22 April 2019

Textbook Ending: Historical Considerations

This position arose twice in Fiebig -- Tartakower, Barmen 1905. It was reached after 58...Kc8 and again after 60...Kc8, at which point the game was agreed drawn.

White to move

Historical questions arise. What were the rules in 1905 regarding draw by repetition or by triple occurrence of position? What endgame books that should be known by aspiring masters of the time explain the technique of triangulation?

Fiebig missed an elementary win that is a textbook ending. Today, it is in many textbooks, but was it as well-known more than a century ago?

In "Pawn Ending" in Edward Winter, A Chess Omnibus (2003), 42-43, this position is reached after the first move from a diagram presented there. Winter references Das Endspiel im Schach (1917) as a source, noting that the score of the game Fahrni--Alapin has not been found. Winter notes the position from Fiebig--Tartakower, and that the game appears in the Barmen tournament book. Winter's article also appears at "Edward Winter Presents: Unsolved Chess Mysteries (14)" (2007).

Wilhelm Steinitz, The Modern Chess Instructor (1889) presents the rules that had been approved by the British Chess Association and many chess congresses. "When both players persist in repeating the same moves," is given as one circumstance that produces a drawn game. There is no reference to the number of repetitions necessary. I have previously written about the development of the Fifty Move Rule at "Max Judd's Draw Claim" (2016). Perhaps a narrative concerning the development of rules regarding repetition can be found somewhere. Winter states the game was "agreed drawn" (42).

J. Berger, Theorie und Praxis der Endspiele (1890) discusses opposition in a separate section within the larger portion devoted to kings and pawns (28-34), but I do not see any reference to triangulation--neither process nor terminology. As far as I am aware, Berger's was the standard endgame book of the time.

As I was playing through Fiebig -- Tartakower, I was certain that White should be winning after Tartakower blocked a check with his rook.

White to move

The game continued:

51.Kd4 b6

Hiarcs, running tablebases, likes 51...Kc6 52.b5+ Kc7 53.Rxd6 Kxd6 54.a4+-

52.Ke5 Rxd5+ 53.Kxd5 Kc7 54.a4 a6

54...Kd7 is more stubborn

White to move

According to Hiarcs, it is checkmate in nineteen moves.


The second best move. White wins more quickly with 55.Ke5 Kd7 56.c5 Kc6 57.cxb6 Kxb6 58.Kd6

55...bxa5 56.bxa5 Kd7 57.c5 Kc7 58.c6 Kc8

The game has reached the position at the top of the post. After seeing how the game concluded, I opened my playing software and continued from the diagram against Stockfish 10. I checkmated the engine in sixteen moves.


59.Kd6 was played by Fiebig.
59.Kd4 is given by Winter from Fahrni's book.

59...Kb8 60.Kd4 Kc8 61.Kd5

The diagram at the top of the post has been reached again, but the position has changed. Now, it is Black to move.

The rest was easy.

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