Friday, May 6, 2016

Optical illusions part 2

On this blog you shouldn't expect any literary delights. I know that there are much better writers than myself. Still I hope that readers can find pleasure reading the different chess-topics discussed here. I believe last article written by a guest can definitely improve the experience.

Maybe one of the best chess-writers was Jan Hein Donner. His book de Koning is without doubt the most famous but after I finished reading the book I decided to give the book as a present to another player very interested in it. Donners rubbish about women and engines often annoyed me too much as he seems to like talking often about subjects without having any knowledge. On the other hand I do realize that I will never come close to his level of literary. Everybody having read the book will surely still remember the fragment about the rook pawn: " Dear pawn on a5. Beautiful small thing, rook-pawn you are, not more than one square you can cover. You are so small, almost nothing, and the whole game you stood on your place, but all the time I had hopes for you and I was eagerly waiting for you. I did see you, little one. People of course thought that the pawn on d5 was important, he took their attention, yes they only looked at him but we knew better, you are the one, you and only you. I waited, you silly one, you didn't push, you knew that I was only thinking about you and you didn't have to do anything as I would come back to you anyway. Small rook pawn, you are now free. Advance, at a8 you and me will get eternal greatness. Thank you my little one. I love you."

Beautiful isn't it? Well with this special introduction I want to start the real theme of this article: rook pawns and their special role in a game. We can consider rook-pawns as the marginals of the chess-board. Often they have no value but in some extreme situations they can play a crucial role. I found recently a funny comment on schaaksite about the game Vyacheslav Ikonnikov against Robert Ris played in the Dutch intertclubs after move 29: "This gives black an advanced pawn. And an extra pawn! It is therefore no surprise that Robert was complaining after the game that he missed the win. But I think that is slightly exaggerated. I mean, that little a-pawn is neither for the cat!"

Many examples exist about rook-pawns bringing victory but less familiar are examples of saving the draw in extremis by the little ones. Last Sunday in the interclub such position could have happened. I say "could" as I was not aware about it during the game. Besides my opponent cunningly chose to wait a bit for any concrete actions.
[Event "Analysestelling"] [Date "2016"] [White "Timmerman, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2135"] [BlackElo "2319"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1p3qpk/p1p4p/2PbQP2/1P1B2P1/P5K1/6P1/8 w - - 0 49"] [PlyCount "20"] 49. g5 {(In the game Gert-Jan played the cunning Kf2 which kept me guessing. However I wonder if he considered the interesting g5.)} hxg5 50. Kg4 Qf8 {(Capturing g2 is not possible due to Qh2. This trick was later missed by both of us but at that time it did not influence the result anymore.)} 51. Kxg5 Bxg2 52. Qc7 {(Now Qh2 is much weaker.)} (52. Qh2 Kg8 53. Qxg2 Qd8 $11) 52... Bd5 53. f6 Qf7 54. Qxf7 Bxf7 55. fxg7 {(I feared this scenario during the game as I evaluated the position as lost by defending passively.)} Kg8 56. Kf6 Bc4 57. Ke7 a5 {(By sacrificing the a-pawn whites pawnstructure is weakened and black can achieve a fortress.)} (57... Bb5 58. Kd6 Kf7 $2 59. Kc7 Kg8 (59... a5 {(Now this is too late.)} 60. a4 {(Chess is fantastic, no? Yes indeed the other rook-pawn prepares the winning break-through for white.)} Bxa4 (60... Ba6 61. b5 cxb5 62. axb5 Bxb5 63. Kxb7 $18) 61. bxa5 Bb5 62. Kxb7 $18) 60. Kxb7 Kf7 61. Kb6 Kg8 62. Ka5 Kf7 63. a4 Bc4 64. Kb6 $18 {(I calculated this in the game.)}) 58. bxa5 Ba6 $11 {(Black can not run out of moves anymore.)} *
Later the engine demonstrated the truth. I had correctly evaluated that waiting would lose (contrary to some kibitzers were thinking) but a well timed sacrifice of the rook-pawn would still ward off a defeat.

It is still possible to do worse. Some time ago there was a lot of fuss created when the Swedish grandmaster Hillarp Persson Tiger resigned in a position which was a simple draw.
[Event "Politiken Cup"] [Date "2015.07.28"] [White "Hillarp Persson, Tiger"] [Black "Ragger, Markus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D70"] [WhiteElo "2563"] [BlackElo "2688"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/p7/1p6/1P3pk1/P7/5KP1/8 w - - 0 45"] [PlyCount "17"] {(In this position the Swedish grandmaster resigned, astonishing many online kibitzers. All the engines show it is a draw.)} 45. Kg1 {(Except Kg1 also Ke1 and Ke2 are good for the draw. Kf1 on the other hand loses.)} (45. Ke1 Kg3 46. Kf1) (45. Ke2 Kg3 46. Kf1) (45. Kf1 $2 Kg3 46. Kg1 f3 47. gxf3 Kxf3 48. Kf1 Ke3 49. Ke1 Kd3 50. Kd1 Kc3 51. a4 Kxb4 52. axb5 axb5 53. Kc2 Ka3 54. Kb1 Kb3 55. Ka1 b4 56. Kb1 Ka3 57. Ka1 b3 58. Kb1 b2 $19) 45... Kg3 46. Kf1 f3 { (Dvoretsky calls this broadening the beach.)} 47. gxf3 Kxf3 {(The road is open to capture the pawns on the other wing but white still has one last trick in his sleeve.)} 48. Ke1 Ke3 49. Kd1 Kd3 50. Kc1 Kc3 51. a4 {(The rook pawn sacrifices itself to achieve a surprising draw.)} Kxb4 (51... bxa4 52. Kb1 Kb3 53. Ka1 a3 54. Kb1 a2 55. Ka1 Ka3 56. b5 axb5 {(Stalemate.)}) 52. axb5 axb5 53. Kb2 $11 {(White has the opposition so it is draw.)} 0-1
So also here the rook-pawn was able to save heroically the game by sacrificing itself. Chess is a ton full of optical illusions. By years of experience we learn better to distinguish truth from lies.


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