27 September 2012

Lesson of the Week

Converting an Advantage

Last week, we looked at a position where Black made a critical error in the early middlegame that lost a pawn. This week, we look at the finish.

White to move

Akiba Rubinstein understood that one extra pawn can be shed if it speeds the other towards promotion.

31.Rb7! Ra1 32.b6 Rxa4 33.Ra7 Rb4 34.b7

Black to move


Black must do something, but there is nothing useful.

35.Ra8+ Kf7 36.b8Q Rxb8 37.Rxb8

Oldrich Duras played on for two moves more, but I ended the lesson here. Nonetheless, I emphasized that a player should not resign unless 1) he or she knows how to win from the opponent's side against strong opposition, such as the World Champion or Rybka, and 2) the opponent has demonstrated the requisite skills.

The first position above was presented as a problem for student players to solve. They played chess with one another, and a few made efforts to find the winning line. None were successful. How can I teach my students the requisite skills to handle such endgames? Some players reveal a tendency to check whenever possible regardless of whether it accomplishes a strategic objective. For instance, one student suggested 31.Ra8+.

Reaching a Winning Endgame

The critical position in Rubinstein  -- Duras was not part of the lesson last week, nor this week. After winning the pawn, Rubinstein swapped off several sets of pieces. He also deprived Duras of the bishop pair even though this action activated a Black rook. The active Black rook threatened a pawn.

White to move

Rubinstein gave up his extra pawn in order to activate his own rook. His active rook created two connected passed pawns on the queenside.


Duras did not play 22...Rxh2, but he might have. I spent some time playing this position against the computer before my chess class. Perhaps there is a lesson there for another day. White has a clear advantage, but what skills are needed to win against master level resistance? Duras made a number of small errors in defense. Chernev highlights these errors in The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played, but his instruction focuses upon Rubinstein's play. I think this game has instructive value that Chernev lets slip away.

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