Not all Rook endings are drawn…
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
It is always instructive to watch a well played ending. It is said that the young Capablanca (1888-1942) spent most of his time studying the endgame rather than the opening. Judging by his later results ,and especially the quickness and ease of his technique in the endings, this could very well not be an exageration. Any student of the ending is advised to pay careful attention to Capablanca’s technique.
Today with the faster time controls of FIDE we do not get the opportunity to see many examples of finely played endgames. It is almost impossible to demonstrate mastery at 30 seconds a move. This writer is not the only fan of our noble game to express regret at how many modern endings are ruined by imprecision because of this.
Never-the-less, this does not mean that there is less of a need to study the endings; the contrary, infact: never before has there been more of a need to have practiced learning the techniques so much part of the final part of the game. While we can be perhaps forgiven for needlessly learning our openings in ever greater detail, the faster time controls do not forgive the time we do not spend on learning endgame technique.
Today’s game is between the Bulgarian Ivan Cheparinov and the American Robert Hess, played yesterday at the Moscow Open. Pieces get exchanged very quickly and a double-Rook ending soon appears on the board, with White having more space and chances of creating a passed pawn with his Queenside majority. It is instructive to see how White was able to little by little make progress.
This is the position after 18 moves. The curious thing is that there are no open files on the board and that the play revolves around White’s attempt at using his Queenside majority. White has some small advantages besides this majority: his King is more centralized and he has more space in which to manoeuvre. And then we must also take note that Black’s Rooks are without any prospects. If Hess thought that by simply exchanging pieces and arriving at a Rook ending (who was it who said ”All rook endings are drawn”?) he would get a draw against his famous Bulgarian opponent, then he was mistaken….
Cheparinov wastes no time. He plans to double on the c-file and break thru with c5 as soon as conditions are favourable. It is difficult to fault Hess’ next moves, but I would tried to bring my King into the centre by …Rc8 and …Kf8 and …Ke7 as soon as possible.
19…d6!? 20.Rc3 Rc8 (20…e5!?) 21.Rhc1 Kf8 22.c5!
Cheparinov strikes without delay, before Black can create some sort of blockade and then create counterplay on the Kingside with his own pawn majority. Note that Black can not play 22…Rbc7 (??) because 23.cxb6!! wins immediately (23…RxR. 24.RxR RxR 25.b7! etc)
The next moves are more or less logical:
22…bxc5 23.dxc5 Rc6 24.cxd6 Rxd6 25.Rd3 Ke7 26.Rc5 Rbd7 27.Rxd6 Rxd6 28.Kc3
Black is in serious trouble. White’s 2-1 Queenside majority is hard to stop from advancing , while the White Rook on the 5th rank prevents any type of counterplay that Black might have by getting his Kingside pawn majority moving. There followed:
28…Kd7 29.a4 a6 (who would have the courage to play 29…Rc6 ?) 30.f4 g6 31.b5 axb5 32.axb5
If all of the pawns on the Kingside were taken off the board, then the resulting ending would be a simple–and well known– technical win for White. The Black King is cut off from blockading the White b-pawn, which is threatening to advance with the help of the White King (K-b4-a5 etc)
It is clear Black will eventually have to give up his Rook for the White b-pawn, and the outcome of the game will be decided on what kind of counterplay Black’s Kingside pawn majority will make. If he should be able to create a passed pawn then Black will have chances of saving the game. For this reason , it is imperative for Black not to delay and to play 32…h5! straight away…and hope!
32…Rd1 33.Kb4 Rd2 34.b6 Kd6 35.Rc8 Rb2 36.Ka5 Ra2 37.Kb5 Rb2 38.Ka6 Ra2 39.Kb7 Rxh2
The end is near. Black is a pawn up but his pawns have not advanced to create counterplay. White only needs to clear his King from blocking his b-pawn in order to Queen it. I suggest the readers see the pgn viewer below to find out how Cheparinov did this.