19 November 2011

Choose your Endgame

When a player is ahead by a pawn, which is more favorable: rook versus rook or same color bishops?

In the Turkey Quads on Thursday night, my opponent faced this choice.

White to move

I expected 52.Ra8 Ra2+ 53.Kg3 Bc4 54.Rxa2 Bxa2, and then I must defend a position where his bishop is the wrong color for the h-pawn, but the e-pawn represents a significant threat.

White to move

My opponent opted to exchange bishops. 52.Bxa6 Rxa6, and I was left defending with the rook. Having spent a fair amount of time last spring studying some of Vasily Smyslov's rook endgames, I played with some confidence that I could find the correct moves and hold the position.

See "Rook Endgame: Critical Position," "Play like Smyslov," and "The Active Rook."

White to move

Did my opponent make the wrong choice on move 52? Did he have better chances in a bishop endgame? I think so, but am not certain. Chess engines are not particularly helpful evaluating such positions as they may give +2.50 in positions that are theoretical draws.

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