31 January 2012

Small Differences

Vassily Ivanchuk won an instructive pawn ending against Anish Giri in round 9 of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. While watching the game, I was focused on Ivanchuk's h-pawn and less attentive towards the threats of Giri's a-pawn. Hence, I missed the point of 56.e7! until looking through the annotations by Karsten Mueller at CBM Training: Endgames from Tata Steel.

The rook endgame, too, is instructive, especially what might have happened. Ivanchuk explained the key error: Giri's 47...Rb7.

Ivanchuk still might have gone for the pawn race, but with Giri's king one square closer to the h-file, Black is winning. After 47...Ke6 48.Rh6 Ke7, Ivanchuk says that Black has good drawing chances.

White to move

49.Rh7+ Kd8 50.Rxc7 Kxc7 makes 51.f4 untenable. In the actual game, 52.f4 was the only winning move after 47...Rb7?? 48.Rh7+ Kc8 49.Rh8+ Kd7 (It appears that Ivanchuk repeated moves while calculating the pawn race) 50.Rh7+ Kc8 51.Rxb7 Kxb7. Indeed, 52.e6?? loses, as pointed out by Mueller.

49.Rxa6 leads to a rook ending with a one pawn advantage for White. Play might proceed 49...Rb7 50.Rf6 Rb4+ 51.Ke3 f4+ 52.Kf2 Rb8 53.Rg6 Rh8

White to move

It is hard to see any prospects for White to find a win here. Playing against one of my engines, Hiarcs 12, I tried 54.Rxg5 Rxh2+ 55.Rg2 Rxg2+ 56.Kxg2 leading to a drawn pawn endgame.

Black to move

56...Ke6 57.Kh3 Kd5 58.Kh4 Kxe5 59.Kg4 Ke6 60.Kxf4 Kf6 =.

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