Two Plans - Computer Rules.

Two Plans - Computer Rules.

| 17 | Endgames

Before looking at a training game that I had while playing this endgame let us review general ideas of why playing out endgames is important. Generally, we have more experience with openings and middlegames because these stages of the game happen more frequently than endgames do. Not to mention the amount of time one puts into studying openings…

Theoretical endgame knowledge is needed to play out precise, technical positions such as knight and bishop vs. king. It seems that the majority of endgames are not precise endgames but are random and we probably have not seen them before. It is all fine as long as we find some guidelines for every endgame. King activity, creating passed pawns, placing rooks behind passed pawns – these are universal concepts that work for most random endgames. You might know these concepts but when faced in the game with an endgame you might just forget about them or panic in time trouble and not follow them. So it is important to engrave these concepts deep within your “psyche” so even when woken up at night you can play endgames well. Playing out endgames as practice games serves this purpose. You get experience, which you might lack in tournament play because simply your games do not always reach the endgame stage.

The given endgame looks rather dull. What is so special about it? Nothing. It is just a regular endgame that I chose to play out because let’s say white will be striving to win. White is a 2600 player while black is barely 2300. The rating difference ensures a fight. If they were two 2600s then maybe the game would end here with a draw agreement. Who is better? The position is probably equal. White has a passed pawn but black put their rook behind it which means that the passed pawn’s strength is reduced by half. Black has rook and bishop vs. white’s rook and knight. R+B is a better combination as these two pieces together act like a queen: the bishop is covering the diagonals and the rook is covering the horizontal and vertical lines. Black has a king in the center from where it can either support the kingside pawns or stop the b-pawn. The bishop on e5 is well placed: it defends the weakness on d6 and blocks the breakthrough f4.

So, the position is about equal but it is only white who can play for a win because of the passed pawn. Let us come up with different plans and ideas for white. For every plan I will present a short game I played against a computer. It is different to play against a human or a computer as some of the moves the machine comes up with are mysterious and you cannot just ask after the game what it meant like you can with a human being. It is important to understand ideas behind moves when playing the machine. The computer program is ideal for those of you who do not have a sparring opponent.

Here are the plans and the games:

1.       Exchange the knight for the bishop with the Nc4-N:e5 maneuver then bring the king to the b-pawn and try to promote it.

As Plan 1 shows it is easy to overestimate this position and to end up in a losing rook endgame. Having a passed pawn in rook endgames being a pawn up sometimes is not enough for a win. In this position black clearly demonstrated the advantages of having many pawns on the kingside.

2.       Place the knight on d5, pawn on b4, and then push f4.  

This plan deserves more serious consideration as white gets an active central knight that will support the b4- and f4-breaks. It is much harder to defend for black against this plan but the computer has no problem finding the right path. Notice how every move matters. Rb2 is played to not let the white king into the game and to prevent f4. It didn’t play f5 because then there is an extra weakness on g6. The king goes to b5 without wasting extra moves on pawns. Very effective play by black, minimalistic but precise.

One tip for playing against a computer and then analyzing the game is to look at a variety of moves that correspond to the same plan but are different from those that the computer chose. This method of analyzing will uncover hidden tactics and resources for your side. With the right use, computer programs can be excellent training and learning tools. Next week we will look at the most dangerous plan for white and also how the real game continued.

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