SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
POSITION AFTER 36 MOVES
White has a strategically won position: active Rook, control of the only file; and–perhaps most important–the more active King.
BUT the problem is how to convert these plusses into the full point. Praxis has shown that the defence has to bail out at some early point and give up a pawn in order to get counterplay, usually by infiltrating the 2nd rank.
For this reason, the most precise way to proceed is to play 37.f4!, slowly removing the pawns that will be vulnerable to a rear guard attack by the Black Rook. Black is in virtual zugzwang and the win should be a relatively straight forward process.
37. f4! b5 If instead 37… fxe5 38. Kxe5 Rc6!? then now not 39. Kd5 Rf6 40. Kxc5 b6! (not 40…Rxf4 41. Kb6 and the White c-pawn is unstoppable but first 39.Rh8 Kg7 40.Ra8! Kf7 and only now 41.Kd5! when the defence with 41…Rf6 and 42…b6 will leave the a-Pawn enprise. In that case, after the plausible 41…h6 42.Rb8 Rc7 43.h4 Black is getting zugged; or if 38… b5 then 38. Kd5 bxc4 (38… fxe5 39. fxe5 bxc4 40. bxc4 Rb7 41. e6 Kf6 42. h4 Rb2 43. Rf8) is hopeless 39. e6! and Black can not resist. Finally, 37… Ke6 38. f5 Kf7 39. e6 Kg7 40. Rd7.
The most reasonable seems 37… e6 but then after 38. exf6 Kxf6 39. Rd6 Black will soon lose a pawn while remaining completely passive.
IN THE GAME CONTINUATION Nakamura forgot about his rear guard pawns and Leko exploited some wishy-washy play by the American superstar who was intent on moving only with his King and Rook– to get a drawable position:
35. Rh8 Kg7 36. Rd8 Kf7 37. Rh8 Kg7 38. Rb8 Kf7 39. Kd5 fxe5 40. Kxe5 b5 41. Kd5 bxc4 42. Kxc4 Rd7! Black now uses the d-file that White had little need for….
The game was eventually drawn, but not before both sides playing serious inaccuracies; at one point Nakamura could have won in just one move! This was no doubt largely effected by the time on the clocks–Nakamura usually plays endings with great accuracy.