Huffington: The Dance of Chess Kings

2/10/2016 – In his game the world's top-rated woman Hou Yifan World Champion Magnus Carlsen found himself in an endgame that was a theoretical draw. But it was not as easy as one may have thought: the Chinese GM would have to find a precise defense in a wonderful world of zugzwangs, stalemates and critical, correspondence or conjured squares. Huffington Post columnist Lubomir Kavalek explains in a very instructive column.

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The Dance of Chess Kings

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

Watching his rival Fabiano Caruana losing in the last round of the Tata Steel Chess tournament, the world chess champion Magnus Carlsen had to wait a few moments before he could celebrate yet another first place.

What does Carlsen have in common with sport superstars Lionel Messi, Jaromir Jagr or Stephen Curry? They all seem unstoppable. Everybody knows they are going to score, but not many are able to prevent it.

Carlsen went undefeated in the first major tournament of the year that ended in Wijk aan Zee at the end of January. It was his fifth victory in the traditional Dutch tournament, a record he now shares with the former world champion Vishy Anand.

The tournament started in the 1930s and 78 tournaments have been played since under different names and in different locations. In 1967 we played the last time in Beverwijk, in a movie theater, and the winner was Boris Spassky. Next year the event moved a few kilometers towards the sea to Wijk aan Zee. Lately, some rounds were played in the Rijksmuseum and the NEMO Science Center in Amsterdam, in the International Press Center in the Hague and in a railway museum in Utrecht.

The Tata Steel tournament must be one of Carlsen's favorite events. Here he played his signature game against Sipke Ernst in 2004 that earned him the moniker "Mozart of Chess" by The Washington Post. The Norwegian grandmaster now won the last three times he played there. This year, he combined patience, grit, gamble, endurance, high technique, creative attacks and calm defenses to score five wins.

His last win against the world's top-rated woman Hou Yifan came in a pawn endgame that the Chinese GM should have drawn, but it was not as easy as one may have thought. She would have to find a precise defense during the battle of the squares.

[Event "78th Tata Steel GpA"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Carlsen, M."] [Black "Hou Yifan"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1p1k4/p1p4p/2Pp1p2/P4P2/1PK4P/2P5/8 b - - 0 45"] [PlyCount "11"] [EventDate "2016.01.15"] {Instead of the faulty 45...h5, Hou Yifan could have blocked the entrance to the square b6 with} 45... a5 $1 ({The game Carlsen - Hou Yifan continued:} 45... h5 $2 {Hou played this blunder rather quickly, allowing the white king to sneak to the square b6.} 46. Kb4 Kc8 47. Ka5 Kc7 48. h4 Kb8 49. Kb6 Kc8 50. b4 Kb8 51. b5 cxb5 52. axb5 axb5 53. Kxb5 Kc7 54. c3 {and Hou resigned. She is in zugzwang and has to surrender the square b6. White wins the pawn d5 after } Kd7 55. Kb6 Kc8 56. c6 $18) 46. b4 {The only way to open the queenside.} (46. h4 h5 47. b4 {just transposes.}) {It seems that Black now has two ways to make a draw but only one solves it with precise play.} 46... Ke7 $1 (46... axb4+ $6 {This comes deceptively close to a draw, but White can continue playing.} 47. Kxb4 Kd8 $1 {Black’s defense is based on a stalemate and zugzwang.} (47... h5 $2 48. Ka5 Kc7 49. h4 Kc8 50. Kb6 Kb8 51. a5 Ka8 52. a6 Kb8 53. axb7 $18) 48. Ka5 (48. Kc3 Ke7 49. a5 Kd7 $11) 48... Kc7 49. h4 h5 50. c3 {Unfortunately, White has to move his c-pawn to make progress. White wins with the pawn on c2.} Kc8 $1 ({One square makes a difference:} 50... Kb8 51. Kb6 Kc8 52. a5 Kb8 53. a6 bxa6 54. Kxa6 {and White wins the c6 pawn.}) 51. Kb6 Kb8 52. a5 Ka8 $1 ( 52... Kc8 $2 53. Ka7 Kc7 54. a6 $18) 53. Kc7 $1 (53. a6 Kb8 $1 54. axb7 d4 55. cxd4 $11 ({But not} 55. Kxc6 $2 dxc3 56. Kb6 c2 57. c6 c1=Q $19)) 53... Ka7 54. Kd6 Ka6 55. Ke5 Kb5 $1 56. Kxf5 Kc4 $1 57. Kg6 (57. Kg5 Kxc3 58. f5 d4 59. f6 d3 60. f7 d2 61. f8=Q d1=Q $11) 57... Kxc3 58. f5 d4 59. f6 d3 60. f7 d2 61. f8=Q d1=Q 62. Qh8+ Kc4 63. Qxh5 {and I am sure Magnus would still try to win it from here.}) 47. bxa5 {A critical position. The defense is based on the resistance equilibrium: Black has only one move to hold a draw.} Kd7 $1 { [%csl Rc3,Rd7] A position with a mutual zugzwang: White to move: draw; Black to move: White wins.} (47... Kd8 $2 48. Kd4 Ke7 49. Ke5 $18) 48. Kb4 {Two other examples show how Black has to find the only one correct square for his king:} (48. Kd3 Ke7 $1 $11 {[%csl Gd3,Ge7]} (48... Ke6 $2 49. Kd4 Kf6 50. Kc3 Ke6 51. Kb4 Kd7 52. a6 bxa6 53. Ka5 $18)) (48. Kd4 Ke6 $1 {[%csl Yd4,Ye6]}) 48... Kc7 49. Kb3 Kc8 ({or} 49... Kd8) 50. Kc3 Kd7 $1 {Draw.} 1-0

The analysis of the game Carlsen-Hou Yifan brought us to the wonderful world of zugzwangs, stalemates and critical, correspondence or conjured squares in the pawn endgames. The 1932 book L'Opposition et les Cases conjuguées sont réconciliées (Opposition and Sister squares are reconciled) by the dadaist Marcel Duchamp and chess composer Vitaly Halberstadt, dealing with a mysterious connection between empty squares, came to mind. Basically, it is a king dance: the white king steps on one square and it triggers only one correct response of the black king. The book is not very practical, but it is nice to look at.

For the French writer Pierre Cabanne the problems presented in the book are rare, almost utopian. "It is an artist's book for chessplayers and a chess book for the artists," wrote the Austrian writer Ernst Strouhal, who published several books on Duchamp and chess.

In 1958, the Czech IM Emil Richter tried to make the idea more useful and came up with the more general Theory of Resistance Equilibrium. Perhaps an awkward name, but here is what he meant in short: "In a position in which one side makes a good move, the other side has to find only one correct answer - otherwise the balance is broken." It is mostly prevalent in the pawn endgames, as in Carlsen's game or Duchamp's work, but Richter intended to extend it to other pieces. He never got to do it, finished only the one volume about the pawn endgames and his theory was forgotten.

Richter was a strong player in the 1940s, chess composer and good teacher. His best student was GM Vlastimil Jansa, who in turn became a coach of the Czech champion David Navara. Another example how chess knowledge is passed from generation to generation.

Navara won the Fair Play Prize in the Master group awarded in memory of the late Vugar Gashimov. He could have also won the prize for the most entertaining play, if there was any. Winning or losing, he fought bravely in every game, often being lured by chess artistry. "Too much talent," Bobby Fischer once told me about grandmasters playing this way. Navara's best game was against Caruana. Here is the final part:

[Event "?"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee "] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Navara, David"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "lk"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/R2bk1pp/1p4r1/3BKp2/P1P4P/6P1/8/8 b - - 0 49"] [PlyCount "12"] [EventDate "2016.01.16"] {White threatens to create a passed pawn on the queenside. Caruana makes White's task easier by leaving the sixth rank with the rook.} 49... Rxg3 $2 50. a5 $1 bxa5 51. c5 Kd8 $2 ({After} 51... Rg6 52. h5 Rf6 53. c6 Rd6 54. cxd7 (54. c7 Bc8) 54... Rxd7 55. Rxa5 {Navara would have winning chances since the white h-pawn still remains on the board.}) 52. h5 $1 {A wonderful quiet move, paving the way for the king by not allowing a check on the sixth rank.} ({Caruana hoped that he could survive giving up the bishop after} 52. c6 Bxc6 (52... Bc8 53. h5) 53. Bxc6 {and somehow exchange the last white pawn. Perhaps easier said than done, but anyway Navara had a study-like finish in mind.}) 52... f4 53. Kd6 Bc8 54. c6 Rg5 ({After} 54... Rd3 55. Rxg7 Rxd5+ 56. Kxd5 {the black king is still in trouble.}) 55. Bf7 $1 {And that's how a true chess artist finishes his game, mating with a pawn:} (55. Bf7 Bh3 56. Ra8+ Bc8 57. c7#) 1-0

It was a setback for Caruana, but he was still able to chase Carlsen until he lost to Evgeny Tomashevsky in the last round. The American GM shared the second place with the Chinese GM Ding Liren.

Next month, Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura will represent the United States in the Candidates tournament in Moscow for the right to challenge Carlsen for the world title.

Nakamura meantime continued to pursue his hobby: collecting first prizes in major open tournaments. Early this month he shared first place with the French GM Maxime Vachiere-Lagrave at the popular Tradewise Gibraltar Masters, but won the tie-brake 3-2. Anna Muzychuk, the sister of the Women's world champion Mariya, won the best women's prize.

Images by Alina l'Ami

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over over a quarter of a billion visits per month (according to Quantcast), making it the number 73 ranked web site in the world (Alexa, January 2014).

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yinushi yinushi 3/31/2016 05:09
Very good strategical thinking from these world chess grand masters.
yinushi yinushi 3/31/2016 05:07
Very good strategical thinking of these world chess GMs.

qiqiangzhu qiqiangzhu 2/11/2016 08:41
Chess King & Queen are really a match here...
Vernunft Vernunft 2/11/2016 01:01
Krabbe has a history of being ripped off by Hesse and Emms, so you can understand why he'd be a bit upset. I wonder if one can sue on his behalf?
yesenadam yesenadam 2/10/2016 10:39
This seems to me amazing arrogance. What are we to make of the first sentence? You frolic with the gods, and return to the grotty underworld and find THIS nonsense. Who do you think you are? You are better than everyone else. Or at least everyone you've spoken to/about. Krabbé and Winter's contributions to the chess world are highly respected, to say the least. And to come along seeming to steal the fruits of their work, and then abuse them. (And almost comically, to suggest your errors are a deliberate piece of harmless fun) Because you seem to yourself the good guy, you think you will seem so to everyone else. I haven't read your books. (I didn't think there was much point, as I've already thoroughly read Krabbé and Winter) "Self-appointed chess historians" indeed! And what are you, sir? I think the chess world is very lucky to have a historian like Winter to single-handedly (with the help of his readers) take on the job of reversing a century of shoddy chess writing and writers. You say "people like Krabbé and Winter who...have a record of easily and frequently accusing anybody who later writes about the same chess games and matches, chess positions, studies, events – even in a completely different manner – of copying their material." Hmm easily and frequently? I don't recall them doing that a lot. Not much at all. Winter 'accuses' Keene of copying a lot, but (mostly) not from Winter. Krabbé writes about Emms putting out a book largely based on his list of best moves ever. They both mention you copying from them. And..I can't think of too many more, from memory. Would you care to substantiate your accusation towards them? Well, I think "easily and frequently" is pretty ridiculous. This maybe applies to yourself, but not the world as a whole. "This is widely known among chess people." Who? What, it seems, is widely known, or at least believed, is these things that you are accused of.

Anyway, I suppose it's nice that you comment on here at all, but maybe this is a serious matter that deserves more than jokey quips and mud-slinging in response. I'm sure you don't really think that truth and stealing peoples' work etc are matters of no importance, but it does seem so, from what you've written. And you seem a long way from changing your tune.]
yesenadam yesenadam 2/10/2016 10:38
Sorry for kind-of-off-topic comment, but not really. It relates to every story on here. I wrote a long comment about Christian Hesse's plagiarism a few days ago. I came back today to see what happened. It was gone! Then I logged in to ask why it was deleted, and - hey! there it was back again. It seems that it only appears on the page to me when I'm logged on. Otherwise it's invisible. So I assume no-one can see it. Has anyone else noticed this? It's kind of sinister, to say the least. Would CB care to explain what's going on? I have no idea.
p.s. Here was my comment - you won't see it on Hesse's page.
[yesenadam 2/8/2016 10:55
Prof. Hesse: Hi. Your flippant attitude to this really doesn't help your case with the readers of this website/the chess world. You seem to think both copying and factual errors are inconsequential. Do you have the same attitude in mathematics? I doubt it. You wouldn't be allowed to get away with them - in a way that e.g. Keene has been allowed to in the chess world. Well, chess people know the truth, if the general public is fooled.

I looked you up online, the first thing that came up was from last year, Andrew Gelman on his blog reading Krabbe's pages and finding the reference to you and the accusations of plagiarism. You replied:

"Coming back from an international chess tournament, where I spent time with the Chess World Champion and his father, who have become dear friend, my agent pointed out this blog entry to me.
Not only does its author use an insulting headline and disrespectfully calls me by a nickname I never had, but also falsely accuses me of copying material for my chess book. Pretty heavy stuff.
Obviously, the blog`s author is not knowledgeable about the world of chess and especially not about people like T.Krabbé and E.Winter who – over the course of decades have been compiling thousands of chess items – have a record of easily and frequently accusing anybody who later writes about the same chess games and matches, chess positions, studies, events – even in a completely different manner – of copying their material. This is widely known among chess people.
What follows from all that?
Well, this blog`s integrity is dead. I cannot recommend reading it anymore."
emerlion emerlion 2/10/2016 07:30
Navara's endgame was a pleasure to watch!