A Master of Equal Endgames.

A Master of Equal Endgames.

| 15 | Endgames

The endgame Kamsky-Shulman is back this week. I had more success in the second game than in last week’s game. It is due to personal experience and particularly due to my shameful loss last week that I decided that I would not lose a single further game in this endgame. And since I had to play only one more game in it there was a high probability that I would figure out how to defend with black. Not that I faced the opposition of Kamsky but nevertheless a small successful defense here and there can build up into something bigger.

Let us briefly review what we said last week about this position. White is better. The knight and the rooks are putting significant pressure on the rather cramped black pieces. The black rooks have no way yet to enter the game, while the white rooks enjoy the freedom of open files. The only black advantage is the a4-pawn, which if pushed to a3 and used properly can be a significant force. Black also wants to trade pieces due to their lack of space: for example if there was no bishop on e7 the king could have stepped there. White, on the contrary would want to keep at least knights or bishops, as pure rook endgames would probably be drawn. First, we will look at the game I played and then the game by Kamsky.

The important ideas extracted from the game:

  • White was faced with a choice of which file (d- or b-) to give up. The d8 square is controlled by the white knight and all the penetration squares are covered by either black's knight or bishop. Thus, white chose to stay on the b-file as this is the file where the important squares b2 and b6 are.
  • The knight was perfectly stationed on d7, from where it attacked the c5 pawn and defended the b6 square. The pseudo-active maneuver Ne5 led to the deterioration of black’s position. Thus, sometimes humble piece placement is preferred over central active.
  • Black managed to equalize only after taking partial control of the b-file with the move Rb8.

Next, we have the real game played in the starting position. In my opinion both opponents played very well, if Shulman didn’t blunder in the end the game probably would have ended in a draw. Kamsky showed the determination of a winner by playing on and on and by putting problems before the opponent. It is worthwhile to try guessing the moves of Kamsky and Shulman and then checking if you got the moves right.


The ideas that are memorable from the game are:

  • Kamsky traded a pair of knights what has pros and cons. The advantages are that white will get to play c5 without worrying about Nd5 and will have the d7 square. The disadvantages are that black has more space for his pieces to maneuver.
  • Black tried to trade bishops and go into a rook endgame, what would be easier to defend than the bishop endgame.
  • Trading pawns is not always the easiest path to a draw. Pawns usually block files and thus help protect the rear. With the kingside annihilation Kamsky got to win a pawn because black couldn’t defend all his weaknesses at the same time.
  • Make sure to pay attention to how both opponents activated their kings. Shulman sacrificed the g-pawn but placed his king actively on d6, while Kamsky led his king to the a-pawn.

For the next week we will analyze an endgame from the recent Candidate Matches.

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