Except a Royal Flush

Except a Royal Flush

May 29, 2016, 1:35 AM |

"Two passed pawns on the sixth rank beat everything up to a royal flush" - GM Ian Rogers

I found this witty line to be no laughing matter in a tense struggle where I had a Bishop and Knight with outside passed pawn, versus a Rook with two connected passed pawns.

Black to Move

Here my opponent played 56. ... Kd2 which allowed 57. Be6 which forced the advance of one of the pawns.

Critically, it will then be the Knight that gives up his life for the passed e-pawn, rather than the Bishop.

This is strategically important, because White wants to keep his long ranged Bishop to defend his Queenside pawns. Eventually Black's Rook will have to give up his life for the White h-pawn, and when that moment comes, Black's King will be on the Queenside. If it were a Knight that White had, he would be too far from the Queenside to clumsily defend his pawns.

Passed Pawns Should be Pushed

Had Black pushed his passed pawn with 56. ... e4+, either White must quickly erect a barrier with his Bishop to defend the e2 advance and the Knight to create perpetual checks to fend off the Black King.

Alternatively, White could have advanced his King to attack Black's other pawn, but this would cost the Bishop his life. The difference is that White remains with a Knight, and when the Rook eventually gives up his life for the White h-pawn, the Knight is not a good defender (from a far) for his Queenside pawns

Prophylaxis: Limiting the Damage Before It is Done

I tried to look back as to how I got in such difficulties in the ending, where objectively I believe it was drawn after Black obtained two passed pawns.

This was the moment, with White to move

Faced with the choice of 30. axb3 or cxb3, I thought it naturaly to play cxb3, which avoids Black's Rooks capturing on c2.

However, after 30. cb Qxf4 31. Qe3+ Qxe3 32. Nxe3 Rd4 and after White's e-pawn falls, Black obtains the two connected passed pawns giving him drawing counterplay.

Instead, if White played 30. axb3 Rxc2, it is now the very fact that the King could capture the Rook on c2 that Black's Queen must defend it (thus not being able to take on f4). This allows White to hold one of his pawns, thus not allowing Black to obtain two connected passed pawns. 31. Bc4 Rd2 32. Bxe6 Qxf4 33. Qg1+ Kb8 34. Nc3 +-

My Game Annotations and Analysis