What Many IMs Don't Know. Part II.
I am happy to receive positive feedback from you on the first part of this two articles series on R+B vs. R endgames. It is good to know that many of you are interested in endgame theory as well as practical examples of play. The last week article featured the theoretical positions of Philidor, Cochrane, Shen and Lolly and two practical endgames. Today we will look at some practical examples, analyze them and hopefully learn from them.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the past week’s article then it would be very hard to follow the one featured here because the above positions are referenced here and are not explained as I expect you to know them already. Our memory is not golden and the above positions are rather hard, so to refresh your knowledge of the above positions you can reread last week’s article here.
The first position I have taken from Dvoretsky’s “Endgame Manual”. It is an excellent example of the 2nd rank defense transposing into the Cochrane position and back into the 2nd rank defense. Lutz showed knowledge of both types of defenses and alternated them, although using one would be enough for a draw. He let it slip at the very end but it was the move that clinched the 50 moves rule, so it is not clear if he just did not bother to play the right move because a draw is reached anyways. Let me remind you that you have 50 moves after the last pawn move or piece capture to play this position. If you don’t manage to win in 50 moves then the opponent can claim a draw.
In the first example both sides clearly knew the endgame and it was a pleasure to see all the ideas we have learned last week implemented in practice. However, you would be surprised how many R+B vs. R endgames are misplayed. The next example belongs to the misplayed type. Leko had plenty of opportunities to construct the 2nd rank defense but he never did. It is hard to explain why a 2700+ player resorted to the harder methods of defense on the last rank (without resorting to the Cochrane position) if he can do it on the 7th rank. In the end one slip was enough for Carlsen to win the game.
The next two examples are the ones that inspired me to learn the R+B vs. R endgame. They happened in the 7th round of the Canadian Open, recently hosted in Toronto. The game between Benjamin and Krush I followed closely live because Irina Krush is my very good friend and Joel Benjamin is the US player whom I expected to know this endgame well. Irina lost the game, although at that time I had yet to learn where the mistakes occurred and how to play these endgames.
When asking her after the game if she would study these endgames the first thing after coming back home, Irina did not look too enthusiastic, partially because the loss was a tough one and because she misplayed the position early on. It did not surprise me at all as I do the same thing with my games too- scrutinize the opening that I played in a lost game, then overanalyze the middlegame and blame tiredness or bad spirit for a misplayed endgame. It is self-deception and many use it to never study endgames or to do minimal work in the endgame. It is understandable that there are so many types of endgames out there, that it is impossible to learn them all. However, once you play a game in one particular endgame you must analyze it and learn how to play it correctly, especially if it is such a precise endgame as R+B vs. R. There is no excuse for misplaying it the second time. After this long introduction it is about time to get to the game.
The last example is the 2nd game that was played in Toronto and it is a heartbreaking one as white needed only 1 move to complete the 50 moves rule. Over the course of the endgame both sides made many mistakes but Noritsyn with trial and error stumbled upon the correct plan. He almost learned the endgame while playing it at the board; after two unsuccessful efforts, at the third time he figured the endgame out, which given the endgame's complexity is quite impressive.
I want to return to the normal format for playing out the endgame for the next week but I had some very interesting endgames in the recent Cleveland Open tournament, where I tied for the 1st place, so instead I will first share with you my endgames from there.