An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Analysing the endgame – looking for turning points

The logic of any given chess game usually does not become apparent until you dig deeper into it move by move. It takes time to understand the features of the position, identify the characteristic ideas, key positions and their evaluations. The computer is helpful, but in the endgame you want to tell if the +1.69 evaluation shown by the computer engine can actually be turned into a win, or it is, in fact a theoretical draw.

This position is from one of my games from Canadian Championship in 2004, Jiganchine - Bailey

image White to move. Evaluate the position. Click here to replay the entire game.

The position seems messy; White is slightly ahead on material, but Black’s pawns look quite dangerous. Who is better? White won the game, but primarily because my opponent tried to play against my time trouble. While analysing the endgame, I had 3 goals:

  1. Establish some understanding and rough evaluation of the starting position
  2. Determine key ideas for both sides
  3. Go through the game move by move searching for improvements, keeping track of critical moments – when evaluation of the position changes – e.g. from being equal to winning for White.

After a couple of hours in front of the computer I came up with this:

  1. The starting position is roughly equal – both sides can build a fortress of their own, so with correct play, I don’t see how any side can play for a win
  2. White and Black have several ideas
    1. White has two key ideas – to not lose, he needs to block Black ‘f’ and and ‘g’ pawns along dark squares, keeping the king on g3. If White wants to win – his goal is to obtain a passed pawn. That appears hard in the initial position, but may become a possibility if Black becomes too ambitious.
      image Black to move. He can’t counter the advance of the ‘a’ pawn, while Black’s pawns are blocked.
    2. Black’s idea is to support the advance of kingside pawns with the king, and if possible – to counterattack the pawn on h6. A position like this illustrates that Black’s pawns can get dangerous:
      image White to move (analysis) – he is in zugzwang and is losing!
      If the rook moves from g7 along 7th rank – Black will play g4-g3 with deadly effect
  3. Black was doing ok, but at some point erred by moving his king to e5 – too far from the ‘h’ pawns. Watch this video to follow my analysis of all the things that my opponent and myself had missed:

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