Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Morning After... and I Need A Good Black Repertoire

Funny, last night I went to bed after losing to Dennis and slept quite soundly.

And this morning after waking up and doing my normal routine, I wasn't even depressed. Sure I had pangs of regret that I blundered about the game last night but other than that, nothing.......

The better player won. Simple as that. And it's time to move on. Fritz also kindly let me in on where I went awry and how to grab the initiative out of the opening which would have given me good counterplay.

Was I angry? A little, at myself but I chose to tell myself that I blundered because of improper time management. Had I taken a bit more time and calculate, I would have given Dennis a run for the money. So I definitely need to manage my time better.

2 weeks from today, I am up to face an even tougher player, Arthur Hyunh (a 1800++ player) and I desperately need to prepare an opening repertoire.

My opening knowledge is terrible. I need to choose suitable repertoires more akin to my playing style.

I am an attacking player and love to attack. I have no problems sacrificing pawns to gain an intiative or to open lines if it means gaining a long-term advantage.

Any ideas for a good opening repertoire for Black geared towards a player who loves attacking and dynamic play, anyone?

The remaining list of players I need to play against are as follows:-
02 Apr 2008 - Bye
09 Apr 2008 - Black v Huynh, Arthur (1837)
16 Apr 2008 - White v Kuru, Argo (1716)
23 Apr 2008 - Black v Kitchen, Ray (1456)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lost To Dennis

As expected, I lost my game to Dennis Hale, who basically held the advantage all the way to the near endgame where it's just losing and to play on would have been meaningless.

Despite putting numerous problems to Dennis, he was in no danger of ever losing. I made an error near time-control and got into a losing position on the 34th move and resigned one move later.

A great performance by Dennis.

I've also put my name in for the Grade matches that I mentioned in my earlier posts. So hopefully, I can garner more games under my belt.

It's near midnight now and I am exhausted and at the same time relieved, because I can now start to prepare for my exams next week.


The Sydney International Open

Just a quick note.

The Sydney International Open is now in its second day.

You can view the live results from here (only 2 DGT boards are available for transmission - many thanks to the organisers for arranging all of this - they did a good job):

Sydney International Open

The Open field is very strong with over 10 GMs participating.

Les Mikolajczyk just emailed me informing all club members that the grade matches are starting soon. I'm not sure if I should go for it. I would love to, definitely.

I've reproduced his email below:

Dear Members,

The above competition starts on 19 May and will continue until 24 July, if you would like to play in a team for Ryde-Eastwood please let me know by return email or talk to Dennis Hale on Wednesday night. You must be a member of NSWCA to play in this competition.

Les Mikolajczyk
Ryde-Eastwood Leagues Chess Club

Tonight is my game with Dennis Hale, I've decided that no matter what happens, I'm going to play as normal with no special preparation on my part and play actively.

It's a bit scary. I nearly lost to Vincent Chiara the last time I played as Black (did I mention my opening repertoire is just plain lousy?).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My "First" Classical Competition

Up and until now, I've been keeping a very very low profile on my own chess competition running at the chess club at Ryde Eastwood RSL every Wednesday night.

This is actually the "first" chess club competition that I'm participating. Officially, according to the March list, my classical ratings currently stand at... *drum roll*.....

4g NSW Tan, C

Doesn't really clarify things, does it? :)

The 4g means that I need only to play 5 more rated games to get my rating off the ground and running (according to Bill Gletsos, playing 9 rated games is the requirement)

Before this, the records show that I've only played in 4 (??) games in the last 2 years although for the life of me, I can't remember what those games were about. I think they were all losses which means my current classical rating is probably <1200s at the moment, if not lower. I seem to recall losing to Theresa in one game but that's about it.

Anyway, my next opponent this week is Dennis Hale (ACF rating: 1591) . And I have the Black pieces.

Dennis is a gracious elderly gentlemanly chap who plays chess very well. When I first started playing at Ryde Eastwood, he regularly crushed me..... no, make that, obliterated me ..... like kicked-my-ass real good, if you know what I mean. :)

The reason I happen to know this is because last week Bill Gletsos gave every player in the room a list comprising the schedule/rounds/pairings (many thanks to Bill for making the extra effort!).

One thing that has worked out in my favour is that the week after that, I have a bye round which is welcome news to me because the very next day (4th April) is my finals exam for my studies! The bad news is that I've not studied for my final exams which is now less than 2 weeks away and that means that I've no time to prepare for my game against Dennis on Wednesday.

In last week's game, Dennis had a draw with Arthur Hyunh (ACF rating: 1837) so he is definitely improving. I've no doubt Dennis is going to open a can of whup-ass on me this week, metaphorically speaking. *laughs*

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Nice Endgame By Michael Adams

I apologise for the lack of updates. I've been busy on my end with work + weekend work to catch up on the blog.

Good endgame technique is one of the hardest skills to learn and an even harder one to put it into practice in tournament conditions (where the pressure is enormous).

To understand endgames means to understand the concepts of opposition, triangulation, shouldering, passed pawns, the increased value of the pawns, rule of the square and so on and so forth. And not just to understand but to understand them well enough to apply the appropriate principles as when you need it.

Why is endgame literature so hard to fathom? Because there is no one rule that fits all cases.

GM Dejan Antic who is now playing at the Doeberl Cup gave this advice on his chess lectures,"There are so many good young players in Australia, but they don't want to learn the endgame.... So I say, I'll show you how to win in 60 moves instead of 20, and you'll win more often."

Unfortunately, acquiring endgame skill is an extremely laborious process. I've spent hours trying to learn a particular endgame technique and I hope that it shows up in my game play. For example, How often do you have to employ Karstedt's rule?

And the funny thing I've noticed is that once I've started to learn the endgame (I love endgames and I never have the problem of going into an endgame even if I am in a disadvantageous position), a whole new world opens up. Accuracy is of the utmost importance and missing a tempo can mean the difference between winning, losing and drawing.

Out of the whole plethora of possible endgame positions, Mark Dvoretsky reckons that rook endings are the ones which requires the most careful study (in his book, Technique for the Tournament Player). This is primarily because firstly, rook endgames tend to appear in half of the endgames in practice and secondly, rook endgames has a well-developed theory with little material. It is this theory that must be learnt and mastered.

Some of the endgames just blow my mind. Take a look at this game played between Michael Adams vs Mikhail Gurevich - two very strong GMs.

49.... Rg3 (see first diagram on right)

Michael Adams is White, Mikhail Gurevich is Black.

White to play. How should White proceed?

Think about the following position and have a go before continuing.

In the game Adams played
50. Bd3! A very surprising move, sacrificing the h3-pawn.

This move actually accomplishes 3 aims.

1. It blocks the White king from any hidden checks on the 3rd rank should the Bishop move.
2. It occupies a more active diagonal.
3. Adams also has a particular winning idea in mind as we shall see in the next few moves.


51. a5! (see 2nd diagram on right)

Very clever. Adams had counted that his a-pawn cannot be stopped so in turn he sacrificed a 2nd pawn. The a5 pawn is of course poisoned because 51... Bxa5 is countered by 52. Rf5+ winning the dark bishop and the game. This brings to mind another wonderful endgame technique: Always maximise the full potential of your pieces.

51... Rxh4 (Gurevich has no choice but to take the remaining pawn)
52. a6 Rh8
53. a7 Ra8
54. Rxf7 (now White takes the pawn on f7 at his own leisure. It is interesting to note that Fritz thought that taking the pawn on f7 should be the first move on move 50.)

54... Ba1

55. Re7+ Kd6

56. Be4 (see final position on right)

The a-pawn cannot be stopped without sacrificing the Rook so Black resigns.


And for the last point of the day, it looks like wonderboy Magnus Carlsen is picking up a few "tips" from ex-champion Garry Kasparov. In a rapid game against Aronian, Magnus played a blunder and tried to take back the move. Kasparov of course, infamously, took back a move against Judit Polgar and wasn't punished. *tsk tsk* Magnus. You can't do that these days, not with cameras on you all the time.

This is what his father has to say of the event:

In the second game Magnus got a small but comfortable advantage as white and was trying to make progress in the rook and bishop endgame when the unfortunate incident took place.
Magnus moved his rook to a3 and discovered immediately the blunder (due to Rg3+). He mind was so occupied by registering the blunder and instinctively correcting it that he did not really notice whether he had released his rook at a3 or not.

Aronian immediately took exception to the corrected move and the arbiter was involved.
Magnus was somewhat surprised when the arbiter said that the video footage clearly showed that Magnus had released the rook on a3 before moving it to c1. He has not seen the video but of course he accepted the ruling of the arbiter, and duly resigned. 0-1.

After the game Magnus has emphasised that he did not intentionally try to cheat and he has apologised to Aronian for any disagreement he may have felt during the episode.


Henrik Carlsen
Lommedalen, March 19th 2008.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The CoffeeHouse Style Of Play

I love coffee.

You open a new pack of coffee beans, fill the grinder with coffee beans, grind it, then prepare it with your coffee machine and the thick aroma of freshly grounded coffee beans fills the air. You take a sip of the coffee and the bitter taste is just terrific as the caffeine enters your blood stream.

I usually have at least 4 shots of self-made cappuccino a day. Forget coffeehouses, the best way to make coffee is in the comfort of your own home.

So what has this got to do with chess, you might ask?

Well, the irrepressible Viktor Korchnoi once infamously called Viktor Bologan a "coffeehouse" player. Just what is a coffeehouse player? For one, it's definitely not referring to Bob Dylan (picture on the left) playing chess in a coffee house.

In a game of chess, different chess players are inclined to think differently. Some chess players look for wild complications, some look for positional advantage, some look for strategic advantage.

But one of the deadliest sins in a player's chess development is "impulsive thinking".

Alexei Suetin in his book is highly critical of this flaw:

"Impulsive thinking is characterised by the absence of a single strategic line, by playing 'from move to move'. At times, this affects highly talented players, who do not, however, have a proper positional training.

The course of their thinking is roughly as follows:

Some outwardly striking move or variation appeals to them, and the immediate reaction follows. Then they are attracted by something else, markedly different in content and direction, which leads to a similar impulse. The result is normally that, without investigating the true possibilities of the position (in this way, one can calculate fairly correctly, although not deeply, the immediate variations), the player takes a premature decision.

Such a 'coffeehouse' style of play, as it was called in olden times, is quite unpromising. Such a 'bustle' through the variations in search of an easy chance (to) success is in principle doomed to failure.

It would be incorrect to think that only weak, inexperienced players are susceptible to impulsive play; it is widespread even among masters. Practice has shown that at times the vice of impulsive thinking is highly 'corrosive' even with highly experienced players.

We are not thinking of play in time trouble, where such thinking is inevitable for even the strongest masters, but first and foremost of an organic defect of thinking under normal conditions. There are a number of specific causes of such 'misfires'.

Thus, for example, impulsive fits can result from nervousness, inevitably arising during the course of a game, especially if the play is of a highly tactical nature.....But most often the causes of impulsive play are a superficial evaluation of the position and carelessness in calculation, an inability or unwillingness to investigate deeply into the essence of the position."

It should be duly noted that Suetin is not talking about adapting to new changes in the board position or being flexible but is talking of the need to develop the ability to perform proper evaluation of the position and to analyse concretely, objectively.

I know this feeling personally because it applies to me and in OTB play, I still suffer from it from time to time, albeit with much reduced frequency than a year ago.

So the next time you play chess, ask yourself, are you playing a coffeehouse style? If you are, then do put a stop it as early as possible because once you've acquired that habit, it's hard to eradicate it from your chess play later on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Converting Your Advantage

In his book, Technique For the Tournament Player, trainer Mark Dvorestky states that in most cases, conversion of an advantage takes place in the endgame.

An inadequate knowledge of endgame theory is one of the principled reasons why players fail to convert their advantage. In addition, if players do not know their way around theory, then the probability of mistakes sharply increases.

In my example, I have the following game (see picture on right):

It is Black to play (I'm Black).

It is well know that in BvN endgames it is true that the Bishop is stronger than the Knight because it is possible that the side with the Bishop can put the other side into zugzwang however, here it is slightly more difficult.

White just played 37. Kf3

What would you play as Black?

I gave this position a good long thought.

The only thing Black has get going is a passed d-pawn. Black's positional minuses are that White has a dark squared bishop and can attack Black's pawns on the kingside if Black is not careful.

In endgames it is extremely important that you minimise your opponent's counter-chances.

How then should Black proceed? The most important thing is to activate your king.

I played 33 ...b4

What I intend to do (see 2nd picture on right) is shuffle my king to the square d3 by taking advantage of the light squares or attack the pawn b2. White must do something to stop this.

38. Kf4 (White hopes to gain counterplay by breaking open the kingside) Kb5

39. b3 (well timed by White - White stops Black's progression by prevent Kc4/Ka4. White hopes that with the Black king "stuck" on the Queenside, White can march the pawns forward to win. Unfortunately, this meant....)

39... Nd2
(White had fatally weakened the b-pawn and is now subject to attack by the Knight)

40. g5 (White hopes to gain the initiative by breaking open the kingside pawn) Nxb3! (this moves was tricky to make. my first thought was to retake on g5 but I then realised, after some tempo calculation that I can get my queenside pawns moving much faster than White)
41. gxh6 gxh6
42. Be3 Nc5
(my kingside is close to collapsing if I'm not careful so I have to hurry to protect my kingside pawns)
43. Kf3 h5
44. Bg5! (A surprising move and one which I should have foreseen beforehand - see 3rd picture on right)

White has a very nasty trick. At the time, I was calculating tempi and I found that if I had taken the bishop with 44.... fxg5 45. hxg5, this might lead to a pawn race where Black queens the b-pawn and White queens the g-pawn (not the f-pawn of course because after 45... b3 46. f6 b2 47. f7 b1Q 48. f8Q Qf1+ ... winning the White Queen).

I thought the result is very unclear and creates unnecessary chances for my opponent. I chose the defend the f-pawn.

44... Ne4!
(now White is in deep trouble. I am really threatening to take the Bishop with my f-pawn and recapturing the g-pawn with my Knight)

After this move, there is no defense for White and Black's b-pawn roams home.

After this game, I found that I could have taken the bishop with 44... fxg5 45 hxg5 as the Knight will have everything under control. after 45...Ne4 46. g7 Nf6. This just goes to show that I need to calculate better.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Remainder Is Just A Matter Of Technique

Don't you just hate it when some chess author goes into a sequence of moves and ends the variation with "winning is just a matter of technique". This normally happens when the final position is a "strategically won" position.

But what is a "strategically won" position? Does this mean that if I play less than optimal moves, I will still be able to convert that advantage into a win?

Is chess really that simple? Is it really a game of "my opponent goes there, I go here" like what Closet Grandmaster mentions?

Not exactly.

Alexei Suetin, in his book 3 Steps To Chess Mastery, explains that what the phrase means is that, "By a strategically won position, we normally mean the achievement of an objectively big and very stable positional advantage, which with correct play, can no longer be shaken. However, to convert such a position into a win, as we know from numerous examples, is not always a simple matter. Accurate realisation of an advantage is one of the indications of a high standard of play."

Now isn't that the truth. :)

Converting the advantage is not easy indeed.

Take the following position that I had (see picture on left). I am White. This position arose out of the Sicilian Dragon (I've got to admire these fanatic Dragon players for their tenacity).

Black had just moved 17.... Be5 and I made the move 18. Qh4

The outcome and result of this game is of little importance.

I find this position somewhat fascinating and it's good to setup the position on an actual board. I've given questions that I often ask myself in practical game play. I find this to be a very good technique towards improving my analysis skills and I encourage you to do the same. Before looking at my suggestions/replies to the questions, try to work it out yourself.

What is important is the following:

Have a think and work through this process:

Question 1. How would you evaluate this position?

1) = Even position
2) White +/= (Slight advantage)
3) Black =/+ (Slight advantage)
4) White +/− (Advantage) or +− (Decisive advantage)
5) Black +/− (Advantage) or +− (Decisive advantage)

If you said (4), you would be correct. White has a very strong advantage. Which leads to the next question that had to be asked:

Question 2. Why is the position considered a strong or decisive advantage for White? Try to work it out on the board before reading on.

Let's examine this more closely.

A strong advantage usually indicates that either the side with the advantage has a winning attack or more likely, has a command of space and position.

Have a look at the board (if you've set it up) and now ask yourself.

I've reproduced the diagram again on the left for your convenience.

Question 3. How many squares does White attack or control? Try to work it out on the board before reading on.

Now take a look at the picture on the left.

I've highlighted all the relevant squares in yellow. These are squares which White has control of or can attack and compare with the squares that you try to visualise on your board. Do they match?

If you fail to see all the squares, do not fret. You're in good company because I failed to see some of the highlighted squares too. :)

What this means is that because we are unable to see the squares, we have inadvertently limited our attacking opportunities when they arise. As a result, we tend to make sub-optimal moves because of our limited "chess vision". With constant training, this defect in our chess thinking can be corrected.

Anyway, back to the task at hand.

Now we know that there are a lot of squares being attacked/covered by White's pieces. As a result, Black's pieces are severely restricted. And by restricting your opponent's pieces, you have more room to manoeuvre your pieces into winning positions or positions which can give rise to winning tactics, combinations - which brings me to the next question.

Now look at your board (if you've set it up) again.

Question 4. Given that we now know which squares that White can control and possibly launch an attack from, do you see any tactics/threats/combinations that White can perform from these squares? Please do try to work it out on the board before reading on.

Tactics, combinations and strategies are the main motifs of chess play.

With tactical and combinational vision, one is then able to come up with a plan (be it a long term plan or a short term plan) and work out a coherent strategy to convert that to a win.

Now take a look at the diagram on the left.

I am looking at this without Fritz running at the moment and I'm sure I will possibly have missed some moves. But of the position, 3 major combinations come to mind.

The first combination that popped in my mind are the ones highlighted in yellow.

#Threat 1 (highlighted in yellow). White is planning to take on the g6 pawn with hxg6. After that, the h-file is open and White is threatening to mate on h7 or h8 (if the dark square bishop moves from the a1-h8 diagonal).

This threat should be on the fore front for most of us.

#Threat 2 (highlighted in Green). White is planning to attack on the Queenside with moves like either Bb6 (attacking the Queen) or Nb6 (attacking the Rook on a8).

Usually a good plan of attack especially when the opponent has less mobility is to create a 2nd weakness in your opponent's camp. This is called the Principle of Two Weaknesses (PDF link to Dvoresky's ChessCafe article) and has been effectively employed by all World Champions and many of the world's elite chess players to great effect.

Threat #3 (highlighted in red). I love this threat the best, not because it's the strongest but because of the trap. If Black tries to defend, White has the possibility to play Nc5! It took me a while to see this move but in the end I saw it. Now White threatens to take on the light squared bishop with Nxe6 and if fxe6, hxg6 (which in combination with Threat #1 threatens mate soon). The Knight cannot be taken with dxc5 because of Nf6+, winning the Black Queen.

If you see any combination I missed out or find any refutation to any of the above combinations, please do let me know. I am constantly trying to improve/streamline my thought process and this would help me and others heaps. Thanks.

That's pretty much it for now. By explaining all the steps, I hope to share with you how I play/visualise chess. I don't profess to say it's the best but it has helped me immensely as a low rated player towards the long road of self improvement.

As a final quiz, my opponent played 18... f5. See last picture on left.

What do you think is the strongest reply?

Examine the possibilities and see if any of the threats you analysed earlier can help you to come up with a winning plan/combination.

Till then, cheers and good luck. :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

FIDE Grand Prix Turning Into A Farce

FIDE has just released the various participants and their hosts for the coming FIDE Grand Prix cycle.

Notable absentees are :

Viswanathan Anand (IND)
Vladimir Kramnik (RUS)
Veselin Topalov (BUL)
Alexander Morozevich (RUS)

Interestingly enough, the participant for the host of Bulgaria is not Topalov but his second, Cheparinov, thereby most likely confirming that Topalov is indeed not taking part.

That makes the top 4 players not taking part. And when you organise a string of Grand Prix events without the top 4 players of the world participating, the events could fast turn into watersheds, dooming the events before they started. As always, FIDE chooses to make a mess of things.

So it looks like what Morozevich inferred in his interview about the top players not playing in the event was right.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ratings And Ramblings

Do you ever have problems trying to beat some opponents? No matter how hard you try, you always seem to have a minus score against them or end up on the losing side?

I have 4 players at my club who I am forever having problems with at my level (I'm talking about 1400-1500 levels) during my last year of playing on-and-off chess are.

The funny thing was that during my games with them, somehow I seem to falter or play terribly worse when facing these players. They're like Kryptonite to my Superman (see picture on right) and sometimes it seems like their very existence on earth was to annoy and beat me.

What is it that makes some opponents particularly difficult to overcome?

In all, it seems like I am psychologically beaten whenever I face these opponents over the board. This pattern is hard to explain but I notice that during my games with these players, I seem to fall into one of the 3 bad habits:

a. Underestimating my opponent's threats
This normally happens when I make moves but fail to see the nuances of the position including critical positions where exact calculation is of utmost importance. There's a reason why tough opponents are tough. They know how to exploit the weaknesses in your position and work to their advantage.

b. Losing patience, making hurried moves
Sometimes, our opponents tries to make moves that seems to do nothing but shuffling about, trying to lure you in and this is usually where I suffer. It is the result of trying to avoid 3 fold repetitions (hoping to win) that tends to backfire in my face.

c. Loss of consistency due to psychological factors
Be it time pressure or failing to overcome other psychological factors resulting in performance levels much less optimal than the norm. It is important to attempt to have a clear mind when facing tough opponents.

Unfortunately, overcoming these hurdles is easier said than done. Right now, the best way I can think of is to concentrate on the board, not on the opponent.

Oh, by the way I would like to clarify something, my last rapid ACF rating is 1450 according to decrap.txt (hmmm... decrap?). My recent Rapid tournament as Ryde Eastwood has ended with me scoring 5.5/9 (with a +5-3=1 score) which is a pretty decent result. My only losses were to Thomas Hartmann (1828), Arthur Hyunh (1889) and of course, my brother-in-law Steven Liu (1774). My only draw was with Joshua Christiansen (1691).

My classical rating still stands at 4g and no rating. I expect my classical/standard rating to be around 1200s-1400s at the moment, probably worse if I'm having a bad day at work. You won't believe the number of times where I walked into a mate in 1. Usually, I finish work at 7pm and my competition starts at 7.30pm and there is a distance of 20km(?) between my office and my chess club. Don't ask how I manage to jump into my car, make it through Sydney traffic, find parking space at the club (it's usually close to full) and rush in to play.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Laying Out An Endgame Plan

While I'm still on the topic of endgames, have a look at the following position.

This is a game in which I am Black. I lost this game because of poor endgame skills. As you can clearly see, Black has the advantage here because of the bishop pair and White's Knight is on the edge and needs to be brought back to the center asap.

White has the open c-file but this control is largely illusory. White is also saddled with a bad bishop on b2.

Now White just played the move 33. Rc2. (see 1st diagram on right)

In my game, I played a poor move, got duly punished and lost.

What should I do next?

What I should have done is plan a coherent long term strategy.

The most obvious move that comes to mind is of course 33.... Rc8 challenging the c-file and swapping rooks.

But is there a better move? I relooked at the position after the game and saw something.

First, there's no hurry to swap Rooks just yet. What Black needs to do is clamp down the position on White's camp and prevent any counterplay from White. Prophylaxis here pays off.

The a and b pawn structure is not fixed. We need to fix this pawn structure because if the Rooks come off (which is very likely) than it is important to find out how to deal with the pawn structures.

Black has problems with the light squared bishop (which is limited in activity), this bishop needs room to roam. The central pawn chain is rock solid and White's Knight can't attack it just yet.

The only thing is to find activity for this bishop.

How do we activate this bishop on b7?

Simple. We open up the light-squared a6-f1 diagonal. Is there any other downside to opening this diagonal? Not at the moment but it has to be remembered that the Knight on h3 will surely make its way to the Queenside.

The Knight is most likely to take the following path in red (as shown in the 2nd diagram on right).

The squares that need to be guarded are c3 and a2 (highlighted in green). Note that it is possible for White to push the b-pawn and the Knight can then squeeze into b3 to cause chaos in Black's position.

And the only way to do is to push the b-pawn. 33... b4 was the correct prophylactic move. If White plays 34. axb4 axb4. If White plays a4 the pawn chain is fixed in the same way and the Knight cannot use c3 or a2.

Are there any other threats or positions that might change this plan?

Not at the moment but we have to be careful of the pawn triggers by White, mainly f4, g4, h4 or a combination of the three. The good news is that this is not likely to happen soon. Any pawn breaks is easily guarded by Black's dark-squared bishop on d6 which is in a perfect position and the Black king can easily move to g6 if the need arrives to render more help to support the kingside pawns.

Only after the moves b4 can Black now swap Rooks with Rc8.

How is Black then to win? With the a3-f1 diagonal open, Black must at the opportune moment swap off the Knight with the light-squared bishop. This bishop can wreck some havoc by going to d3 and then b1 to prevent the Knight from going to a2 . In order to do this, White must make a concession on the kingside pawn chain sooner or later. And the plan is very easy. After trading off the Knight and Bishop, start moving the Black King up along the board and use the h-pawn to break open the position and get to a winning ending.

The move b4 is not easy to see, I admit. I certainly didn't.

Update: I've added the game below - highlighting, main lines and various variations (as suggested by Fritz) on continuations of this game. Cheers. :)