Yesterday I posted a great counter attacking game from the Australian Junior Championship. These are exactly the sort of games where juniors can show their abilities, direct targets, tactical possibilities, cut and thrust. Of course the downside of too much tactical and opening study can weaken other parts of the game, and it is no surprise that juniors tend to be poor positionally, and at the endgame.
Before I show that endgame, the hero of yesterday, Heath Gooch took another scalp today by drawing with David Cannon, the top seed in the tournament. Here's the final position.
The position is levellish, with opposite coloured bishops on the board, but that just gives both sides greater attacking opportunities at the moment. I am shaking my head in disbelief that 2 under 16's should agree to a draw in this position, when the game is full of life, and I can almost hear IM Robert Jamieson's teeth grinding while saying "don't agree to draws while there's life in the position: how can you improve if you're scared to lose?"
The endgame I saw today started in this position:
Black has a winning position, but couldn't seem to finish things off. Here black can win a pawn straight off using simple forks. 1..Ne3+ 2.Kf3 Nf5 and the d-pawn falls as 3.Ke4 fails to Nd6+ forking the bishop. Instead he played 1..Nb4? and the game continued for a while until it reached this position.
Again, searching for checks helps as 1..Nd5+ 2.Ke4 f6 leaves white with no good moves, while black's knight can move around to attack d4 under favourable circumstances. Instead, black decided to manouvre his king back round to the king side until white blundered into the following position.
Knowing that a fork can be used to win material from a check should help us realise that the knight would really like to get to e2. So in the above position 1..Nc3 achieves that aim immediately as the bishop is attacked and so are both of the squares it can move to which defend e2! Alas, black felt it was time to advance his g-pawn and the game ended a draw.!
I'm of the opinion that both these young players would have had no problem seeing these knight forks in a middlegame setting, so why are they so difficult to see with less pieces on the board? Spending a little bit of time each week looking through an endgame, or some endgames, or some endgame theory or tactics is unbelievably beneficial for most players.