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A Thin Line between Opening and Endgame

  • WIM energia
  • | Dec 2, 2011
  • | 7627 views
  • | 15 comments

With the next couple of articles we will look at transitions from openings into endgames and explore the significance of endgames in opening preparation. Gata Kamsky once gave me advice on how to study openings. In addition to theory he recommended analyzing the endgames that result from the openings and looking for common patterns there. To me it sounded a bit too much as I hardly could cope with all the theoretical lines in the opening and all the plans in the resulting middlegames. However, in some openings knowing the endgames that can happen is a must. One such opening is the Sicilian Dragon. There one should know how to play endgames down an exchange or down a piece or even down a rook!

Last weekend I got to play a game against fellow chess.com contributor IM Danny Rensch. The opening and middlegame was a good choice for me as I got the endgame I was striving for. After getting into the endgame I realized that I have very little knowledge of how to play an endgame down a rook for four pawns. Recalling brilliant games by Radjabov who plays the Dragon really well I couldn’t remember a single general idea from his games.

In the end, ideas and plans are what will help you to navigate an unknown position. To acquire them one needs to invest time studying similar positions and eventually build a feel for them. Here we will look at the game and analyze the endgame in detail. The opening is not of particular interest to this article but I would like to mention that it is one of the sidelines and black does not achieve equality if the opponent plays well. It is useful to have such side lines in order to avoid preparation and to surprise the opponent. Let us look at the opening and the resulting position.

This is the first critical moment of the endgame. I have a choice of trading rooks or bishops. During the game I did not even consider the rook trade as somehow I thought that retaining one rook was a must. However, it turns out that leaving two bishops might have been a good if not a better decision for black. The bishop on g4 plays an important role in the endgame – it controls the critical d1-square, so the rook cannot get on the d-file. Two bishops have perfect control over the board. After trading a pair of rooks, the black king will not need to worry about coming under attack. Before returning to the game let us look at the analysis of the rook trade.

What are the takeaways from this line? Having two bishops instead of bishop and rook is good for black because the rook on h1 does not get into the game. White needs to spend a few tempi on the bishop trade after which the rook can try to get into the black camp. With such a massive pawn chain there are no open lines that the rook can use as avenues to attack black pawns. Meanwhile, black advances the f- and e-pawns with the help of the king, and the position remains unclear. Let us get back to the game and see what happened after I traded the bishops instead.

What happened in the above episode was more or less principled. I chose the most aggressive continuation of pushing the f-pawn as far as possible but gave up the 7th- rank to the white rook. The risks of the continuation I chose are obvious: loss of the a-pawn, getting my king under attack, losing the f-pawn etc. However, there are high gains: if I get the pawn too far it will be a major power and nothing else will matter.

During the game it was hard to assess the risks and to evaluate the resulting positions. It was extremely tempting to play solidly and not allow the rook to the 7th- rank. I realized that if he gets the knight into the game then advancing the pawns would be much harder. I believe and Houdini also believes that the decision started with f5 was the correct one. Rensch played it safe and did not chase after the a7-pawn but instead brought the knight into the game which was correct. After the two of us implemented the attack- defense plans the questions is what is next?

Obviously, the f- pawn on its own will not queen; it needs the help of either the g- or the e-pawn. Which one to push? Or should I bring the king into the game? Currently, the bishop is under attack. Should I put it on d4, defending the a7-pawn or should I retain it on c3 by the b4 move? The advantage of the bishop on c3 is that it controls the important e1-square and white cannot play Re1. On the other hand the a7-pawn is lost and with the knight on d3 he can start harassing the pawn on b4. The next episode of the game is the most complex. We had to calculate and evaluate an increasingly high number of variations. You don’t have to see all of the lines, what you have to do is to have faith in the plan you have chosen. During the game I started the right plan but in the middle of it the variations turned into a mess and I no longer believed in the plan and derailed, losing on the spot.

Overall, it was an extremely complex and interesting game. After the opening black sacrificed an exchange but got some counterplay in return. White allowed an exchange combination that got me four pawns for a rook. The next stage of the game we both played well, being consistent with plan implementation, after which I made the mistake of not following the plan I mapped out, resulting in immediate loss. The price of a move is extremely high when there is a race of who is faster. Relying on intuition and being unafraid to risk is necessary. My guess is that next time I get four pawns for a rook I will play it better because of this game experience. I hope you will too!

Comments


  • 2 years ago

    losscause

    Laughing

  • 2 years ago

    Zakb

    this is awesome analysis !

  • 2 years ago

    LongLiveMyKing

    I think this was a very instructive example of the endgame imbalance (Sicilian Defense Dragon variation pawn structure) 4 pawns vs. rook.  I admit that previously I had probably put too much of my time into studying the opening phase.  Although, I came to the conclusion that every opening (Perhaps I should say pawn structure) extends beyond just the opening phase.  Most of my study was understanding and attempting to master the middlegames and endgames of specific pawn structures and typical imbalances for the openings that I play.  Fortunately, I learned so much about the specific opening I would choose for my opening repertoire that within a few weeks of study, I would have a line that I don't enjoy playing against or some flaw that I wanted to get rid of.  While it was not practical to repeatedly switch my opening repertoire, it helped me study and play all sorts of openings and pawn structures which helped improve my game drastically.  In fact, my rating increased from 600 to 1900 elo in about 2 years.  Although eventually I learned that it was a much better idea to study all parts of the game atleat somewhat individually.  For example, theoretical endgame postions that are significant for a chess players knowledge will not arise from a specific pawn structure and be part of opening study.  During my time in studying the Sicilian Dragon, I investigated postions with opposite side castling (Yugoslav Attack) when probably 50% of the time Black will execute a typical exchange sacrifice ...Rxc3 to severely weaken white's kingside when play becomes rather complicated and very difficult to objectively evaluate.  However, this is the first time I have come across a position in which not only does Black execute the exchange sacrifice, but Black also creates an even more double edged imbalance by sacrificing a piece for 4 pawns.  This was a very instructive game between players I am quite farmiliar with and will be a game that I will not forget so easily!!!

  • 2 years ago

    jugdernamjil

    cheers

  • 2 years ago

    jinnah89

    good analysis.

  • 2 years ago

    jocheckoh

    it's hard being brave, thanks for the game, rish is an important aspect of chess which requires faith in a position

  • 2 years ago

    jwalexander

    Enjoyed the article, thank you.

  • 2 years ago

    sryiwannadraw

    Thank you

  • 2 years ago

    bumblebee84

    I just recently played a game where the other guy had 3 pawns for his bishop. He ended up winning by resignation though becuase I tryed to take advantage of my passed pawn but it didn't work. Check out the game here:

    http://www.chess.com/livechess/game.html?id=214090007

  • 2 years ago

    MSC157

    Great! Rook for 4 pawns. Fascinant! :)

  • 2 years ago

    chessrube

    excellent article, thanks for writing it

  • 2 years ago

    godbobby

    quiet good!!!!!!!!

  • 2 years ago

    Nikanadib

    Useful article, thanks.

  • 2 years ago

    kcsmith169

    Excellent, thanks!

  • 2 years ago

    mgomes1

    Very good article, excellent subject...thanks!

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