Wijk round twelve: an enormously complex ending

1/27/2008 – Normally chess commentary tells us which were the key moments in a game, which the mistakes and why one player won or was able to hold a draw. But when you are dealing with a great player like Judit Polgar and a full blooded chess trainer like GM Mihail Marin it can easily be turned into a chess lesson. Here is one installment you cannot afford to miss. Take notes while you read.

Wijk aan Zee 2008

GM Mihail Marin in tournament play

The following express commentary was provided by Romanian grandmaster Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the games of the World Championship tournament in much greater detail and provide the full results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

Round twelve commentary by GM Mihail Marin

Group A: Round 12 - Sat. Jan. 26th
Loek van Wely - Vishy Anand
Vladimir Kramnik - Magnus Carlsen
Teimour Radjabov - Peter Leko
Shak. Mamedyarov - Boris Gelfand
Pavel Eljanov - Veselin Topalov
Michael Adams - Judit Polgar
Levon Aronian - Vassily Ivanchuk

Another interesting round. The sensation of the day was provided by Carlsen, who outplayed Kramnik with the black pieces; something the Ex-World Champion is not too used to these days...

Veselin Topalov struggling in this tournament

Against Pavel Eljanov the former FIDE world champion took his fourth loss

The other "ex-", Topalov, also lost after launching a possibly unfounded sacrificial attack against Eljanov.

Top English GM Michael Adams received an endgame lesson by Hungary's Judit Polgar

In Adams-Polgar, the generally dull Russian defence eventually led to an enormously complicated ending, where Black converted her advantage convincingly.

Peter Leko at the start of his round twelve game against Teimour Radjabov

World Champion Vishy Anand at the start of his game against Loek van Wely

After three consecutive losses van Wely drew against Anand in round twelve

The other games ended in draws after the exhaustion of the practical possibilities. A special mention for Aronian-Ivanchuk, where the Uktainian managed to hold a theoretically drawn but nevertheless unpelasant rook endgame with a pawn down.

Adams,Mi (2726) - Polgar,Ju (2707) [C42]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (12), 26.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5 Time passes... When did Judit play her last Sicilian? 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Nc3 Bf5 9.Re1 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 0-0 12.Rb1 Na5 13.Qf5 Re8 14.Bf4 g6 15.Qh3 Nc4 16.Ne5 Bd6 17.Nxc4 Bxf4 18.Rxe8+ Qxe8 19.Qf3 dxc4 20.Qxf4 Qe2 21.h3 b6 22.Qf3 Qxf3 23.gxf3 a5 24.Re1 Kf8 25.Re4 Re8 26.Kf1 f5 27.Rxe8+ Kxe8

Things have gone terribly wrong for Black in the middlegame. In the pawn ending his structure is worse on both wings. On the kingside, this is just too obvious, because of the presence of double pawns. On the other wing, where both sides have structural deffects, Black maintains an advantage because of the availability of the d5-square and of the possibility of the pawn break ...b5-b4. According to the principle of the two weaknesses (in a wider sense), having an advantage on both wings should be sufficient for a win. However, the basically closed character of the position, offers White reasonable hopes for building up a reliable fortress. Some reader might ask: "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" Although my subsequent analysis claims to give a definitive evaluation of the position, for the time being I will refrain from any conclusions. I would rather emphasize the fact that the position is enormously complicated, both for the over-the-board player and for the analyst (the latter, with the help of the latest version of Fritz, a powerful engine which, by the way, does not always understand what's going on in this endgame either!). Let us compare it with the sharp game Carlsen - Anand from the previous round. The practical difficulties were caused by the numerous possible scenarios, each of them requiring separate treatment based on accurate calculation. There were about three different forms in which White could cary out the rook lift to the third rank, followed by its transfer to the kingside, while Black had at least two ways of reaction in each case (...g6 followed by ..h5 or ...h6 without ...g6). Concluding, the position faced the players with at least 3 x 2 = 6 difficult calculating... "exercises"! The situation is similar here. There are several possible evolutions of the structure on both wings. If we combine the independent scenarios from each side and take into account that wings tend to communicate with eachother, we reach a high number of possibilities that have to be taken into account. If we add that many of the critical positions require calculation of long variations we get a complete picture of the enormously complicated task facing both players. For the case that these abstract mathematical aspects failed to convince you that pawn endings can be just as complicated as a middlegame position, I would mention a game played between two of the greatest players of chess history (Karpov - Kasparov, Las Palmas 1996), in which both players erred alternatively, with White missing an obvious draw and then Black failing to find the winning continuation. As for the subsequent analysis (which might contain some mistakes still), I hope that it will give you the feeling that my general comments only revealed part of the grandious character of this type of positions...

28.f4 .White's desire to expand his breathing space is understandable, but I failed to find a winning plan after the more restrained 28.Ke2 . Here are some possible continuations: 28...f4 (In fact, Black's best practical chance would be to threaten ...Kg5-f4, which might force White play f4 anyway, transposing to the game continuation) 29.Kd2 Ke7 30.Ke2 Ke6 31.Kd2 Kf5 32.Ke2 b5 33.a3 Ke6 34.Kd1 Kd5 35.Kd2 c6 36.Ke2

Analysis diagram

36...c5 (Slightly trickier than 36...b4 when after 37.axb4 axb4 38.cxb4 Kxd4 39.Kd2 c3+ 40.Kd1 Kc4 41.Kc1 Kxb4 42.Kb1 Black cannot break through.) 37.dxc5 Kxc5 38.Kd1 b4 39.axb4+ axb4

Analysis diagram

40.Kd2! (White should rather give up the c3-pawn than allow the enemy king occupy the c3-square! After 40.cxb4+? Kxb4 41.Kd2 g5 42.Kc1 Kc3 Black wins easily.) 40...Kb5 41.Kc1 bxc3 42.Kb1 and Black cannot make further progress on the queensie, while the other wing is just too far, for instance 42...Kc5 43.Ka2 g5 44.Ka3 Kb5 45.Ka2 Kb4 46.Kb1 Kc5 47.Ka2 Kd5 48.Ka3 and White's counterplay is developing too fast to allow the king's transfer to the kingside.

28...Kd7 29.Ke2 Kd6 30.Kd2 Kc6

31.f3. Agagin, this move was not forced yet, but it looks like if White would have had to take the e4-square under control at a later stage anyway. For instance, after 31.Ke2 Kd5 32.Ke3 c6 33.Kf3? (the only way to prevent the enemy king's intrusion of White does not want to play f3) Black wins with 33...b5! 34.Ke3 (34.a3 does not prevent 34...b4) 34...b4 35.Kd2 Otherwise, White would lose his d4-pawn soon. 35...c5! 36.dxc5 Kxc5 and White is helpless against the combined threat of infiltration on the queenside or in the centre, for instance 37.f3 (Now or later, 37.cxb4+ is strongly answered by 37...Kxb4! which explains the necessity of the previous exchange of pawns on c5.) 37...Kb5 38.Kc1 bxc3 39.Kd1 Kb4 40.Kc1 h6 41.h4 h5 White is in zugzwang. His king cannot guard both wings anymore. 42.Kb1 Kc5 followed by ...Kd4-e3.

31...Kd6 32.Ke3 Kd5 33.Ke2

With the e4-square safely defended, White enjoys more freedom for his king. But, is this sufficient for successfull defence? 33...Kd6. Having reached a maximum of activity, Judit steps back. She might have feared that the standard queenside attack would lead to excessive simplifications and a draw. Since we are in amore advantageous position than her, by acting in the analysis mode and being able to switch back to the game continuation, let us investigate the consequences of the natural 33...b5 34.Kd2 c6! (Forcing White to either retreat with his king from the optimal d2-square or define his queenside structure. In case of the hurried 34...b4? White draws with 35.cxb4 axb4 36.c3! , when the outside passed a-pawn compensates for the other unfavourable aspects of White's position.; 34...c5 is also premature because of 35.dxc5 Kxc5 36.Kc1! b4 37.Kb2 and White can defend.) 35.a3 (35.h4 does not chance anything essentially after 35...h6; However, 35.Kc1 is an important deviation: 35...b4! Now, 36.Kd2 c5! leads to a known position, while 36.Kb2 allows 36...a4! Capturing on b4 is impossible because of the enemy king's infiltration with ...Kxd4 and ...Ke3, while otherwise ...b3 followed by the king's transfer to f6 and ...h6 followed by ...g5 would win. The white king would remain a mere spectator, guarding the far advanced b-pawn. Therefore, 36.cxb4 is more or less forced and after 36...axb4 White hs to try 37.c3!? However, this does not seem to be sufficient to save the game: 37...bxc3 38.Kd1 Kxd4 39.Kc2 Kc5 40.Kxc3 Kb5 41.Kc2 Kb4 This is a case when the presence of an outside passed pawn does not save White. The main reason is that his kingside weaknesses (f3 and f4) are closer than Black's (h7, or, in the case of the previous insertion of h4 and h6, g6), meaning that after the general exchanges with 42.Kb2 c3+ 43.Kc2 Ka3 44.Kxc3 Kxa2 45.Kc2 c5 46.Kc3 Kb1 White's conterplay would be too slow.) 35...c5! After having induced the weakening move a3, Black clears the way for his king. 36.dxc5 Kxc5 37.Kc1 (Once again, White's counterplay after 37.Ke3 b4 38.axb4+ axb4 39.cxb4+ Kxb4 40.Kd4 fails to 40...h6 41.h4 h5 42.Kd5 Kc3 43.Kc5 Kxc2 44.Kxc4 Kd2 winning.) 37...b4 38.axb4+ axb4 39.cxb4+ Kxb4 40.Kb2 White threatens c3+ with equality, but Black is in time to prevent it with 40...c3+! 41.Ka2

Analysis diagram

Black cannot make further progress on the queenside, but has to find a favourable moment to switch to an attack on the other wing. 41...h6 42.h4 h5 Before starting concrete action, Black has brought his h-pawn one step closer to the promotion line, forcing the enemy king to retreat at the same time. 43.Kb1 Kc4 44.Ka2 Kd4 45.Kb3 Ke3 46.Kxc3 Kxf3 47.Kd2

Analysis diagram

The position looks easily winning for Black, who has an active king and will win a pawn soon. However, there seems to be only one winning move here, and it should be said that it is not the most obvious! 47...Ke4!! (Paradoxically, 47...Kxf4 would let the win slip away. After 48.c4 , the plan given in the main line will fail for reasons that will be revealed later, while 48...Ke4 49.Kc3 Ke5 50.Kd3 Ke6 51.Kd4 Kd6 52.c5+ Kc6 53.Kc4 offers no winning chances at all. The exchange of passed pawns with 53...f4 54.Kd4 leads to a dead draw.) 48.c4 Kxf4

Analysis diagram

Remarkably, this position is a mutual zugzwang! 49.Kd3 (49.Kc2 is too passive because of 49...Kg3! followed by the advance of the f-pawn, with a won queen ending.) 49...g5! (Now, 49...Kg3 does not win because of 50.Ke2! Kg2 51.Ke3!) 50.c5 gxh4 51.c6 h3 52.c7 h2 53.c8Q h1Q

Analysis diagram

With his king on d2, (as in the case of the immediate capture on f4), White would draw by perpetual check, but here the king can escape after 54.Qc7+ Kg4 55.Qg7+ Kh3! and there is no check available along the third rank... Well, imagine that you would have to calculate all this without moving the pieces around and without any hint from Fritz...

34.Kd2 Ke7 35.Ke3 Ke6 36.Ke2

All these hesitations must have been caused by the desire to get closer to the time control. 36...g5!? From general point of view, this approach is correct. Once you cannot see very clearly what happens in case of an immediate queenside attack, you should make some progress of the other wing first. The exchange of one of White's double pawns will reduce his influence over the centre, providing the black king with more space of infiltration. At the same time, in certain lines Black would get his bishop's pawn to f4, obtaining an advantage of space on this wing. Another form of carryint out this plan would be 36...Kf6 . If White prevents ...g5 by advancing his pawn to h4, he would lose an important reserve tempo for the case of further zugzwang positions, while after 37.Ke3 g5 we would rach the game position. 37.Ke3. Adams wishes to mintain the control of the f4-square. The main alternative was 37.fxg5 f4! 38.Kf2 Kf5 If White refrains from defending his extra-pawn, Black would simply switch back to the aforementioned plan (...Kd5 and ...b5-b4), when the presence of the f-pawn on the fourth rank increases her chances for winning the resulting simplified ending. At the same time, 39.h4 does not save either: 39...Kg6 40.Kg2 Kh5 41.Kh3

Analysis diagram

An interesting moment: which side will have more reserve tempi available? 41...b5 (Only not 41...c6?? because iof 42.a4! when Black is lost because of zugzwang, for instance 42...b5 43.d5!) 42.a3 (Or 42.d5 b4) 42...c6 43.Kg2 Kxh4 44.Kh2 Kxg5 Black has won a pawn, but the win requires some accuracy still. It is not possible to make further kingside progress, while the enemy king is ready to launch a counterplay based on Kg4 in case of applying the familiar queenside plan. 45.Kh3 h5! Taking the essential g4-sqare under control, in order to slow down White's counterplay. 46.Kg2 Kf5 47.Kh3 Ke6 48.Kh4 Kd5 49.Kg5 b4 50.cxb4 axb4 51.axb4 Kxd4 52.Kxf4 Kc3 53.Kg3 Kxc2 54.f4 c3 55.f5 Kb3 56.f6 c2 57.f7 c1Q 58.f8Q Qc3+ 59.Kg2 Qxb4 with a won queen ending. 37...Kf6

38.d5. Weakening the d5-pawn will offer Black a clear target, but it is not easy to give a reliable advice for White. 38.fxg5+ Kxg5 would have left White in zugwang after 39.d5 for instance 39...a4 40.a3 h5 (Black should not weaken the c5-square prematurely with 40...b5? because of 41.f4+ Kh4 42.Kd4 with strong counterplay.) 41.Kf2 Kf4 42.h4 b5-+; After 38.Ke2 gxf4 Black would once again switched back to the standard queenside plan. 38...h5! Threatening to create a dangerous outside passed pawn. 39.a3. White's counterplay is not fast enough after 39.fxg5+ Kxg5 40.a4 Kh4 41.Kf4 Kxh3 42.Kxf5 Kg3. 39...g4 40.fxg4. White cannot resist by maintaining the kingside closed with 40.h4 because after 40...gxf3 41.Kxf3 the other wing is under tension and Black wins with 41...Ke7 42.Ke3 Kd6 43.Kd4 b5 followed by ...Kxd4. 40...fxg4 41.hxg4 hxg4 42.Ke4

For the first time in this ending, White has achieved some advantage of space in the centre. However, the presence of the g4-pawn and Black's reserve tempi on the other wing will give this element a temporary character... 42...b5 43.Kd4. If I had black here, I would have been more worried about 43.f5 when the position resulting after 43...g3 44.Kf3 Kxf5 45.Kxg3 Ke5 46.Kf3 Kxd5 47.Ke3 c5 is slightly more difficult to assess as winning for Black than the final positon of the game. 43...Kf5 44.Ke3 a4

White loses the f4-pawn, when the g4-pawn will decide easily. My conclusion is that the ending is winning for Black, but extremely difficult to play. Of course, there is no fun for White to defend such positions, but there are many far from obvious black inaccuracies that could spoil the game. Although Judit's evaluation of the plan based on a rapid advance of the b-pawn seems to have been too pessimistic, her decision to open a new front on the other wings first is very instructive from general point of view. Finally, I would add that I am more confident about the fact that 28.Ng3 would have more or less won in the Carsen-Anand complicated middlegame than about some of the lnes examined above. Ending can be really complex... 0-1. [Click to replay]

Ready to go: a fine endgame win by the strongest woman who every played chess

Game of the day: Vladimir Kramnik vs Magnus Carlsen

Kramnik,V (2799) - Carlsen,M (2733) [A30]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (12), 26.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0-0 Be7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.Rd1 a6

An inspired opening choice against Kramnik. The Ex-champion will be deprived now from one of his favourite fighting methods: the maintainance of tension for a long time, with gradual simplifications to more pleasant endings. In the Hedgehog, White needs a lot of effort in order to provoke a direct confrontation. 10.Ng5 Bxg2 11.Kxg2 Nc6 12.Qf4 0-0 13.Nce4 Ne8

I do not know who designed this method of defence for Black, but I know that I have learned it from the Romanian GM Mihai Suba. Black'sposition is a lot better than it looks at first sight. His only real weakness (d6) is well defended and he can slowly regroup and prepare the thematic break with ...b5. At the same time, White's seemingly active pieces are rather unstable in the centre. 14.b3 Ra7 15.Bb2 Rd7 16.Rac1 Nc7

However, this move is completely unfamiliar to me, although I can see it is quite logical. The knight overdefends the e6-pawn, enabling the advance of the f-pawn, while also sustaining an eventual ...b5.. 17.Nf3 17.h4 would have been more prudent. 17...f5! The radical advance of the kingside pawns is a thematic method of counterattack in situations like this, when White's pieces are crowded in the centre without sufficient coordination. For the Hedgehog players, one famous game is Tukmakov-Ribly, 1982 Interzonal, in which Black simply won a piece with ...f5, ...e5 and ...e4. Here, Black's achievements will be of pure strategic nature, but this will be of decisive importance for the further course of the game. 18.Nc3 g5 19.Qd2 g4 20.Ne1 Bg5! 21.e3

After being forced to weaken his f3-square, White finds himself in a very unpleasant situation. He has very few possibilities for active play, while his king will be in permanent danger (especially in case of some simplifications). Having excellent control in the centre, Black can improve hisposition at his own leisure, which Carlsen will do with astonishing... maturity. 21...Rff7 22.Kg1 Ne8 23.Ne2 Nf6 24.Nf4 Qe8 25.Qc3 Rg7 26.b4 Ne4 27.Qb3 Rge7 28.Qa4 Ne5 29.Qxa6 Ra7 30.Qb5 Qxb5 31.cxb5 Rxa2 32.Rc8+ Kf7 33.Nfd3 Bf6 34.Nxe5+ dxe5 35.Rc2 Rea7 36.Kg2 Ng5 37.Rd6 e4 38.Bxf6 Kxf6 39.Kf1 Ra1 40.Ke2 Rb1 41.Rd1 Rxb4 42.Ng2 Rxb5 43.Nf4 Rc5 44.Rb2 b5 45.Kf1 Rac7 46.Rbb1 Rb7 47.Rb4 Rc4 48.Rb2 b4 49.Rdb1 Nf3 50.Kg2 Rd7 51.h3 e5 52.Ne2 Rd2 53.hxg4 fxg4 54.Rxd2 Nxd2 55.Rb2 Nf3 56.Kf1 b3 57.Kg2 Rc2 0-1. [Click to replay]

The hero of round twelve: Magnus Carlsen, 17-year-old Norwegian world class GM

Pictures by Jeroen van den Belt


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