Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prospect Falls to Fremd (2): Knowing the Score

The result against Fremd could very easily have gone the other way if the players on 4th Board not agreed to a draw.  At the time, Prospect's Ekrem Genc had good winning chances against Fremd's Chang.  Unfortunately, he was running low on time and he lacked confidence in his ability to play the endgame correctly.

This position is winning for White, but it is going to take some work.  After something like 48.b4 Bd2 49.a6, Black can give up his bishop for the a-pawn and b-pawn with 49...Bxb3 50.Rxb3 Rxa6. White's two extra pawns on the other side of the board should be enough to win, but it's going to take a while.  With his king in front of the pawns and his rook checking from the side and from behind, Black could have held out for awhile.  Nonetheless, given that Prospect needed a win to win the match, Ekrem should have kept playing.  On the other hand, the fault does not lie entirely with the player.

A Coaching Failure.

When a match is down to one or two games, IHSA rules allow the coach to give a Communication Card to a tournament steward to give to a player telling him what the score of the match is and the effect that his result will have on determining the outcome of the match.  Unfortunately, this did not occur to me until Ekrem was low on time and I did not know what the correct procedure was for going about it.  As a result, I had to talk to Mr. Barrett about it and before we could get it figured out, the players had agreed to the draw.

Ideally, a player should always try to apprise himself of how the match stands before he agrees to a draw.  IHSA rules also permit a player to have the steward pass a Communication Card to a coach in order to find out how the match stands.  Moreover, a player can initiate a communication regardless of how many games are still being played in the match.  A player can also get up and look at the match score sheet.  However, a player with less than four minutes on his clock cannot reasonably be criticized if he decides that trying to figure out how the match stands is not a wise use of his remaining time.

Mr Barrett and I should have been prepared to communicate the score if the need arose.

Why Game 60 Sucks 

Game 60 is a convenient time control if you want to hold a match after the school day ends without getting the players home so late that they can't have dinner and do their homework.  G60 is also handy if you want to complete a seven round tournament for the state championship in two days.  However, when it comes to developing endgame technique, G60 sucks.  On those rare occasions where both sides play well enough to reach an endgame where the result is in doubt, it is even rarer for either player to have enough time remaining to do the position justice.  On top of that, players are often so low on time that they quit keeping score in the ending making it very difficult to go over the game and learn from mistakes.

One of the best reasons for joining the United States Chess Federation is to get the opportunity to play in some longer time controls.  The Continental Chess Association runs three area events each year, the Chicago Open, the Chicago Class, and the Midwest Class, that use a time control of forty moves in two hours filed by one hour sudden death (40/2, SD/1).  That means that each side has up to three hours to complete the game which usually leaves enough time to devote some thought to the ending.  The Illinois Open, the Illinois Class, and Tim Just's Winter Open use game in ninety minutes with a thirty second increment (G90 inc 30) which means that thirty seconds get added to each players clock on each move.  In a game that goes sixty moves, each side will have two hours.  This doesn't always leave time for deep thought in the ending but at least the thirty seconds per move allows the player to keep score for later review.  Up in Madison at the University of Wisconsin Chess Club, they occasionally run events with a generous 45/2, 25/1, SD/1.

The downside to the USCF events is that the longer time controls tend to be bigger events with larger entry events.  Nevertheless, the key to improvement in all phases of the game is to play slower games.

The Zwischenzug

Despite Ekrem's professed lack of confidence in his endgame skills, he actually found a couple of moves that demonstrate excellent chess thinking.  "Zwischenzug" is a German word meaning "in between move."  It refers to a quiet move that is played in an otherwise forcing sequence.  They are very easy to overlook when calculating variations.  Ekrem found a very nice one on his 36th move.  

The most obvious move here is 36.Rxb5 when Black will find it very difficult to promote his remaing h-pawn.  Running low on time, no one could blame White for playing this move immediately.  However, Ekrem saw that 36...Rxc2 threatened both White's a-pawn and f-pawn.  He also saw that the Black b-pawn wasn't going anywhere so he played the zwischenzug 36.Re5! driving the bishop away from e1.  After 36...Bd2 37.Rxb5 Rxc2, White could play 38.a4 without worrying about his f-pawn.  This is the kind of thinking that produces good endgame play. 

Basic Endgame Positions

In order to succeed in endings at short time controls, it is necessary to have some of the basic positions down pat such as The Wrong Colored Bishop and Rook Pawn. A lone king can draw against a king, bishop and a-pawn or king, bishop, and h-pawn if the bishop does not control the queening square.

This is the position that White would have had with both rooks and all his pawns gone.  It is a draw because there is no way that Black will ever be able to evict the White king from h1.  The quick reason that Ekrem should have kept playing is that even if he managed to lose all five of his pawns, all White needed to do was trade rooks in order to reach a dead drawn position. 

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