Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Start of Season Rust

The summer holidays give a well deserved rest to many people. Taking a break, a step back from normality, getting away and recharging are all worthwhile endeavours. The summer break comes to an end and we all have to get back to reality. Schools start back, holidays finish and it's back to work, and for chess players, the close season is over and we start our year.

Of course not all players take a summer break from chess. The summer can be a busy time with national championships and junior championships taking place. What that means, is when the new season of club chess begins, some players are decidedly rusty, while others are hotter than ever. There have been a few poor results by pretty good players in the past week, but I'll stick to myself!

I have changed clubs and now play at Box Hill Chess Club. For my sins I was the top seed at the Box Hill Autumn Cup (though I think I should have been second seed to Luis Chan as his FIDE rating is higher than mine) and had to play a junior about 600-700 points below me. Unfortunately, Shawn Zillmann is going to rise over 100 points from his excellent performance in the Australian Junior Championship, bringing him closer to 1700, and his rise is probably not stopping there, so he might be closer to 1800-1900 in real terms. While I'm close to 2200, and should still put players like this away most of the time, in real terms I was playing more like 1700 for this game, and really should have lost.

Shawn played excellently, though a little passively, but he defended and maneuvered well and the game was pretty much equal for much of it.Then towards the endgame, I blundered allowing Shawn a winning advantage of the chance to make an outside passed pawn which had to be dealt with, and while I was doing that, he cleaned up my pawns and went into a same coloured bishop ending with 2 connected pawns while I had none. We finally came to the following position.

Obviously, Black can't play 65..g1=Q as White plays 66.Bxg1 and after 66..Bxg1 Kf4 winning the final pawn. The easiest win (in my opinion) is simply to play 65..Bd6 (dropping it back to a safe square anywhere along the diagonal works) 66.Bg1 (to stop black playing Kh2)

Now Black can simply lose a move with his bishop when White will be in Zugzwang having to give way with either bishop or king. Ok, so I saw this over the bard, and was relieved when Shawn played 65..f4.

I played 66.Bf2 and 66..Bg3 is forced after which I played 67.Bg1 preventing his king from coming to h2.

At this point Shawn's head fell a bit and I could see he was resigned to a draw. I even felt a little sorry for him, as he truly deserved to win. But at this point he offered a draw, and I accepted thinking I'd make a miraculous save. Much to my surprise, this position is still winning for black, and I'm sure Shawn's IM coach will have told him how.

The question is, can you work out how to win this position for black, without using a tablebase or engine (as you're not allowed to use them in the game? I'll post the answer next time!

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