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Endgame Joy in Philly Print E-mail
By FM Todd Andrews   
July 8, 2008
23.Qd1Becerra.jpgPlaying the endgame is a chess privilege. In this age of chessbase, long opening variations decide many games. That's a shame because the purest form of chess is found in the endgame. It no longer becomes a matter of taste and there is almost always an absolute best move. Echoes of my first coach (FM) Jerry Wheeler fill my head when he told me as a youngin’ that “he who masters the endgame, masters any phase of the game.” In my opinion, the endgame is the toughest phase to understand because this is when space is the prevalent element of the game (chess has three main elements – time, material and space).

Last week in Philadelphia, I had the honor to play many great endgames with many great players. Going into a hard fought endgame means that you have found an opponent that is on a level playing field with you and the fights I endured in Philly were above and beyond. I would like to begin with the conclusive rounds of the Philadelphia International.

Southern Endgame Squeeze

    The “worst day ever” award in the Philly International goes to Indian WGM Nisha Mohata. She had to endure two torturous, six-hour games at the hand of the South’s finest.

WGM Mohata - FM Andrews, White to Move

 This was the first move after a tense time pressure situation and White  makes a critical mistake. Adjusting your mental clock after having to painstakingly battle the actual clock is a difficult transition.
1.g3 is best not allowing Black the kingside counter play he achieved in this game.
 1...Bxg2 2.Bxb3
This move came with a draw offer, but I knew my bishops were well placed to deal with her outside passed pawn. My h-pawn is going to be a bit tougher to stop.
2...Ng4 3.Be1
3.Nd3 Nxf2 4.Nxf2 Bxe3+
 3...Nxh2 4.Nd3 Nf3 5.Bc3 Bb8!
Control of the h2-b8 diagonal is necessary to convert the advantage.
6.Ne1 Nxe1 7.Bxe1 g5
 Not allowing the f-pawn to move forward which would open the e1–h4 diagonal and offer White  more defensive possibilities.
8.Bd1 Kg7 9.Bh5 f6 10.Bc3 Bc6
To get my kingside pawns rolling, I need to limit the space and scope of the bishop on h5 - so I can eventually dislodge it.
11.Kd2 Kh6 12.Bf7 Kg7 13.Bh5 Bd6 14.Bb2 Kh6 15.Bf7 Be7 16.Ke2 g4 17.Bc1 Be4 18.Bd5?
In time pressure, my opponent cracks. Facing endgame torture can often result in a player trying to come up with some desperate tactic. White  should try to endure the torture here for as long as possible. Allow me to push my kingside pawns, push the queenside pawn and hope for the best.
18...Bxd5 19.e4+ Kg6 20.exd5 Kf5 21.a4 Ke4 22.a5 Kxd5 23.a6 Bc5 24.Bf4 Kc6 25.Bb8 Kb6 26.f3 h5 27.fxg4 hxg4 28.Kd3 f5 29.Ke2 Kxa6 30.Kf1 Be3 31.Kg2 f4 32.Be5 Kb5 and I went on to win in the second time control.

On the same day, Mohota lost to my friend from New Orleans, FM John Bick in a similar fashion:
FM John Bick - WGM Nisha Mohata, Black to Move

39...Bc7 40.h3 Bf4+ 41.Kc3 Be5+ 42.Kc2 Ke6 43.Bc5 f5 44.exf5+ gxf5 45.Be3 fxg4 46.hxg4 Kd5 47.Bd2 Bc7 48.Bc3 Bf4 49.Kd1 Bd6 50.Ke2 Bc7 51.Ke1 Bg3+ 52.Kf1 Bf4 53.Kf2 Bd6 54.Ke2 Kc5 55.Kd1 Kd5 56.Kc2 Ke6 57.Bd4 Kd5 58.Bf6 Ke6 59.Bd8 Kd5 60.Bb6 Kc6 61.Ba7 Kd5 62.Bf2 Ke6 63.Be1 Kd5 64.Ba5 Kc6 65.Bd2 Bc7 66.f4 Kd5 67.f5 Ke4 68.Bb4 Be5 69.Be7 Kd5 70.g5 Bc7 71.Bf6 Ba5 72.Kd1 b4 73.a4 Bc7 74.Be7 a5 75.Bf6 Bb6 76.Kd2 Bc7

Position after 76...Bc7

and right around this point, Black lost on time in the second time control. White  should be winning after 77.Ke3 and g5-g6 to follow. 1–0

The Main Event

    The U2400 section of the World Open gives American masters a rare opportunity to match wits without having to duke it out with GMs. I started off with a great game that went into an even greater ending.

Savage-Andrews, Black to Move

In  my first round battle with FM Allan Savage, I made an elementary mistake by trying to play off my opponent's time pressure. I should have been focused on how to win this position. The clock can be your best friend or your worst psychological enemy.
35...a5! Duh! Keeping the outside passed pawn is completely obvious and upon analyzing the game with World Open roomie and USCL Tempo teammate Gerald Larson, it dawned on me instantly! And for CLO fans, I will reveal that Mr. Larson (who scored a solid 6/9 in the u/2200) was the actual White  player in the infamous Andrews-Bonnaroo fictional game.
 Ok, don't lose your head after making a stupid mistake. I still have an extra pawn and I felt I should be able to convert this endgame.
 The king is a coward in chess until the endgame! That is his time to shine and bringing him into the action is one of the most important and fundamental endgame concepts.
37.Nf4 Kf6 38.Bxf5 Kxf5

Position after 38...Kxf5

39.Nxe6! draws almost instantly. My bishop is the wrong color to promote the h-pawn (the h1 square is White  after all!) and if I take the knight it is a draw instantly. If I play on, White  may even have an advantage, since typically when the pawns are all on the same side of the board, the knight is actually stronger. The long range of the bishop means nothing with all the action on one side and the knight does not suffer the same disadvantage of my bishop only being able to control the dark squares.
39...Bd4 40.Ne1
The computer likes the ...Rc8 idea better than my move to harass the White  king horizontally. 40...Rg8 I felt that cutting the White  king off would create some potential mating threats.
41.Nf3 Be3
41...e5 42.Nxe5 Kxe5 and GM Shabalov informed me that with the rooks on, this endgame is winning after the game that Kasparov and Shirov played in Manila 1992.
 42.Ra4 e5
 I figured as much and decided that some sort of zugzwang would be possible after Nxe5.
 43.Nh4+ Ke6 44.Ra6+ Kd5 45.Nf5
Position after 45.Nf5

 Now White  threatens to win! He hits my bishop and threatens a fork on e7.
45...Ke4 46.Ng3+ Kf3 47.Nf5 Bc1
47...Rg5! 48.Nh4+ Ke4 offered Black better winning chances.
 48.Nh4+ Ke2 49.Ra4 Kd3 50.Ra7 h6 51.Rd7+ Ke2 52.Re7 Bf4 53.Re6 Kf2
Position after 53...Kf2

53...Kd3 was GM Alex Shabalov's suggestion keeping my forces massed together rather than allowing my king to become too separated from the rest of the army. 54.Ng6 Ke4 55.Nxf4 Kxf4 56.Rxh6 e4 57.Rf6+ Ke3 and Black still is the one with the winning chances.
 54.Ng6 Rd8 55.Nxe5 Rd5 56.Ng4+ Kf3
 Still I have all sorts of threats and my opponent was already approaching his second time scramble. I focused on the remaining resources I had to complicate things.
57.Kh4 h5 58.Nf6 Bg5+ 59.Kh3 Rd4 60.Ne4

60.Re4?? Rd3 wins.
60...Bd8 61.Re8 Rd3 62.Re6 h4 63.Rd6
Final Position, Savage-Andrews

and the draw is now forced. A great defensive effort out of my opponent. I was very impressed. ½–½

In round seven, it was clear that there were many strong masters vying for the prize money and fighting chess was called for. After a well-known opening line, I played an impressive, young man named Matt Parry. Usually taking younger players into the endgame is a big advantage for the more experienced player, but my opponent showed that he too had spatial comprehension.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 g6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bg7 9.f3 0–0 10.0–0 Rc8 11.b3

Position after 11.b3

 ...and with this move came my opponent's first draw offer. Having made a self imposed 30–move Sofia rule on myself, I thought for 16 minutes and implemented an idea that Elizabeth Vicary showed me the day before. Always keep your ears open when your friends are willing to share lines with you, never know when you might need it.
11...d5 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Nxd5 e6 14.Bh6 exd5 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Nb5 dxc4 17.Nd6 Rd8 18.Nxb7 Qxd1

Position after 18...Qxd1

 I completed this move by saying "I return the draw offer" and my opponent knew he had the better chances and played on! Bravo! 19.Rfxd1 Rxd1+ 20.Rxd1 cxb3 21.axb3 Nc6 22.Rd7
Here the plan Re8-e7 is also sufficient.
22...Ne5 23.Rc7 g5
 The f7 pawn could become a serious liability, so it is very important secure my knights position and not allow White  to kick him around. Who are the kickers in chess? Pawns, of course.
24.Kf2 a5 and Black has some chances to trade off the a-pawn and secure the draw.; 24.b4 was the moved I feared. I thought White  might be able to cramp me and fix the a-pawn with b4-b5.
 24...f6 25.Ra5 Rb8 26.Nc5
26.Rxa7 Nc6 27.Ra6 Rxb7 28.Rxc6 Rxb3 is a dead draw.
 26...Nc6 27.Ra6 Rb6 28.Rxb6 axb6 29.Ne4 Nd4 30.Nd2 f5

 The number one way to gain space is to push pawns and now the f-pawn and Black knight create a nice blockade not allowing the White  king to improve.
 31.Kf2 f4 32.b4 b5 33.Ne4 Kg6 34.Ke1 Kf5 35.Kd2 g4

 Now Black has all the winning chances.
36.Nd6+ Ke5 37.Nxb5
Often, you will find players not able to handle the pressure in endgames and they resort to drastic measures. This move ends up drawing but it is definitely not the easiest path.
37...Nxb5 38.fxg4 Nd4 39.Kd3 Kd5 40.h4 Nc6 41.b5 Ne5+ 42.Ke2 h6
42...Kc5 43.g5 Kxb5 44.h5 Kc5 45.g6 hxg6 46.hxg6 Nxg6 47.Kf3 and there is no way to stop g2-g3 securing the draw.
 43.Kf2 Kc5 44.g3 Kxb5 45.g5 fxg3+ 46.Kxg3 h5 47.Kf4 Ng6+ 48.Kf5 Nxh4+ 49.Kf6 Kc5
49...Kc4 50.Kg7 Ng2 51.Kf6 Nf4 52.Kf5 Nd5 53.g6 Ne7+ 54.Kg5 draws.
 50.Kg7 Nf3
50...Nf5+ 51.Kf6 Ng7 (51...Ng3 52.g6 h4 53.g7 Nh5+ 54.Kg5 draws.) 52.Kxg7 h4 53.g6 h3 54.Kf7 h2 55.g7 draws.
51.g6 h4 52.Kf6 h3 53.g7 h2 54.g8Q h1Q and after 30 or so more moves White  held the draw. ½–½

Money Game

So keep the endgame study up and you can count on improvement in your game. I conclude with my money-round game against (IM) Adu Oladapu, even though it did not go into an ending.

After this win, I tied for 6th place. So what’s next? Off to the All Good Festival in West Virginia to discover whether or not they play as well as Bonnaroo!