Selfishness Rewarded

Selfishness Rewarded

8 | Endgames

I followed live the game Kamsky-Shulman from the US Championship and it seemed like black made logical moves but nevertheless lost. While following games live it is good to give evaluations to them as they progress. My evaluation for the first part of Kamsky’s game was that white was slightly better. Then it seemed to me that black with patient play equalized, after which somehow Shulman’s position became hopeless. From equality to lost position there were barely any moves played and I couldn’t figure out during real time what was wrong with black’s plan. To every rule there is an exception and my goal here is to investigate where black went wrong as well as to gain experience in the give position by playing training games. Here, I will present the first game that I played against my trainer.


We start from the positional evaluation that will help us to come up with a plan. In the endgame, having a plan is essential. White is better because his rooks are on the open files, while the black rooks look awkward on the a-file. White also has the potential of gaining space on the kingside as the f- and e-pawns are free to move forward. An important nuance here is that black cannot regain control of the b- or d- files because white controls the d8- square with his knight and on Rb8 there will be Bf4. Black has a weakness on c6 but it is well-protected by the rook on a6 and it is not easy to exploit it. The a4-pawn might turn out to be a strength if black manages to push a3 and to get the rook to b2. White has the important d6 square where the knight or the bishop can find a stronghold.

What are the plans for white and black? White can slowly improve… Bd2 has to go either to e3 or c3, maybe h4-Kg2, or f3-e4 – gaining space. White can also play on the d6 square with Bf4-Bd6 or Nd6, however the exchanges favor black as black needs some space for his pieces, thus white has to be careful about keeping the pressure and not trading too many pieces. For black there is a possibility of regrouping with Ke8-Nd7-Bf6 or with Ne4-Nc5. There is also the a3 plan followed by Ra4-Rc4 which gives black some room for maneuver. As we looked at the plusses and minuses of the position we were able to formulate a couple of plans; most of them will be mentioned in the following game.


Here are the ideas that one can carry home:

  • Paying attention to the opponent’s resources is one of the main principles in the endgame. I lost this game because it never occurred to me that Rc4-Rc2-Ra2 was dangerous. Firstly, I overestimated my attack and secondly, I underestimated the initiative black had on the queenside.
  • One has to have the courage to admit a mistake and return with the king as black did with the Ke8-Kf8 maneuver.
  • A pawn on a3 was the only thing that white had to keep an eye on. Black made few moves, but with a specific plan: take the pawn on a2 and promote the a-pawn. White’s play did not feature a specific plan. As the d6 square is too abstract to gain concrete advantages.
  • White’s plan could have been not allowing black to pursue his plan. A plan with prophylaxis is almost always one of the strongest plans.

What I learned is that there is a long way for me to go to improve prophylactic thinking. Mark Dvoretsky -  a famous coach - paid great attention to developing a sense of danger and prophylactic thinking in his students and since all of them became strong GMs I would not dare to question his methods. This game turned out to be an example on how important it is to pay attention to the opponent’s resources. The next week we will come back to this position and see my second training game and the real game analyzed.

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