Tactics and Patterns in Q+B Endgames.
Endgames are not only about technique, maneuvering and strategy. Tactics play as big of a role in endgames as they do in the other stages of the game. In order to develop an acute dynamic sense in the endgames you have to train in solving endgame-specific tactics. There are a few books dedicated to endgame tactics, and you can try working with them. However, if you want a shortcut I recommend solving endgame studies.
It is no wonder that Dvoretsky in one of his endgame books dedicated a chapter to studies. If you want to learn tactical patterns for a particular endgame you should just filter studies that have a similar material balance and then sort the ideas that you see showing up repeatedly in the studies. The other advantage to solving studies is that they usually contain one idea that is strongly developed and is very beautiful which will make you memorize the idea and the pattern better. Today we will practice doing that based on a practical example.
The endgame that we will look at today is from the World Cup which is under way in Siberia. There were many endgames played at the World Cup but this one is memorable because of the aesthetic idea associated with it. Chinese player Bu was defending a Queen and Bishop vs. Queen and Bishop (Q+B vs. Q+B) endgame against Gupta and managed to turn the tables and win from the worse position. Gupta played the endgame well but at the end missed a completely unobvious idea. When you see the end of the game you probably will be in awe at the brilliancy that Bu created.
Looking at the material balance you notice opposite colored bishops. You probably recall right away that middlegames with opposite colored bishops are especially dangerous because of possible attacks whereas most of the endgames are drawish-- if not, here is an excellent explanation of this concept! Here we have a mix of middlegame and endgame as material is very reduced, but queens are still on the board. As you will see in the game analysis both attacks and drawish endgames show up in the variations shown.
It is no accident that the idea of checkmate appeared in the Q+B vs. Q+B with opposite colored bishops. If we look through a study database and choose this particular material balance we notice that mating ideas are very common. The mating nets happen through different patterns and we will look today at three typical ones: 1. Cross-fire checking; 2. Ladder checking 3. Bishop or pawn sacrifice.
1. Cross-fire checking. I came up with the name because it reminds me of cross-fire when the queen checks the king on the opposite diagonals from the ones where the bishop operates. I guess there is a name for this pattern somewhere in endgame books but I suggest naming the patterns that you notice with your own names so you can recall them later with ease. The queen acts like a bishop in such examples because it is typically covering only one set of squares as the bishop covers the other one. The aim of checks is to either checkmate or to win a queen. In the following two positions you will encounter ideas that are native to patterns #2 and #3.
2. Ladder Checking. The second pattern that we will analyze is checking with the queen to get closer to the opponent’s king from whence the queen will already be able to checkmate. I call it ladder checking because the queen checks in a way that reminds us of a ladder. The following two examples illustrates this pattern.
3. Bishop Sacrifice. The last pattern would be the bishop or the pawn sacrifice in order to deflect the opponent’s king or queen to an unwanted square. You have seen already a few bishop sacrifices in the above examples but here there are two more.
Today we looked at how to work with studies. The benefit is maximum if someone else chooses studies for you and you have to solve them. Otherwise there is a chance of you peeking at the solution, and thus not having a particularly fair study session. Working with studies will improve your tactical vision and enrich you with non-trivial ideas what will make you find brilliant solutions like Bu did in his game.