aside the "looks" and "feels" aspect of it, it is not very hard to actually calculate that the entire maneuver of Kc4-Kb5-Ka5-Kb4 (after black pushes the 'a' pawn, of course) only works if black's king is not yet on the 5th rank. Cause if it is, black has sufficient time to capture on e4 and then promote the 'f' pawn.
In plain English, the success of this game depends on my ability to keep the king of the e5 square. This once again brings to mind the simple Kf3-f4, but it again becomes clear that the king is on the completely wrong side of the board. And this leaves only one other victory attempt for white: 1.e3!
This move poses black a serious question. His only two
possibilities, trading the pawn or pushing it, both have serious drawbacks.
Trading pawns would allow my king to reach d4 first, which automatically keeps
his king out of e5. A careful calculation shows why this puts him in an
extremely difficult defensive situation, as it takes away (by one tempo) the
idea of counterplay. on the king side. A good example is provided by the
following line: 1...de3 2.Ke3 Kd6 3.Kd4 a5 4.Kc4 Ke5 5.Kb5 Ke4 6.Ka5 f5 7.Kb4 g5
8.a5 f4 9.a6 f3 10.a7 f2 11.a8=Q and the fact that the queen appears with check
on the board makes everything very easy for white.
The above line means that black's only option after trading pawns would be to stop the white king from entering the queen side, by adopting a trench defense on c6. Unfortunately for him, white has enough extra moves at his disposal to make the king move at some point, which would allow the decisive infiltration of his camp by the white king.
And these are all the reasons for which my opponent chose to instead play 1...d3. While knowingly giving away the pawn, this move at least insures safe passage to the so significant e5 square. After the normal moves 2.Ke1 Kd6 3.Kd2 Ke5 4.Kd3 a5 we reached a very interesting position.
The fact is that black's pawn sacrifice has indeed helped. After
all, my 'e' pawns can't do much in their doubled configuration, but the black
king has made it to e5... Fortunately, black is still behind one tempo in this
very long and forced line which occurs at this point. Here is how things
happened: 5.Kc4 Ke4 6.Kb5 f5 7.Ka5 g5 8.Kb4 Ke3 9.a5 f4 10.a6 f3 11.a7
f2 12.a8=Q f1=Q
The fact that there are two queens on the board actually hides
how bad black's situation is. Yes, he did survive the pawn endgame, but this one
is going to be really tough to survive. Not only am I a pawn up, but I can
immediately capture a second, and black has to be very careful with each move he
makes about not being forced into a fatal queen trade.
From here on it was a matter of technique, which nevertheless needed some degree of precision. For those interested, here is how the game continued: 13.Qa7 Kd2 14.Qd4 Ke1 15.Qe3 Kd1 16.Qg5 Qe1 17.Ka3 Qe4 18.Qf4 Qd3 19.Kb4 Qd7 20.Kc3 Qc8 21.Qc4 Qh3 22.Qd3 Ke1 23.g4 Qh6 24.Qg3 Ke2 25.Qe5 Kf3 26.Qf5 Ke2 27.Qc2 Ke1 28.Qe4 Kf1 29.Qf3 Ke1 30.g5 Qg7 31.Kc2 Qg8 32.h4 Qe8 33.b3 Qe7 34.h5 Qe8 35.Qd3 Kf2 36.g6 hg6 36.hg6 Qc6 37.Kd2 Qf6 38.Kc2 Qc6 39.Kb2 Qf6 40.Qc3 Qe6 41.g7 Kg2 42.Qc2 Kf3 43.Qc4 1-0
Long game, but a much enjoyed victory!