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From Opening to Endgame: Ulf's Endgame

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Dec 26, 2013
  • | 9551 views
  • | 21 comments

The great Swedish player Ulf Andersson is well known as a master of the endgame, and created quite a few masterpieces in this area of chess. Naturally, he was happy to go straight from the opening to the endgame whenever possible. One of his specialties was the following queenless middlegame, which arises after only seven moves, when White tries to avoid the Grünfeld Defense by playing 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1

I have even heard a tale somewhere that Andersson was happy to play blitz, but wanted all games to start from this endgame! Here we have chess, but with the queens (and a pair of knights) removed. In a way it makes it simpler, but in another way it makes it more complex. It is not always easy to perceive the small mistakes which lead to defeat or victory from this position.

The importance of this endgame is that by this move order White is trying to avoid the Grünfeld Defense proper by delaying d2-d4 and then recapturing on c3 with the d-pawn. How can we evaluate the starting position of this endgame?

We can see that White already has slightly the freer play. The white pawn has reached e4, while the black e-pawn cannot yet do that, and to manage to play ...e5 Black will have to play the slightly awkward moves ...f6 or ...Nd7. The white bishops can easily develop to active posts such as c4 and f4, e3, or g5. Black in turn has played the move ...g6, but it is far from clear that the bishop will be well placed on g7, where it faces a sturdy pawn on c3. It is likely that the bishop will be happier on c5.

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A young Andersson, in 1971 | Image Wikipedia

The White king has been "disturbed", but this is not really a relevant factor. After one move - Kc2 - the king will stand perfectly well. It is more likely that the black king will face problems. However, one important point worth noting, when the white king is on c2, is that f2 can be vulnerable.

Overall, it is clear that White has some advantages. That's not really in doubt. The question, however, is whether he can make any use of them to obtain a long-term advantage. If not, and if Black can complete his development and equalize space in the center (carry out ...f6 and ...e5), then the game will be fully equal. Basically I think it is a simpler mirror of the initial position in chess - Black needs to be somewhat more careful than White at the beginning of the game, but then he can look forward to a full game of chess.

First, let's see two classic examples of Ulf Andersson winning as White in this ending.

Now to see the other side of the story, let's observe how a super-GM quickly equalizes and then smoothly outplays his opponent with the black pieces.

How to summarize this endgame? Two very important positional motifs stand out. First of all, the exchange of bishops. In general White wants to exchange light-squared bishops, and Black wants to exchange dark-squared  bishops. Second, the battle for space on the queenside is important. Nepomniachtchi in the above example gained a lot of space on the queenside by ...a5, ...b5 and ...a4 and this was the key to his victory. In the game Andersson-Franco Ocampos, Ulf Andersson managed to play b4-b5, a4-a5, etc. and gained an initiative on the queenside (in addition to effecting the ideal exchange of minor pieces). 

Overall I believe that it is possible to play for a win on either side of this endgame. Basically White has the only advantages as the endgame begins, but they are temporary. White is better when nobody knows anything, but by now the correct methods of play for Black have been worked out, and thus he can most likely equalize, after which a game of chess begins, albeit in a simplified version.


RELATED STUDY MATERIAL

View more games with this Grünfeld Endgame position;

Read Ulf Andersson's entry in Chessopedia;

Watch GM Dejan Bojkov's video General Strategy: When To Exchange Pieces;

Reach GM-elect Bryan Smith's article Space in the Ending.

Comments


  • 8 months ago

    SergioLin0

    Belo, exemplo !!!

  • 8 months ago

    yureesystem

    Thank you NM. Petrosianic for sharing these two games, I view Karpov games against Ulf Andersson and it is one those unknow masterpiece I never get tired of. In both of these game Ulf does a positional exchange sacrifice to control the black squares; it is the first time I went over the game with Kasparov against Anderssen, you can see Garry was try to win this game but Ulf held and drew.

  • 8 months ago

    yureesystem

    Thank you IM. Bryan for a wonderful article and I feel these type of endgame position can make a player stronger, knowing when to exchange a piece is one the most difficult decision player can make.

  • 8 months ago

    jayaaguse

    Thank you so much.

  • 8 months ago

    Prashanth-Sriram

    I like me  i.e Prashanth

  • 8 months ago

    Prashanth-Sriram

  • 8 months ago

    welboy

    chess is my life

  • 8 months ago

    opticRED

    I love this article and I love this book! (my second favorite book is Karpov Endgame Virtuouso)

     

  • 8 months ago

    Nakakalungkot_naman

    Embarassed what a cretical move for andersson

  • 8 months ago

    knide

    Ulf Anderson is possitional player right?

  • 8 months ago

    TheMadCuban

    Que Bueno!

  • 8 months ago

    NM Petrosianic

    ulf's games are great pleasure to play through when not making 11 move draws with white.  the former world no. 3 has a tremendous knowledge of square control, phenomenal endgame and defensive technique.  he also was a world class correspondence chess player.

    it seemed to me that he lost rarely, but that he was less afraid of losing than he is in making mistakes, once resigning a complicated but objectively equal position to a young Magnus Carlsen still with a few minutes on his clock, and i would surmise this in part is reason why he does not seem to play so often at a professional level in addition to the fatigue that occurs in playing such long and intense games of chess!  he would often beat top gms given the slightest advantage in the endgame and sometimes with no advantage at all.

  • 8 months ago

    bays_al

    nice article, thanks

  • 8 months ago

    cphmmlb

    always nice to watch ulf playing 'easy endings'.

  • 8 months ago

    DIGA9292

    it's to early for franco to resign against andersson

  • 8 months ago

    PennytheGrandMaster

    good article bryan!

  • 8 months ago

    upen2002

    Loved it !Kiss

  • 8 months ago

    upen2002

    awsome article

  • 8 months ago

    upen2002

    thanks

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