Born in 1990.

Born in 1990.

| 18 | Endgames

I remember reading an interview a few years ago with a prominent Russian GM, I don’t remember exactly wether it was Bareev or someone else but what struck me back then was the complaint that Russia does not have enough young talented chess players who can substitute for the current generation. In the Russian Championship Superfinal 2011, there are two players who tied for the first place and played the final tie-break match for the title; they were both born in 1990. True, Karjakin, one of the two finalists, was not born Russian but Ukrainian, only recently switching the federation explaining that he “need[s] to train with good coaches”. Still, one has to give credit to the Russian chess federation which lured such a top class player as Karjakin. His talent is not new to the chess world, still holding the title of the youngest GM ever at 12 years and 7 months. While, the top player in the world Magnus Carlsen got the title being 13 years and 4 months old. Below is his rating progress over the years. It seems that he was steadily improving, no sharp jumps or stalls as you can see from the figure. From January 2008 until October 2008 there was a plateau, then loss of rating, then regaining of half of the lost amount, and then there is another plateau. Since, 2008 there seemed to be the first stall in his chess career. After switching federations there is once again a steady rise in his rating, achieving his highest rating in January 2011.


What do we know about the other finalist, Jan Nepomniachtchi? He was the leader of the juniors Russian team in the 2010 Chess Olympiad, getting bronze medal for his individual performance of 6.5/9. He won the 2010 European Championship. One of his first adult chess successes was winning the Aeroflot Open in Moscow in 2008. I participated in that tournament also, and one of my memories was Nepomniachtchi coming late to every single round and then blitzing out the first 15 or more moves. This shows how well prepared his openings are and his confidence level. Below is his rating chart, unlike Karjakin’s rating Ian’s rating had many jumps and slumps, spikes. Only in 2010 he managed to break 2700 level, while Karjakin did it two years ago. He hasn’t had that much of a chance to play in top class tournaments yet. Once he gets a pass to be a regular at super-GM round robins I believe his rating will stabilize and his life will be easier. I just think it is so much harder to keep such a high rating playing Open tournaments like Ian did: one loss to a 2500 can cost him tons of rating points.


Anyway, why did we look into the chess careers of Nepomniachtchi and Karjakin? The endgame that we will analyze today happened in their Armageddon game for the title of the Russian Champion. The first two rapid games ended in a draw. The Armageddon game rules are that whoever gets white has more time and must win, on the other hand black wins the match if he manages to draw the game. Karjakin won the choice and decided to play white. He had a winning position out of the opening but Nepomniachtchi complicated the game and managed to transfer into the following endgame. The stakes are high, white must win. Let us evaluate the position first. Glancing at the board a thought comes to mind that white is better. The extra pawn while temporary gives white an edge. The king is placed actively in the center of the board, while the black king has to defend the pinned bishop. Space advantage is given to white with the e5 and c4 pawns. All black pawns are separated and can be potentially weak. White has an extra pawn on the queenside, which is the only advantage that white can realize. The rook on g2 is active and with the next move will take either the pawn h2 or the pawn b2. The first game I chose to play white, as I had faith that white’s advantage is enough for the win. On the other hand, my coach believed that black should hold this position without too much trouble due to the fact that all the pawn weaknesses can be defended.


The following general ideas can be extracted from the endgame:

-          Allowing white the creation of the double-passed c-pawn is dangerous. Black must recapture on c5 with the bishop as soon as white takes b:c because then the threat of c6 will lead white to a decisive advantage.

-          Untying the e7-bishop with the move Ke8 should be done sooner than later.

-         Taking on h2 did not bring black benefits because the h-pawn is not too far advanced.

The game was probably the shortest that we have played among our training games. Knowing the dangers of the c-pawn in the next game black was more cautious. Since taking on h2 was not an effective defense in the analysis we agreed that either Ke8 or transferring the rook to e5 has to be tried. Also, we agreed that b4 is the strongest move in the position.


The following ideas from the game are relevant:

-          The rook on e5 is poorly placed, it does not really protect the c5 pawn because the bishop on e7 is pinned and the combination of Bb4 is floating.

-          Pawn endgames can benefit black due to the fact that black can take the c- and a-pawns in the less time than white can take the e- and the h-pawns.

-          With the king cut off along the 7th rank and facing the passed a- or b-pawn without really having counterplay related to the black passed pawns, black’s position is close to losing.

All we have left is to explore the Ke8 continuation. So far, it looks like white is much better in the other black continuations. The game features some good quality chess for a blitz match, especially for the Armageddon match, which usually turns out to be "wild." Also, think of these players finishing their last round 6-hour game, then playing 2 rapid games and finally this game. Anyone would be exhausted by now but they are still pretty young and can sustain high energy levels. Here is the actual game.


For the next week we are going to look into the following interesting endgame.


White to play, and in the game white managed to lose; find a winning plan if one exists.

More from WIM energia
A Farewell!

A Farewell!

Positional Methods From Carlsen's Play, The End

Positional Methods From Carlsen's Play, The End