Carlsen's Endgame Technique Part II + Debunking the Queenside Majority Myth

| 17 | Strategy

In the January 5th article entitled "Carlsen's Endgame Technique," the sixth game from the Anand-Carlsen World Championship match was shown. In that game, the World Champion lost a rook endgame to the Norwegian World Champion. The lesson learned was that the quality of the pawns, not the quantity, matters in the rook endgames. Carlsen even sacrificed his pawns to achieve a passed f-pawn that was close to the queening square, and thus subsequently queened.

This endgame reminds one of the recent game between Anand and English number one Michael Adams:

In this game as well, the lone passer defeated the army of the other idle side. In fact, in both Anand-Carlsen and Anand-Adams, the real issue was that the opposing King could not get in front of the passed pawn to stop it. This principle is nothing new, but rather an application of the old theoretical belief of the advantage of the "queenside pawn majority." The idea was that, when both sides were castled on the Kingside, the queenside pawns were more effective than the Kingside soldiers because they were farther away from the Kings. This legend was due to a game played a Capablanca a long time ago:

In this game, the Queenside pawns were simply unstoppable. However, White lost because he had no counterchances on the other side of the board. The same principle even applies to Rook endgames: we all know the tale of the sacrificial rook - the rook sacrifices for the advanced pawn, while the passed pawns on the other side of the board guarantee a draw or in some cases a win for the other player. It all depends upon tempi; the "magnitude" of counterplay. The hypermodern Alekhine debunks the Tarraschian myth of the advantage of the Queenside majority:

In this game, unlike the Capablanca game, Black had very evident compensation for the Queenside majority - 1. the greater mobility of the black king, 2.the dominating position of the black rook on the only open file (Alekhine). According to him, with correct play, these points should ensure a win.

So, it's quality, not quantity of the pieces that really matters - in fact, in any position, opening, middlegame, or endgame - or the principle of "mind over matter." This is why we can say that chess is governed by the laws of harmony that are set in stone and cannot be broken down.


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