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    Entries in endgames (14)

    Thursday
    Sep142017

    World Cup, Round 4, Day 3 Tiebreaks: MVL, So, Svidler, Fedoseev, and Rapport Advance

    It was an exciting day of tiebreaks, though it was disappointing that only one match made it past the two 25-minute games, and it was settled in the 10' + 10" round. We need to see at least one Armageddon game before the tournament ends!

    Anyway, to the round. Peter Svidler had the easiest time of it, beating Bu Xiangzhi 2-0. In the first game, Svidler won with Black after Bu got tangled up in the center. White tried to bail out with an exchange sacrifice, and it almost worked. Bu was about to esacape until he played 40.Ra5??, walking into a lethal self-pin. Walking into mate in one on the next move didn't help, but the damage had already been done - even 41...Rb4 would have done the job. In the second game, Bu tried the Dutch, hoping for a complicated position, but when he met the Improved Lisitsyn Gambit by turning the game into a Philidor Counter-Gambit he got in trouble - fast. He was already clearly worse by move 7 (maybe by move 5, but let's be generous), and after a huge error on move 9 he was completely lost. Svidler may not have played in the most incisive way, but he didn't have to, and he coasted to victory.

    Wesley So was also a smooth winner, outplaying Baadur Jobava in their first game with the white pieces, demonstrating the power of the bishop pair (and later of bishop vs. knight) to grind out a victory. Game two was an "I'll make you an offer you can't refuse" draw: So was better from early on, and could have played for a win had he needed to. Instead, he allowed Jobava to draw by repetition in a position where he was still better, but the problem for Jobava was that varying from the repetition would lose on the spot.

    In one of the matches featuring underdogs, Evgeniy Najer held an edge in his white game with Richard Rapport until his ill-advised 23.Bxh6, which should have been met by 23...Rxf3. For a while after that Najer had good chances to win, but Rapport gradually clawed his way back to equality and a draw. The second game was completely crazy, and Rapport handled the complications much better than Najer to win deservedly. There was one big hiccup near the end, however. 45.Rb7+ followed by 46.Re2 won comfortably, but after his 45.Rb6? Najer had 45...Re1+ first, and only after 46.Kg2 was 46...Nb4 correct. In this case he would have equalized. Now White can't play Re2, and if he takes on a5 Black has an immediate perpetual with his rook going to e2, e1 and/or e3, as needed.

    In the other battle of the underdogs, Vladimir Fedoseev defeated Maxim Rodshtein 2-0, though unlike Svidler's 2-0 victory it wasn't easy. First of all, it's a mystery why Rodshtein didn't play 37...Qxc3 in the first game, leading to a dead draw after 38.Rxc3 Bxf2 39.Nxe6 Rxc3 40.Bxc3 fxe6. Even after 37...Bxc7 39.Bxc7, trading queens would have given him excellent drawing chances in the opposite-colored bishop ending. The draw wouldn't be guaranteed on account of the rooks, but keeping queens on as well made it harder, not easier, for him to defend. Eventually the queens came off, but under more favorable circumstances for Fedoseev. It still wasn't easy for White to win until Rodshtein's 69...Kf7, allowing White to play 70.Rf8+ and 71.Rf6. After that, the conversion was routine. Rodshtein did a great job of creating a complicated mess in game two, and he had good chances to win as soon as the early middlegame. The game went back and forth, and Rodshtein missed a very good chance on move 33, when taking on b5 followed by d6 would give him a winning advantage. From there on, he played too passively, and Fedoseev took over the initiative. White had to play 41.Bg2 to stay alive, and after missing that chance he resigned three moves later.

    Finally, in a match that would have been better as a semi-final or even a final, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk had a heavyweight battle in keeping with their ratings. They drew the 25-minute games, and saved the best for last. In the first 10-minute game, Grischuk's attempt to solve his strategic problems with tactics failed. In particular, 28...Rg6, going for counterplay, was strongly met by a great pawn sacrifice from MVL. From 30 to the end of the game, Vachier-Lagrave blew his opponent off the board with one threat after another in a great display of the power of the initiative. The second game was a battle between the initiative - again, on MVL's side - and static goods. Grischuk's 10.Bxc6 wrecked Black's queenside structure, but at the cost of the bishop pair, weak light squares, and a few moves later, a badly sidelined queen. Vachier-Lagrave found a great exchange sac, but misplayed it a few moves later and wound up in an inferior ending. After two further inaccuracies, he wound up in a lost ending with bishop and pawn against Grischuk's rook and pawn. Grischuk made a very serious practical error when he didn't play 44.h3, after which proving a win with hardly any time on his clock was as good as impossible, and MVL advanced to the fifth round.

    The games are here, but I've only annotated the second Svidler-Bu Xiangzhi game, along with the two MVL-Grischuk 10-minute games.

    Tomorrow the quarter-finals begin, with these pairings (in bracket order): Svidler - Vachier-Lagrave, Ivanchuk - Aronian, So - Fedoseev, Rapport - Ding Liren.

    Will Svidler continue his question to reach his fourth consecutive Candidates event? (Admittedly, once he was the organizer's wildcard pick, but the other two times he qualifed through the World Cup.) Or will Vachier-Lagrave stay alive as he hopes to reach the Candidates for the first time in his career? Can Ivanchuk survive the top remaining seed, Aronian, and show that his glory days are still going? And will the young upstarts Fedoseev and Rapport (22 and 21 years old, respectively) be put in their place by their elderly opponents (So and Ding Liren; 23 and 24 years old, respectively)?

    Wednesday
    Sep132017

    World Cup, Round 4, Day 2: Aronian, Ding Liren, and Ivanchuk Advance

    There were three decisive games today, and there are three players advancing to round 5, but there isn't a one-to-one correlation between the two "threes". Ding Liren defeated Wang Hao in a good game with White in a Catalan, but if Wang Hao had known about an earlier game - or simply found the right idea on move 22 - the game probably would have finished in a draw, and they'd be off to tomorrow's tiebreaks.

    Levon Aronian also won, defeating Daniil Dubov in a long game. Aronian reached a theoretically won ending, and while he had time at the start to figure out how to win it, he didn't hit on the right plan. Over the course of the next many moves, he even allowed Dubov numerous chances to draw, but Dubov - who had the time and ability to work out his drawing opportunities - thought it was the better strategy to keep blitzing Aronian. It backfired. It took Aronian seemingly forever, but around 40 moves later than he could have won, he finally hit on the right strategy - though he still managed to give Dubov one more (missed) drawing chance after that. Should Dubov have taken his time? The problem is that if he did, at a moment when he didn't have a draw, it could very well have given Aronian the chance to work out the winning plan. So I think Dubov was generally right to blitz - given his correct assumption that the ending was generally lost. But there were several positions where it looked like he could have an escape, and that's where it would have made sense to slow down and look. It's a risk, but there I think it's worth taking. Anyway, he's out, and Aronian advances.

    The day's third winner was Maxim Rodshtein, who leveled his match with Vladimir Fedoseev. The game was an odd echo of the previous day's game: both won with Black after creating complications starting with a dubious ...g5 pawn sac. Fedoseev seemed too intent on playing for a draw - certainly in the opening - and it allowed Rodshtein to make lots of trouble for him. His reward: tiebreaks tomorrow.

    The third player to advance is Vassily Ivanchuk, who was beating Anish Giri today, too, but he made Giri an offer he couldn't refuse: allow an immediate repetition or be dead lost. Giri chose to keep most of his rating points, and called it a tournament. Ivanchuk, meanwhile, will play Aronian in the quarter-finals in the only match that's set so far.

    The other four games finished in draws and will result in tiebreaks. Alexander Grischuk vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was a 13-move draw; apparently Grischuk is reverting to his gruesome but effective strategy from Kazan Candidates matches a few years ago, where he would draw all his classical games with White without a fight and then hang on desperately with Black, aiming to reach the rapid and blitz tiebreaks.

    Bu Xiangzhi vs. Peter Svidler was also a short draw, but this doesn't seem to have been by design. Bu was outplayed in the opening, and was pulling on the emergency brake before things got out of hand.

    Baadur Jobava outplayed Wesley So and had him on the ropes, but So saved the game by creating a fortress in the ending.

    Finally, Evgeny Najer and Richard Rapport had a hard-fought draw. It looks like Najer generally had the better chances, but Rapport was never at death's door.

    Games, with mostly brief comments, here.

    Monday
    Aug222016

    Mark Dvoretsky Endgame Videos

    There's a nice video series by Mark Dvoretsky (hosted by Jan Gustafsson) on endgame play (on Chess24) that's worth your while, especially (as is generally the case with Dvoretsky's material) if you're at least 1800-2000 in strength. (Of course you can learn plenty from him even if you're not yet of that strength, but he does pitch his material higher rather than lower.) His elocution could be better, but the material is excellent.

    Thursday
    Aug112016

    Sinquefield Cup at the Break: Topalov Leads with Plus-Two

    Wednesday was a rest day for the participants in the Sinquefield Cup, and before that was round 5. In the two previous rounds all the games were drawn, and the first four (of five) games to finish on Tuesday also finished peacefully. One game remained, between Veselin Topalov and Ding Liren, and although Topalov was winning earlier and still had some advantage, it seemed to be headed for a draw as well. But that's when it got interesting, as you can see for yourself.

    Round 6 is today, with these pairings:

    • So (3) - Topalov (3.5)
    • Aronian (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
    • Giri (2) - Anand (3)
    • Nakamura (2.5) - Caruana (2.5)
    • Ding Liren (2) - Svidler (1.5)

    Monday
    Mar282016

    An Endgame Quiz for Science

    Test your endgame knowledge and skill here, and make a contribution to science. (HT: Hylen) If you're game, leave a comment with your score and your rating; I'll kick things off with the first comment.

    Tuesday
    Jun102014

    A Short Review of Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics

    G. C. Van Perlo, Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics: A Comprehensive Guide to the Sunny Side of Chess Endgames(New, Improved and Expanded Edition) (New in Chess, 2014). 607 pp., $34.95/$29.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    This fascinating and delightful book may not be the "best" endgame work ever written, but it's probably the most enjoyable book on the subject. The late G.C. van Perlo, who passed away in 2010, was a correspondence chess grandmaster and a terrific writer, and the first edition of Endgame Tactics won lots of awards when it came out in 2006. There were minor changes in the next two editions - corrections to mistaken analyses - but this latest edition has some significant additions - it's 25% bigger, according to the back cover. Van Perlo had finished a new book on rook endings that was similar in style to what he had done in the rook endings section of Endgame Tactics. The book hadn't yet been published, so it was decided to add it here as a new and large chapter to his already sizable masterwork.

    For those who are new to the book, it consists of a huge number of endgame positions which mostly involve some tactical nicety or niceties (thus the book's title) - fine points which are often missed. A huge part of the book's charm comes from the author's writing. Van Perlo writes with a good deal of punchy humor and puts a psychological twist on many of the fragments, and both work well given the huge number of heartbreaking failures displayed in the book.

    In all there are a whopping 1368 fragments, 75 of which are official exercises included in the material new to this edition. As in traditional endgame texts, the positions are divided by material (pawn endings, queen endings, rook endings, minor piece endings and so on, with further subdivisions as appropriate) and then often further divided by themes.

    Anyhow, the book has been reviewed and praised many times over the past eight years, so rather than gild the lily and bring coal to Newcastle I'll stop here and join the chorus. It's a great book, and one practically every chess player of whatever strength can and will enjoy, whether he is a fan of endgames or not. The book can be used to help learn endgames, to practice tactics, and even just for the sheer pleasure of seeing beautiful tactical ideas and/or for the occasion guilty pleasure of schadenfreude.

    Recommended to all chess players.

    Saturday
    Nov022013

    The Karpov-Muzychuk Endings From Cap d'Agde

    In my summary post on Cap d'Agde, I mentioned a long and fascinating ending between Anatoly Karpov and Mariya Muzychuk from their semi-final match. Here it is, with my annotations.

    Tuesday
    Aug272013

    2013 World Cup: Round 6, Day 2: Two More Draws

    The pain, the pain! At least that's how Vladimir Kramnik must feel, and it's a pain surely shared by his fans (if only to a lesser extent). The game between Evgeny Tomashevsky and Dmitry Andreikin was richer than yesterday's 16-move draw, but it was still relatively short and uneventful. In the other game, though, Kramnik ground away in a pawn-up ending with rooks and knights and all the pawns on the kingside.

    Objectively it should have been a draw, but Maxime Vachier-Lagrave failed to handle the tension and blundered with 58...Rf1+?? What he should have played was 58...Nd6. Black's position would remain tenable, though Kramnik could keep trying indefinitely. Instead, after 58...Rf1+?? 59.Ke3 it was no longer possible to play 59...Nd6 (or 59...Nxg5, for that matter) on account of 60.Ng6+ Kf7 61.Rf8+, skewering the king and rook. At death's door, Vachier-Lagrave found the only way to continue: 59...g6! 60.fxg6 Kg7! 61.gxf7 Kxf7. With a rook, knight and pawn against Vachier-Lagrave's bare rook White's position was winning, but one bit of work remained. White's pieces were poorly coordinated, and his knight and pawn were a little vulnerable. If Kramnik could re-establish the harmony of his forces his opponent could resign, and then Kramnik would be in the final and qualify for the Candidates' tournament via the World Cup, leaving the second automatic rating qualification spot for the Candidates' to Sergey Karjakin.

    I was watching the live coverage at this moment, and several thoughts ran through my mind. First, I remembered Kramnik's complaint during this tournament that he would have various lapses in concentration, when he would prematurely relax, and wondered if this too might be such a moment. Indeed, Kramnik has had such problems throughout his career, going back as far as the mid-1990s (several examples are mentioned in his best games book, co-written with Damsky). As a fan I hoped he would bear down and solve the final puzzle of the game, and was both spooked by and a made slightly hopeful by game 4 of his match with Kasparov. The same material balance existed there, and there too Kramnik's knight and pawn were rather awkwardly placed. In that game he failed to find the win - the spooky part - but I hoped that the process of having analyzed that game and a realization of the potential trickiness of the ending would place him in good stead for this game.

    Nope. The key variation Kramnik needed to work through started with 62.Nd7 (natural enough, but the critical moment comes later) 62...Rf5 63.Rf8+ Kg6 64.Rg8+! Kf7 and now 65.Ke4!! This clever in-between move is most likely what he missed, with the further crucial point that 65...Ra5 66.Ne5+! saves the pawn, as 66...Kxg5 67.Rf5+! wins the rook: 67...Kh4/Kh6 is met by 68.Nf3+/Ng4+ and 69.Rxa5.

    With more time on the clock or more energy, Kramnik (or any other strong grandmaster, and probably some "weak" ones too) would almost definitely be able to find that variation and work it out to the finish. There are some subtle moves, but in general the line is forcing enough that one won't get lost in a maze of variations. Whether from fatigue or a lack of time Kramnik didn't manage to find this one chance, and Vachier-Lagrave managed to achieve a fortress. White's forces were completely tied down, and the only way to attempt progress was to surrender the pawn and hope to win with rook and knight vs. rook. That ending is a fairly easy draw as long as the defender's king doesn't start out in a (very) bad position, and Vachier-Lagrave saved it without too much trouble. (The game is here, with the my comments above reproduced therein.)

    Both matches are therefore going to tiebreaks, and we'll see if the "tie-break beggars" as Anish Giri labeled both Andreikin and Vachier-Lagrave (for their willingness to throw away the white pieces and then hold on with Black to try their chances at the faster time controls) manage to achieve success.

    Saturday
    Oct152011

    A Mini-Review of Dvoretsky's _Endgame Manual, 3rd Edition_

    Mark Dvoretsky, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, 3rd Edition (Russell Enterprises 2011). 405 pp. $34.95.

    I can make this review really quick: if you don't have an earlier edition, buy this one; if you do, then don't.

    There's no fundamentally new material here, just some tidying up of the earlier analysis here and there (but where in particular, neither the author nor the publisher gives us any advance clue*) and a slightly improved color scheme for the print. Otherwise, there's no difference between this edition and its predecessor. You might at first be fooled into thinking there are three more pages in the new edition, but that's because the page counted started two pages earlier, with the title page and its overleaf, plus the purely pro forma publisher's preface to this edition.

    So while there may not be much reason to get the "mini-upgrade", it's very much worth buying if you don't have an earlier version. This large and widely, rightly praised volume serves a dual function: it provides all the standard theory you'd expect in an endgame textbook, but has a strong practical component as well. Dvoretsky emphasizes typical techniques and mistakes, highlights and focuses in on what's foundational and builds from there, provides numerous exercises, and presents content not only by material but thematic elements as well. The reader isn't just given theory but loads of practical content as well.

    If you're around 1800-1900 and up, definitely get the book if you don't already have it. (Even an industrious 1600 could benefit considerably from the book.) There are other good endgame books (and videos) out there, but this is about as close to a must-have book as there is in chess, certainly for endgame play.

     

    * Maybe this silence has been done in the hopes of getting owners of the old editions to buy this one. After all, if they know where the changes are, they can just scan those pages (either figuratively or literally) and not bother buying the new book. Fine, but what about the people who actually buy it - do they really have to sit there with the two books side by side, poring over 400 pages in each, to see what the changes are and if they're significant? Not nice.

    Wednesday
    May112011

    Karsten Müller's Chess Endgames, Volume 7

    German Grandmaster Karsten Müller has been known for a long time as an endgame authority; indeed, one might call him the Yuri Averbakh of our generation. He has written some useful endgame books, and over the last few years he has released a series of DVDs with ChessBase covering the last phase of the game. The early volumes in the series focused on theoretical endings, while more recent disks have turned to principles and concepts.

    Volume 7 is a bit of a grab bag, in that the contents are extremely diverse. The chapters are numbered in the broad context of the series, and on this disk you'll find chapters 10-16, which are as follows:

    Chapter 10: Weaknesses (14 clips)

    Chapter 11: The Art of Pawn Play (15 clips)

    Chapter 12: Converting an Advantage (11 clips)

    Chapter 13: Stalemate (8 clips)

    Chapter 14: Fortresses (12 clips)

    Chapter 15: The Art of Defense (6 clips)

    Chapter 16: Typical Mistakes (7 clips)

    That makes 73 clips in all, which suggests that this is either the longest DVD in history, with a compression algorithm many years ahead of its time, or else the clips are fairly short. As you've guessed, it's the latter: they typically run in the neighborhood of 4-8 minutes, with a total running time of 5 hours and 40 minutes.

    Because the disk treats general topics, it's not some sort of manual. The clips, and the game fragments discussed therein, are not intended to be exhaustive treatments or material to memorize. If anything is to be memorized, it is at the level of principles like "do not hurry" and the "principle of two weaknesses". That said, it would be just as wrong to take a passive attitude towards the videos, letting them wash over one's head like water from a shower. The best way to go at it is to stop the clips at the start (Müller generally prompts the viewer at the right time) and try - really try - to solve the position before going on. To attack the clips in that way will give the viewer the maximum benefit, not only for really grasping the particular lesson of the video, but also as just good old-fashion exercise. Chess is about calculating and solving problems, and Müller's material is well-suited to that end. It doesn't hurt, either, that the clips are all bite-sized, so there's no need to invest an hour going through a single exercise.

    Müller is a good pedagogue, the topics are important and the examples are well-chosen. Accordingly, this disk is recommended - at least to viewers who will use it patiently!