Rook+NP vs Rook
Bobby Fischer’s Endgame Legacy
Continuing with the theme of Rook+NP versus Rook, today we will take a look at Bobby Fischer’s turbulent experiences in this ending.
Fischer: Learning the Hard Way
Curiously, Bobby Fischer probably has more games in this classification (Rook+NP vs Rook) than any other top grandmaster in modern history!
Fischer struggled at first to come to grips with the finesses in this ending. He learned a lot in the process: a bit of luck to draw against Gligorich (1959); painful losses to Reshevsky (1961) and to Geller (1962); lucky wins against Sherwin (1958), Bisguier (1958), Benko (1959) and Geller (1970).
All of these games enriched Bobby Fischer’s knowledge and understanding of this difficult and unforgiving ending, and are worth taking a closer look at. Below I will examine exerpts from these games mentioned above…
Gligoric,S – Fischer,B
Candidates Tournament 1959
This game is analyzed in Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games. Fischer was 16 years old at the time.
After an exciting opening and an equally tumultuous middlegame, Fischer survived to a slightly inferior Rook and Pawn ending.
Position after Fischer’s 48th move:
Instructive! Especially when you consider the calibre of the players involved and that still they did not demonstrate the necessary finesse. These endings with the Knight Pawn are very difficult to play precisely…and precisely they have to be played!
Fischer,B – Sherwin,J
Portoroz Interzonal 1958
Position after 75 moves:
This game was important for Fischer’s qualification for the Candidates Tournament. It has been a tough game up to now, with Fischer having a small but clear advantage for most of the ending.
We now have the Rook+NP vs Rook ending, but a theoretically drawn position has arisen. Let’s see how Fischer goes about winning it (or more precisely , how Black manages to blow it!).
Hard work! Both players must have been tired, but a bit of luck was all Fischer needed to convert a draw into a win.
Fischer,B – Bisguier,A
Position after White’s 69th move (69.Kc6):
This must have been a heartbreaking loss for Arthur Bisguier. In the position below is Black even worse? The Black d-Pawn is no worse than White’s b-Pawn. Of course, the Black King is a bit offside, but I can not find any variation where this is important or contributes to Black’s loss. It is close enough to its own Pawn.
However, having gotten that out of the way, what happens is very instructive and attentive readers will no doubt pick up some valuable practical tips here.
Reshevsky,S – Fischer,B
Position after White’s 53rd move (53.Rh6)
While not strictly speaking the Rook+NP vs Rook ending, it is close enough. And this loss by Fischer was no doubt very painful. White will win because his b-Pawn is more advanced. Let’s see what happened…
Fischer,B – Benko,P
Position after White’s 47th move (47.Kb4)
This game ultimately decided 1st place in the 1959 US Championship held in NYC. The game was adjourned after the first time control (move 40) and the experts felt confidently that the logical result was a draw on resumption of play.
If that were to be, then Reshevsky would still have chances for the fight for 1st place.
However, the game is complicated and Benko had a serious problem in those days : his handling of the clock. He often found himself with just seconds left to make time control.
Here is a photo of Fischer playing his adjournment against Benko. The photo was published in the February edition of Chess Review 1960.
Geller,E – Fischer,B
Position after Fischer’s 65th move (65…Rf1)
Another ‘dead draw’! But not quite. If there is anything we should have learned by now, it is that if we can wear down our opponent enough (physically) then sooner or later he will get tired, distracted or simply make a mistake. And at that moment, opportunities arise.
The story of this game is that Fischer won a Pawn early in the game and then got into a double Rook ending that gave good chances to win. Either Geller defended very well or Fischer let slip his chances and in the position below most grandmasters would have agreed to a draw.
But let us watch what happend!