Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rook vs. Bishop: Ending 3

We turn now to the third in our series of rook vs. bishop endings (its predecessors can be found here and here), this one taken from the game Viktor Kortchnoi (a.k.a. Kortchnoi, a.k.a. Kortschnoj)-Boris Spassky, Clermont Ferrand 1989.

Obviously enough, only White can win this (barring massive hallucination, bribe, or heart attack), but it's not exactly clear at first glance how he's going to make progress. White has no safe pawn move, the rook can't do anything by itself and the White king is stalemated.

Is it a draw then? Thanks to the indispensable endgame tool known as zugzwang, it's not.

51.Ra7 First step: activate the rook. Clearly Black doesn't want to retreat the king - at least not if he doesn't have to - so Black's next move is obvious. 51...Be6 52.Rc7 The power of waiting moves! Now Black has to make a significant decision. If he retreats the king, White happily plays Kg5 and works for the f5 break, while if he retreats the bishop, White has two interesting possibilities. First, he could take his king out of the cage, retreat to h3 and then perhaps try to penetrate Black's position by going the long way around:g2-f3-e3-d4-c5-d6-e7 and so on. Even assuming White can do all that without anything bad happening to him (such as useful pawn trades via ...h4 and/or ...g5), it's not enough. White will still need to break the Black pawn structure somewhere to make progress, so he might as well do it with the king on h4. And that leads to possibility number two: the f5 pawn break. 52...Bb3 [52...Kg7 53.Kg5 The Black king can't afford to give up any more ground, but it's already too much: White will maneuver the rook to f6, play f5, and win the pawn ending by taking advantage of Black's fractured pawn structure. 53...Bg4 54.Rc6 Bh3 55.Rf6 Bg4 (55...Bd7 56.f5 Bxf5 57.Rxf5 gxf5 58.Kxh5! comes to the same thing.) 56.f5 gxf5 (56...Bxf5 57.Rxf5 gxf5 58.Kxh5! (But not 58.Kxf5?? Kf8! 59.Kg5 Ke7 60.Kxh5 Ke6 with a draw.) 58...Kf8 59.Kg5 Ke8! 60.Kf6! Kf8 61.e6 with a routine win.) 57.Ra6 followed by Ra7 wins - the subsequent threat of e6 can only be averted by allowing the lethal Kf6 or by pitching the f5 and h5 pawns.] 53.f5! gxf5

Now that the Black pawn structure has been destroyed, it's time to start collecting the weakies. To do so, White maneuvers the rook to g5, when either the h5 or f5 pawn will fall. (Unless Black plays 54...Bd1, in which case 55.Rc6+ followed by 56.Kg5 and 57.Rc7, with the threat of 58.e6, will do the trick.) 54.Rc8 Be6 55.Rd8 Kg6 56.Rg8+ Kh7 57.Rg5 Kh6 58.Rxh5+ Kg6

Now it's time for another stage in the plan. However, the first thing we should do is extricate the rook, as White can't do anything as long as the rook is so clumsily placed. 59.Rh8 Kg7 60.Re8 Kg6

Okay, the rook's position has been improved; now what? 61.g4 is senseless, there aren't any inspiring room maneuvers on the horizon, so let's improve the position of the king. 61.Kh3! Bd5 [61...f4+

is a much more interesting move. I'm sure "Viktor the Terrible" would have won just the same, but there are a couple of neat traps. The more obvious but still seductive false trail is the liquidating 62.Rxe6+?? fxe6 63.gxf4 and now Kh7!! (and only Kh7!!) draws, maintaining the distant opposition: a) 63...Kf5 64.Kg3 Kg6 65.Kg4 Kh6 (65...Kf7 66.Kh5 Kg7 67.Kg5 Kf7 68.Kh6 Kf8 69.Kg6 Ke7 70.Kg7 Ke8 71.Kf6 Kd7 72.Kf7+-) 66.f5 exf5+ 67.Kxf5 Kg7 68.Ke6 Kf8 69.Kd7+-; b) 63...Kh5 64.Kg3 Kh6 65.Kh4 Kg6 66.Kg4 Kf7 (66...Kh6 67.f5+- see line a) 67.Kh5 Kg7 68.Kg5 Kf7 69.Kh6 Ke8 70.Kg6 Ke7 71.Kg7 Ke8 72.Kf6 Kd7 73.Kf7+-; ]

So the correct move is 62.g4, but there is another trick yet to come: 62...Kg5 63.Rg8+ Kh6 64.Kh4 Bc4 65.Rd8 f3 66.Rd6+ Kg7 67.Kg3 Be2 68.Rf6 Bd1 and now a) 69.Rxf3?? looks like a routine win, but amazingly, it's not! 69...Bxf3 70.Kxf3 Kh6!!

The only drawing move! (70...Kg6 71.Kf4 Kh6 72.Kf5 Kg7 73.Kg5 Kg8 74.Kf6 Kf8 75.g5 Ke8 76.Kg7 Ke7 77.Kg8 Ke8 78.e6 fxe6 79.g6 Ke7 80.Kh7 e5 81.g7+-; 70...Kh7 71.Ke4 Kg6 72.Kf4 - see 70...Kg6 71.Kf4) ; b) 69.Kh3 is the start of a rather subtle winning idea: 69...Be2 70.g5 Bd1 71.Kh4 Be2 72.g6! fxg6 73.Kg5 Bd1 74.e6 Bb3 75.e7 Bf7 76.Rxf3 Kg8 77.Kh6 g5 78.Rf5 g4 79.Rg5+ Kh8 80.Rxg4 Be8 81.Rf4 Bf7 82.Rxf7 Kg8 83.Rf8#; The most natural winning plan is c) 69.g5 Be2 70.Kf2 Bd1 71.Ke3 Be2 72.Kd4 Bd1 73.Kc5 Be2 74.Kd6 Bd1 75.Ke7 Be2 76.Rxf7+ Kg6 77.e6 Kxg5 78.Kd6 Kg4 79.Kc5! Bd1 80.Kb4! with an elegant win. And now, back to the mundane conclusion:

62.Rg8+ [62.Rg8+ Kh7 63.Rd8 Be6 64.Kg2 Kg6 65.Kf3 Kg5 66.Rg8+ Kh6 67.Kf4 followed by 68.Rg5 and 69.Rxf5, winning easily.] 1-0


  • At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    this ending is very interesting it helps to improve chess skill


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