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Initiative in Endgames

  • WIM energia
  • | Sep 14, 2012
  • | 8601 views
  • | 18 comments

This article starts the series that will cover the topic of initiative in endgames. There are many definitions of what initiative is. In my own terms a player who has initiative usually dictates the play. He can create direct threats and puts the opponent on the defensive. To me initiative feels like inflicting one's own will on the opponent. It is like telling him: defend this defend that, and those threats do not necessarily have to be direct threats to his material. By threatening to occupy an open file can be as devastating as capturing a pawn. Sometimes there is a tipping point where one side loses initiative and the other one does not fail to capture it. Those are highly critical moments and in this series I will try to concentrate on these moments. We will explore the reasons why one loses the initiative and how it is possible to keep it. Initiative in modern practice is highly valued this is why I shall concentrate on games played recently. The few players that come to mind, who are extremely good at being active and creating threats in endgames are Carlsen, Nakamura and Kramnik. In today's article we will look how Carlsen at first had to defend for a long time but when time came he shot back and wasted no time in creating threats.

In this still middlegame position Bacrot has most of the pieces directed at white king. Naturally, he will choose a continuation that involves attacking motives. We can say that white has an initiative here. He will inflict his will on Carlsen at least for a while. Black has to make the most out of his initiative. It means that he has to transform it either in mating attack, material advantage or some kind of positional advantage. Speaking of positional advantage: black has two bishops but his pawn structure is inferior due to doubled c-pawns. In order to improve the position strategically black has to get rid of the doubled c-pawns. White will try to exchange black's pair of bishops. Let us see how these ideas collide in the game and who gets the most out of the position.

Carlsen managed to quench black's attack and at this point he should think what plan to choose. Black king no longer has dark-square bishop as his defender and the presence of the opposite colored bishos at the board make a case for white's attack. Carlsen places his pieces so they attack black king but keeps an eye on black's weakened pawns. Then he exchanges the bishop for the knight what even further messes up black's pawn structure. These minor improvements accumulate to an advantage.

Black c-pawns do not move, while white f and e-pawns can soon become passed pawns. Carlsen already has a small but solid advantage, whereas Bacrot does not have any active plan. Carlsen's king is cut off along the 2nd-rank but his rook and the knight are active. The most active plan involves going after the f-pawn and trying to promote the e-pawn. I am not sure what Carlsen did not like in that line but it looks very promising to me. Black would be too slow to counter this plan. Instead, Carlsen let Bacrot to get to the weak f3-pawn after which it was impossible to play for a win due to limited material present at the board.

Today we saw a game where evaluation did not swing that much. It was slightly better for black and then better for white but never decisive advantage. Bacrot had to rid of his doubled pawns and create a passed c-pawn but he concentrated on attack only and eventually it withered away leaving him with weak doubled c-pawns. Having initiative in endgame is challenging because of limited material: in the final position Carlsen could not squeeze much out of the position because with every exchange the game asymptote to equality. Carlsen also had to walk a thin line for a long time between equality and advantage. In the next articles we will explore more games to find out how to keep the initiative.

Comments


  • 22 months ago

    ClockBurner

    Wow, very interesting yet easy to understand.  I'll definitly read the other 6 articles!

  • 22 months ago

    Time4Tea

    Related to sherwin_'s comment - at move 57, why can't Carlsen create a winning passsed pawn by pushing his e-pawn?  Black can't capture because his pawn is pinned to the rook.  Is it because the king can't support it?

  • 23 months ago

    yoursisnodisgrace

    Interesting.

  • 23 months ago

    kot1977

    спасибо.

  • 23 months ago

    kauboy

    Thank you Master Zenyuk; it is very clear article; but will require much study from me!

  • 23 months ago

    WIM energia

    @e245 You are right, thanks, it is a mistypo, it should say "black" instead of white :)

  • 23 months ago

    CaesarAntolin23

    nice

  • 23 months ago

    e245

    Very good article. I am not sure only about one thing: following sentence is correct? "We can say that white has an initiative here." Is not black ho has he initiative?

  • 23 months ago

    bharani84

    very informative. Thanks for this article

  • 23 months ago

    pacaeiro

    love this explanation!!!
    Thank's :) 

  • 23 months ago

    elig5428

    great thanks for taking time to inform us. I would have liked to see the play out to the draw conclusion

  • 23 months ago

    gabriedofv

    Really interesting, thank you!

  • 23 months ago

    Renny54

    Very informative article, thank you!

  • 23 months ago

    Martin0

    Good article! Very instructive.

  • 23 months ago

    DarkSir

    Great article! I am studing the endgame... this is very useful for me, thank you :)

  • 23 months ago

    sherwin_

    57.e5

  • 23 months ago

    nyLsel

    Interesting article.

  • 23 months ago

    ferdinandplebie

    very instructive endgame lesson

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