Knight battles

by Karsten Müller
7/2/2015 – There is no question that no player since Anatoly Karpov has done as much to promote endgames as Magnus Carlsen. The positions that seem so deceptively simple and that combine art and science fascinate the more one looks into them. Here is an knight endgame played in the Russian Higher League, analyzed by GM Karsten Mueller in instructive depth.

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The image of two knights, straight from a scene from Ivanhoe, has always seemed a fitting image
of the battles on the chess board. This is reinforced all the more thanks to the Staunton piece design
that has now become the international standard.

Anastasia Savina - Marina Guseva

This is the type of position reached in the endgame that follows. Black's b-pawn
is free to go, and his king is well positioned in front of the kingside assailants.
White has a few choices here, some which win, others that only draw. Take a
look and see what you can find, before playing through the analysis.

Anastasia Savina (left) seated next to Alina Kashlinskaya in the Russian Higher League

Analysis by Karsten Mueller:

[Event "65th ch-RUS HL w 2015"] [Site "Kaliningrad RUS"] [Date "2015.06.28"] [Round "6.2"] [White "Savina, A."] [Black "Guseva, Marina"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D45"] [WhiteElo "2422"] [BlackElo "2410"] [PlyCount "182"] [EventDate "2015.06.22"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 a6 7. b3 Bd6 8. Be2 e5 9. O-O O-O 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. dxe5 Nxe5 12. Bb2 Bg4 13. Nxe5 Bxe5 14. Bxg4 Nxg4 15. h3 Nf6 16. Qf5 Re8 17. Rfd1 Qc8 18. Qxc8 Raxc8 19. Rac1 Rc6 20. Na4 Bxb2 21. Nxb2 Rec8 22. Nd3 Kf8 23. Rxc6 Rxc6 24. Rc1 Rxc1+ 25. Nxc1 Ke7 26. f3 h5 27. h4 Nd7 28. Nd3 Kd6 29. Kf2 Nf8 30. Nf4 g6 31. g4 hxg4 32. fxg4 Nh7 33. h5 Nf6 34. Kf3 g5 35. Nh3 Nh7 36. Nf2 Ke6 37. Nd3 b6 38. Nb4 a5 39. Nc6 Nf6 40. Nd4+ Ke5 41. h6 Nh7 42. a4 Nf6 43. Ke2 Kd6 44. Nf3 Nh7 45. Kd3 Ke6 46. Nd4+ Kf6 47. Nf5 Ke5 48. Nd4 Kf6 49. Nc6 Ke6 50. Kc3 Kd6 51. Nd4 Ke5 52. Kd3 Kf6 53. Nc6 Ke6 54. b4 axb4 55. Nxb4 Ke5 56. Nc6+ Kd6 57. Nd4 Ke5 58. Nf3+ Ke6 59. Kc3 Kd6 60. Kb4 f5 61. gxf5 g4 62. Ne1 Kc6 63. Kc3 Kc5 64. Nd3+ Kd6 65. Kd4 Nf6 66. Nf4 g3 67. Ng2 Nh7 68. e4 dxe4 69. Kxe4 Ke7 70. Ke5 Kf7 71. Nh4 Nf6 72. Kf4 Kg8 73. Kg5 $2 ({Possibly afraid of giving up one of her last pawns, White foregoes on exchanging with} 73. Kxg3 Kh7 74. Kf4 Kxh6 {However, here the win was fairly straightforward with} 75. Ke5 $1 Kg7 76. Ke6 Ne4 77. Ng6 Nc5+ 78. Ke7 Nb3 79. f6+ $18 {and the pawn will queen. Still, so late in the game, and with such pressure, lack of time did them no favors.}) 73... Kf7 74. Ng2 Nd5 75. Kg4 Nc3 $2 (75... Kg8 76. Kxg3 (76. Kg5 Kf7 77. h7 Kg7 78. f6+ Kxh7 $11) 76... Kh7 { The key difference between here and the previous line, is that the white king is not quite ready yet to support the f-pawn's advance, and thus Black is able to defend thanks to his soon to be freed b-pawn.} 77. Nf4 Nc3 78. f6 Kxh6 79. Kg4 Nxa4 80. Kf5 Nc5 $11) 76. Kxg3 Nxa4 77. Kg4 {A gutsy move, since it does not bring the king to the 'promotion square' of the b-pawn, nor does it bring the knight to help stop it. This still wins for White, but the question is how much White saw when playing this.} (77. Nf4 {was the easier win, using the knight to cut off the king from the h-pawn.} Nc5 78. Ne6 $1 {and not only is Nxe6 losing, but White threatens h7 with the knight cutting off the king from g7.} Ne4+ {The only move.} 79. Kf4 Nf6 80. Ng5+ Kg8 81. Ne4 $1 {The only winning move.} (81. Ke5 $2 {obviously fails to} Ng4+ 82. Ke6 Nxh6 $11) 81... Nd7 ({The pawn endgame holds no respite.} 81... Nxe4 82. Kxe4 Kh7 83. f6 Kxh6 84. Kf5 b5 (84... Kh7 85. Ke6 Kg8 86. Ke7) 85. Ke6) 82. Nd6 {Black's dream is to exchange her b-pawn for White's and then give up the knight for the last one, but this dream cannot be realized.} Kh7 83. Kg5 Nf8 84. f6 Ne6+ {and here we see once again, how precise one must be.} 85. Kh5 $1 {is the only winning move.} (85. Kf5 Nd4+ 86. Ke4 Ne6 87. Nf5 Ng5+ 88. Ke5 b5 $11) 85... Nf4+ 86. Kg4 Ne6 87. f7 Kg6 88. h7 Kxh7 89. Kf5 Nf8 90. Kf6 b5 91. Nxb5 {and his endgame is won for White.} Ng6 92. Nc7 Nf8 93. Ne6 Ng6 94. Nf4 Nf8 95. Ke7 Kg7 96. Nh5+ Kg6 97. Kxf8 {etc.}) (77. Kf4 {on the other hand would throw away the win.} Nc5 78. Nh4 b5 {and Black defends.}) 77... Nc5 78. Kf4 $2 {White misses her chance to win the endgame once more.} (78. Nf4 $1 Ne4 (78... b5 79. h7 Kg7 80. Ne6+ Nxe6 81. fxe6 Kxh7 82. e7 $18) 79. Ne6 Nf6+ 80. Kg5 Nh7+ 81. Kf4 Kf6 82. Nc7 Kf7 83. Nb5 Kf6 84. Nd6 Nf8 85. Ne4+ Kf7 86. Ng5+ Kf6 87. h7 Kg7 88. Ne6+ $18) 78... Nd7 {The cavalry arrives just in time, and is able to hold the fort.} 79. Ne3 b5 80. Nd5 Kg8 81. Kg5 Kh7 82. Kh5 b4 83. Nxb4 Nf6+ 84. Kg5 Ne4+ 85. Kf4 Nd6 86. f6 Kxh6 87. Ke5 Kg6 88. Nc6 Ne8 89. Ne7+ Kf7 90. Nd5 Nxf6 91. Nxf6 Ke7 1/2-1/2

Karsten Müller in ChessBase Magazine

Do you like these lessons? There are plenty more by internationally renowned endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller in ChessBase Magazine, where you will also find openings articles and surveys, tactics, and of course annotations by the world's top grandmasters.

Click to go to the ChessBase Magazine page

Apart from his regular columns and video lectures in ChessBase Magazine there is a whole series of training DVDs by Karsten Müller, which are bestsellers in the ChessBase Shop.

Karsten Müller, born 1970, has a world-wide reputation as one of the greatest endgame experts. He has, together with Frank Lamprecht, written a book on the subject: “Fundamental Chess Endgames” in addition to other contributions such as his column on the website ChessCafe as well as in ChessBase Magazine. Müller's ChessBase-DVDs about endgames in Fritztrainer-Format are bestsellers. The PhD in mathematics lives in Hamburg, where he has also been hunting down points for the HSK in the Bundesliga for many years.
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