Saturday, 5 September 2009

Endgame Theory_Winning with 2 Knights

It has often been said that you cannot win an endgame with a Knight against a lone King or even two Knights (unless your opponent obliges). But you can win if your opponent has an additional pawn. Here is how it is done:

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

How to Play the KID ......

This game occured in the recent FIDE Grand Prix in Jermuk Rd 11. GM Kevin Spraggett opines: "The game is interesting because it demonstrates how to play the King's Indian Defence from both sides. The ideas are worth remembering, as this game is state of the art opening theory! ...... the highlight of the game comes with a spectacular and unexpected Rook sacrifice."

Annotations by GM Spraggett:
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5
Who among us has not tried the Kings Indian Defence atleast once in their life?
7. O-O Nc6 One of the most important openings in modern chess. I have played both sides dozens of times!
8. d5 Ne7 9. Ne1 Nd7 An important moment. Black intends to advance ...f5, and so he must move his Knight to either d7 or e8. From d7 the Knight controls the c5 square, and for this reason most theoreticians prefer this move. Retreating the Knight to e8 allows White more options to gain the initiative: 9... Ne8 10. Be3 (10. Nd3 f5 11. f4!? also has a following) 10... f5 11. f3 f4 12. Bf2 h5 13. c5 g5 14. a4 and the Knight on e1 can be used for defence on the King side.
10. f3 f5 11. g4!? The Benko Attack
This system achieved notice when it was successfully introduced by Benko at the 1958 Interzonal tournament in Portoroz. White aims to stabilize the King's side before proceeding with his thematic pawn advance on the Queen's side. Many texts call this line the ''Benko Attack'' , in honour of Pal Benko's courageous concept.
The entire concept goes against the classical principles of the game where Lasker, Tarrasch and Steinitz taught that one should not voluntarily weaken the pawn structure on the side of the board where your opponent intends to attack. Typical of modern chess, Benko's idea requires a high degree of tactical skill and a fine sense of danger. One false step and the game can turn on you!
It rests to be proven whether Benko's idea has a future, however. Although most GMs are sceptical of it, and other lines enjoy more popularity, the line has never been refuted. I have a feeling that Benko's idea still has a lot of poison in it....
Bearing in mind what I wrote on the previous note (about the draw backs of ...Ne8), here with the Black Knight on d7 White would have to spend a tempo more to advance c5: 11. Be3 f4 12. Bf2 g5 13. Nd3 Nf6 14. c5 and now it is known that ... Rf7 leads to extremely complex play where the word today is that Black has good chances.

11... Kh8!? Considered the most flexible, but not the only move seen in praxis
This King move allows for either the Knight or Rook to go to g8 (useful in later variations)
A: 11... f4 is solid, but has not done well after 12. h4! a5 (12... g5 13. h5! completely blocking the King side) 13. Ng2 Nc5 14. Bd2 Kh8 15. Be1 Bd7 16. Bf2 and now that the King side is under control, White is ready to advance on the Queen side, as in Benko Pal C - Eliskases Erich G , Buenos Aires 1960
B: too passive is the immediate 11... fxg4 as after 12. fxg4 Rxf1 13. Kxf1 Nf6 14. Nd3 c5 15. Be3 Bd7 16. Kg1 Kh8 17. Kh1 Qc7 18. g5 Nfg8 none of the Black minor pieces has any real mobility. as in Portisch Lajos 2630 - Attard Wilfred 2200 , Madrid 1960 Izt
C: 11... Nf6 12. Nd3 Kh8 (12... c6 13. Be3) 13. h4 Nfg8 14. g5 c6 15. Kg2 fxe4 16. fxe4 and White is on top. Again the Black minor pieces are without play. The only way to do something involves being ready to sacrifice a piece for a few checks. as in Gipslis Aivars 2580 - Gufeld Eduard 25204 , Leningrad 1963 Ch URS

12. Nd3!? A question of taste? Also logical is the immediate 12. Be3. Sometimes the Knight can go to g2.
Curiously, Cheparinov himself, with the White pieces (!), had previously successfully tried 12. h4 Ng8 13. g5 (13. Ng2!?) 13... f4 14. Kg2 h6 15. Rh1 Rf7 16. Nd3 Bf8 17. Qg1 Kg7 18. Kf1 Be7 19. Bd2 hxg5 20. hxg5 Bxg5 21. Nb5 Bh6 22. c5 with excellent compensation for the pawn, and a clear initiative all over the board! Cheparinov,I - Stellwagen Daniel , Amsterdam 2005

12... f4!? Committal, and probably not so bad! Theory has not really worked things out here.
Black closes the King side pawns and intends to advance his g and h pawns soon enough.
I would prefer the immediate 12... c5! trying to contain White's Queen side play 13. Kg2 (13. dxc6 bxc6 14. b4 a5!? is complex and not worse for Black) 13... Ng8 14. Be3 Bh6 15. Bf2 Bg5 with an interesting game and chances for both sides.
A critical alternative, but apparently not easy to handle for Black, is 12... Nf6 13. Be3 c6 14. h3 holding up the King side, and now not so promising is 14... b5 as after 15. Nb4! complications favour White, as in Pinter Jozsef - Sznapik Aleksander , Prague 1985 Zt . Black has to look for improvements here.
Finally, one last alternative to consider is 12... Ng8 13. Kh1 f4 (13... Ndf6 14. Rg1) 14. Rg1 g5 15. Bd2 h5 16. h3 Rf6 17. Rc1 Rh6 18. Kg2 Bf8 19. Be1 ( better than 19. b4 Ne7 20. c5 Ng6 21. cxd6 Bxd6 22. Nb5 Nf6 23. Nf2 Bd7 24. a4 1/2-1/2, Cheparinov I, - Fedorov A , Khanty Mansyisk 2005 Cup World FIDE ) 19... Ne7 20. Bf2 Ng6 21. Rh1 Be7 22. Nb5 and white has some chances.
Back to the game:

13. Rf2!? Apparently a new move in this position.
13. Bd2 is known, with normal play. Eljanov's idea is to bolster his King side , aided by his Rook on the second rank. Now the f1 square will be free for the Bishop to draw back if necessary, and White also has h3 (a last resort) if necessary to defend g4.
Though the move was very successful in this game (even more than you might think (!)--it turned out to be a hero) , the final verdict can only be made after many more examples.

13... Bf6 A typical manoeuvre: the King Bishop will move to h4 before continuing with a pawn advance.
Also worth considering is 13... g5 and 14… h5. The drawback would be that the Black Bishop would be less active (a debatable point), but Black would be able to play ...Kg7 and ...Rh8 with a different type of counterplay.

14. Rg2 Bh4 15. b4
White startes his Queen side advance.

15... h5 !? This looks the most precise moment to strike on the King side.
Black must play very sharply in order to counter White's ambitions. Cheparinov is a player with a well deserved reputation for skillfully exploiting his chances in double edged positions.
Procrastinating allows White many interesting tactical tries, for instance the slower 15... Ng8 16. c5 h5 17. gxh5 g5 (17... gxh5 18. Bb2 (18. Kh1)) 18. Bb2 Ndf6 allows the promising sacrifical line 19. Nb5 Bh3 (19... a6 20. cxd6 cxd6 21. Nxd6 Qxd6 22. Nxe5) 20. Nxe5 dxe5 21. Bxe5 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Rf7 23. Qb3 , and though White is an entire Rook down, his two bishops and dominating centre make it difficult for Black to breath.

16. g5 ! Sharp play
Ofcourse not the passive 16.h3 as Black can continue ...Bg3 and Qh4, when I am not sure what White can do! And also not good is 16. gxh5 as Black can continue directly with16... g5 followed by 17… Nf6 with threats.
Ofcourse, Eljanov did not forget about the pawn on g5! It is common in this line that White sacrifice this pawn for time: White hopes to exploit the initiative and growing threats. In essence, with all the pieces on the board the loss (temporary) of one little pawn is not going to discourage a strong grandmaster.

16... Ng8
As pointed out elsewhere, in Benko's variation it is not uncommon that Black's minor pieces do not have convenient squares to move to, so here Black resorts to some behind-the-line shuffling.

17. Kh1 Rf7 The Rook makes room for the Knight.
A typical manoeuvre. After wards Black will take the g-pawn without worrying about his own pawn on g6.

18. c5 Nf8 Slowly Black is unwinding his pieces. White needs to get some play now, as otherwise Black will soon gobble up the g-pawn for nothing.

19. Nb5!? White needs to make progress and harrass Black
An exploratory move that seeks to provoke weaknesses on the Queen side pawn structure. Should Black leave the Knight on b5 then he will have to worry about things happening on c7 or d6 or a7.

19... Bh3 Logical, and a threat. Finally.
Transposing into the game would be 19... a6 20. Na3; but do not try 19... Bxg5?! as after 20. cxd6 cxd6 21. Nxd6! everything falls apart!

20. Rg1 a6 21. Na3 The Knight will come into play via c4, with great effect! From c4 the Knight touches many of Black's sensitive squares: b6, d6, e5.
There is nothing new under the sun! All of the ideas that White is incorporating in his plan have been seen hundreds of times in the past in similar positions. But what is pleasing about this game is how White is able to execute his plan with such effectiveness.

21... Bxg5 If Black does not take this pawn then none of his previous play makes any sense!
The position is very messy and complicated. White has sacrificed a pawn, but his compensation is not bad at all: after he plays natural moves like Nc4, Bb2 his pieces will exercise considerable pressure on Black's position. A sacrifice will always be looming on e5. The pressure along the g-line is a long term annoyance for the defender, also, and lends to the practical difficulties in playing the Black position.
On the otherhand, Black does not play this opening unless he is looking to win, and is willing to accept challenges and risks. Should he beat back the White initiative, then he will be a pawn up.

22. Nc4 Bf6 An important moment in the game

23. Bf1!? This is probably not the best move. I think White should try 23. Bb2! immediately, as after ... g5?! 24. cxd6 cxd6 25. Rxg5 wins anyway. The text move gives Black a chance to breathe

23... Bc8?! Black reciprocates. This unnecessary retreating move will cost Black.
Black had to try 23... Bxf1! 24. Qxf1 b5! with a complicated game.
For instance, after 25. Na5 Qd7 26. a4 Ne7 27. Bb2 Kh7 Black is still in the game, and soon might try ...g5 trying to disturb White over on the King side.

24. Bb2 g5?! The losing moment
This natural looking move costs Black the game. Ofcourse, he can be forgiven for overlooking White's brilliant next move! Or did he overlook it? At this level of play it is very unlikely that a strong GM like Cheparinov would have not considered the move; more likely he underestimated White's attack and did not spend sufficient time on the reply to realize the gravity of the situation.
Absolutely necessary, though still struggling, was 24... b5! 25. cxb6 (25. Na5 Ne7 26. Rc1 g5) 25... cxb6 26. Qd2 Kh7 (26... g5 27. Rxg5) 27. a4 (27. Qf2 b5 28. Nb6 Bh4) 27... g5 28. Qf2 Rb8 29. b5 a5 30. Ba3! and while White is clearly on top, Black is not without some hope as he still has some shots left. As it is, in the game it is all over and Black loses without any real counterplay.

25. cxd6 cxd6 26. Rxg5!! The moment for the spectators to shower the board with gold coins!
One of the prettiest moves of the whole tournament. Unfortunately for Black, the tactics are quite simple and airtight: Black is in touble.

26... Bxg5 27. Ncxe5 !
Taking with the other knight changes nothing.

27... dxe5 28. Nxe5
Cheparinov must have overlooked something elementary here. White is Rook and a Knight down, but he has an irresistible attack. Black must return material. Playing 28...Kh7 allows White to take on f7 and g5 and then play Qd4 with direct mating threats.

28... Kg7 There is nothing better! Black must give the Queen.
If instead 28... Rg7 then 29. Nf7 is curtains immediately. (maybe he overlooked this idea!?) Because of Cheparinov's weak 24th move (...g5), his game falls apart quickly. And at the highest level, barring a miracle, there are no second chances!

29. Nc6 Qf6 30. Bxf6 Bxf6 31. e5! (31.Nd4 was a strong alternative)
With forceful moves Eljanov is able to take complete control of the game, initiative and all.

31... bxc6 32. exf6 The simplification is in White's favour.

32... Nxf6?! [ More resistant, but equally useless, would be 32... Rxf6 33. dxc6 Rxc6 34. Qd5 Ne7 35. Qe5 Kf7 36. Qxf4 Bf5 and atleast the Black pieces breath.

33. dxc6 It should now be clear that the game can not be saved.

33... Be6 34. Rc1 Raa7
Black has a Rook and two Knights for the Queen (not counting pawns), which normally would be enough to put up a fight. But in the present game Black will not have time to coordinate his pieces and launch a counter attack because of White's dominance on the Queen side.

35. a4!?
This is Eljanov's trump. He will get unstoppable connected passed pawns on the Queen side.

35... Rae7 36. b5
Good enough was 36. Bxa6 Bh3 37. b5 It is now becoming clear that Black simply has no chance to get any counterplay: the connected passers on the Queen side are unstoppable.

36... axb5 37. axb5 N8d7 !?
If instead 37... Ng6 then simply 38. b6 Nh4 39. b7. Black is willing to return a piece to try to get rid of the connected passed pawns. In essence, Black has no way to put up a defence.

38. Bc4 White can win as he pleases, and he decides to do it with a minimum of mess
Good enough to win was 38. cxd7 Rxd7 39. Qa4 Bd5 40. Qxf4; Eljanov apparently felt it was not necessary to take the Knight!

38... Bxc4 39. Rxc4 Ne5 40. Rxf4 [40. Rc5 was also strong] 40... Re6 41. Qg1 Kh8 42. Qc1!
The passed pawns will eventually decide the game. In the meantime, Eljanov mops up.

42... Nxc6 43. bxc6 Rc7 Cheparinov plays out of momentum. Resigning was best.

44. Rc4 [44. Rf5 is also good] 44... Kg7 45. f4!
This pawn will help in the attack against the Black King. Since Cheparinov insists on playing on in such a lost position, Eljanov must have really enjoyed this phase of the game! It is not often that a strong GM gets a chance to such the marrow out of his opponent...

45...Kf7 46. f5 Rd6 47. h3 Ng8 48. Rc2 Ne7 49. Qg5! Rcxc6 50. Qxh5 ch Kf8 51. Qh8 Kf7 Now White has simply to bring in his Rook inorder to bring the game to a close

52. Rg2! Nxf5 53. Qh7 [1:0] Black resigns. A really nice win by Eljanov.

Topalov-Kramnik Grudge (rapid) game

As part of the the Zuerich Chess Club 200th Anniversay Jubilee, there was a Rapid tournament with a number of ex-World Chess Champions, Viswanathan Anand, Werner Hug, Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Khalifman, Vladimir Kramnik, Judit Polgar, Ruslan Ponomariov and Veselin Topalov. Kramnik won the tournament edging out Anand although both were undefeated. In Rd 4, there was the inevitable clash between Kramnik and Topalov. Kramink won. here is the game.

What is interesting is the use of well-known Lucena endgame manoeuvre even when there is an extra pawn on board. The manoeuvre begins on move 56...Rd5.

Here are IM Malcolm Pein's annotations:
V Topalov (2813) - V Kramnik (2759)

Champions Rapid Zurich (4)


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 c6 6.Ne5 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Qxd4 8.Bxb4 Qxe5 9.Nd2 b5 10.Bc3 Qc7 11.a4 Bb7 12.Bxf6 gxf6 13.Ne4 Ke7 14.Qd2 Nd7 15.axb5 cxb5 16.Qb4+ Nc5!! 17.Ra5
(Winning a piece is bad for White. If 17.Qxc5+ Qxc5 18.Nxc5 Bxg2 or 17.Nxc5 a5 18.Qa3 b4 19.Qe3 Bxg2; or 17.Nxc5 a5 18.Rxa5 Qxa5 19.Qxa5 Rxa5 20.Bxb7 b4 21.Ne4 Ra1+ 22.Kd2 Rxh1 or in this line 21.Na6 Ra2 22.0-0 Rxb2)
17...Bxe4 18.Bxe4 Rab8 19.0-0 Kf8!
(Black returns one of his extra pawns to get his king to safety)
20.Rfa1 Kg7 21.Rxa7 Qe5 22.Bf3 Rhf8 23.Re7 Nb3 24.Raa7 Nd4 25.Kg2 Nxe2 26.Rac7 Nd4 27.Rc5 Nc2 28.Rxe5 Nxb4 29.R5xe6 Nd3 30.Bh5 Nxb2
(Black's passed pawns are more potent than White's activity)
31.Rc6 Rbc8 32.Rb6 Rb8 33.Rc6 Nd3 34.f4
(34.Rcc7 Ne5 35.f4 Ng6)
34...Nb4 35.Rcc7 Nd5 36.Rxf7+ Rxf7 37.Rxf7+ Kg8 38.Rd7 Nb6 39.Rc7 b4! 40.Bf7+ Kh8 41.Bxc4 Nxc4 42.Rxc4 b3 43.Rc1 b2 44.Rb1 Kg7 45.g4 Rb3 46.Kf2 Kg6 47.Ke1 h5!
(48.h3 Rxh3 49.gxh5+ Kxh5 50.Rxb2 Rh1+ 51.Kd2 Rh2+ 52.Kc3 Rxb2 53.Kxb2 Kg4)
48...Kxh5 49.Kd2 Rh3 50.Rh1 Kg4 51.Kc2 Kxf4 52.Kxb2 f5 53.Kc2 Ke3 54.Kd1 Kf2 55.Re1 Rd3+ 56.Kc2 Rd5!
(The standard technique to shield the king from checks once the pawn has reached the seventh rank and the king has to emerge)
57.Re8 f4 58.Rh8 f3 59.h4
(One tempo too late)
59...Kg3 60.h5 f2 61.Rg8+ Kf4 0-1

IM Pein goes on to say:
Did Kramnik invent this daring line of defence? No, the credit goes to English GM Michael Stean - now retired from active play.

M Pasman - M Stean
Beersheba (12) 1978

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.Nf3 c6 6.Ne5 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Qxd4 8.Bxb4 Qxe5 9.Na3 b5 10.f4 Qc7 11.Nxb5 cxb5 12.Bxa8 Bb7 13.Bxb7 Qxb7 14.0-0 Qb6+ 15.Kh1 Nc6 16.Bc3 Ng4 17.Qd6 Ne3 18.Rfd1
(18.Rf3 Nf5 19.Qd1 b4 20.Be1 0-0 looks good for Black but the computer points out 18.f5!! Nxf5 19.Rxf5 exf5 20.Rd1 Qb7 21.e4 fxe4 22.Bxg7 e3 23.Kg1 winning and after 18.f5 Nxf1 19.fxe6 fxe6 20.Rxf1 White has a strong attack)
18...Qb7! 0-1
In view of 19.Kg1 Nd4! and mate on g2.