mia analisi: Il
La lezione del GM Schwartzman: I have to apologize for starting this month with what proved to be an
extremely difficult puzzle, at least judging by the very small percentage of
correct answers. It comes from another one of my many encounters against the
reigning US Champion, Alex Yermolinsky. As most of our games are, this one was
very exciting too. I achieved a nice advantage out of the opening -one of the
perks of having white- but then I was sufficiently greedy to go after a pawn and
overlook some creative counter play that got me in some serious trouble.
Nevertheless, all or almost all was forgotten at this point. I had successfully passed the first time control and despite my pawn up, was obviously fighting for the draw. The reasons for this sad state of affairs can be found in the position itself: my bishop is more passive then my opponent's, the rook is in the same situation, and the pawn structure even with an extra pawn can hardly cover up the numerous weaknesses I have - four, to be more precise.
So, the first step of our thinking process has been completed - we now know what we are seeking to achieve - a draw. Of course, if black is going to give us a rook, we will win - but I hardly think Yermo can be beaten in such a way... So, getting back to my desired draw, it doesn't look like it is so hard to achieve. After all, there are bishops of opposite colors on the board, and according to the general opinion, most such endgame are drawn.
Well, actually I am not sure this is such a correct statement. You see, I have had my share of endgames with rooks and bishops of opposite colors, and while yes, the drawing chances are high, this result is in no way guaranteed. On the contrary, this material configuration allows the side with the advantage to safely try to push its advantage further, and it can often mean a very painful and cumbersome defense for the other side.
What I would also like to bring up is the concept of endgame intuition. The problem is that in such a position it is practically impossible to calculate everything and say "this line is losing, this one is winning, and this other one is a draw." No, most lines will simply end up in slightly different positions, which we have to assess in order to see which one offers the best chances. And that is where the intuition factor comes in very handy.
In this particular example, there is no doubt that 1.Rd3 looks like the most attractive move. After all, the pawn on d3 is the most threatening piece black has, and I did indeed spend considerable time and effort trying to get rid of it. The real problem though is that now black can continue with 1...Rf2 and after 2.Ke1 Rf4 reach an intriguing position.
The material right now is equal, but a quick scan will show that
not for long. It will be very hard if not impossible to keep both of the
weaknesses on h4 and c4 properly defended. The king is also extremely passive.
Which signals a really tough endgame to hold ahead for white. I did think about
this possibility and it seemed to me that it is not totally desperate. Still,
this was not exactly the kind of position I wanted to get in against the 'Yerminator.'
So, let's see what other option there are on the first move. As you know, one of the most important endgame principles is activating the king. Sitting on the 1st rank doesn't quite fit this idea, so moving it out might be desirable. Further, in this case such a maneuver also has the advantage of bringing the king closer to the numerous pawns weaknesses. And once the king defends them, they should become much harder to snatch for black.
These are only a few of the reasons why 1.Kg2! is the correct move.
I am quite sure that you don't have to be a Grandmaster to find
this move. What you do have to do, is take the time to analyze it!
Unfortunately, this is the kind of move that many of us might not even take into
consideration, since it looks like it gives black the f2 pawn, and allows him to
keep his passed pawn. In other words, it doesn't look like it does anything
But that until you actually start calculating it. Soon, you would see that black's main move is 1...Rf2. Other attempts don't pose too many problems - for instance, 1...Bf2 allows 2.Be6 Kg7 3.Rd3 Bh4 4.Kh3 followed by the Bd7-b5 maneuver and great drawing chances. 1...d2 is also not much of a hassle, since there are no real threats and my king is active...
So, let's check out 1...Rf2. After 2.Kg3 it is rather clear that black's only winning hopes are related to keeping the 'd' pawn, so he would have to go for 2...d2 which is what my opponent played in the game. I can not deny that things look good for black. All his pieces are more active and the pawn is causing a lot of damage. If he can just activate his king now, I could be in trouble. Nevertheless, there is one disadvantage that black has, and that might be a little harder to spot: his pieces are trapped, especially after a move such as 3.Bg4!
You see, when he pushed the 'd' pawn, black automatically closed
off the rook's escape path. The rook now has no moves, and the bishop is stuck
defending it. At the same time, I can finally claim an active king and bishop.
All I have to do now is keep the black king from coming in, and I get my desired
draw. This is a rather easy task...
The game continued with 3...Be3 (black could have also tried to play 3...Kg7 right away. After 4.h5 Kf6 5.Bf3 Kf5, black has activated his king a little bit, but still can't do anything with it. Nor can he capture the pawn on f4 withe bishop because... it has to defend the rook.. Still, it would have been the better way to try putting a little more pressure than in the game). 4.Bf3 Kg7 5.h5 h6 6.Rb1 Kf6 7.Kg4!
The king is now holding the black king at bay, and all I have to
is move by rook around, while always meeting Rh2 with Kg3.
My opponent thought for a long time, and tried a few more things, such as moving the king over the queen side, but I had absolutely no difficulties holding the position. Just six moves later we agreed on a draw, a result which I would have hated twenty moves ago, but which I now longed for...