Not All that Shines is Gold
Today, we will look at an endgame where the evaluation will change as we explore the hidden ideas behind the position. This is the reason for the name of the article. In other words: not every position that looks winning is indeed a win. First, the analysis of any position starts with the evaluation. Who is better? After a short glance at the board it is easy to determine that white is about to win a pawn. However, as we already know, one pawn in the rook endgame is usually not a decisive advantage. Moreover, black has some counter advantages such as an active king and an outside passed g-pawn. White hasn’t yet managed to push any of her pawns further than the third rank: not a big achievement. All three pawns on the queenside are tied by the c4-pawn. It will take some time for white to win the pawn, while black can use this time to advance her g-pawn. I had the black side in the first game.
The following ideas are relevant for the general endgame understanding:
- Having an extra pawn for white in the rook endgame does not automatically guarantee an advantage. White should be careful not to let active black pieces dominate the position.
- White should not allow the black king to penetrate into the queenside, unless white can lock the king there and create play in the centre.
- Black should not hold on to the c and a-pawns but instead try promoting the g-pawn as quickly as possible in conjunction with the plan of rook activation through Re8-Rh8.
The first game was relevant up to a point where I made the mistake of letting white win two pawns for free. We determined that rook activation instead gives black good chances for a draw. In the second game my opponent tried the other idea we looked at before the games, marching the king to the kingside to support the movement of the g-pawn. This idea seems promising too so it is worth trying.
Even though black lost, the game proved to be highly dynamic and allowed black to realize more interesting ideas than the plan with Ke4. Here are some ideas:
- Black concentrates all the efforts on promoting the g-pawn, completely ignoring the queenside.
- White uses the king to stop the pawn thus putting it on a passive square, which allows black to cut off its path from the centre along the 2nd rank.
- Black combines mating threats and threats of taking the pawns on the queenside to keep the game around equality.
Now, that we got some feel for how to play this endgame it is time to see how it was played at the Russian Women’s Superfinal. Tatiana Kosintseva, the first board for the Russian Olympic team defended as black. No wonder she went for the most aggressive approach: the march of the king to the kingside.
Rarely does any of my games coincide with the stem game. However, today we saw interlocking ideas in the second game and in the main game. My conclusion is that the endgame is more likely drawing than winning for white. Maybe you have found some winning ideas for white?
For the next week I got an endgame played recently in LA by my good friend and chess.com celebrity GM Josh Friedel. He tied for first place at this tournament along with Sevilliano, whose game we looked at two weeks ago against my other good friend Tatev Abrahamyan. When Josh had mentioned that he had this tricky, unusual endgame that he was still trying to figure out I right away responded: send it to me! It is just more motivating and interesting to go over the games of your friends, since you can always ask them what they were thinking here or there. Enjoy!