The State Championship marks the beginning of the chess year here in the Capital District. The next usual steps are the various club events. I have heard from Richard Chu, the President of the Schenectady Chess Club that the dates are set for the beginning of their season. The organizational meeting will held on September 25 at the Club on Aqueduct Road. The Championship tournament is to begin on October 9. If you are considering playing in the Schenectady event, it is advisable to attend the organizational meeting. It is there the format and rules for the tournament are hashed out, and you can have your say in how the event will be conducted.
The 136th NYS Championship took place over the Labor Day weekend. It was well attended with 231 participants. The Open Section was headed by two famous names; Gata Kamsky and Maxim Dlugy. GM Kamsky is a New York State resident and with a 5 ½ – ½ score he took the title and won the tournament is fine style. GM Dlugy was his only opponent to hold Gata to a draw. That happened in Round 4. Dlugy and Bonin tied for second place with identical 4 ½ – 1 ½ scores. Jay Bonin lost to Kamsky, and Dlugy to IM Tim Taylor, both in Round 5.
Of the local players Patrick Chi was the highest finisher, 4-2 points tied with five others just behind the top three. A good result for Patrick and he picked up a handful of rating points.
In the Under 2100 Section Andrew Ardito won going away with a 5 ½ – ½ tally. He was so far ahead of his competition that he was able to take a half-point bye in the final round and secure the victory. The best local finisher was Jeremy Berman at 4 – 2. His only loss was to Ardito.
The Under 1800 Section was won Alan Geiger with 5 ½ – ½. Mr. Geiger was something of a surprise winner. Going in his rating was 1485! He had not played in USCF rated event sine 1997. His long break must have been well used to achieve such a victory.
Mingrui Liu won the Under 1500 Section with a 5 – 1 score. This is quite an accomplishment with less than one year‘s experience. Liu began the event with a just 1284 rating and finished with 1461!
The Under 1200 Section was won by Nippon Makkar with a perfect 6 – 0 score. This was Nippon’s first rated tournament. It will be hard to improve on that standard.
At serious chess events, matches and tournaments, we see the players diligently recording their games. I wonder how many players analyze these laboriously recorded games? Many study only master games, opening monographs, and endgame manuals. I think we, the local non-masters, are missing the boat. Our own games can provide grist for the learning mill. Just playing over our triumphs and failings while looking for specific improvements is not the only or best way to use our own games for study. Here is some thoughts on that subject:
A few years back Chuck Eson of the Albany Chess Club and I worked together on some of his games. We were specifically trying to improve his results. Chuck seemed to do well up to a certain point in many games, then disasters happened. From one particular game we found a position that I dubbed: the Eson Position:
Mr. Eson misplayed this ending and permitted the following formation to come about:
Beginners often fall into this sort of positional problem; the Black pawn is so far advanced that it cripples White’s K-side majority. Even players with some experience encounter the problem occasionally. If White tries to advance his g-pawn, Black then takes on g3. The thing that allows this error to be made easily is that White’s King is not too far from the scene, and White can err by relying on this closeness in his calculations. In the Eson position the existence of the passed e-pawn is decisive after the Black h-pawn goes to h4. Then the advance of the White g-pawn permit’s the creation of passed Black e and g-pawns, and they are immune from capture freeing the Black King to go after the outside passed pawn.
Up to this point the Eson position is only moderately interesting to the more advanced player. The standard solution for White is: 1 g3 a5 2 h3, (White does not need to move his Q-side pawns, but Black must move his. Every step forward the Black pawns make bring them closer to the White King.) 2…, b5 3 g4 h4 4 a4, (A timely use of a tempo. White does not want to rush the creation of a passed pawn until he is well placed to harvest the Black Q-side pawns.) 4…, b4 5 c4 b3 6 c5 Kd5 7 g5, (Drawing the Black King back like a magnet.)
7…, Ke5 8 g6 Kf6 9 Kxe4 Kxg6 10 Ke5 Kg5.
The c6-pawn falls and the finish is a matter of counting. It will take White six moves to capture the c-pawn and Queen, while Black requires seven moves to Queen the h-pawn.
The ace-in-the-hole for White from a calculation point of view is, in the worst case, he might have to trade Queens, but his King is perfectly placed to win another pawn on the Q-side and again make a Queen there. Actually, if you calculate precisely, White has enough time to prevent Black from Queening. Having multiple winning possibilities is important practically. In most of our local events the time controls are Game in x minutes with a five second delay, and such endings are most often conducted in some kind of time trouble. Having the knowledge of a fall-back winning procedure gives White an insurance policy and permits quick decision making.
The above ideas are well known. As Chuck and I worked on the position I posed the question: What if there were other pieces on the board? Adding Rooks or minor pieces may change the evaluation, and if so, how much and in which direction?
Say there are Rooks on the board:
With Rooks on, White’s most forceful try is: 1 Rd4, and if Black defends pawn with 1…, Rf4; a tactical situation comes about where inaccuracy will be costly. For example: 2 g3?? Rf3+; wins for Black. Similarly, after the better move: 2 h3,.. Black may err with 2…, c5?; when 3 Rd4+, forces the Rook trade. Then the attempt to hold after 3…, Kxd4 4 Kxf4 h4 5 g3 hxg3 6 Kxg3 Kd4 7 Kf4 e3 8 Kf3,
shuts out the Black King, and the distant passed pawn will win by drawing the Black King away. White then goes after the Q-side pawns. If Black then does the same, all White has to keep in mind is not letting the Black a-pawn get beyond a5. This is done by advancing the White a-pawn to a4. When all is said and done as far straight forward pawn captures goes, the White King will be in front of his own a-pawn and the Black King behind it. That is won for White.
Instead of 2…, c5?; Black can try to create counter-play on the Q-side for his Rook with 2…, b5; and if White tries to stifle Black with 3 b4, possible is 3…, Rf1; with chances for counter-play. Very probably Black is lost even in then, but it will take twenty or so moves to demonstrate this. Black can make things more difficult for White by avoiding trading Rooks.
To sum up: White has good winning chances with Rooks added to the basic Eson position, but Black certainly has chances for counter-play.
Moving on to adding Bishops to the position. This is much more complex.
The possibilities are numerous: Same color Bishops, two flavors: light squared or dark squared, and opposite colored Bishops, Black with light and Black with dark. Because of the size of the problem set up by the question about Bishops, going into detailed lines is daunting. I will limit my comments to the following:
GM Alex Yermolinsky in his ICC series “Every Russian School Boy Knows” has covered in fine detail much about the various Bishop versus Bishop endgames. If you want to practical examples of Bishops versus Bishop battles, this series of lectures is an excellent place to begin. One thing is consistent across all the several different kinds of Bishop endgames in Yermo’s lectures is the absolute need to calculate position by position, and to do so accurately. Some general principles are good guidelines in Rook endgames, but it does not seem to be so in Bishop endings. The key factor is: while Rooks can cut off pawns on any square of a pawn’s file, Bishops have one-half the chances to do so. This fact seems to let any passed pawn move forward faster than the same pawn can do so in a similar Rook ending. The speed of advance for passed pawns in Bishop endings requires exact calculation to avoid unpleasant surprises.
We now come to the Knight versus Knight situation. The standard piece of chess wisdom is Knight endgames are very like pure pawn endgames in that they are very concrete. Dvoretsky says: “… even the tiniest change in the position generally alters the shape and outcome of the struggle.” As in pawn endings the creation of an outside passed pawn is a major factor. The inferior side, with the presence of one more piece in the mix, has more resources with which to hold the position, or alternatively, perhaps make balancing threats on some distant part of the board.
With Black to move.
As in pawn endings the relative King positions are critical. Also a great deal depends upon which side’s Knight is better placed. In this first instance White is threatening the e4-pawn. Black needs must defend his pride and joy dynamically because the other support squares, c5 and h5, can be attacked by pawns immediately. To make this study more interesting Black is on the move. Here is a sample line:
1…Nf4 2.Nxe4 Nxg2+ 3.Kf2 Kxe4 4.Kxg2 Ke3;
and we have a position where most of us can visualize much of the subsequent play. It is a counting exercise. How many moves to make a White Queen and how many moves to make a Black Queen? For White the count is nine moves. For Black the count, at first glance seems to be eight moves. However, White can try to throw a monkey wrench into the count with c2-c4 when the Black King steps onto d2. Play could continue:
5.Kh3 Kd2 6.c4 b5 7.b3 Kc3 8.Kh4 b4 9.Kxh5 Kb2 10.Kg5 Kxa2 11.h4 Kxb3 12.h5 Kxc4 13.h6 b3 14.h7 b2 15.h8Q b1Q;
when Black chances are better than White’s. A whole new type of endgame is at hand: Queen versus Queen with extra pawns. In light of this line White is better served by 2 g3, and trading his a-pawn for the Black e-pawn.
What if the Black Knight is somewhere else?
This time we will return to the situation of the basic Eson position with White on the move.
1 c4, White plays to take away squares from which the Black Knight can check the White King, 1…, a5 2 b3 Kf5 3 h3 h4 4 a3 b5 5 cxb5 cxb5 6 Kd4 Kf4 7 Nd1 a4 8 b4 Kg3 9 Ne3 Kf2 10 Nf5 Kxg2 11 Nxh4+ Kxh3 12 Nf5 Kg4 13 Ke5 Nd5 14 Kxe4 Nc3+ 15 Ke5 Kf3;
and while the position still requires careful attention, it should be drawn. What can’t be lost sight of is the sacrifice of the Knight for the last pawn. That, along with a Knight sacrifice to break free an unstoppable run of a pawn to Queen, are typical tactics in Knight endings.
It is not surprising that even strong local players might find such an endgame challenging, and particularly so when there is little time remaining on the clock. Both Bishop versus Bishop and Knight versus Knight endings have a high premium on exact calculation. What about the dreaded Bishop versus Knight ending?
The Bishop versus Knight version of the Eson position can be of four different types: 1)Black with the poorer Bishop and White with the Knight on some reasonable square, 2) Black with an aggressive Bishop and White with a reasonably placed Knight, 3) White with the aggressive Bishop and Black with a reasonable placed Knight, and finally White with a less aggressive Bishop and Black with the Knight. It should be noted that whatever color of Bishop White has, it will have considerable scope. The same is not true for Black. A Bishop on the light squares is poor for Black because it can only defend e4 while being restricted by that very pawn.
For the first situation:
Here is a sample line of play:
1.Ne2 Bf7 2.Nf4 c5 3.b3 c4 4.b4 Be8 5.Nh3 Ba4 6.c3 h4 7.Ng5 Bc6 8.Nf7+ Kf6 9.Nd6 b5 10.Nxe4+ Ke5 11.Nc5 Bxg2 12.Nxa6 Bc6 13.Nc5 Kf5 14.Kf2 Kg4 15.Ne6 Kh3 16.Kg1 Bd7 17.Nd4 Be8 18.Nf3 Kg4 19.Kf2 Kh3 20.a3 Bh5 21.Nd4 Be8;
and the game is roughly equal. The Grandmasterly wisdom I have heard quoted by someone commenting on the recent St Louis tournament: “Bad Bishops guard good pawns” seems to apply here.
For the second situation:
Here is a sample line of play:
1.Nc3 Bg5+ 2.Ke2 b5 3.Nd1 h4 4.Ne3 Bf4 5.Kf2 Kf6 6.g3 hxg3+ 7.hxg3 Bc7 8.Ng4+ Ke6 9.c3 a5 10.Ke3 Kf5 11.Nf2 Bb6+ 12.Ke2 Bd8 13.Nd1 Bc7 14. Ne3+ Ke6 15. g4 Bd8;
and clearly Black is somewhat better, but White may well hold the slightly inferior position.
For the third situation:
Play might continue:
1.g3 Ng4+ 2.Ke2 Nxh2 3.Bxb6 Kd5 4.b3 Nf3 5.Ke3 Ke5 6.Ba5 Nh2 7.Bc3+ Kf5 8.Bg7 Nf3 9.Bh6 Ne1 10.c4 Nc2+ 11.Kd2 Nb4 12.a4 Nd3 13.Bf8 Kg4 14.Ke3 Kxg3 15.Kxe4 Nc1 16.b4 h4 17.b5 axb5 18.cxb5 cxb5 19.a5 Ne2 20.Bd6+ Kg2 21.a6 Nc3+ 22.Ke5 h3 23.a7 h2 24.a8Q+ Kg1 25.Bc5+ Kf1 26.Qh1+, and White wins.
For the fourth situation:
A likely line of play is:
1.Bxa6 Ng4+ 2.Kd2 Nxh2 3.Be2 Kd4 4.c3+ Ke5 5.Bxh5 Nf1+ 6.Ke1 Ne3 7.Kf2 Nc4 8.b3 Nd2 9.c4 Kf4 10.Ke1 Ke3 11.Be2 Nb1 12.c5 b5 13.Bxb5, and White is winning.
An alternative for the fourth situation is:
This also looks to be good for White:
1.b4 Ne6 2.Bxa6 Nf4 3.Kf2 Kd4 4.Be2 e3+ 5.Kf1 Kc3 6.g3 Nd5 7.b5 cxb5 8.Ke1 Nb4 9.Bxh5 Nxa2 10.h4 Kxc2 11.Bg6+ Kc3 12.h5. Also winning for White.
In the struggle of unbalanced minor pieces it appears White has very good chances in many cases, but not all. The potential passed K-side pawn is quite important to this judgment. Also contributing to the evaluation is in this situation is the somewhat exposed advanced Black e-pawn.
A final summary of the Eson positions: The pure pawn endgame is won for White. Adding Rooks gives Black chances to find counter-play, but White can win with accurate play. Adding Bishops creates a very tough endgame battle where the better calculator has the chances. Adding Knights for both sides brings a similar conclusion. The Bishop versus Knight scenario – unbalanced minor pieces – favors White, particularly if White has the Bishop.
A couple of general rules are helpful. White should be careful about moving his Q-side pawns. With his a, b and c-pawn standing on their original squares and his King on e3, the Black King has a hard time getting at targets there. In so far as possible White wants to keep the possibility of creating a passed pawn on the K-side a viable option for as long as he can. Maybe the most important general point is: Endgames such this come up when the clocks are nearing the time limit. It is unlikely there will be sufficient time to calculate everything even though objectively that is what is required. The player is forced by circumstance to rely on his intuition. That does not mean making hasty, careless or pointless moves. Long ago Matt Katrein taught me that every move, even those made under great time pressure should have a point. Preferably it should be a threat, even a small threat is better than no threat.