Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


More Rook Endgames? You're Welcome

#16  Gligoric-Euwe  (click here to view on

Bronstein: The reader who immerses himself in this battle's fine points, who examines the techniques used here, and who familiarizes himself with the basic ideas behind this type of ending, will have made a great stride forward in positional play.

Here is a game that could have been taken straight out of Baburin's "Winning Pawn Structures" - first White gangs up on Black's IQP, tortures him with various threats, then finally trades down into a drawn 4v3 rook endgame...and proceeds to win it.  It takes imagination to fool a veteran player in that situation, let's see how it's done...

10. a3  a6

Bronstein: It is Black's task to rid himself of the isolated pawn - that is, to push it to d4 and trade it off.  This, however, is impossible for the moment, due to 11. Na4.  The natural thing is for Black to prepare this advance with ...a7-a6 and ...Ba7.  It is White's task to use these two tempi to bring out another piece to control the d4 square, intending to occupy it later on with a knight.  Following this plan, one must consider 10. b3!  a6 11. Na4  Ba7  12. Bb2 more logical; if then 12. ... b5 13. Rc1!, followed by 14. Nc5.  The square d4 would have remained under White's control, a strategic accomplishment of no small importance.

It is far too early to talk about one side or another winning or losi
ng this game on account of the 10th move, but Bronstein's amazingly insightful comments lay out the strategic developments of the game that follow - Black is given a temporary opportunity to liquidate his IQP and get a good game; failing to do so, he must prepare a long defense.

11. b4  Bd6?!  (Likely an inferior alternative to ...Ba7, giving up the fight for d4)
12. Bb2  Bg4
13. Rc1   Bc7
14. Na4  Qd6

With the d-pawn set in cement, Black turns to attack as a means of liberation, but White defends accurately, and through exchanges goes toward the theoretically advantageous IQP endgame.

15. g3  Ne4
16. Nc5  Nxc5    (With each piece exchange, the IQP weakens, and White exchanged his knight on a4 for Black's on e4, no small feat for a single move)
17. Rxc5  Rad8
18. Nd4!  Bxe2
19. Qxe2  Nxd4
20. Bxd4  Bb6

21. Rd1!    (The key.   If say 21. R5c1 then 22. Bxd4  exd4 = )
21. ....     Bxc5
22. Bxc5  Qe5
23. Bxf8  Kxf8

White now has an exceptionally favorable IQP endgame, with just heavy pieces left.  His pieces will be more mobile, mixing attack on the weak d5 pawn with attack elsewhere on the board.  There can be only two results, White winning or a draw....but despite all his advantages it is not clear that White can force a win yet.

24. Rd4  g6
25. b5?!  axb5
26. Qxb5  Qc7

Bronstein (regarding White's 25th): understand what follows, one must keep in mind that rook endings with four pawns versus three, all on one side, generally cannot be won.  So if all the queenside pawns were to disappear, Black would be risking very little even if he does lose the isolate d-pawn.  With this in mind, 25. not a very good move: 25. Qd2 would be more consistent, threatening 26. e4 and forcing 25. ...f5

27. Qb2  Kg8
28. Qd2  Qc5
29. a4    Qa3!
30. a5    Rc8
31. Rxd5?!  Qc1+       (Bronstein suggests 31. Kg2 keeping the queens on)
32. Qxc1   Rxc1+
33. Kg2  Rb1
And indeed Black accomplishes his goal - he is about to simplify to the aforementioned 4v3 rook endgame, and can have very good expectation of a draw.

34. g4    Kg7
35. h4    b6
36. h5    bxa5
37. Rxa5  Rb2

38. g5!?    
No fool, Gligoric knows he is up against endgame theory trying to win here, so he changes the equation...with 38. .... h6!  Black can exchange off two pawns and almost guarantee the draw.  But Black chooses a different path, one that still leads toward the sunlight but hews closer to the precipice...

38. ....   gxh5
39. Ra6!  Rb3?!      
40. Rh6  Ra3

Note: a full appreciation of this endgame is beyond my pay grade - Bronstein devotes 4 pages of analysis to the following 37 moves, borrowing from the work of several masters whose combined efforts indicated the possibilities for drawing that existed at several points.  However, I will try to highlight a couple key moments to give a flavor of the text.   On move 39, Bronstein recommends ...Re7 with the intention of ...Re6 instead, the point being the pawn endgame is drawn.

41. Kg3  Ra1
42. e4    Rg1+
43. Kf4  Rh1
44. e5   h4?

The adjourned move, and one Bronstein identifies as the key mistake - until now, the game was still drawn.  Now, however, Black's lead h-pawn becomes a much easier target, and if White can win this pawn without exchanging rooks he has winning chances.
45. Kg4  Rg1+
46. Kf5  Rh1
47. Kg4  Rg1+
48. Kf5   Rh1
49. f4    h3
50. Kg4  Rg1+
51. Kf3   Rf1+
52. Kg3  Rg1+
53. Kf2   Rh1
54. Rf6   Ra1
55. Kg3  Rh1
56. Kg4   Kg8

It's worth replaying the game with the link on the top of this page to see how White cleverly uses zugzwang to force Black's king to take a step back - now he can play 57. Rh6 to win the h-pawn, because a rook trade no longer leads to a drawn pawn endgame (as it would if the king were still on g7).
57. Rh6   h2
58. Kg3   Rg1+
59. Kxh2  Rg4     (White cashes in, regaining his extra pawn - Black holds onto his rook of course)
60. Rf6   Kg7
61. Kh3   Rg1
62. Kh4  Rh1+
63. Kg4  Rg1+
64. Kf5   Rf1
65. Rc6  
65. ....   Kf8

How can White progress?  The Black rook ties his king to his f-pawn, preventing a winning pawn breakthrough.  Gligoric finds the answer is, yet again, zugzwang.

66. Rc8+  Kg7
67. Rd8!   Rf2   (forced)
68. Rd1!  Rf3
69. Ke4  Rf2
70. Ke3  Ra2    (now Black's rook is forced off the f-file, and White's pawns head for the endzone)
71. f5!     Rg2
72. Rd7!  Rxg5
73. Kf4   Rg1
74. e6    Rf1+
75. Ke5  Re1+
76. Kd6  h5
77. Rxf7+  Kg8
78. Ke7

A beautiful endgame, twice White gave up his pawn advantage to improve his position, and came up with a coherent plan to which he adhered perfectly.  


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