T-t-t-t-tripled Pawns

T-t-t-t-tripled Pawns‎

WIM energia
15 | Endgames

The adjective that I heard people use describing the endgame we will study today is: weird. I would agree with this description as evaluating the rook endgame that you will see shortly is a challenge even for grandmasters. This is a kind of endgame where calculations determine the evaluation. For example, during the game I thought I was winning in most of the lines, during the post-game analysis me and my opponent came to conclusion that I was losing, while an unbiased computer evaluated the endgame as equal. This only shows how complex the endgame we are going to look at is. The complexity is partially due to a very non-traditional pawn structure. Also it is due to stereotypes not quite working here; for example is it is favorable for white to get doubled d-pawns so the e4-square is covered.

At first, let us evaluate the position. As you already guessed by looking at the pawn structure the position resulted from a Najdorf Sicilian. With his last move Na5 my opponent wants to play Nc6, which would be devastating for black. The knight will be king of the position on c6. My c4- pawn will be weak, my rook and queen will be cut off from the play, and the king will be in danger. Allowing Nc6 is unacceptable, so I have only one move in this position that will lead into the endgame. Without queens I would justify the king’s position in the centre and the rook’s placement on h8. They would be perfectly situated for the endgame, while in the middlegame their placement is questionable. Let us look at the first fragment of the endgame.

We have reached a moment where it is up to white to decide which path to take. Black’s play is easy and clear: f5-f4-f5-Kf7 and then the e4-break. White has a few options: 1) trading the knight for the bishop – this is what happened in the game, 2) attacking the black king by means of a rook transfer to the c or b- files, 3) waiting and improving the position with Nc4 and Kc2. The next fragment of the game covers these possibilities and follows what happened in the game.

For now the events developed slowly – there were multiple possibilities that both sides could choose from that would not change the positional evaluation. Now, that is not the case anymore as the price of the move increased steeply. In my opinion this is because black is about to create an Armageddon on the board with the e4-break. White will no longer enjoy peace of mind and needs either to prevent it with precise moves or continue with creating the passed d- or a-pawns. In any case, here it is time to calculate, calculate and again calculate… In the next fragment we will look at white's defensive option and an attacking option – the one he chose in the game. The end of the game is shown as well.

Of course 31. d4 was a generous gift from my opponent, which I have not anticipated. Instead of taking my pawn, Patterson gave up his pawn on f3- an unequal trade. Sacrificing pawns in endgames is risky business, which I wouldn’t recommend generally, though of course there are exceptions. Now, it is time to answer the question what happens after 31. d:e. The analysis deserves its own diagram, as the variations are rather complex and there are many unorthodox ideas to consider.

For example, during the game I did not see the Ra4 deflection idea. I calculated the lines without this move and some of them looked bad for me, which made me panic during the game. The computer shows that black is safe in all the variations which is encouraging but in the heat of the game it is hard to evaluate the position properly.


Playing this endgame was exciting and interesting but it was not easy, and thus very stressful. I am not sure if I would have found the Ra4 idea at the board; I guess that if we approached the position close enough I would eventually have seen it. I saw Ra4 ideas in endgame manuals but it is one thing to read and another thing to implement. Practice, practice, and again practice – the only recipe to learn endgames.

Next week we will revisit the rook vs. rook with bishop endgame. I say revisit because it has been covered on chess.com previously. Your homework would be to watch GM Friedel’s videos “R+B v. R: the Defense!” and “R+B v. R: Pressing!”. These videos are an excellent learning tool; I have used them to learn the endgame myself and in the next week we will look at a few recent games played with R+B v. R. The reason I want to cover the endgame here again is that during Round 7 of the Toronto Open there were two games played at the top boards where the defending side had no idea how to hold the position. It was unbelievable to watch International Masters play the endgame like beginners. What other part of the game can International Masters in a sober state misplay so badly?

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