Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Wandering kings

The strong Georgian grandmaster Jobava Baadur confirmed once more in a recently published two-piece interview on Chessbase that knowing the games of our great ancestors is crucial for the development of any young player. It is a pity that I get this info 20 years too late as back then there was no internet or other source giving me such advice. Only in 1998 via my job I got my first restricted access to the internet.

The last 5 years I try to slowly close this gap. Often I don't manage to read more than 15 minutes a day but in the meanwhile I do get the feeling to know already something about our rich history of chess. I also do learn something technically but I don't expect any gain of rating as too many other components are at least as important.

Maybe the most attractive aspect of studying our classics is discovering connections between today and our past. Recognizing certain recurring themes allows to better understand and appreciate a game. Example there is the theme of the wandering king. The king walks over the board with the objective not to interfere an attack. The insane kings-walk of Navara which was shown in my article g4 in the najdorf is not a good example of this theme.

If we review our classics then it is not a surprise that former worldchampion Tigran Petrosian used this theme several times. His most famous game is probably the one against the German grandmaster Wolfgang Unzicker.
[Event "FRG-URS"] [Site "Hamburg"] [Date "1960.08.04"] [Round "7"] [White "Petrosian, Tigran V"] [Black "Unzicker, Wolfgang"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D61"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "q2r4/r4pk1/2Rbp1pp/pQ1p4/Pp1P4/1N2P1P1/1P3P1P/2R3K1 w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "53"] {(Controlling 1 open file is often not enough advantage to win. Tigran wants to open a second front so decides first to evacuate the king from that zone.)} 29. Kf1 Kg8 30. h4 h5 31. R1c2 Kh7 32. Ke1 Kg8 33. Kd1 Kh7 34. Kc1 Kg8 35. Kb1 {(The king is evacuated so now white can open a new front.)} Kh7 36. Qe2 Qb7 37. Rc1 Kg7 38. Qb5 Qa8 39. f4 Kh7 40. Qe2 Qb7 41. g4 hxg4 42. Qxg4 Qe7 43. h5 Qf6 44. Ka2 Kg7 45. hxg6 Qxg6 46. Qh4 Be7 47. Qf2 Kf8 48. Nd2 Rb7 49. Nb3 Ra7 50. Qh2 Bf6 51. Rc8 Rad7 52. Nc5 b3 53. Kxb3 Rd6 54. f5 Rb6 55. Ka2 1-0
Another impressive example is surely his game against the Spanish grandmaster Jesus Diez del Corral.
[Event "Palma de Mallorca"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "1969"] [Round "14"] [White "Diez del Corral, Jesus"] [Black "Petrosian, Tigran V"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C18"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r5k1/p1r2qp1/1pn1p1p1/3pPp2/3P1Q1P/P2PB1P1/5PK1/R6R b - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "65"] {(Petrosian decides to evacuate the king out of the danger-zone.)} 22... Kf8 23. Qg5 Ke8 24. Rac1 Kd7 25. h5 gxh5 26. Rxh5 Rg8 27. Rh7 Kc8 28. Qh4 Qg6 29. Rh8 Rxh8 30. Qxh8 Kb7 {(Mission accomplished. Now Petrosian will use himself the opened kings-wing to counterattack.)} 31. Qf8 Rc8 32. Qd6 Qe8 33. a4 Rd8 34. Qa3 Qe7 35. Qc3 Rc8 36. Bd2 g5 37. Qc2 f4 38. gxf4 gxf4 39. Bxf4 Rg8 40. Bg3 Nxd4 41. Qc3 Ne2 42. Qc6 Kb8 43. Re1 Nf4 44. Kf1 Nxd3 45. Rb1 Qf7 46. Qd6 Kb7 47. Ke2 Rc8 48. a5 Rc2 49. Kf1 Nxf2 50. Rxb6 axb6 51. Qxb6 Kc8 52. Qa6 Kb8 53. Qb6 Qb7 54. Qd6 Qc7 0-1
Other games of Petrosian with this theme can be found in this collection. Petrosian had an enormous influence on chess with his remarkable style. I already discussed this in my article about prophylaxis but this is also valid for this theme. Very recently we saw a wandering king in the tiebrake of the semi-final of the worldcup by the Russian grandmaster Peter Svidler in his game against the Chinese child-prodigy Wei Yi.
[Event "World Cup"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.09.25"] [Round "5.4"] [White "Wei Yi"] [Black "Peter Svidler"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2734"] [BlackElo "2727"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1pp2rk1/p3pqpr/4p1R1/2P1Pn1P/5PQ1/PP1R4/6NK b - - 0 42"] [PlyCount "25"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] {(Modern chess often deviates a lot from pre-computerchess but this does not mean that our current top players have not studied their classics. In this rapidgame Svidler uses the standard theme of the wandering king.)} 42... Kf8 43. b3 Rfh7 44. Rh2 Ke8 45. Rg4 Kd7 46. Qf2 Kc8 {(The evacuation is successful and everything is ready for the execution which Svidler for the umpteenth time forgets to cash in.)} 47. Ne2 Nxe2 48. Qxe2 Rxh4 49. Rhxh4 Rxh4 50. Rxh4 Qxh4 51. Kg2 Qg5 52. Kh2 Kd7 53. Qd3 Ke7 54. Qc3 Qf4 1/2-1/2
These top players know of course their classics but also closer to home we can detect that our Belgian leading players have spent time on studying them. Some months ago Bart Michiels demonstrated a wandering king in our most recent encounter.
[Event "Open Gent 8ste ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Michiels, B."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2316"] [BlackElo "2520"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "q5k1/3bb2p/r3p1p1/1p1pP3/1P1BpP2/rBP5/6PP/1R3RQK b - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "57"] 35... h5 $6 {(After a long phase of maneuvering Bart realizes that I will not undertake any actions. He needs desperately a win but this sharp move could easily backfire. Qe8 was definitely more solid.)} 36. g3 $6 {(I looked at g4 but decided in the end to continue my waiting strategy. After the game Bart rightly condemned my passivity.)} (36. g4 $1 hxg4 $2 {(The best is h4 and sacrifice the h4 pawn which still gives black some chances to continue the fight.)} 37. Qxg4 Kf7 38. Rg1 Qg8 39. Bxd5 $18 {(Bart discovered the move in my reflection time which I did not as otherwise I would have likely played g4.)}) 36... Kf7 $6 {(Bart realizes that the king is not safe anymore but Qf8 was more accurate. )} 37. h3 $6 {(Again here g4 is strong.)} (37. g4 $1 hxg4 $6 {(H4 is again better.)} 38. Qxg4 Bc6 $6 {(This avoids Bxd5 but allows another counter.) } 39. f5 $18) 37... Qf8 38. Qe3 Ke8 39. Kg2 Kd8 40. Rf2 Kc7 41. Rff1 Kb7 {(The king walked to the relatively safer queen-side. It is still very difficult to create something so Bart decides to first maneuver.)} 42. Qd2 Qa8 43. Rb2 Bd8 44. Rc1 Bc7 45. Rbb1 Qf8 46. Rb2 Qf5 47. Rf1 Ra8 48. Qe3 Rg8 49. Rff2 Bc6 50. Kh2 Rga8 51. Rb1 Bd8 52. Rff1 {(The rest was reconstructed via the live-broadcasts as we had both less than 5 minutes remaining.)} Be7 53. Rf2 Be8 54. Kg2 g5 {(Risky but waiting is not an option if you still want to create some chances.)} 55. Rbb2 gxf4 56. Rxf4 Qh7 57. h4 Bg6 $6 {(Transferring the bishop to f5 weakens b5. Waiting with Qg7 was objectively stronger.)} 58. Bd1 Bf5 $6 {(The bishop better returns to e8 maybe after including Ra1 but that does not fit blacks plan of course.)} (58... Be8 $5 59. Rbf2 $1 Qg7 $1 60. Be2 Ra2 61. Bf1 Bd8 $14) 59. Be2 $2 {(I miss the double attack of b5 and h5 with Qe2.)} (59. Qe2 $1 Kc6 60. Qxh5 Qxh5 61. Bxh5 Rg8 62. Rbf2 Raa8 $1 63. Kh2 Ra1 $1 64. Bf7 $16) 59... Ra2 $4 {(2 games a day, 11 PM, very little time remaining,... The blunders occurring in this phase have surely some connection.)} (59... Bf8 $1 60. Rf1 Bh6 61. Qf2 e3 62. Bxe3 Rf8 $5 63. Qg1 $5 Rxc3 64. Bxh6 Qxh6 65. Kh2 Ra8 $11) 60. Rxa2 Rxa2 61. Rf2 Qg8 {(Black can not cover the pawn with the king as that would drop the rook.)} 62. Bxb5 {(I knew that my position was won but anyway I proposed a draw as I had only 50 seconds remaining against more than 2 minutes for Bart. Bart chooses to gamble as a draw is hardly better than a loss.)} Ra1 63. Be2 $4 {(Played on automatic pilot as I am blinded by Qg4-Qh3 mate. C4 won very rapidly.)} Bxh4 {(The conclusion of the game was already shown in my previous article.)} 0-1
I can well imagine that some players can devise a wandering king themselves without knowing previous examples. However the precious time needed to make such plans isn't always available with the ever faster becoming timecontrols. I often read the old masters thought 40 minutes or more over 1 move but we don't have such luxury anymore.


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