Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How I didn't stop worrying and still dread the endgame

In the games I play with my friend Jabba we almost never reach an endgame. Usually we both make a blunder and the one who makes the biggest blunder loses while the board is still full with all kinds of pieces, mostly of the winning side, and pawns. My endgame training hasn't reached further than "mate in 2", so when I suddenly found myself in an endgame, I just didn't really know what to do. Clearly I'm not Dr. Endgame yet.

Last Sunday a friend of mine wiped two others of the board, and then challenged me to a game. Quite unfortunately I didn't see the other two games, so had no idea what to expect. He had been asking if I knew how to play chess for some time and I always stated that: "I know the rules of the game."

So he put down the board, the white pieces on my side and, perhaps overconfident after two victories, said he didn't mind if I took the white pieces. I don't really think it mattered a lot in the end on my level of play, but perhaps it hindered him a bit.

It was an interesting game and we both made some mistakes: I forgot to see what he could do after my move, so when I was heading to fork his queen and rook with a knight I found that he forked both my rooks and queen with his knight on his next move. I was able to limit the damage and got back in the game with this pretty combination.

The Bishop on d3 was there attacking the b1-h7 diagonal and once I moved my Queen and threatened mate in one he moved his pawn forward, this made a hole in his castled position and I've read that that is supposed to be good (Okay, so I actually had the small hope that he wouldn't notice and we would get this over with, silly me: Imagine what Dan[1] would say!). I don't remember the complete position on the board, especially which of White's black Bishops and f3-Knight actually was there, I think it was the Knight. If it was, it was defended. White to move.

Now I first spotted the possible Knight fork on f6, if only there wasn't a Bishop on e5. This kind of thinking was recently brought to my attention when I read the first chapters of LCT, I probably already did this, but now I realised I was doing it. I fastened my seat belt and drove off: 1. Nxe5/Bxe5 dxe5 2. Nf6+, and only now my opponent saw 2... Kh8 Nxd7.

The rest of the game I had the advantage and with the reversed analogy of that "trading pieces mostly serves the player that has the advantage" and not a real clue on how to proceed that's exactly what I went doing and eventually we reached an endgame position. Now, I probably did a lot of things wrong even to get to this position, but here I just thought to much.

Obviously in this position it's Black to move. Once I got to this beautiful fork of Rook and King I started to think that I didn't want to take his Rook, because then he could promote. But what to do? So I didn't take his Rook, moved my Queen a bit around and, because other people around us started to become impatient offered a draw my opponent accepted.

As soon as I got home I put the position up in ChessPad and had Crafty analyse the position. Take a moment here and contemplate what the machine might say.

I'll give you a hint 10:6 vs 18:9? Indeed! Crafty says: 1... Kh1 2. Qxe8 f1Q 3. c8Q Qd1+ 4. Kc7 Qc1+ 5. Qc6+ Qxc6+ 6. Kxc6. And the rest is won. Now I'm not sure if my opponent had played this way, but at least I now know better.

The thing I regretted the most is that I didn't record this game, it would have been a great game to share, analyse, annotate and learn from.

[1] Referring to Dan Heisman, more especially to his wonderful Novice Nook on flip-coin chess, hope chess and real chess. You can find the article here. Please note that this is not an example of hope chess, but when I got myself forked is.

For more of Dan Heisman's splendid articles follow the link on my sidebar to visit his site trough which you can find all the Novice Nooks he wrote for http://www.chesscafe.com. I cannot imagine I actually have to recommend this, since the praise he gets everywhere, but if you've missed it so far: Stop reading here and start catching up!

A reply to comments
Apparently my writing wasn't clear enough on a few things, I hope this will help to better understanding of what I meant to say. First let met state that I'm very thankful for people to take the time and trouble to comment on my post, especially if it's a post on the endgame by one who is known as "the endgame tactician". Second, the part above "reply to comments" is a reference to a book that in an updated edition has an appendix called "a reply to critics". Now let's proceed to what we're all really here for.

In the first diagram only one of the f3, f4 and g3 squares was there in the game, I just don't remember which one.

The point I was trying to make on the endgame, was not so much that I didn't see it as deep as Crafty did, but that I made the fork and then very consciously decided to do the wrong thing. Even the plain logic of counting how much the difference is between my Queen and his Rook vs. My two Queens vs. his lone Queen could have made the difference. The point I was trying to make is explained very short and powerful in likesforests' first paragraph


likesforests said...

Howdy! I think a human only needs to calculate 1...Kh1 2.Qxe8 f1=Q 3.c8=Q. Once you have two queen vs one queen the ending is won with a very few exceptions (you'll learn those as you study endings).

As far as the computer line, humans usually play a stronger defense in dead lost positions because they're more concerned with 'maintaining drawing chances' rather than 'delaying mate'.

Black would aim to keep checking your king while White would aim to find shelter for his king and/or trade off the lone enemy queen.

A more realistic line might go: 3...Qd3+ 4.Kc7 Qg3+ 5.Kb7 Qb3+ 6.Ka7 Qa3+ 7.Qa6 Qc5+ 8.Kb7 Qb4+ 9.Qb6 and Black is out of checks and will lose very quickly, eg 9...Qf4 10.Qe1+ Kg2 11.Qg6+ Kf3 12.Qh5+ Kg2 13.Qhh1#

RT Solo said...

Hey man, good game! I hate when I forget to write down the moves and end up having a great game I wish I could analyze. I had the same idea is likesforests, in that I would have taken his rook, then after we both promoted it's 2 Queens vs 1 Queen, then you could probably easily force a Queen trade and end up with King and Queen vs. Lone King.

ANYWAY, you must have some chess magic going on because you somehow ended up with 3 Bishops in your first diagram! ;-p

Were these other friends who were "getting impatient" waiting to use the board or something? I'd tell them to chill out since it was totally a winning position for you, and why settle for a draw? But no big deal since it was just a friendly game I guess.

One more thing, that's a great picture you have behind your blog title! Could you give me the link to whatever online store sells that particular chess set, in case I ever have enough money to buy it? Thanks

Hiddenleaf said...

After the first two comments I did an update under the original post to explain a bit better what I meant.

Likesforests, thanks for the comment and annotations, I'll be sure to study them.

RT Solo, it's a Harry Potter themed set from deagostini, that's all I know. It seems that every 2 weeks another 2 pieces were available in stores with some kind of course.

RT Solo said...

Hey bud, no need to stress over it. At least you had a thought process going on (not wanting him to promote his pawn) instead of playing without a plan.

Also, it's great that you planned and then delivered a fork of his King and Rook! likesforests is totally right, we'll just learn these things as we study endings.

By the way, I read the first two chapters of Silman's Complete Endgame Course last night (chapters for ratings 0-999 and 1000-1199) and he does a GREAT job going over the relevant information for whatever your skill level happens to be. It was good to refresh my "Opposition" knowledge in regard to King and pawn vs. King endgames.

Tommyg said...

Hey Hiddenleaf!

I saw that you purchased Logical Chess by Irving Chernev! I LOVED playing and reading through that book. I saw instant improvement. I would even go so far as to say the Logical Chess was the book that solidified my goal to study and play chess. It definitely made me love the game more.

There are a bajillion endgame books out there. I am very new to chess so I don't know about them all. My chess coach recommended Just The Facts by Lev Alburt, and it was a great first endgame book. I have won a few endgames because of it, but there a lot of books to choose from.

Have a great weekend!


transformation said...

you are still at it here. good. now i respectfully say, with nothing but good intentions, that now we need to see you still at it in a year. so many great blogs, come and gone, but what endures? so few. life changes, the self, the body, ones friends. what we deem important or truly important, that too changes greatly.

RT Solo said...

DK, you're like our own personal philosopher, leaving little tidbits of self-insight here and there among the blogs. I dig it, keep up the good work! :-)

Polly said...

Very interesting ending! I think taking the rook and then playing the game of 2 queens vs 1 queen is a win for you. It's easy to get concerned that perhaps the one queen can keep checking or that somehow the one queen will manage to skewer twice. This past Monday I put up a position where one side had two queens versus one. The one queen got lots of checks in, but eventually ran out.

Here's the link. http://castlingqueenside.blogspot.com/2008/07/chess-riddle.html

I'm html challenged so I don't know how to make it appear as a link in the comment.

logis said...

Nice that you saw the possibility of the knight fork.

Next time try the endgame two queens against one queen. If you dont try you will never learn how to play that sort of endgame. Just try it out and see how it goes.