CHESS Magazine: That missed draw

by Jonathan Speelman
9/14/2017 – While reading the chess column in The Times, Jonathan Speelman realised that Wolfgang Unzicker might have drawn a famous opposite-coloured bishop endgame. It’s one of a couple of opposite bishop endings ‘The Patriarch’ won by creating passed pawns on both flanks. There's a valuable lesson for you to learn from this article by Jonathan Speelman.

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Enjoy the best moments of recent top tournaments (Norway Chess, FIDE GP Moscow, WCh Teams) with analysis of top players. In addition you'll get lots of training material. For example 11 new suggestions for your opening repertoire.


An iconic endgame

The game was won by Mikhail Botvinnik during the Varna Olympiad of 1962. I’d seen it years ago in his volume of Best Games 1947-70 before I came across it again a few weeks ago, when Ray Keene used it in The Times. I was on a 'bus journey and spent it trying to find a defence.

[Event "Varna Olympiad"] [Site "?"] [Date "1962.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Unzicker, W."] [Black "Botvinnik, M."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B08"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/5k2/8/5ppp/2bB4/p1P2PPP/2K5/8 w - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "12"] [EventDate "1962.??.??"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #09"] {The game finished:} 35. h4 $2 ({At first I thought that} 35. f4 h4 36. Bf2 {would work before I noticed} g4 $1 {and I later realised that White loses even if the black king is on g6 so that gxf5 will be check. Thinking further, I decided that White would have to defend with the bishop at the back and had reached the critical position (the final diagram, below), though I wasn't at all certain it was drawn.}) 35... f4 $1 36. Be5 Ke6 $1 37. Bc7 gxh4 38. Bxf4 (38. gxh4 Kf5 {leads to a losing line we'll examine later.}) 38... h3 39. g4 h4 40. Bh2 Be2 ({And Unzicker resigned in view of} 40... Be2 41. Kb3 ({or} 41. f4 Bxg4 42. c4 Kf5 43. Kb3 Ke4) 41... Bxf3 42. Kxa3 Bxg4 43. Kb2 Kf5 44. Kc1 Ke4 45. Kd2 Kf3 {.}) 0-1

Checking with Botvinnik

After analysing the lines below, I checked in 'Botvinnik's Best Games 1947-70'. As is fairly obvious, he confirmed that 35.h4? is the losing move and also pointed out the ...g4 trick if White tries 35.f4?, but he then stated without analysis that "Probably White could still save the game by the manoeuvre Bd4-b6-d8".

[Event "The Missed Draw"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Unzicker, W."] [Black "Botvinnik, M."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B08"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/5k2/8/5ppp/2bB4/p1P2PPP/2K5/8 w - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "33"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #09"] 35. Bc5 $1 {Forcing the a-pawn to advance so that the white king is closer to taking it when the opportunity arises.} ({If} 35. f4 $2 h4 36. Bf2 g4 $1 37. hxg4 h3 {;}) ({or} 35. Be3 Kg6 36. f4 h4 37. Bf2 g4 38. hxg4 h3 39. gxf5+ Kxf5 40. Bg1 Kg4 41. f5 Kf3 $1 {and because of the pawn on g3, White is lost;} ({not } 41... Kxg3 $4 42. Bb6 {.})) 35... a2 36. Kb2 Kg6 37. Bd6 $1 ({But not} 37. Be7 $2 f4 $1 38. gxf4 gxf4 39. Bd6 Kf5 40. Bc5 Bd5 41. Bb6 Bxf3 42. Kxa2 Bg2 43. Kb2 Bxh3 44. Kc1 Kg4 45. Kd2 Kf3 46. Ke1 Kg2 {and wins;}) ({though White could also play} 37. Be3 h4 38. gxh4 gxh4 39. Bb6 {, which comes to the same thing as the main line below. --- More generally speaking, White needs to get the bishop round the back. He can allow ...h4, but not ...f4 and it's crucial that he leaves leave both the f3- and h3-pawns untouched (it would be disastrous to get h3 and f4 vs. h4 and f5 because after ...Bf1xh3 the f4-pawn would block the c7-h2 diagonal). Black can then win the h3- and f3-pawns, but he has to take both to get the king in. The white bishop initially stops the enemy pawns' advance and then the white king can get back just in time.}) 37... h4 38. gxh4 gxh4 39. Bc7 Kh5 40. Bd6 Bd5 (40... Bf1 41. Kxa2 Bxh3 42. Kb2 Bg2 43. Kc1 Bxf3 44. Kd2 {is even easier.}) 41. Bc7 Bxf3 42. Kxa2 {This is the best that Black can do and it turns out that White can draw by a tempo though I was far from sure of this, until I got home to a screen and an engine.} Bg2 43. Kb2 Bxh3 {Now that we're down to seven pieces, the position can be fed to the Lomonosov tablebases which confirm that it's a draw.} 44. Kc1 Kg4 45. Kd2 f4 ({Likewise, if} 45... Kf3 46. Ke1 Kg2 47. Bd8 Kg3 48. Bb6 {.}) 46. Ke1 Kg3 { The critical position in which White has a single defence:} 47. Bb6 $1 Bg2 { Interestingly, if the black bishop wasn't on the board then 47...h3 would win.} 48. Bf2+ Kg4 49. Bb6 (49. Bg1 {is also fine.}) 49... Kf3 50. Bg1 h3 51. Bh2 { and the blockade is complete.} 0-1

A famous predecessor

In the position below, White has been defending by keeping his bishop on the h4-d8 diagonal and now Botvinnik decided that he'd better try the further activation of his king.

[Event "USSR Championship, Moscow"] [Site "?"] [Date "1955.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Kotov, A."] [Black "Botvinnik, M."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D45"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/5Bp1/3p1b1p/1p3PkP/4P3/3K4/8 b - - 0 56"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "1955.??.??"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #09"] 56... Kf3 57. Be7 b3 58. Kc3 Be6 {[#]This equally famous ending actually occurred seven years earlier. In order to have chances, Black needs to create two passed pawns far apart and after Kotov's next move Botvinnik was able to do so:} 59. Bc5 $2 ({This position I analysed at home with Houdini, so it was much quicker, but perhaps less 'good' for me. Here} 59. Kd2 $1 {seems to hold after} b2 ({or} 59... Bf5 60. Kc3 Kxe3 61. Kxb3 d4 62. Bc5 Ke4 63. Kb2 Bg4 64. Kc1 Ke3 65. Bb6) 60. Kc2 Kxe3 61. Kxb2 d4 62. Kc1 d3 63. Bb4 Bg4 64. Bc5+ Ke2 65. Bb4 {.}) 59... g5 $3 60. fxg5 (60. hxg5 h4 61. f5 Bxf5 62. Kxb3 h3 63. Bd6 Kxe3 {is equally fatal.}) 60... d4+ 61. exd4 Kg3 62. Ba3 Kxh4 63. Kd3 Kxg5 64. Ke4 h4 65. Kf3 Bd5+ {and Kotov resigned.} ({After} 65... Bd5+ 66. Kf2 Kg4 67. Kg1 h3 68. Kh2 Be6 69. Kg1 Kf3 {, the black king can simply walk to c2.}) 0-1

Chess September


The above article was reproduced from Chess Magazine September, 2017, with kind permission.

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read.

The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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