Endgames from recent top level games

Thu, 2015-05-21 16:57 -- IM Max Illingworth
[Event "TCh-RUS Men 2015"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2015.05.04"]
[Round "4.1"]
[White "Kramnik, V."]
[Black "Nepomniachtchi, I."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A48"]
[WhiteElo "2783"]
[BlackElo "2714"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "115"]
[EventDate "2015.05.01"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2015.05.04"]
[WhiteTeam "Sibir (Novosibirsk)"]
[BlackTeam "SHSM-Our Heritage (Moscow)"]

{For this week's post I will concentrate on endgames from top-level games
played in the last week. Most people who follow the top games tend to do so to
pick up new opening ideas, but recently I've appreciated that one can also
learn a great deal from analysing the endgame phase of these top games - over
time one can build a very large base of practical endgame knowledge and be
able to determine roughly how good the better side's 'winning chances' are in
a practical context - which is generally more valuable knowledge than knowing
whether the position is won or drawn (which theoretical works tend to
concentrate on). So I invite you to enjoy the following games, and learn from
both the good moves and the mistakes that can easily slip in late in the game
when one is pressed for time.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. e3
d6 6. c3 Nbd7 7. Bd3 e5 8. O-O h6 9. Bh4 Qe8 10. e4 b6 11. Re1 Bb7 12. a4 a5
13. Bb5 Qc8 14. dxe5 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 dxe5 16. f3 Rd8 17. Qc2 Qe6 18. Bf2 Nh5 19.
b4 Bf8 20. Reb1 Nf4 21. Bf1 Ba6 22. b5 Bb7 23. c4 Bb4 {Although it doesn't
technically fit in with the subject of this post, I can't resist singling out
Kramnik's excellent practical exchange sacrifice here.} 24. Rxb4 $1 (24. Nb3 c5
25. bxc6 Qxc6 $15 {would leave White in quite a passive position with weak
queenside pawns and holes on the dark squares.}) (24. Rd1 Qe7 {followed by ...
Ne6-d4 is also far from inspiring.}) 24... axb4 25. c5 {This is the point of
Kramnik's exchange sacrifice - White has successfully taken the initiative on
the queenside, allowing his knight to reach a great square on c4, and then the
a-pawn will be quite a force. Objectively Black is still doing fairly well,
but he has to suddenly adapt to the new situation and White's plan is a lot
more clearcut.} Qf6 26. Nc4 bxc5 27. Bxc5 Ne6 28. Bxb4 Nd4 29. Qc3 $36 {White
is already significantly better.} Bc8 30. Ba5 Qe7 31. Kh1 Bb7 32. Bb4 Qe6 33.
Na5 Qb6 34. Nc4 Qe6 35. Na5 Qb6 36. Rc1 Rd7 37. h3 Kh7 38. Nc4 Qe6 39. a5 Rb8
40. Ne3 h5 41. a6 Ba8 42. Qc5 Qb3 43. Bc3 Qe6 44. Bc4 Qf6 45. Bxd4 exd4 46. Nd5
Qh8 47. Rd1 d3 48. Rxd3 Qa1+ 49. Qg1 Qxg1+ 50. Kxg1 {The endgame is clearly
winning for White, but rather than signing off with 'the rest is a matter of
technique' I thought it would be instructive to show how White wins from this
position.} Kg7 (50... Bxd5 51. Rxd5 Re7 52. Rc5 {followed by Bd5 ties up the
Black rook in stopping the a-pawn queening, and then White merely needs to
activate his king to finish the job.}) 51. Ra3 (51. a7 Rb7 52. Ra3 {was also
strong to fix the rook and bishop in place and prepare a knight move followed
by Bd5, as} Rd6 (52... c6 53. bxc6) 53. Ne7 Kf8 54. Nc6 {clearly isn't working
for Black, who is totally paralysed.}) 51... f5 ({In my view, a better
defensive try was to exchange pawns with} 51... c6 52. a7 Rbd8 53. bxc6 Bxc6
54. Nb6 Rd1+ 55. Kf2 Rb1 56. a8=Q Bxa8 57. Nxa8 Rb2+ 58. Ke3 Rc8 59. Bd5 Rxg2
60. Kf4 {and while White should still be winning, the knight is momentarily
offside on a8 and Black can try to swindle with} g5+ 61. Kf5 Rg3) 52. a7 Rb7
53. Ra6 $1 {After this very precise move, Black is unable to move a muscle and
White wins fairly easily.} fxe4 54. fxe4 Rf7 (54... Rd8 55. e5 Re8 56. e6 {
intends e7, after which Black is completely dominated.}) 55. e5 c6 56. Nb6 Rfe7
57. bxc6 Rxa7 58. Nxa8 1-0 
[Event "TCh-RUS Men 2015"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2015.05.01"]
[Round "1.3"]
[White "Wojtaszek, R."]
[Black "Nepomniachtchi, I."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A41"]
[WhiteElo "2737"]
[BlackElo "2714"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "121"]
[EventDate "2015.05.01"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2015.05.04"]
[WhiteTeam "University (Belorechensk)"]
[BlackTeam "SHSM-Our Heritage (Moscow)"]

{Apologies for showing another Nepomniachtchi loss, but this game was a model
example of how to play an opposite-coloured bishop endgame with one pair of
rooks on the board and therefore it's difficult to omit.} 1. Nf3 g6 2. e4 d6 3.
c4 Bg7 4. d4 Bg4 5. Be2 Nc6 6. Be3 Bxf3 7. Bxf3 e5 8. d5 Nd4 9. Nc3 Ne7 10. O-O
O-O 11. Nb5 c5 12. dxc6 Nexc6 13. Nc3 a6 14. Rc1 h6 15. a3 Kh7 16. b4 Rc8 17.
Bg4 Ra8 18. Bh3 Ne6 19. g3 Ncd4 20. Nd5 a5 21. Qd3 axb4 22. axb4 Ra2 23. Ra1
Qa8 24. Qb1 Rxa1 25. Qxa1 f5 26. exf5 gxf5 27. Qxa8 Rxa8 28. f4 exf4 29. Nxf4
Nxf4 30. Bxf4 Ne2+ 31. Kh1 Nxf4 32. Rxf4 {I'll take the game from this point -
I think many players would write this off as drawn because of the
opposite-coloured bishops, but Black's pawns are all isolated and the presence
of rooks complicates Black's task greatly - we'll see in this game that they
can even lead to a mating attack!} Ra1+ 33. Kg2 Ra2+ 34. Kf3 Ra3+ {Black
continues with the checks, but it was also possible to trade with} (34... Rxh2
35. Bxf5+ Kh8 36. Bc8 b6 {, although after} 37. Rf7 Bc3 38. b5 Bd4 39. Rd7 {
the position is not a dead draw as Black's pawns are all weak and the king can
also become a target - indeed, if White could put his king on g6 and bishop on
e6, he would have a mating attack!} (39. Kg4 $2 h5+ 40. Kg5 Rg2 41. Kxh5 Rxg3 {
should be avoided as the exchange of pawns (i.e. Black's weaknesses!) makes it
very easy for Black to construct a fortress by putting his bishop on c5.})) 35.
Kg2 Ra2+ 36. Kf3 Ra3+ 37. Ke2 Ra2+ 38. Kd3 Ra3+ 39. Kc2 Be5 $6 {I think this
move complicates Black's task somewhat, and I would have opted for} (39... Ra2+
40. Kb3 Rb2+ 41. Ka3 Rxh2 42. Bxf5+ Kh8 {with the idea of attacking Black's
b4-pawn with ...Rb2 and ...Bc3. And if} 43. Be4 (43. Bc8 b6 44. Rf7 Rc2 45. Be6
Rc3+ 46. Ka4 Rxg3 {is similar.}) 43... b6 44. Rf7 {with the idea of Ka4-b5,
Black still has problems, but after} Re2 $1 45. Bd5 Re3+ 46. Ka4 Rxg3 47. Kb5
Bd4 48. Kc6 Rg5 49. Kxd6 Rg6+ {Black will have no problems drawing - even if
White wins the bishop for a passed pawn, White will have no pawns and rook +
bishop vs. rook is a book draw (assuming the pieces are on normal squares).})
40. Bxf5+ Kg7 41. Rh4 {Now White is up a pawn and has control over the
position as his pawns are nearly all defended. True, White will have to
unravel to make progress, and that part is not so simple...but if you
patiently improve your position, your opponent may not be so keen to wait and
see what you have in mind!} Rf3 (41... b6 {immediately made sense, just so
White can't gain a tempo on the b-pawn with the bishop later.}) 42. Be6 b6 43.
Bd5 {White has improved his bishop placement so that c4 is guarded.} Ra3 44. b5
Kg6 45. Kd2 {The next step in White's plan is to bring the king over to the
kingside to guard the h2-pawn, so the rook is free to cause some damage. And
while Black isn't objectively losing, on a practical level he has to be
constantly alert for White's threats.} Bf6 $6 {Black gets impatient in trying
to force material off and only gives White real winning chances.} ({Black
might have found it easier to draw had he kept the position as it was with} 
45... Kg5 46. Ke2 Rc3 47. Kf2 Rd3 {as now Black threatens ...Rd4 to exchange
off White's rook, after which it will be a very easy draw, e.g.} 48. Kg2 Rd2+
49. Kh3 Rd4 50. Rxd4 Bxd4 $11 {and even if White creates a passed pawn on the
kingside, it will be easily blockaded with the king on g7, while Black's
bishop on c5 guards both queenside pawns, creating a total impasse.}) 46. Re4
$1 {Now there's the problem of Re6xd6 to deal with.} Ra2+ (46... Be5 $2 {looks
good but runs into the breakthrough} 47. c5 $1 Bc3+ (47... bxc5 48. b6 {is
winning for White as Black can't stop b7 and Rg4-g8 when the pawn queens.}) 48.
Ke2 dxc5 49. Re6+ Kf5 50. Rxb6 {and with a strong passed b-pawn and the
potential for a second passer on the kingside, I wouldn't be at all surprised
if White is just winning.}) 47. Ke3 Rxh2 48. Re6 (48. Re8 {is well met by} Bc3
49. Re6+ Kf5 50. Rxd6 Bb4 {and White's extra pawn will not be worth anything
once Black parks his bishop on the a7-g1 diagonal. The only idea White would
have then is to sacrifice the exchange at some point with Rxc5, but that is
easily avoided.}) 48... Kg5 $2 {The decisive mistake, allowing a very
beautiful caging of Black's king.} (48... Kf5 49. Rxd6 Be7 {and ...Bc5 was
again the way for Black to hold his draw.}) 49. Be4 $1 {Suddenly Black can't
move his bishop without allowing Rg6, when Black's king will be stuck on the
edge of the board with no legal move.} Rb2 (49... Be5 50. Rg6+ Kh5 51. Rg8 {
and Bf3 would be immediately crushing.}) 50. Rxd6 Rb3+ 51. Bd3 {White
threatens to take on b6, so Black's reply is effectively forced.} Be7 52. Rg6+
Kh5 53. Re6 {Not the only way to win, but it's hard to fault White's method in
the game.} Bd8 (53... Bb4 54. Ke4 Ba5 55. Rd6 Kg4 56. Rg6+ Kh3 57. Bf1+ Kh2 58.
Rxh6+ Kg1 {(obviously if Kxg3, Rh3 wins the rook)} 59. Bd3 {is also winning
for White - the g-pawn cannot be effectively stopped.}) 54. Rd6 Be7 (54... Bc7
55. Rc6 Bxg3 56. Rxb6 {will also be winning for White - the connected pawns
will advance safely as the Black king is too far away.}) 55. Rd7 Bg5+ 56. Kf3 {
Keeping the Black king in its cage.} Ra3 57. Rd6 Be7 (57... Rb3 58. Kg2 Kg4 59.
Rd4+ Kh5 60. Kh3 {loses more quickly for Black.}) 58. Rd5+ Bg5 59. Kg2 Ra1 {At
this stage Black is clearly in a bad way, but Kh3 runs into ...Rh1 and Rd6 
(intending Be2 mate) allows the g5-bishop to flee. However, a queenside decoy
seals Black's fate.} 60. c5 $1 bxc5 61. b6 {Black resigned as he can't stop
the pawn queening and simultaneously have the required ...Rh1+ ready in
response to Kh3.} 1-0 
[Event "47th Italian Teams 2015"]
[Site "Civitanova Marche ITA"]
[Date "2015.05.03"]
[Round "7.1"]
[White "Socko, B."]
[Black "Nakamura, Hi"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E92"]
[WhiteElo "2623"]
[BlackElo "2798"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "108"]
[EventDate "2015.04.29"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "ITA"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2015.05.04"]
[WhiteTeam "A.S.D. Circolo Scacchi R. Fischer Chieti"]
[BlackTeam "Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova"]

{Also quite impressive was the following game, where Nakamura showed excellent
technique in converting a superior knight vs. bishop (with rooks) ending.} 1.
d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. Be3 exd4 8. Nxd4
Re8 9. f3 c6 10. Bf2 d5 11. exd5 cxd5 12. O-O Nc6 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. Rc1 Bh6 15.
Rb1 Bf5 16. Bd3 d4 17. Bxf5 dxc3 18. Bd3 cxb2 19. Rxb2 Be3 20. Bxe3 Rxe3 21.
Be2 Qe7 22. Rf2 Re8 23. g3 h5 24. Qd4 Rd8 25. Qf4 Kg7 26. Kg2 h4 27. Qxh4 Qe5
28. Qf4 Qxf4 29. gxf4 {White has been forced into this ending to avoid a
crueler fate to his monarch, but you might notice that the e2-bishop and
f2-rook are now very passive and that White's pawn structure is very weak.
Nakamura exploits all these factors with his next move.} Nh5 $1 30. Bf1 $2 {
White relies on a passive defence, but that usually doesn't work in the
endgame (unless you're sure you have a fortress, like with the Philidor
position). Furthermore, when the knight reaches f4 even White's king will
become a target.} (30. f5 $1 {was required to at least remove the doubled
pawns on White's terms. However, if Black keeps control with} g5 $1 {he will
still regain the pawn with ...Kf6xf5 and have a real advantage. At least it
takes longer than in the game though, and with} 31. Bf1 Kf6 32. Rfd2 Rxd2+ 33.
Rxd2 {White can create counterplay with Rd6+ and things are not so one-sided.
For instance,} Ra3 34. Rd6+ Kxf5 35. Rxc6 Rxa2+ 36. Kg1 Nf4 37. c5 f6 {, while
better for Black because of his more active king and minor piece, should be a
draw after} 38. Rc7 $1 {as White's rook is active and it's probable that White
will be able to trade his passer for Black's. In general, having all the pawns
on one side of the board is great news for the inferior side, even in this
case where Black has a knight against a bishop.}) 30... Nxf4+ 31. Kg3 Nh5+ 32.
Kg2 Rd1 $1 {Another strong move, intending ...Re1 to tie the White rook to the
defence of f1.} (32... Ra3 {is the computer's suggestion, but I prefer
Nakamura's move as the a2-pawn is already well protected.}) 33. Rb3 {Once
again hoping to defend solidly, but White has four isolated pawns so that's
not so likely to work. In such situations White's dream is to exchange off his
weak pawns for Black's healthy pawns!} (33. Rfd2 {was more active, but after}
Nf4+ 34. Kf2 Rxd2+ 35. Rxd2 Ra3 {Black is still clearly for choice - he can
fix the c4-pawn as a weakness with ...c5 and bring his knight to d4 and king
to e5 and maybe even f4. It's clear that White has a long, tough defence ahead
with no immediate counterplay, and note how much the bishop's mobility is
destroyed because the White pawns are fixed on the same light-coloured complex.
}) (33. Rb7 {is the most active move, but it fails to} g5 $1 34. Rxa7 Ree1 {
when there's no good defence to ...Nf4; if} 35. Ra5 Kg6 36. Rc5 Nf4+ 37. Kg1
Nh3+) 33... Ree1 {Once again, ...g5 and ...Nf4 is a heavy threat.} 34. f4 {The
only real try, but after Black's next the pawn is fixed on a dark square,
where Black has one more attacker than White.} (34. c5 g5 35. Bc4 Rg1+ 36. Kh3
Nf4# {does not help either!}) 34... f5 $5 {Black doesn't fear losing a
queenside pawn and focuses his efforts on making White's king uncomfortable.} (
34... Rd4 35. f5 g5 {is how the machine wants to play, but White has then made
some progress by advancing his weakness up the board. Still,} 36. h3 Rdd1 $1
37. Rbf3 Kf6 {leaves White totally tied up and it's hard to believe he won't
shed a pawn soon.}) 35. Bd3 (35. Rb7+ Kh6 36. Rxa7 Rd4 {regains the pawn, and
after} 37. h3 Nxf4+ 38. Kh2 Kg5 {it's hard to say if this is a win or a draw,
but Black's winning chances are extremely good with three of White's pieces
tied up and Black having the arguably more powerful passed pawn. I'll add
purely for instructional value that the ending position after} 39. Rc7 Rdd1 40.
Bg2 Nxg2 41. Kxg2 Rg1+ 42. Kf3 Rd3+ 43. Ke2 Rxh3 44. Rxc6 Ra3 45. c5 Rxa2+ 46.
Kf3 Ra3+ 47. Ke2 f4 {is a win for Black - generally speaking, two connected
passed pawns beat a single passed pawn in a rook or double-rook endgame,
unless one of the connected passers advanced too far past its comrade, or the
defending side has their rook behind their passed pawn. Of course, there can
be exceptions - who said rook endings were trivial?}) 35... Kh6 (35... Re3 {
immediately was also good, but there's no need to rush.}) 36. Kf3 c5 {Now the
c4-pawn is also fixed as a target. It's quite amusing to see how tied up the
d3-bishop is by the pawns - and if it does move, ...Rd4 will pick up f4 or c4!}
37. Ra3 a6 {It's a little amusing that Black can play this waiting move and
White still can't do anything!} 38. Rb2 (38. Be2 Rd4 39. Ke3 Nxf4 40. Rxf4
Rxe2+ 41. Kxe2 Rxf4 42. Rxa6 Rxc4 {should be a win for Black as he will
probably take the h2-pawn in a matter of moves.}) 38... Re6 $1 {A good
controlling move, depriving White of any counterplay and preparing ...Rd6-d4
to win f4 for good.} (38... Rh1 39. Bxf5 $5 gxf5 40. Rxa6+ Kh7 41. Ra7+ Ng7 42.
Rc7 {would give White the opportunity to exchange a lot of pawns.}) 39. Rb8 (
39. Rf2 Rd6 40. Ke2 Rg1 41. Ke3 Rg4 {followed by ...Re6 also sees the
f4-weakness fall.}) 39... Rde1 (39... Rd6 40. Be2 R1d4 {was also pretty good.})
40. Rh8+ Kg7 41. Rd8 R1e3+ 42. Kf2 Nxf4 {Now that the f4-pawn falls, Black's
knight is back to dominating White's bishop and the rest falls into place.} 43.
Rb3 Rh3 44. Bf1 (44. Kg1 Re1+ 45. Kf2 Rh1 {wins h2 anyway.}) 44... Rxh2+ 45.
Kg3 Rh1 46. Rd1 (46. Kxf4 Rxf1+ 47. Kg3 Rc1 {is game over for White.}) 46...
Nh5+ 47. Kg2 Rh4 {The rest is quite easy - Black just coordinates his pieces
and doesn't even need to queen his pawns because White's king is so weak.} 48.
Rd7+ Kh6 49. Rc7 Rg4+ (49... Re1 {also worked, intending ...Ra1.}) 50. Kf2 Nf6
51. Bd3 Rf4+ 52. Kg3 Kg5 53. Rxc5 Re3+ 54. Kg2 Ng4 {Actually, White is
virtually getting mated by ...Rf2 and ...Re1, so he resigned.} (54... Ng4 55.
Rb2 Rxd3 56. Rd5 Rdf3 57. Re2 Kh4 58. Rd1 Rg3+ 59. Kh1 Nf2+ 60. Rxf2 Rxf2) 0-1 
[Event "5th Dziedzica Mem 2015"]
[Site "Trzcianka POL"]
[Date "2015.04.19"]
[Round "7.1"]
[White "Fridman, D."]
[Black "Bacrot, E."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E60"]
[WhiteElo "2647"]
[BlackElo "2712"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "80"]
[EventDate "2015.04.19"]
[EventType "rapid"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "POL"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2015.05.04"]

{Finally, to help you get into the habit of studying recent endgames, I've
included an example of how a space advantage in the middlegame can turn into a
space disadvantage (with some weak pawns left behind) in the endgame! You're
more than welcome to annotate the game yourself :)} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4
Bg7 4. g3 c5 5. Bg2 cxd4 6. Nxd4 O-O 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. O-O Qa5 9. Nb3 Qh5 10. e4
Qxd1 11. Rxd1 d6 12. Nd5 a5 13. a4 Nxd5 14. cxd5 Nb4 15. Bd2 Bg4 16. f3 Bd7 17.
Bc3 Rfc8 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Nd4 Nc2 20. Nxc2 Rxc2 21. b3 Rac8 22. Bf1 R8c3 23.
Rdb1 Rxf3 24. b4 axb4 25. Rxb4 Bc8 26. Re1 Rff2 27. e5 Rxh2 28. Rf4 g5 29. Rf3
Bg4 30. Rb3 Rb2 31. exd6 exd6 32. Rb1 Ra2 33. Re3 Rhb2 34. Rxb2 Rxb2 35. Bb5 h5
36. Re7 Bf3 37. Rxb7 h4 38. gxh4 gxh4 39. Ba6 Rg2+ 40. Kf1 h3 0-1