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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Endgame Strategy 20

Pin It I would assess the position as greatly in White's favor. While material is level (our most important consideration), Black is seriously lagging in development and a knockout blowI would assess the position as greatly in White's favor. While material is level (our most important consideration), Black is seriously lagging in development and a knockout blow practically

screams to be played. After tempering my initial enthusiasm, I see that Black's position is by no means terrible. In fact, if Black can survive an impending combination his position has a number of trumps. In the first place, he has the two Bishops, giving him a long-term advantage. The b4-pawn is a plus as it hampers White's Queenside majority and makes luft awkward. There is the central d5-outpost to consider. Black might be able to plant a Bishop there which would block the d-file and further fortify the e6-pawn. Finally, if Black can play ...g7-g5 gaining a tempo by attacking the h4-Bishop he will follow with ...Bf8-e7, covering up the exposed King. In that case, Black may be able to castle, making a quick exit out of the center.From the above preliminary inspection, it is clear that White must strike while the opportunity exists. An advantage in development is only temporary. If we dither, our opponent will start to develop and will catch up. With all the White pieces ready to strike, a combination must exist but where? 20.Nf5? [The move 20.Nxe6?? is a real howler. (A move that is so terrible it causes us to howl in anguish. After the game is over and at a suitable distance from the playing hall, of course...) With the capture 20...Nxe6 White would lose a piece for no compensation whatsoever. That cannot be the right move.; While the move played, 20.Nf5 , looks good it is actually mistimed. Indeed, it is a mistake that throws away the lion's share of White's advantage. Getting to the heart of the position, we notice the a4-Knight, which has been pushed away from the center. That piece is not participating in the attack and is sitting out of play.; The key move and a winner has to be 20.Nb6! , fearlessly plunging the Knight into the game. Once we see the wondrous variation 20...Qxb6? 21.Nxe6! Qxf2 22.Nxg7# (or 22.Nc7# double check and

checkmate!!, our excitement is stirred. Yes sirree!) ; We quickly verify the variation again: 20.Nb6 Qxb6 21.Nxe6 Qxe6 , hoping to win two Knights and a Rook for the Queen. Hmm. That is a bummer. Wait! There is the move 22.Qb6! , threatening to checkmate on the d8-square while attacking the b7-Bishop. Black appears to be lost. The only try is 22...Bd5 23.Rxd5! Qxe1+ (23...Nxd5 24.Qc6# is a splendid checkmate) 24.Bxe1 Nxd5 25.Qc6+ and White wins the house.; From the above it is clear that 20.Nb6! is really stirring the juices. The Knight cannot be captured and Black is forced to answer 20...Rb8 , moving the Rook out of danger. Now the move 21.Nf5! , is really powerful. White is threatening to invade on the d7-square with decisive effect. With the d4-square vacated the move Qf2-d4 will be a killing centralization. The Queen will attack the d8-square as well as the g7-pawn. What can Black do? 21...-- a) . "Developing" by 21...Bc5?? 22.Nxg7+ Kf8 23.Nd7+ Kxg7 24.Qg3+ Kh7? (24...Ng6 25.Bf6+! and Qg3xc7 snags Black's Queen) 25.Nf6# , achieves another savory victory.; b) . It would seem that Black's only defensive try is 21...Bc6 , covering the d7-square. White's continuation is both natural and powerful: 22.Qd4 Rg8 , protecting the g7-pawn. The b6-Knight is untouchable owing to checkmate on the d8-square. Now White has the powerful centralizing move 23.Nc4! , when White has successfully repositioned his wayward a4-Knight to decisive effect. Black has to play 23...g5 to block the h4-Bishop. The simple retreat 24.Bg3 now leaves it up to Black to find a defense to the threatened Nc4-d6+ invasion. In fact, Black has no answer. Blocking with 24...Bd5 25.Nce3 unclogs the d-file thanks to the absolute pin along the e-file. After the retreat 25...Ba8 26.Ng4! the a4-Knight has completed a remarkable journey which will be shortly rewarded. Black is lost!; ] 20...g5 21.Bg3 Rc8! we now see the vital difference in White's move order and what it means. The expected grand entrance of the a4-Knight no longer delivers the goods. 22.Qd4? Another optically appealing move, which will badly miss the mark. [With 22.Nb6 Bc5! 23.Nd6+ (23.Ng7+ no longer captures a pawn. After the further moves 23...Kf8 24.Nd7+ Kxg7 25.Nxc5 Qxc5 thanks to the c8-Rook Black now wins a piece and has a won game) 23...Qxd6! 24.Rxd6 Bxf2 25.Bxf2 Rc7 , an approximately equal ending is reached. White strives for more and soon finds himself in trouble.; Either White should bail out to the equal ending in the previous note or, if he is in a feisty mood, he should play 22.Rd2 , intending to double Rooks. After 22...Rd8 23.Rxd8+ Qxd8 24.Bxf4 (the immediate 24.Qa7 Nxg2! is a highly annoying capture) 24...gxf4 25.Nc5 (25.Qa7 Qc7 keeps the a4-Knight under wraps) 25...Bd5 26.Nd3 produces a difficult position to assess. It is possible that White can squeeze out a slight plus but, equally, things can go disastrously wrong, as the attacking forces have been reduced.] 22...Rg8 23.c3? The decisive mistake! White's attack has floundered. Black is threatening to play 23...Rd8, forcing the trade of major pieces. If White is forced to play Re1xd1, recapturing a Rook, the f5-Knight is left high and dry. [White must bail out with 23.Nb6! (again the key piece enters the game, this time with the intention of rendering a perpetual check) 23...Rd8! 24.Qe3 Rxd1+ (Black must avoid 24...Bc5?? 25.Rxd8+ Kxd8 26.Qd2+ Ke8 27.Nc4! , when White has successfully repositioned his Knight with advantage) 25.Rxd1 Bc5 26.Nd7! Bxe3 (in this line Black may be inclined to sacrifice an exchange with 26...Qxd7 27.Rxd7 Bxe3 28.Rxb7 exf5 29.Rb8+ Ke7 30.Rxg8 Nxg2 31.Bc7! f4 , with an unclear position. Black's plan of ...Ng2-h4xf3 will produce a powerful passed f4-pawn, but with 32.Ba5 White should have enough counterplay either to hold the balance or even to gain an advantage) 27.Nf6+ Kf8 28.Nh7+ draw!] 23...Rd8 24.Qxd8+ Qxd8 25.Rxd8+ Kxd8 White is routed in the ending. He will have multiple pawn weaknesses and the two Bishops will strut their stuff. A promising attack lies in ruins. The final moves were: 26.Ne3 Bc6 27.Nb6 bxc3 28.bxc3 Bg7 29.Bxf4 gxf4 30.Nd1 Bb5 31.a4 Bd3+ 32.Kc1 Kc7 33.a5 Bh8 34.Kd2 Bb5 35.Rg1 Bc6 36.Ke2 Be5 37.c4 Bd4 38.Nf2 Bc3 39.Ne4 Bxa5 40.c5 f5 0–1..(press F10 for the next test) Line

practically screams to be played. After tempering my initial enthusiasm, I see that Black's position is by no means terrible. In fact, if Black can survive an impending combination his position has a number of trumps. In the first place, he has the two Bishops, giving him a long-term advantage. The b4-pawn is a plus as it hampers White's Queenside majority and makes luft awkward. There is the central d5-outpost to consider. Black might be able to plant a Bishop there which would block the d-file and further fortify the e6-pawn. Finally, if Black can play ...g7-g5 gaining a tempo by attacking the h4-Bishop he will follow with ...Bf8-e7, covering up the exposed King. In that case, Black may be able to castle, making a quick exit out of the center.From the above preliminary inspection, it is clear that White must strike while the opportunity exists. An advantage in development is only temporary. If we dither, our opponent will start to develop and will catch up. With all the White pieces ready to strike, a combination must exist but where? 20.Nf5? [The move 20.Nxe6?? is a real howler. (A move that is so terrible it causes us to howl in anguish. After the game is over and at a suitable distance from the playing hall, of course...) With the capture 20...Nxe6 White would lose a piece for no compensation whatsoever. That cannot be the right move.; While the move played, 20.Nf5 , looks good it is actually mistimed. Indeed, it is a mistake that throws away the lion's share of White's advantage. Getting to the heart of the position, we notice the a4-Knight, which has been pushed away from the center. That piece is not participating in the attack and is sitting out of play.; The key move and a winner has to be 20.Nb6! , fearlessly plunging the Knight into the game. Once we see the wondrous variation 20...Qxb6? 21.Nxe6! Qxf2 22.Nxg7# (or 22.Nc7# double check and checkmate!!, our excitement is stirred. Yes sirree!) ; We quickly verify the variation again: 20.Nb6 Qxb6 21.Nxe6 Qxe6 , hoping to win two Knights and a Rook for the Queen. Hmm. That is a bummer. Wait! There is the move 22.Qb6! , threatening to checkmate on the d8-square while attacking the b7-Bishop. Black appears to be lost. The only try is 22...Bd5 23.Rxd5! Qxe1+ (23...Nxd5 24.Qc6# is a splendid checkmate) 24.Bxe1 Nxd5 25.Qc6+ and White wins the house.; From the above it is clear that 20.Nb6! is really stirring the juices. The Knight cannot be captured and Black is forced to answer 20...Rb8 , moving the Rook out of danger. Now the move 21.Nf5! , is really powerful. White is threatening to invade on the d7-square with decisive effect. With the d4-square vacated the move Qf2-d4 will be a killing centralization. The Queen will attack the d8-square as well as the g7-pawn. What can Black do? 21...-- a) . "Developing" by 21...Bc5?? 22.Nxg7+ Kf8 23.Nd7+ Kxg7 24.Qg3+ Kh7? (24...Ng6 25.Bf6+! and Qg3xc7 snags Black's Queen) 25.Nf6# , achieves another savory victory.; b) . It would seem that Black's only defensive try is 21...Bc6 , covering the d7-square. White's continuation is both natural and powerful: 22.Qd4 Rg8 , protecting the g7-pawn. The b6-Knight is untouchable owing to checkmate on the d8-square. Now White has the powerful centralizing move 23.Nc4! , when White has successfully repositioned his wayward a4-Knight to decisive effect. Black has to play 23...g5 to block the h4-Bishop. The simple retreat 24.Bg3 now leaves it up to Black to find a defense to the threatened Nc4-d6+ invasion. In fact, Black has no answer. Blocking with 24...Bd5 25.Nce3 unclogs the d-file thanks to the absolute pin along the e-file. After the retreat 25...Ba8 26.Ng4! the a4-Knight has completed a remarkable journey which will be shortly rewarded. Black is lost!; ] 20...g5 21.Bg3 Rc8! we now see the vital difference in White's move order and what it means. The expected grand entrance of the a4-Knight no longer delivers the goods. 22.Qd4? Another optically appealing move, which will badly miss the mark. [With 22.Nb6 Bc5! 23.Nd6+ (23.Ng7+ no longer captures a pawn. After the further moves 23...Kf8 24.Nd7+ Kxg7 25.Nxc5 Qxc5 thanks to the c8-Rook Black now wins a piece and has a won game) 23...Qxd6! 24.Rxd6 Bxf2 25.Bxf2 Rc7 , an approximately equal ending is reached. White strives for more and soon finds himself in trouble.; Either White should bail out to the equal ending in the previous note or, if he is in a feisty mood, he should play 22.Rd2 , intending to double Rooks. After 22...Rd8 23.Rxd8+ Qxd8 24.Bxf4 (the immediate 24.Qa7 Nxg2! is a highly annoying capture) 24...gxf4 25.Nc5 (25.Qa7 Qc7 keeps the a4-Knight under wraps) 25...Bd5 26.Nd3 produces a difficult position to assess. It is possible that White can squeeze out a slight plus but, equally, things can go disastrously wrong, as the attacking forces have been reduced.] 22...Rg8 23.c3? The decisive mistake! White's attack has floundered. Black is threatening to play 23...Rd8, forcing the trade of major pieces. If White is forced to play Re1xd1, recapturing a Rook, the f5-Knight is left high and dry. [White must bail out with 23.Nb6! (again the key piece enters the game, this time with the intention of rendering a perpetual check) 23...Rd8! 24.Qe3 Rxd1+ (Black must avoid 24...Bc5?? 25.Rxd8+ Kxd8 26.Qd2+ Ke8 27.Nc4! , when White has successfully repositioned his Knight with advantage) 25.Rxd1 Bc5 26.Nd7! Bxe3 (in this line Black may be inclined to sacrifice an exchange with 26...Qxd7 27.Rxd7 Bxe3 28.Rxb7 exf5 29.Rb8+ Ke7 30.Rxg8 Nxg2 31.Bc7! f4 , with an unclear position. Black's plan of ...Ng2-h4xf3 will produce a powerful passed f4-pawn, but with 32.Ba5 White should have enough counterplay either to hold the balance or even to gain an advantage) 27.Nf6+ Kf8 28.Nh7+ draw!] 23...Rd8 24.Qxd8+ Qxd8 25.Rxd8+ Kxd8 White is routed in the ending. He will have multiple pawn weaknesses and the two Bishops will strut their stuff. A promising attack lies in ruins. The final moves were: 26.Ne3 Bc6 27.Nb6 bxc3 28.bxc3 Bg7 29.Bxf4 gxf4 30.Nd1 Bb5 31.a4 Bd3+ 32.Kc1 Kc7 33.a5 Bh8 34.Kd2 Bb5 35.Rg1 Bc6 36.Ke2 Be5 37.c4 Bd4 38.Nf2 Bc3 39.Ne4 Bxa5 40.c5 f5 0–1