US Championship Endgames, Final Part
Today we will wrap up our series on endgames from the US Championship. Here is a selection of examples where your task is to find the best plan. The topics vary but include converting an advantage, defense, creating and attacking a second weakness, when the first weakness is targeted. You can test you endgame technique by trying to solve these positions and only then look at the solutions. Let us get to the examples.
With the strong b-pawn, active rook and king white can hope for a quick win in this position. His plan is to push the b-pawn and queen it. The bishop controls the b8-square and black rook can attack the b-pawn from behind. White has to show some care in pawn-promotion. The knight on d3 does not do much and it has to be transferred for the help of the pawn promotion. c4 is the ideal square for the knight - it will chase away the bishop from the b8-control, take b2 under control and act as a shield for the white king against rook checks. In the game Seirawan played b6 right away and after e4 had to transfer the knight to the kingside, from where it does not help in the pawn promotion. He still eventually won as white's advantage was enough even after the inaccuracy b6.
Stripunsky has three pawns for a piece in the endgame against Nakamura. Up until now he played impressively - pushing the pawns forward and defending against black's threats.
With his last move Rh8 Nakamura wants to promote the f-pawn. Rh2-f2 and Bc4 is a threat. The way to defend against it is to take the c4-square under control with Rc5. In the game I assume Stripunsky was in time-trouble and sacrificed the exchange which happened to be a losing continuation because the black rook wins one of the pawns on the queenside.
Black is on the ropes - the bishop on d7 is locked behind the pawns, he has very little space for maneuvering, the a5-pawn is constant weakness.
Nakamura slowly improved his position to a maximum, placing his pieces on ideal squares (the rook on c5 blocks the c6-pawn and attacks the a5-pawn. But it is not clear how to break through, although black's position looks horrible with one weakness on a5 one cannot lose. Nakamura finds a second weakness and soon the game ends.
Shulman has a pawn majority on the kingside and more space there. Black has a pawn majority on the queenside but the pawns are restricted by the white bishop along the f1-a6 diagonal. White's plan is to push the kingside pawns and using space advantage there tie black pieces there and eventually get to the queenside pawns:
Kamsky with his 5 retreating out of 7 moves gets a winning position. His position is better due to having an extra pawn on the kingside, while Akobian's four pawns look like three on the queenside. The h4-pawn is a weakness, notice how Kamsky first frees the e4-square for the knight, then the e1-h4 diagonal and d2 square for the bishop. An elegant and graceful plan.
Of course this series of articles on the US Championship endgames cannot cover all the endgames from the Championship but barely scratches the surface. I hope you enjoyed the selection and we will move to other endgame topics in the following articles.
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