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.

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.

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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