An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mastering the Endgame – Understanding Typical Structures

If you have read the book “Mastering the Endgame” by Mikhail Shereshevsky, there is little new for you in this post. Otherwise, I’d like to emphasize again – studying the opening should involve not only memorizing the moves until the end of the line in your opening encyclopaedia, such as NCO, but also learning the typical patterns, middlegame ideas, and even the impact of pawn structures (that do originate in your opening) on the resulting endgames. Here is a little example (click on the game link to replay the moves)

Hamdouchi – Mifsud, 1994

image Black to move. Can he free himself up with e7-e6?
The pawn structure obviously arouse from the Dragon variation of the Sicilian defence. Grandmaster Hamdouchi outplayed his opponent and has several advantages:
1) the pawn on h6 is a thorn in Black’s position.
2) b5 pawn is a weakness
3) Black’s g7 bishop is traded off, and White has enjoying the advantage of having a better bishop

All that being said, those are small advantages, and it would normally take a lot of work to convert a position like this into a full point for White. But Black decided to free himself up and undermine the d5 pawn with e7-e6. The punishment was swift:

28… e6? 29. Bxg6!!
image When you have a far pawn advanced pawn, sacrifices like this are very typical.

29… hxg6 30. h7 Kg7
image White to move. e7-e6 weakened the 7th rank, so White can take advantage of it.

31. Rxf7+! Kxf7? (It was better to go into a rook endgame that is probably still lost: 31... Kh8 32. Rxd7 exd5 33. Kb2 Rc6 34. c3 d4 35. cxd4 Rc4 36. Rxd6 Rxb4+ 37. Kc3 Rc4+ 38. Kd3 Kxh7 39. Rb6 +-) 32. h8=Q Rb7 33. g5 exd5 34. Qf6+ Kg8 35. Qxg6+ 1-0

White demonstrated the ideas of this endgame in a perfect form in this example. To improve the level of your play – take note of games that illustrate ideas typical for the pawn structure of your openings!

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