Tough Defense Pays Off

Tough Defense Pays Off

| 14 | Endgames

The position that we will consider today looks very sad for black. Considering the fact that it was played between two top class players – Ivanchuk and Radjabov one can assume that white won without a problem. At such high level of play, white should be able to realize the advantage he has and go watch a nice move. However, this has not happened in the game. Radjabov is a resourceful chess player, he is famous for finding resources in the positions that look even more hopeless than this one. This is one of key characteristics of a good defender – looking for possibilities when everyone around him has already given up. What does it take to defend this position? Optimism. When the position looks bad and you discourage yourself for the earlier mistakes – just take a deep breath and tell yourself that things are not that bad and surely some resources will come up.

The discussion aside; why is white better? There are a number of components that can combine to give white advantage. First of all, all the black pieces, except the king, are hopelessly passive. Bc8 has only two squares to go, the rook on f8 is tied to the defense of the f7 – pawn and the rook on a8 attacks the a2 pawn, which is defended with the bishop. White’s king is centralized, the rook on e7 holds three black pieces: the rook, the king and the bishop. Temporarily, black is up a pawn but there is no way that he can defend the b4 – pawn. Black’s only chance is connected with pushing the queenside pawns. White’s plan is probably connected to taking the b4 pawn and pushing the a- pawn. One more important thing to mention here is that when white takes on b4, black will have an opportunity to develop the bishop to a6.

As always I played the position out and I took the black side at first because I already had  in mind one defensive idea that needed to be tested. The position is so closed that it is hard to come up with more than three ideas for black in the initial position. Which pawn to push first on the kingside?


The first game turned out to be productive idea-wise:

-          The pawns d and c are more dangerous than black pawns g and h. This is because they are further advanced and because both of the rooks support them.

-          It is worth it to trade the bad bishop on c8 but to allow the passed d-pawn. Black also gets an active rook but has to be careful of watching the d-pawn.

-          It is never too late to draw the game – even having a queen against a rook one cannot relax and has to find a few precise moves that clinch that win.

The first game was lucky for me but what did I do wrong? It looks like I tried to create passed pawns on the kingside which is a good plan. But it was too slow. I didn’t know which pawn to push first. Usually, you want to push the pawn that will become a passed pawn eventually. In our case it is the f-pawn. In the second game I decided to be more decisive – which eventually backfired. I tried this idea of stopping his h-pawn, which turned out to be a rather bad idea. But then with a good position, he pushed too hard and misevaluated the position.


Here are the important ideas featured in this game:

-          Don’t move your pawns where the opponent is stronger and where he is attacking. For this game it was the kingside where black attacked and where I made this horrible move h4.

-          The f4 move by black is a typical breakthrough maneuver, look at it and learn it because you will see it repeated in many games with the analogous pawn structure.

-          The king in the endgame remains a king, therefore one should be careful of not getting it into dangerous situations. In the game black neglected king safety and got punished for it.

The results of our games were randomized, it felt like an unseen force flipped a coin and decided who was going to win. Maybe next time we will manage to play higher quality games. There is a need for some motivation for these training games for example whoever loses has to do 20 push-ups; maybe then we will be more careful about letting our kings get in danger and winning with an extra queen.  I will let you know if we come up with a punishment for the loser as for now it is time to look at what had happened in the real game. The annotations I took from ChessBase by GM Rogozenko. Enjoy!


For next week we will look at one of Bobby Fisher's games. I recently traveled to the Sundance Festival where the screening of “Bobby Fischer Against the World” took place and in the next article I will share the experience with you.

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