An Endgame From Gibraltar
Thank you to Stephen Annett from Pixabay for the Gibraltar sunset photo :

An Endgame From Gibraltar


This next endgame is full of life right from the get go. The game was played only a  few days ago, at the Gibraltar tournament.

The player with the white pieces was a strong Georgian player with a peak rating of 2500 FIDE, WGM Lela Javakhishvili. One of the "notable games" on her profile is actually a very similar one to the endgame I analyse today, and is well worth checking out here

The player with the black pieces is  GM Michael Adams , a former world number four who needs no introduction.

The real intrigue begins on move 35:

Already an important decision to make - how should black respond to the attack on the h-pawn?

Two out of the three candidates were fine there. Only g6 is bad. See if you can find the most precise punishment for this weakening of the long diagonal:
The  good option and the game continuation are discussed in the notes below:
Hopefully you are already seeing how many resources there are in these rich positions - that Re4 move leads to really crazy positions with some tactical ideas that I hadn't seen before including the following puzzle:

Adams chose something more straightforward and now we come to our next interesting decision:

Is this enough for a win or just a draw? At this stage who cares - we are just looking to set some problems.

Best play for white?

White did not play this line, instead choosing the logical Kf1.
What is the way to set maximum problems for white now?
Instead of allowing this white should have finally played 46.g4 which does rely on some quite cool details to work (this position is reached from moves in the variation to the previous puzzle):
A puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle - why did white not just play Ke4 immediately in the previous puzzle?
To recap, white has not gone g4 at all so far but Adams did not play the Ka4 move instead going g6 and giving us this position:
White to play and draw?

Javakhishvili found this idea (Adams did not play b3) and the game continued :

Black to play and win?

Adams did a "clever" move that actually misses the win, although finding the draw is not easy:

Instead of this white played the final mistake with 69.Rb7 but this only loses due to a cruel detail:
What a lot of tension there must have been in this game, playing for almost seven hours and only decided by the penultimate move. Kudos to both players for providing us with such a fight!
I think mainly this endgame shows:
  • the side with the smaller pawn majority can have the advantage in these endgames because they can create a passed pawn faster

For example if you removed the e and f pawns for white in this endgame and the g and f pawns for black then Javakishvili would draw this against Carlsen:

  • I also liked how Adams continued setting problems for example with the king march - yes this position is a draw and a strong player like Javakishvili will play endgames very well but chess is hard - even drawn rook endgames!
  • There are many other nuggets hidden in this game but the last one I will mention is that the importance of generating counterplay by playing g4 quickly despite damaging the nice pawn structure (those isolated pawns  ).

I hope you enjoyed analysing this endgame with me and would love to hear your thoughts - maybe I have made some mistakes in the analysis even (Stockfish is not as helpful in these endgames because the lines are very long although it still deserves most of the credit!).

If you enjoyed it then feel free to check out my previous rook endgame blogs here and here