Unmovable Feast

Unmovable Feast

| 10 | Endgames

In the US, *the* annual chess celebration is not the exclusive and elite US Championship, but the World Open – the biggest US open tournament hosted in Philadelphia. Many sacrifice their time with family during the long weekend to get a shot at the big purse every rating section offers. For the second year in a row I played in the U-2400 section and I like it more than playing in the Open. The reason is that I get to play high 2300s almost every round, unlike the Open section where the opponent's rating shift from 2500 in one round to 2000 in the next. The sudden drop or increase in opponent’s strength throws me off-guard as my senses get either too loose or too sharp. Then I cannot guess the moves of my opponent because they are either too strong (played by 2500) or really weird and weak (played by low-rated opponent) and I start thinking that the opponent is messing with my head and not doing the strongest moves just to confuse me. The experience is completely different if I play someone within 100 rating points of my strength (and currently I am 2303) as playing my equal puts this nice balance in the game, which then tends to be not one-sided, but fighting and interesting. 

I played well until my 6th round horrible and fightless loss to FM Robby Adamson. My initial reaction was anger and blaming unlucky parings (Robby is a bit too strong for the U2400 section – he periodically beats strong GMs but probably his frequent time-troubles lead to a rating of only 2388), as Robby was one of the tournament favorites and I thought I deserved the break of an easy pairing after playing 4 consecutive rounds against 2380 or higher. Furthermore, I threw into te garbage my Marozy-bind opening for black as it was too passive and I have not had good results with it recently. At last, I blamed my poor nerves for not sleeping well and feeling tired.

Only the day after could I come to accept this loss and understand that it is not as bad as it looks. First of all, opening losses are easy and quick to fix. All I have to do is to either look at a few games with good annotations in this line or switch to something else. Second of all, opening losses have existed and will exist as long as chess – we cannot know all the opening nuances, simply because there are too many possible opening lines. And finally, brutal and hopeless losses are not indications of how overall your chess is doing, even though the painful impression they leave might overshadow the other more important indications.

I found comfort in knowing that out of four endgames, I had won one and drew three - something that could have gone unnoticed if I had not had really poor results in endgames before. Two out of four endgames were worse; in one I had to defend for about 50 moves, having one minute on the clock (with 5 second time delay). The work of playing out endgames every week for the column payed off! Sometimes it is not as exciting as tactics or openings – the progress in learning is slow but in the end the points collected from those endgames matter as much as the points won in openings or middlegames.

After sharing with you my tournament experience let us now proceed to the endgame of the week, which is from the recent Russian Higher League played between two young players Kosintseva,T and Alekseev,E. In my view, the position is about equal. White has some problems with weaknesses on e4 and e5 and with the passive bishop on b2. Black’s bishop is no better than his counterpart on b2, the rook is not developed yet and the king has no way to enter the game. However, black has no weaknesses, what makes coming up with a plan for black extremely hard. Choosing the white side to play in the first game I faced a dilemma: is h4+ with Ng5 a real threat (aiming to win the e4 pawn) or not? After some deliberation, it dawned on me that it is better not to risk anything and free the e3-square for the king. The knight from e3 can go either to f5 or d5, the reason that I chose d5 is that I wanted to trade the black knight after Nd5-Nf4 because the black knight blocks my pawn on e5 and makes my bishop passive.


The following ideas are important:

  • It is important to be flexible when implementing plans. Instead of leading the knight to f4 I could have placed it on a better square- d6.
  • The knight trade that looked promising to me turned out to be good for black. The black knight did not attack any weaknesses in my camp and my knight could easily defend whatever the black rook attacked. Without the knights the powerless bishop on b2 was especially felt.
  • Pawn endgames can transpose into queen endgames with an extra pawn. In such situations it is important not to overestimate pawn endgames and to be ready to play really long queen endgames.

The next week we will continue with the same position.

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