US Championship Endgames pt. 1
Last week we saw some endgames from the U.S. Women's Championship; today we will overview endgames from the US Championship. This is Part 1 of the article and Part 2 will follow the next week. I will try to concentrate on specific moments of endgames where one side missed equalizing or winning the endgame. Let us proceed to the examples.
Black is up an exchange for a pawn - a material advantage that should be sufficient for a win in this endgame. Kaidanov's plan is to push the passed d-pawn forward with the help of the rook and the king. Ramirez most likely will try to create an outside passed a-pawn. Because the black king is too close to the g-pawn, white should not attempt to push it. For now the rook is under attack and one has to place it somewhere. Leaving it on the e-file as Kaidanov did during the game cuts off the white king from marching to the center. On the other hand, it does not prevent white from pushing the a-pawn forward. The other rook move is to d8. We all know that the best position for the rook is behind passed pawns. On d8 it would help push the d-pawn. However, when the bishop retreats to c6, it will control the important a8-square and once again the rook will not participate in stopping the a-pawn moving forward. Therefore, we are left with Rb8, from where the rook will stop the a-pawn; meanwhile the black king will march into the center helping the d-pawn to move forward. Later, the rook can return to attack the weakness on g2 and to get into the white camp along the g-file.
It looks to me like black underestimated white's plan with pushing the a-pawn forward. The position looks like it should be easily winning for Kaidanov, so there is a danger of missing defensive resources for white. My guess is that from far away when he calculated the line starting with Rc3 he missed that white can queen the a-pawn first and then the bishop on e2 will not be pinned anymore and can check from f3. Kaidanov had such a good start in the tournament, beating Kamsky and doing well in this game that it is a pity that he blew this endgame.
Our next example shows how much attention must be payed even as a game seems headed towards a draw. In Robson - Akobian for a long time the position looked like a dead draw. White managed to create complications and the following position resulted:
Each side has a passed pawn. The white king is more active and white has the better pawn structure. In the event where white will have the f- and g-pawns and black will have the f4-pawn the endgame will be most likely losing for black because with an active king white will be able to take the f4-pawn. Black's rook is ideally located on the 1st-rank and c-file where it is directly behind the c-pawn. White's rook's task is not to let the b-pawn move to b2 and to attack the h6-pawn. The position is of zugzwang-type: if white moves the rook along the 2nd-rank then black can play Rc2 and push the b-pawn forward. If black moves the rook away from the c-pawn the c-pawn will go forward. Right away Rc2 as was played in the game allows white to take on h6 and simultaneously stop the b-pawn from queening (black's rook no longer defends the 1st-rank). Therefore, it is best to just move the king closer to the c-pawn and pass the move to white.
Playing Rc2 was not a good idea, and bad timing. Black's final mistake was placing the king on the 8th-rank. From there it did not participate in play and white went on to transpose into the endgame with two vs. one pawn on the kingside. If black's king was on f6 it would have been harder to win the f4-pawn.
Next week we will continue looking at endgames from the US Championship. As you can see from today's article the games were excellent and the players had plenty of fighting spirit in the endgame stage.