An Intricate Endgame

An Intricate Endgame

18 | Endgames

This week I will show a very complicated endgame I played many years ago, in the 2001 World Open. My opponent was GM Pavel Blatny. This ending contains many exciting characteristics - passed pawns on both sides, mating threats, Zugzwangs. Through a series of adventures and mistakes the game finally reaches a rook and pawn ending. Here is how the game began:

After an unusual opening and middlegame, the following strange position was reached. White has two extra pawns, and basically if he can simplify the position (especially remove the d-pawn) he will win easily. Black, meanwhile, places all his hopes on the passed d-pawn and some tactical threats against f3.

In my 2002 annotations, I considered this position lost for Black, and that the move he played in the game was a clever trap — losing, but as good as any. In fact that is not correct, as the variation I intended in the game after 36...Nxg5 would lead to a draw.

White blundered seriously in the time scramble, letting a won position become devilishly complicated. Black found the excellent idea of sacrificing the Exchange, for now has kept the d-pawn alive, and White needs to find the desperate idea of bringing the king back to the center in order to hold on.

The position has simplified, and White is out of danger — of a loss, at least. But the position is still subtle and study-like. White has to make a huge decision about to which wing to send the king.

The king has escaped to the queenside. Now both the black bishop and pawn are under attack. It is clear which is the most valuable...

Just as White had to decide to which side of the board to send the king, Black now has to make a critical decision. To capture with the a- or c-pawn? One road leads to a draw, and the other...

Not a perfect game, but a very unusual one. A huge battle took place, full of strange positions, study-like themes, and time pressure mistakes; which is why I dug up this old game to include in my column.


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