Monday, October 16, 2017

Fortress in the Endgame

" In order to improve your game, you must study endgame before anything else" - Capablanca

The Importance of studying the Endgame in Chess can never be overstated.As the Cuban World Champion has said, it is very important for every student of the game. I would like to deal with a couple of examples on the topic of fortresses in endgames. It always appeals to the spectator when a side with a material disadvantage holds his own in a seemingly lost battle. Like the attractiveness of sacrifice in chess, this too captures the imagination of players and annotators alike.

While watching the game Lupulescu-Navara from the European Club Cup a few days ago, I came across a wonderful example of a fortress. Immediately I was reminded of two wonderful examples from Averbakh's Best Games which I will share here.

First here is a study by the great Composer Kasparian.Try and find what White should do to save this game?

The solution to this study is very pretty. But (Un)fortunately there is a cook which was also found by Kasparian as mentioned by Averbakh which prevented the composition from winning a prize.Once you have tried to solve this study, take a look at the replayable board for the two solutions.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.10.14"] [Round "?"] [White "Study by Kasparian"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [Annotator "Kasparian/Averbakh"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/6B1/6q1/7p/6k1/8/1R3PK1/8 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {[#] It seems this position was composed by Kasparian and his proposed solution was} 1. Rb3 h4 2. Be5 (2. Re3 Qxg7 $11) (2. Rh3 {This was indicated by Kasparian himself as a draw. White just shuttles forth between e3 and h3 with his rook and it is a draw. The only thing he should remember is not to allow black's Queen to f1.} Qxg7 $11) 2... Kf5+ 3. Bg3 Qc6+ (3... hxg3 4. Rxg3 {is a simple draw}) 4. Kh2 h3 $1 5. Kxh3 Qh1+ 6. Bh2 Qf1+ 7. Kg3 Qc4 8. Rf3+ Kg5 9. Bg1 Qg4+ 10. Kh2 Qxf3 {with a superb stalemate} *

This is a critical moment from the game Averbakh-Bondarevsky USSR 1948. This is black to move and there is only one way for black to win the game. Can you find out what it is?
Averbakh explains in his best games as to how knowledge of Kasparian's study helped him steer his game towards a fortress. Here are the notes to the key moments of the game by the oldest Grandmaster alive.

[Event "URS-ch16"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "1948.??.??"] [Round "4"] [White "Averbakh, Yuri L"] [Black "Bondarevsky, Igor"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C92"] [Annotator "Averbakh"] [PlyCount "147"] [EventDate "1948.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "19"] [EventCountry "URS"] [SourceTitle "URS-ch"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 a5 10. d4 exd4 11. Nxd4 Nxd4 12. cxd4 Bb7 13. Bc2 c5 14. Nd2 cxd4 15. Nf3 d5 16. e5 Ne4 17. Nxd4 f6 18. Be3 Ra6 19. Qg4 f5 20. Nxf5 Rg6 21. Nxe7+ Qxe7 22. Qe2 d4 23. Bxe4 Bxe4 24. Bg5 Qf7 25. e6 Rxe6 26. Bh4 Bd5 27. Qd2 Rg6 28. Bg3 Qb7 29. Kh2 Bxg2 30. Rg1 Bxh3 31. Kxh3 Rh6+ 32. Qxh6 Qc8+ 33. Kh2 gxh6 34. Bd6+ Kf7 35. Bxf8 Qxf8 36. Rg3 Ke6 37. Re1+ Kd5 38. Kg1 Qb4 39. Re2 Qc4 40. Re7 Qxa2 41. b3 Qb1+ 42. Kg2 Qf5 43. Reg7 Kc5 44. Rf3 Qe4 45. Rgf7 Kb4 46. R7f4 Qe5 47. Rf5 Qg7+ 48. Rg3 Qd7 49. Rff3 h5 50. Rd3 Qd5+ 51. Rgf3 Qe4 52. Kf1 h4 53. Rh3 a4 54. bxa4 bxa4 55. Rhf3 Kc4 56. Ra3 Qc2 57. Kg2 d3 58. Rfxd3 Qxd3 59. Rxa4+ Kd5 60. Rxh4 {White is one move away from establishing a fortress. He just needs his rook on h3. But Black can prevent this with accurate play.What should black do here?} Ke6 $2 (60... Qg6+ 61. Kh2 Qf5 62. Kg3 Qe5+ 63. Kf3 Qg5 64. Rh3 {The Rook has reached h3 but the king cannot reach the safe haven of h2-g2} Kd4 65. Rg3 Qd5+ 66. Ke2 Qh1) 61. Rh3 $1 $11 {This is a fortress} Qe4+ 62. Kh2 Kf6 63. Re3 Qd5 64. Rg3 h5 65. Re3 Kg5 66. Rg3+ Kf4 67. Re3 h4 68. Rh3 Qb7 69. Re3 Kg4 70. Rh3 Qb1 71. Kg2 Qh7 72. Kh2 Qc7+ 73. Kg2 Qc2 74. Re3 1/2-1/2

Finally coming to the Lupulescu-Navara game from the European Club Cup. This is one critical moment from the game

White to move has a unique way to win here. This was pointed out by International Master Sagar Shah.  White missed it and the game resulted in a draw later. I analyzed the endgame and then discussed it with Grandmaster Sandipan Chanda. We found some interesting ideas just before reaching this endgame.There are still some unanswered questions left as always! I present the product of our analysis here.

[Event "European Club Cup"] [Site ""] [Date "2017.10.13"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Lupulescu, Constantin"] [Black "Navara, David"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A33"] [WhiteElo "2620"] [BlackElo "2726"] [Annotator "Kidambi/Sandipan"] [PlyCount "228"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Romania"] [BlackTeam "Czech Republic"] [WhiteTeamCountry "ROU"] [BlackTeamCountry "CZE"] [WhiteClock "1:28:00"] [BlackClock "1:30:00"] 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Bf4 Bb4 7. Ndb5 O-O 8. a3 Bxc3+ 9. Nxc3 d5 10. e3 Re8 11. Bg3 d4 12. exd4 Nxd4 13. Be5 Nc6 14. Qxd8 Rxd8 15. Bxf6 gxf6 16. Rd1 Rxd1+ 17. Kxd1 b6 18. Bd3 Ba6 19. Kc2 Nd4+ 20. Kb1 Rc8 21. Ne4 Kg7 22. Nd2 e5 23. Re1 Rd8 24. Bf1 Bc8 25. Ne4 Bf5 26. b4 a5 27. Kb2 axb4 28. axb4 Nc6 29. b5 Na5 30. c5 Bxe4 31. Rxe4 Rd2+ 32. Kc3 Rxf2 33. Bc4 bxc5 34. Bd5 c4 35. Re1 Nb3 36. b6 Nd4 37. Rb1 Rc2+ 38. Kb4 c3 39. Ka3 Rd2 40. b7 c2 41. Rc1 Nb5+ 42. Kb2 Rxd5 43. b8=Q Nd4 44. Qc7 Rb5+ 45. Ka2 Rb4 46. Rxc2 Nxc2 47. Qxc2 h5 48. g3 h4 $1 {Navara gives up 3 of his pawns to reach Queen and rook pawns vs Rook and Bishop pawn endgame.} 49. Qc3 Rd4 50. gxh4 f5 { Initially I was under the impression that Black reaches the safe fortress position. Perhaps he is one move short. So probably he should consider doing something else in this position. How about just maintaining status Quo and shuttling the Rook between f4 and d4?} (50... Rf4 {Am not sure how to assess the position after exchange of one of the h-pawns of white for black's f7-pawn. That could be winning for white. But it might very well be possible that it can never be reached and in that case with the f7-pawn on the board white would have no way to breach the fortress.} 51. Qg3+ Kh7 52. Ka3 Rd4 53. Kb3 Rf4 54. Kc3 Rd4 55. h5 {Probably I can easily exchange the h-pawn for f-pawn with h6 kh6 Qg8 and white should win.}) (50... Rg4 51. Qf3 (51. h5 Rf4 (51... Rg5 52. Qf3 e4 53. Qxe4 Rxh5 54. h4 f5 55. Qe5+ Kg8 56. Qf6 f4 57. Qxf4 Ra5+ 58. Kb3 Ra6 59. h5 Re6 60. h6 {white wins, just one tempo short. His King needed to be on g7.}) 52. Qg3+ Kh6 53. Qg8) 51... f5 52. Qxf5 (52. h3 Rg6 {draws}) 52... Rg6 {draws}) 51. Qg3+ Kh7 52. Qxe5 {This wins because of the Qg3+ and h5 tactic. If white did not have this he would have had to look into 52.Qa3} (52. Qa3 $5 {with the idea Qf8!- an important idea -Sandipan} Rxh4 (52... Rd2+ 53. Kb1 Rxh2 54. Qe7) 53. h3 $1 (53. Qe7) 53... f6 (53... Re4 54. Qf8 Kg6 55. Qg8+ Kf6 56. h4 $18) (53... Rh5 54. Qf8 Kg6 55. Qg8+ (55. Qd6+ Kh7 56. Qxe5 Rh6 $11) 55... Kf6 56. h4 Ke7 57. Kb3 {This should be winning.}) (53... Rh6 54. Qf8 Kg6 55. Qg8+ Kf6 56. h4 Rh5) 54. Qf8 Kg6 55. Qg8+ Kh6 {Now there is no chance of a known fortress, maybe white should win here?} 56. Qh8+ Kg5 57. Qg7+ Kf4 58. Qg2 {Looks more like a win than a draw- Though not clear yet.}) 52... Ra4+ 53. Kb3 Ra6 $1 54. Qxf5+ Kg7 55. Qe5+ Kg8 (55... Kh7 $5 56. Qc7 Rf6 57. h5 $1 {puts black in Zugzwang} (57. Qe7 Rb6+ (57... Kg7 58. Qe5) 58. Kc4 Kg7 59. Qe5+ Kg8 60. Qg3+ Rg6 61. h5 {wins again!})) 56. h5 $2 (56. Qg3+ Rg6 57. h5 $1 {pointed out by Sagar Shah. So this position is won for white. He makes use of his extra pawn to win a pawn endgame.} Rxg3+ 58. hxg3 Kg7 59. Kc4 Kh6 60. g4 Kg5 61. Kd5 f5 62. h6 Kxh6 63. gxf5 {White wins by a single tempo.}) 56... Re6 $1 $11 {Like in the game Averbakh-Bondarevsky the side with the Queen should prevent the side with the Rook to get to safe squares like e6/h6 with the King on g7 and h7. If this can be accomplished by tactical means then it is won, else it is drawn.} 57. Qg5+ Kh7 {It seems that despite having an extra pawn on h2 compared to last position, it does nothing to change the assesment of the position. This position is probably already drawn.} 58. Qf5+ Kg7 59. Qg5+ Kh7 60. Kc4 Rc6+ 61. Kd4 Re6 62. Qf5+ Kg7 63. Qg5+ Kh7 64. Kd3 Rh6 65. Qf5+ Kg7 66. Qg5+ Kh7 67. Ke4 Re6+ 68. Kf4 Rh6 69. Qf5+ Kg7 70. Kg5 Rc6 71. Qd5 Rh6 72. Qd4+ Kh7 73. Qd3+ Kg7 74. Qd4+ Kh7 75. Qf4 Kg7 76. Kg4 Re6 77. Qg5+ Kh7 78. Qd5 Kg7 79. Kg5 Rh6 80. Qd4+ Kh7 81. Qc4 Kg7 82. Qc3+ Kh7 83. Qf3 Kg7 84. Qf4 Re6 85. Kg4 Rh6 86. Qe5+ Kh7 87. Qf5+ Kg7 88. h3 Re6 89. Qg5+ Kh7 90. Qf5+ Kg7 91. Qf4 Rh6 92. Kg5 Re6 93. Qd4+ Kh7 94. Qf4 Kg7 95. h6+ Rxh6 96. h4 Rg6+ 97. Kh5 Re6 98. Qd4+ Kh7 99. Qf4 Kg7 100. Qg5+ Rg6 101. Qe5+ Kh7 102. Qe3 Kg8 103. Qe5 Kh7 104. Qe7 Kg8 105. Qd8+ Kg7 106. Qb8 Rg2 (106... Re6 {would draw too}) 107. Qe5+ Kg8 108. Qe8+ Kg7 109. Qa8 Rg6 110. Qd8 Rg2 111. Qd4+ Kg8 112. Qa4 Rg6 113. Qe8+ Kg7 114. Qa8 Rg1 {Practical ideas that were gained from the analysis is 1. The defensive side has to reach Kg7 Rook e6,g6 or h6.2. Should not allow White's pawn to reach h6 3. Not allow his Queen to f8.4.If white has two h-pawns still the position is a draw if black reaches the safe squares e6 or h6 with King on g7 and h7. Black loses in that Qg3-h5 line because he is forced out of the safe square!! 5. For the side, with the Queen, there are always tactical ideas even if it's just one tempo before the rook reaches the safe square, like in this example and also the Averbakh game.} 1/2-1/2

Despite the presence of an extra h-pawn. This position still seems to be an unbreachable fortress.

Some practical pointers derived from the analysis were.

1.The defensive side has to reach Kg7 Rook e6,g6 or h6.

2. Should not allow White's pawn to reach h6

3. Not allow White's Queen to f8.

4.If white has two h-pawns still the position is a draw if black reaches the safe squares e6 or h6 with King on g7 and h7. Black loses in that Qg3-h5 line because he is forced out of the safe square!!

5. For the side, with the Queen, there are always tactical ideas even if it's just one tempo before the rook reaches the safe square, like in this example and also the Averbakh game.

My Thanks to Sandipan Chanda and Sagar Shah. Special thanks also to Averbakh and Kasparian for enriching chess literature through their works.

In Conclusion, I would like to mention that Grandmaster Sandipan Chanda is one of the most creative minds of our country. Apart from being a fine player, he is also an avid composer. I give below his latest composition for the readers to solve and enjoy. 

                         Black to move


  1. Your lifelong efforts on chess are blossoming. May God be kind further.

  2. Congrats Grandmaster! You have an entertaining and captivating writing style... I also greatly admire your love for the endgame and the classics! Keep the good work!