GM Karsten Mueller: Chess Endgames 8 – Practical Rook Endings

8/30/2011 – You all know him from his regular CBM blog on our news pages. Now ChessBase has published a training DVD by GM Karsten Müller, the eighth of a series. "Although the lessons on this DVD are difficult, they are very worthwhile for keen students of the endgame, writes Sean Marsh in his Marsh Towers review. He calls this DVD one of the brightest jewels in the ChessBase crown.

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GM Karsten Mueller: Chess Endgames 8 – Practical Rook Endings

Review by Sean Marsh ('Marsh Towers')

ChessBase – 3 hours and 41 minutes running time

Dr. Mueller has already produced one DVD on rook endings. This new volume focuses on the practical side as opposed to the theoretical aspect.

The introduction sets the scene. The presenter encourages viewers to think for themselves and to develop – and use – chess intuition rather than dogmatically accepting the ‘rules’ of rook endings.

The material is divided into seven chapters. Each one consists of a number of short lessons on tricky techniques and tricks for the both sides of the board. The lessons never outstay their welcome; they are clear and concise. Sometimes just two minutes is enough for the salient points to be demonstrated.

Chapter 1: Rook vs. pawn

The first chapter concerns battles with a Rook against a pawn (or pawns). The subject may sound simple enough, but to show that the material on offer here is definitely not of a trivial nature, consider the very first position.

Lerner – Dorfman Tashkent 1980

According to Dr. Mueller, there is only one winning move here for White. Would you be able to find it over the board, if you didn’t already know the technique? So right from the start it is clear that this DVD will require hard work from viewers – which is, of course, a good thing.

Chapter 2: Rook techniques

The second chapter examines topics such as ‘the king needs a place to hide’ and ‘typical winning technique against a blockading rook’. Here’s an interesting and instructive passage of play from the section called ‘The rook is in full control’.

Tondivar – Lutz

I think a lot of players would see the white c-pawn as public enemy number one here and focus on trying to win it by bringing the king across to the queenside. Unfortunately, if all of the queenside pawns are swapped off then the game will be a theoretical draw, so another plan is required. So Black plays 45 …Kg6! 46 Rxa6 Kh5 47 Rb6 Kh4 48 Rxb5 Rc2+ (‘the c-pawn is not important’) 49 Kg1 Kxh3 and the kingside pawns were able to roll forward, unopposed, to victory.

I found it very instructive how ineffective the c-pawn was, because the Black Rook was always in the right place to prevent it from running forward with promotion in mind.

Chapter 3: Protection against a series of checks

The most important part if this chapter concerns the creation of an umbrella, which is best demonstrated by the following position.

Huschenbeth – Buhmann

52 f5! gxf5 53 g5!! The term ‘umbrella’ was coined (at least in the context of Rook endings) by GM Dvoretsky. The King has a shelter ‘…from the rain of checks.’

Chapter 4: The 4th phase of the game

The 4th phase comes after the opening, middlegame and endgame. It’s when both sides go on to promote a pawn. This is a shorter chapter than the rest and it examines the factors which will tip the scales in favour of one side. King safety is of paramount importance.

Chapter 5: Activity counts most

This chapter is all about active Rooks v passive Rooks and how to handle such positions.

Chapter 6: Defence

This is a long chapter, with a special emphasis placed on the art of how to ‘Be careful when simplifying into a pawn ending’. Even top players can make mistakes when it comes to this.

Van Wely – McShane

White’s best try would have been 66 gxf5+ Kxf5 and now 67 Kg3 and 67 Ra1 both draw. Van Wely tried to seek sanctuary in the King and pawn ending, but he wasn't careful enough and it merely transposed to a clear loss for him. 66 Kf3? Rxf2+ 67 Rxf2 exf2 68 gxf5+ Kxf5 69 Kxf2 Kf4 0-1.

Chapter 7: Complicated cases

As if chapters 1-6 weren’t complicated enough! There’s some real heavyweight material here. The concluding part looks at a very famous ending from the titanic 1978 World Championship match, under the title of ‘Duel of the Legends.’

Korchnoi – Karpov

Black continued with 57 …a5?! (57 …Rc4! draws, according to Korchnoi) and after 58 Rg3 Korchnoi, with his superhuman understanding of endgames, went on to win and level the match score at 5-5. Dr. Mueller provides evidence that Black could now have tried 58 …Rd4! rather than the 58 …b3? played in the game, again with good chances of a draw. The problem with 58 …b3? is that the pawn dropped off with check after 59 Kc6 Kb8 60 Rxb3+

Although the lessons on this DVD are difficult, they are very worthwhile for keen students of the endgame. The relatively short length of each one, coupled with the excellent presentation skills of Dr. Mueller (who really brings his favourite subject to life) ensures everything remains very accessible to the viewer. This is a great series and definitely one of the brightest jewels in the ChessBase crown.

Order the Karsten Müller DVD in the ChessBase Shop now


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