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.)
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.
Lommedalen, March 19th 2008.