Sunday, March 15, 2009

By Alex Cherniack

I drew an interesting Rook ending at this year’s Amateur Team Championships East last month in Parsippany, New Jersey. Our team in round 5 had made it behind the vaunted “ropes” (where the top 10 boards play). I was White against Travis Patay:

Cherniack-Patay, USATE 2009

This position is a draw, but Black needs to be alert and careful.

44… Kg8 45. f5

Because of this wedge, I have faint winning chances. If I can land my King on the g6 square, then Black’s position will be critical.

45…b4 46. h3 b3 47. axb3 Rxb3 48. Kh2 Kf7 49. Rc6 Ra3 50. Rb6 Rc3 51. g4 Ra3 52. Re6 Rc3 53. Kg2 Ra3 54. Rb6

I was obliged to play on, since my team was down 2-1. I made several fluttering Rook moves in the hope of catching my opponent unawares.

54…Rc3 55. Rd6 Ra3 56. h4

56. Rg6 Ra2+ 57. Kg3 Ra3+ 58. Kh4 Rb3 gets White nowhere.

56... Ra4 57. Kf3


All my distracting Rook moves paid off. 57... h5 is an instant draw.

58. Ke4 Rh3?

And now my opponent is in serious trouble. 58... Ra1 59. g5 Re1+ 60. Kf4 hxg5+ 61. hxg5 Rf1+ draws without difficulty.

59. Rd7+ Kf6 60. g5+! hxg5 61. Rd6+! Kf7 62. hxg5 Rh1 63. Rd7+ Kf8

White is winning. Black can’t stop my King from moving to h5 and then g6.

64. Rd3 Re1+ 65. Re3 Ra1 66. Kf4 Ra4+ 67. Re4 Ra5 68. Kg4 Kf7 69. Rb4 Ra3 70. Rb7+ Kg8 71. Kh5 Ra6

The critical position.

72. Re7?

After this game I consulted the book Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht, and I am shamelessly borrowing their analysis here in wholesale fashion. They cover this position on pp.207-8, where they examine in depth the game Heissler-Pezerovich, Bundesliga 1999. White has a beautiful win with 72. Rb8+ Kf7 73. g6+ Ke7 74. Rg8 Kf6 75. Rf8+ Ke5

76. f6!! Rxf6 77. Rf7! Rf5+ (77... Ke6 78. Rxg7 +-) 78. Kg4 Rf6 79. Kg5 Ra6 80. Rxg7 +-.

White still has a win after 72.Re7, but it is much more complicated.

72... g6+

73. fxg6?

Now the game is a draw. Müller and Lamprecht demonstrate a win here as follows:

73. Kh6! gxf5+ 74. g6 Kf8 75. Rb7 Ra1 76. Rb8+ Ke7 77. g7 Rh1+ 78. Kg6 Rg1+ 79. Kh7 Rh1+ 80. Kg8 Rg1 (80... f4 81. Rb7+ Ke6 (81... Ke8 82. Rb4 f3 83.Re4+ Kd7 84. Rf4 +-) 82. Kf8 Rg1

83. Rb5! – this is what I missed during the game +-) 81. Rb5 Kf6 (81... f4 82. Rf5 Rg4 83. Kh7 Rh4+ 84. Kg6 Rg4+ 85. Kh6 Rh4+ (85... Ke6 86. Rxf4) 86. Kg5 Rh1 87. Rxf4 +-) 82. Rb6+ Kg5 (82... Ke7 83. Kh7 +-; 82... Ke5 83. Kf7 f4 84. Rg6+-) 83. Kf7 Kh5 84. Rb1 Rg2 85. g8=Q Rxg8 86. Kxg8 f4 87. Kf7 Kg4 88. Ke6 and White wins.

What makes this draw so galling is that I had just finished reading this book’s chapter on Rook endgames before traveling to Parsippany! I remembered at the board that this position was very promising (if not winning), but couldn’t reproduce the exact sequence of moves in my head. I won’t have that problem after this game…

73... Ra1 74. g7 Rh1+ 75. Kg6 Rh6+! 76. Kf5

I can’t take the Rook of course, but here I foolishly thought that it had nothing better than to return to h1, where I thought the win was in hand after 76…Rh1 77.Kf6 Rf1+ 78.Kg6 Rf6+ 79.Kxf6, and there is no stalemate. However, after the really obvious


White has diddlysquat.

77. Kg4 Rg6 78. Kf5 Ra6 79. Rb7 Rc6 80. Kg4 Rg6 81. Kh5 Rc6 82. Rd7 Rb6 83. Ra7 Rc6 84. Re7 Ra6 85. Kg4 Rg6 86. Re8+

What else?

86…Kxg7 87. Kf5 Ra6 88. Re7+ Kg8 89. Rb7 Rc6 90. g6 Rc1!

The classic Philidor defense.

91. Kf6 Rf1+ 92. Kg5 Rg1+

And here, with 3 minutes left on my clock, I offered my opponent a draw, and our team was bounced outside the sacred ropes at Parsippany. Oh well.


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