Friday, December 17, 2010

Prospect's Best Season Ever (I think)

On Tuesday Prospect beat Hoffman Estates 38.5-29.5 to finish the regular season 7-2, which is it's best record ever if memory serves me correctly.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wrong Colored Bishop and Rook Pawn

The Rule of the Square is absolutely essential endgame knowledge, but there are many other handy tricks that are worth knowing as well. One of them is the problem of the wrong colored bishop and rook pawn.

This position is a dead draw because White cannot force the Black king out of the corner. In endings with a bishop and an a-pawn or h-pawn, if the bishop moves on the same color as the queening square, the game is an easy win. If the queen moves on the opposite color, it is a draw (assuming that the defending king can reach the corner).

This can be an important drawing resource. A player who is down by a piece and a pawn may be able to draw if he can arrange the right exchanges. A player who is down by two pawns may sometimes achieve a draw by sacrificing his last piece for a pawn.

This was the position that Mike Momsen had against Fremd's Meyyappan Ramu on 5th Board. If Black grabs the pawn with 46...Qxb4, his drawing chances increase significantly because White has the wrong colored bishop for the h-pawn. If Black can manage to trade any one of his four remaining pawn for the White g-pawn, a queen trade would lead to a dead draw. Instead, Black played 46...Qe5+ and continued to put up stiff resistance leading White to eventually make a generous draw offer which Black happily accepted.

Defending an Inferior Position

One thing that pleased me greatly was the way that Mike Monsen on 5th Board and Nick Martin on 4th Board hung tough while down material. Too often, players who fall behind look for cheap traps to turn the game around quickly. When the trap doesn't work, their position falls apart quickly. Mike and Nick did it the right way. They maintained solid pawn structures and avoided giving their opponents any easy targets.

Defending an inferior position can be dreary work, but the goal is a simple one, stop your opponent from making progress on his next move. If you can do this for several moves, your opponent may start to wonder whether his advantage is as big as he thought it was or he may start to feel like his advantage is slipping away. He may start playing for a draw instead of a win or he may take unnecessary risks and blunder. For Mike it was the former. For Nick it was the latter.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Rule of the Square

Prospect moved to 6-2 yesterday without a hard fought win over Fremd which was much closer than the 57-11 score indicated. After an hour an a half of play, each team had one win, Prospect was in trouble on two boards, and the other four boards were tense games that could have gone either way.

A vital question in any king and pawn ending is whether a king can catch a pawn before it queens. Of course it is possible to simply calculate out the moves, but the quickest way to figure it out is to apply the Rule of the Square. Take the distance from the pawn to the end of the board and draw an imaginary square extending towards the defending king. If the king can move into the square on his move, he can catch the pawn. If he cannot move into the square, he cannot catch it.

On 3rd Board, Fremd's Mihir Awati reached this position as Black with seven seconds left on his clock against Caleb Royce. The Rule of the Square would have told him that his king would have reached the White pawn before it queened, but he was unable to calculate out the moves quickly enough and he lost on time. It was a very tough loss as Mihir had played very well in time pressure for many moves to reach this position. On the other hand Caleb had also missed a chance to win using the Rule of the Square a couple moves earlier with twelve minutes left on his clock.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm Still an Expert...Barely

Last weekend I played in a three-day, nine-round event at the North Shore Chess Center. After the first two days, I had 1 win, 2 losses, and 3 draws and I was confident that when the tournament was over my rating would dip below 2000 for the first time since 2006. It's only a number, but it is fun to be able to say that I am an "expert" chess player. As fate would have it, having resigned myself to being a Class A player again, I won all three games on the last day of the event to finish with 4 wins, 2 losses, and 3 draws and a rating of 2006.

I really have to work on my endgames. Twice I offered draws in positions where I held a material advantage because I was unable to figure out a plan to win. In the first round, I reached the following position against Aakaash Meduri, a junior at Hinsdale Central with a rating of 2010.

I was fairly low on time at this point and I could not figure out how to convert my material advantage into a win. I cannot win the b-pawn and if I bring my rook over to capture the g-pawn, Black can simply play ...Bxh3. I thought there should be some way to make progress, but I could not figure out how. It appears to me now that my goal is to try to reach a position where after I play Rxg5, I can follow up Black's ...Bxh3 with Rg7 so that rook attacks the b-pawn and prevents Black from protecting it with Bg2. How I go about accomplishing this isn't entirely clear to me. In the game, I played 55.h4 gxh4 56.Kxh4 and offered a draw.

I also accepted a draw in the following position against Paul Seet.

At the board, I couldn't decide whether Black's passed pawns offset his material deficit and exposed king so I accepted the draw when Paul offered it. I'm still not sure about the position.

If I am going to remain an Expert, I am going to have to improve my endgame technique.