A memorable lesson
The majority of the players I know are spending most of their time learning new openings, practicing calculation, solving combinations and improving their technique in complex endgames. All that is understandable and useful.
Year ago I saw one International master losing rook + 3 pawns vs rook + 2 pawns endgame. That is not very strange, unless you know that the pawns were on same flank, where also were the kings! He was quite shocked after the game, he faced much stronger opponent and he managed to get drawing position which in the end he lost. After the tournament I started thinking, how was possible for International master to lose a position like that? It was a very simple draw, the only task that he had in front of him was not to exchange the rooks.
But then I remembered two games that I lost which were “dead” draw.
The first one happened around ten years ago. I was black and I needed a draw to get my second International master norm. After five hours of intense fight this position arose
Two or three years before this game, I studied this kind of positions with my coach. He told me to rememeber, that when the pawn comes to a5 the position is draw. While if pawn is on a4 than white can win if he knows how. I remember I was unhappy because my coach had forced me to learn this, my excuse was: Why do I need to know this, when will this happen to me??
Unfortunately for me, that position arose in very important moment, when I needed draw to obtain my second IM norm.
Here my opponent played 1.a5?, and as a response to that move I resigned! even though there was no longer win for white.
Second game occurred few years later. I was IM and I was playing for my contry at European Team Chess Championship.
I knew that in positions like this my rook should give flank checks, at least that was what I learned when I was studying rook endgames. Of course here the correct move was 1.Rb4+, but instead I played 1.Rd8+, move after which I can no longer safe the game.
This wasn't very importat game because we lost the match 3-1, but this loss hurted because the draw was very simple for a IM.
The lessons that I learned were:
1. Time after time go over the basics, repeat the things that you already know (after 3-4 hours the brain is not functioning as when is rested)
2. Learn as many as possible rare positions, you never know when you might use that knowledge
3. Start exercising, by that you will improve your endurance during the game (slow, but long distance running)
4. Enlarge you training ( on average days I started training 3-4 hour imitating a tournament game)