Playing to Play Vs. Playing for a Result
Hi Chess Friends,
Yesterday I posted a few puzzles from a recent game of mine in the DC Chess League. You can find those here: http://www.chess.com/blog/CoachJKane/a-few-tactics-from-last-night.
Today's post focuses on the endgame, which I think I won more as a result of a psychological advantage than any brilliant moves on my part. For most of the ending, the position was either completely equal, or very slightly better for me. I realized that the result of the game should probably be a draw, but I kept trying to find little things to do to improve my position. I centralized my king, activated the rook, tried to keep my opponent's pawns on the wrong color for his bishop... For the most part my opponent defended well, and these little plans didn't change the overall evaluation of the position.
While I was just playing chess, I think that my much younger opponent was focused on making a draw. He was objectively right that the position should be drawn with best play and that his team would benefit from a draw on our board. He offered me three draws throughout course of the game. I actually forgot to even respond to the first offer, but after the second one I told him that I would let him know when I want a draw.
The reason why our motivations effected the result of the game is apparent to me when looking at a key two move sequence from the following diagram.
My opponent played 45...b5, which isn't a bad move, but does demonstrate a desire to trade pieces and end the game. 45...Be1! 46.Be5 Bb4 47.Rd5 Rf8 would leave black with absolutely no problems. My computer actually likes black better in that position. My guess is that he didn't consider it because it doesn't simplify anything or get us closer to a draw. Instead, it keeps the game complicated and I think that was why he avoided it, even as it improves his position!
After 45...b5 46.Rd4 bxc4+ 47.Rxc4, you can probably guess what someone looking to draw played. He traded into the bishop ending by capturing on c4. Again, this isn't objectively a mistake because the ending is drawable with precise play, but it makes his job much more difficult. If black were happy to just keep the game going 47...Rd8+ leads to an equal position. The pure bishop ending is difficult for black because of the weak a7 pawn and the less active king. I think that it is just barely defendable, but very hard to do at the end of a long game.
For more thoughts on playing to play, compared to playing for a result I recommend Jonathan Rowson's great book, "The Seven Deadly Chess Sins."
For anyone interested, here's the full endgame.