Grivas: Chess Expertise Step by Step – Endgame Magic

8/8/2012 – The ending the ending rook, bishop and pawn versus bishop, knight and pawn, when there are no passed pawns and the bishops are of opposite colors is, in the words of chess trainer Efstratios Grivas, "easy, because White has a very concrete plan, and difficult because White has to be accurate at certain moments." He demonstrates this with a deeply annotated 1990 Kasparov-Karpov game.

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Walking the Path

By Michael McGuerty

Chess Expertise Step by Step: Vol. 4, Endgame Magic (DVD), by Efstratios Grivas, ChessBase, Video running time: 4 hours, $33.95 (ChessCafe Price: $27.95)

My review of the companion volume, Chess Expertise Step by Step: Vol. 3, Rook Handling, made its way into the August 2012 "ChessBase Cafe" column here at I mentioned there that GM Grivas is not the most animated presenter and that he speaks somewhat quickly with a heavy accent in a deep, gravelly voice, but the viewer soon becomes acclimated to his style of delivery and enunciation and inflections.

The contents of this DVD are divided as follows:

  • About the author
  • Introduction
  • The Isolani in the Endgame (five segments)
  • Rook & RP vs Bishop & RP (fourteen segments)
  • The Square (four segments)
  • Queen vs Rook (eight segments)
  • Shattered Pawns (four segments)
  • Pawn Endings (five segments)
  • Rook vs Bishop-pair (seven segments)

In the "About the author" segment, Grivas lists his extensive accomplishments as a chess trainer and author. He is a FIDE Senior Trainer (Secretary of the FIDE Trainers' Commission), an International FIDE Chess Arbiter, and an International FIDE Chess Organizer. He has won several medals at various Olympiads and, in 2010, he was awarded the FIDE TRG Boleslavsky Medal for best author of 2009. It is a bit unnecessary to include this as a video clip; a paragraph of text in the index window would have sufficed.

In the introduction, Grivas explains the concept of this DVD:

"Many people think that the qualities of the grandmaster, compared to an ordinary player, mostly consists of superior opening preparation, greater calculating abilities, and deeper understanding of typical middelgame positions. If you, however, take a closer look at games, say, from a strong Open tournament, you will notice several cases where the grandmaster outplays a weaker player or even a fellow grandmaster in the endgame from more or less equal positions. You are often left wondering, how on earth could someone lose such a simple position with so few pieces on the board.

"And yet, in my personal experience, the last part of the game is where a well-educated player can set the opponent the most problems. The weight of each moves increases; each mistake can prove very costly; and great accuracy is required. In our times, with the abolition of adjournments and the increasingly faster time-controls endgame knowledge has acquired greater significance than ever before. This DVD, called "Endgame Magic," tries to cover important parts in this field and help to assimilate knowledge, and understand in depth, the proper handling of the endgame in certain cases.

"We will examine how to benefit from the isolani in the endgame; how to try to win or defend when a rook and rook-pawn vs a bishop and rook-pawn (on the same side) endgame arises; the technique of the 'square' when the advantage of the exchange-up seems to be difficult to capitalize; how to win or defend with a plain queen vs a plain rook; how to benefit from our opponent's shattered pawns; how to play some specific pawn endings; and, finally, what are the problems of the exchange-up when facing the bishop-pair. As Laurence Fishburne has mentioned in Matrix, 'There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.'"

It may seem surprising that the section with the most segments is "Rook & RP vs Bishop & RP," but time-wise many of these have the shortest duration; the longest clip here is just shy of seven minutes, while the majority are three to five minutes in length. The longest clip overall can be found in the "Pawn Endings" section, clocking in at slightly more than sixteen minutes.

Since the concept of "The Square" may be the least self-explanatory of the contents, let's have a look at it. Grivas admits that the title of this segment may be misleading because it is a survey of the ending rook and bishop and pawn versus bishop and knight and pawn, when there are no passed pawns and the bishops are of opposite colors. "But as the usual winning maneuver is the 'rook-square' move it is useful to call it 'The Square.'"

The first example is from Kasparov-Karpov, FIDE-Wch Lyon (16), 01.12.1990.

[Event "World Championship 35th-KK5"] [Site "Lyon/New York"] [Date "1990.12.01"] [Round "16"] [White "Kasparov, Garry"] [Black "Karpov, Anatoly"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C45"] [WhiteElo "2800"] [BlackElo "2730"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5k2/4R3/2K3p1/4BbPn/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 89"] [PlyCount "27"] [EventDate "1990.10.??"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "24"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1991.04.01"] {Here the game was adjourned for the second time. Judging from all the features the position is a winning one for White, and in end the logic of chess triumphed. To win the game, Kasparov has to walk his king to the square d8. He can only do it by having his rook moving around a magical square, which is described by a7-, a3-, e3- and e7-squares.} 89. Ra7 $1 {Drawing one side of the square.} (89. Bh2 Kxe7) 89... Bg4 90. Kd6 Bh3 ({The alternative is} 90... Bf5 91. Ra3 {[Grivas skips through these lines at a fast pace, just taking a "quick look."]} Kf7 (91... Ke8 92. Re3 Kf7 93. Kc7 Be6 (93... Ke6 94. Bh2+ Kd5 95. Re7 Bc2 96. Kd8 Ba4 97. Re5+ Kd4 98. Re6 Bc2 99. Ke7 $18) 94. Kd8 Bd5 95. Bb2 Nf4 96. Re7+ Kg8 (96... Kf8 97. Ba3 Kg8 98. Re8+ Kg7 99. Ke7 $18) 97. Ra7 Nd3 98. Bd4 Kf8 99. Rd7 Bc4 100. Rd6 $18) 92. Re3 Be6 (92... Bg4 93. Kc7 Ke6 94. Bh2+ Kf7 (94... Kd5 95. Re7 Bf5 96. Kd8 Bc2 97. Ke8 $18) 95. Kd8 Be6 (95... Ng7 96. Re7+ Kf8 97. Bd6 Kg8 98. Be5 Ne6+ 99. Ke8 Bf5 100. Rb7 $18) 96. Ra3 Ng7 97. Ra7+ Kg8 98. Ke7 $18) (92... Bc2 93. Kd7 Ba4+ 94. Kd8 Ke6 95. Bh2+ Kd5 ( 95... Kf5 96. Re5+ Kg4 97. Re4+ $18) 96. Ke7 Kd4 97. Ra3 $18) 93. Kc7 Ke7 94. Bb2 Nf4 95. Ba3+ Kf7 96. Rf3 $18) 91. Ra3 $1 {The second side of the square is born. But why has the rook land on the square a3? It prevents the black knight from jumping to the square g3.} Bg4 92. Re3 Bf5 93. Kc7 Kf7 94. Kd8 {The king's journey is over and White pushes the black king from the f-file.} Bg4 95. Bb2 $1 {Kasparov makes an important bishop move precisely in a moment when the black knight can't move. It opens the road for the rook to come back to the square e7.} Be6 ({After} 95... Nf4 96. Re7+ Kf8 97. Ba3 Kg8 98. Re4 Ne6+ 99. Ke7 {Black loses one of his pieces or the two pieces for his rook.}) 96. Bc3 $1 {An accurate waiting move which puts Black in a zugzwang position.} Bf5 (96... Nf4 $2 97. Rf3 $18) 97. Re7+ {Returning where it all began, the rook finishes the square journey.} Kf8 98. Be5 {The domination is complete: the knight at the edge has no moves. White can easily force the black king to the corner.} Bd3 99. Ra7 Be4 100. Rc7 {Kasparov is looking for a free square on the eighth rank for his rook.} ({It was possible to play directly} 100. Bd6+ Kg8 101. Ke7 Ng7 102. Be5 $18) 100... Bb1 101. Bd6+ Kg8 102. Ke7 ({And Black resigned, as after} 102. Ke7 Ng7 103. Rc8+ Kh7 104. Be5 Nf5+ 105. Kf8 {he has no defense against 106.Rc7+.}) 1-0

Grivas concludes that this endgame is "easy" in that "White has a very concrete plan" and "difficult" because White "has to be accurate at certain moments." For sure, this section is somewhat esoteric for the average player. The segments on the isolani, pawn endings, queen vs rook, and shattered pawns will all have more practical significance.

Whereas Grivas used many of his own games as models on the previous DVD in this series, none here are from his own practice. It is Gelfand and Kasparov who appear the most times at three games each, and Svidler and Topalov at two games. The famous game Salwe-Rubinstein makes an appearance, as do game examples from Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Spassky, Smyslov, Fischer, Müller, and others. In each case, the examples are well-chosen for the topic being presented. It is also useful that Grivas includes the majority of his "script" in the game annotations; thus, you do not have to replay the video segment to review his spoken commentary.

Chess Expertise Step by Step: Vol. 4, Endgame Magic covers many important topics that are necessary to know in order to become a more accomplished player. Perhaps by the time the viewer has worked through the first three volumes they will be ready to absorb the contents of this one. Chess Expertise Step by Step: Vol. 3, Rook Handling was recommended to players of all levels; for Chess Expertise Step by Step: Vol. 4, Endgame Magic, it is probably of benefit to be a stronger player at the outset.

My assessment of this product: Good (four out of six stars)

An apology

At the time of publication of this review it had escaped our attention – as it had the attention of the original reviewer at Chess Cafe – that the analysis provided by GM Grivas was in fact taken, often verbatim, from a Huffington Post article published by GM Lubomir Kavalek two years ago. The oversight is especially embarrassing since the original Huffington article had appeared on our newspage as well. The matter has been minutely documented in a subsequent article by Kavalek's entitled "Heavy Lifting".

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