Another endgame

Sep 16, 2013, 7:55 PM |

The photo of my last entry showed a game in progress between John & Jeddah.  They reached an interesting endgame position, with black to play:

John had played well in the opening particularly, quickly picking up a pawn and (is this right?) preventing Jeddah from castling.  However, at this stage he has just lost an entire rook and the game is in doubt again.  It may not look that way, as a piece-count puts white 4 pawns ahead.  Can black really hope to draw?  Let's try to assess it. 

  • white has three more pawns than black, and all are well-connected at the moment, whereas black's pawns are isolated.  The corollary is that white should mkae every effort to hold those pawns, and attack black's week pawns.  In such circumstances, black will be doing well if she can swap pawn for pawn.
  • white should probably also attempt to push the queen and king-side pawn majorities to decisive stages, wherein past pawns may be pushed to make black defend.
  • black has two long-range pieces to do that defending.
  • white has an important piece advantage, 3 minor ones to black's 2. This is a significant attacking advantage, even though one might say that it's usually assessed as being only 9:8.  At this stage in a game, I think the advantage is usually slightly bigger. (Perhaps it isn't bigger here; and that may be because the position is so open.  Black's long-range pieces have mobility and initiative, perhaps?  And white's knights are in difficulties.)
  • black has a bishop of opposite colour to white's.  The corollary is that black should attempt  to keep both bishops on the board.  If skilfull, clever & lucky, Jeddah might later swap her rook for both knights.  Opposite coloured bishops so often result in end-game positions where neither side can gain an advantage!
  • John might be best served by keeping his knights on the board, as well as every single pawn.  Swapping bishops from the board may not be a very realistic hope for white to entertain.  It would greatly increase his chances of winning, and it would be a major strategic gain.
  • black has two highly mobile pieces in bishop and rook, and the game is quite  an open one.  The white pawns are not yet advanced, and two open central files pose a problem for white.  White's king on c1 currently stops the black rook from moving to e2, and that is the kind of move white must continue to prevent.
  • white's knights could be devastingly strong if together, and if they were dancing about the centre of the board.  At present, they are about as far as they can be from doing so. 

Can Jeddah reduce the pawn advantage held by white, then swap John's knights for her rook?  If so, she could probably get a draw from this game. This is quite an intellectual challenge.  It would certainly be no disgrace for black to lose from such a position.

Jeddah did indeed battle away from this position most nobly, and when I next saw the board she had reduced John's advantage to 2:1 on the king's side and 2:1 on the queen's side.  Yes, you might object that a change on the queen's side from 3:2 to 2:1 is better for white, and arithmetically that's so.... but with isolated pawns black has done well, and white hasn't achieved his goal (well, my goal!) of getting a weak pawn  for nothing.  The game is still going, and I look forward to more of it when they are both here next.