Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chicago Open

I won two games, lost one, and drew four to finish 4-3 in the U2100 section at the Chicago Open over the Memorial Day weekend.  My rating slipped four points to 2007.  Not quite as good as last years 5.5-1.5 finish that pushed my rating up to 2068, but it was nonetheless a pleasant weekend.  Two MSL alumni had strong results in U2300.  Barrington's Zach Kasiurak cracked the master level at 2201 by going 5-2 and Buffalo Grove's Matt Wilber upped his rating to 2183 by going 4.5-2.5.

I was mildly pleased with my performance in the three rook endings that I played, drawing the two when I was a pawn behind and winning the one where I was a pawn ahead.  In fact, I went the entire tournament without badly screwing up an ending which encourages me greatly.  I even managed to generate winning chances in one of the rook ending where I was down a pawn.

After frittering away a strong middle game with some ill conceived tactics, I found myself down a pawn as White in the following position. 

Question:  Should White restore material equality with 38.Rxe5?

Hint: The key to rook endings is keeping the rook active.

Answer:  No.  Superior rook activity is often worth a pawn in these endings.  After 38.Rxe5?!, Black can activate her rook with 38...Rb6 putting it in optimal position to support the advance of her pawn.  White would then be forced to use deactivate his rook by maneuvering it to b2 to blockade the pawn.  On the other hand, after 38.Rb7 Rc5 39.Kg4, White's rook prevents the advance of the b-pawn, keeps an eye on the Black king, and forces the Black rook into the passive task of defending its pawns from the side.

White was eventually able to recover the pawn under more favorable circumstances and could even have gone up by a pawn however Black was able to activate her king and rook to hold the draw.