Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pawn Endgames

I saw on the MCC Facebook Page an interesting post by FM Michael Baron. Michael said "I have my own list of greatest endgames" but then directed others to a chessgames site called the Greatest  Ever Chess Endgames. It is important for players of all levels to have some knowledge of endgames and some guiding principles to lead one's play. Theoretical endgames become more important as a player gets stronger, but as in opening study, it is probably better to work on general understanding rather than theoretical knowledge. In this respect, looking at great games where great endgame ideas were played is fantastic advice, that you'd expect from an FM like Michael Baron. When an endgame particularly catches your interest, then deeper investigation can be undertaken with a book like Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, or Muller's Fundamental Chess Endings.

Here's an interesting endgame that I saw recently. It isn't brilliant, and the players aren't overly famous, but it is still interesting. The game was between Csom-Suttles Indonesia 1982.

White is much better in this position. The d5 rook is dominant, while black's king is a bit intimidated. For instance, white can win a pawn straight off with 1.exd6+ Bxd6 2.Rxf5. However, both players were in the first time control and would have been seeing their clock hand turning toward the flag, so the Hungarian Grand Master decided to head for the pawn ending which he must have considered to be significantly better for him. The game saw all the pieces traded over the next few moves:

1.exd6+ Bxd6 2.Rxd6 Rcxd6 3.Rd1 Kc6 4.Bxd6 Rxd6 5.Rxd6 Kxd6 6.Kf2

A big consideration in endgames is whether it is good to trade into pawn endgames. On the more general theme of trading pieces, it usually isn't good to trade your good pieces for your opponent's less good pieces, so one could argue that generally speaking, white has given away the advantage he held by the comparative strength of his pieces. However, if by simplifying into a pawn ending we guarantee a win, then it is an acceptable thing to do.

The question is whether white can win this? What would be black's best try here to defend?

I'll carry this on tomorrow....

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