Stubbornness is a Virtue

Stubbornness is a Virtue

| 7 | Endgames

Today, we continue exploring the endgame from the last week article. Here, we will look at my second game in this endgame and the actual Aronian- Grischuk game. I learned a lot from playing out this position, learned not only a lot about this particular endgame but about the general knight and rook tandem. We got a pretty good sense of how to convert the extra pawn: the best placement for the rook and the knight. What we did not manage to do is to hold the position for black.

It is hard to defend down a pawn, having no counterplay. It is also a psychologically tough task because one has to defend for a very long time with barely a blink of hope for salvation. During such moments it is useful to tell yourself something like: “I am going to make a move that does not lose right away, a move that keeps the game going.” The longer the game is going the more chances for the opponents to go wrong. Here is the game:

The important ideas from the game are:

  • Getting the king into the game is a dangerous but rewarding task. I ended up falling for the fork in the end because my king was in the center pinned. On the other hand, the king on e5 was very active and attacked the e4-pawn.
  • Black’s a-pawn is weak, so one plan involves trading the a-pawn for the white g-pawn and trying to create a passed pawn on the kingside.
  • In the pawn ending white was completely winning but still had a chance to slip.

The training games covered many ideas such as: king activity, importance of a passed pawn, rook placement, knight maneuvers etc. However, after looking at the actual Aronian-Grischuk game, I realized how limited and poor my endgame knowledge and technique is. These two giants created a masterpiece. This game I can compare to some of the endgames from former World Champion Smyslov’s practice. White slowly built up his position, while black managed to counter the worst threats and did not let his position deteriorate. The strategy that the two players chose in the game is important because this is the strategy you will see in all top-level games.

Aronian, playing white did not rush pushing passed pawns and did not deflect his attention with any other weird plans. He kept improving the position of his pieces while defending against black’s threats. Only after his pieces were placed ideally did he start pushing the pawns. Is this something you should always do? No, if pushing a passed pawn gives you advantage then you should push it. However, in most cases the defensive side retains a solid enough position to counter the most direct threat (pushing the passed pawn). Then, you need to build up more advantage by improving the position to the maximum. This works when your opponent does not have counterplay-- I mean when you have time.

Let us discuss the strategy that Grischuk, who was playing black was following. He combined active defense with counter-threats to keep his game afloat. By active defense I mean moves a3 with rook controlling either open b or open d-files. He did not put his rook in front of white pawns, something most of us will do, instead he kept it on the open files. Grischuk brought his king to fight with the passed pawns and his knight happened to play a key role in annoying and discoordinating the white pieces. What Grischuk managed to do, which I and my sparring partner did not, is to keep the game going: he made move after move that kept his position alive. Aronian in the end made a mistake and it cost him the game: he was tired and the game was a very long one. I hope you like the game as much as I did:

An outstanding game that showed how much fighting spirit both Aronian and Grischuk have. Grischuk went all the way to the finals in the Candidates Matches, only to lose to Gelfand. This game is an excellent example of Grischuk’s resourcefulness and ability to put problem after problem before the opponent.

For the next week here is the position:


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