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5/15/04 - Chess Endgame Quiz by Larry Evans

I haven't made it a normal practice to do book reviews, but I thought I'd try one, since I had definite comments about the above titled book. Since I like the endgame, and I like puzzle books, this book would seem like a good fit for me. However, I had several reasons not to purchase it after thumbing through it at a bookstore. My primary complaints were 1) I do not like the pick the best move format. In a tournament game no one tells you the best move is among 3 choices and 2) it seemed to have many old examples that I had seen before. However, I saw the book at the public library and decided to check it out. In one of Dvoretsky's books, he comments that solving puzzles is like a musician practicing scales.

Unfortunately, my misgivings about the book seem to be well founded. The first example was a relatively straight-forward example of distant opposition. The trouble started with puzzle number 2, a study by Sackmann.

The 3 choices are (a) Kf4 (b) Kf5 (c) g5. The weakness of the pick the best move format is seen when you realize that any king move is met by 1...g5 and Black has managed to stalemate himself. Actually, this example isn't too bad since in a tournament game if you realized 1...g5 was going to lead to stalemate, you would quickly focus all of your attention on 1.g5 Of course, if you are just using the book as a multiple choice test, you quickly choose (c) check the answer in the back of the book showing you are right and move on. I wasn't satisfied with just finding the "right" answer, especially since I wasn't convinced that White is winning after 1...Kxg5! It seems like White should be able to capture Black's g3 pawn, but there are still going to be some difficulties. White's extra pawn is a rook pawn, Black is going to have a more active King and spare tempos with his g-pawn. After 2. Ke4 Kh5! White has to avoid the mutual zugzwang position after 3. Kf4 Kh4 4.Kf3 g5 (Evans points out this line) so plays instead 3. Kf3 Here is where Evans analysis goes awry. With the natural 3...Kh4? defending the pawn, White wins by triangulation after 4. Kf4 g6 5. Ke3 Kg5 6. Kf3 Kh4 7. Kf4 g5+ 8. Kf3 reaching the mutual zugzwang position. Instead, after 3...Kg5! 4.Kxg3 Kh5! Black holds the draw. Now, 5. h4 g5! is an immediate draw. Moving the king to the f-file allows 5...Kh4 followed by the advance and trade of the g-pawn, so the only other try is 5. Kh2 Kh4 6. g3+ King moves allow 6...Kg3 again followed by the advance of the g-pawn. 6...Kg5 7.Kg2 Advancing a pawn is pointless in positions where the Black king can blockade. 7...Kf5 8.Kf3 g5! with a draw since Black has the opposition and making a passed h-pawn doesn't help. White can try 9.g4+ Kf6 9...Ke5 is also fine 10. Ke4 Ke6! again with the opposition.

What makes this example even further annoying is that if you put the starting position into an engine, it will declare a draw in at most a few seconds. I can understand that an old school GM like Evans might resist using a computer, but there is really no excuse for the editor not to in this day and age. Especially, when you have other authors, like Nunn, who are willing to spend the effort to make their books as mistake free as possible. It is also somewhat ironic that the column by Evans in Chess Life is one where most of the corrections to BCE were first pointed out.

Here's a simpler example that illustrates the slipshod nature of this work

This is example #101 titled White to Play and Win. The 3 choices are (a) Qh1+ (b) Qd8+ (c) Qh5+ . I would hope that even weak players could tell you that every one of those moves is winning. At least Evans acknowledges that. He claims (a) is the most efficient choice (he evens awards it an exclamation mark), when White wins after 1. Qh1+ Kg8 2. Qh5 and the Black rook gets separated from the Black king. But how about move (b)? After 1. Qd8+ Kh7 (1...Rg8 2. Qc7 is an even quicker win for White) Evans only gives the move 2. Qf8 in order to illustrate the stalemate trap after 2...Rg6+ 3. Kf7? Rf6+. How about 2. Qe8 instead? This would be the exact same position as after 1. Qh1+ Kg8 2. Qh5 only rotated along the long diagonal. You can also get there via 1.Qa8+ Kh7 2. Qe8 showing how ridiculous it is to give an exclamation point to 1. Qh1+. It would have been much better to include moves like 1. Qe6 and 1. Ke5 as choices, both of which allow Black to draw, which I'll leave as simple exercises for the readers.

Since I've recently been exploring the R+2P vs. R ending, I thought I'd give some of those positions a quick run through the tablebases as well. The first one is puzzle #75 a study by Kling & Horwitz.

Here the 3 choices are (a) Rb6 (b) Rc5 (c) Kb4. I can't really argue with 1. Rb6 as the best move since White needs to find that idea in order to win. 1. Kb4 doesn't throw away the win, but doesn't make progress since White needs to return his king to a5 in order to win. However, let's take a look at Evans' variation. 1. Kb4 Rh4+ 2. Kc5 (here or later White should just head the king back to a5 to repeat the starting position) 2...Rh5+ 3. Kd6?? and now 3...Rxb5! taking the free rook is much better than Evans' 3...Rh6+?? Incredible sloppiness.

One final example, #84, from the game Stripunsky-Epishin, Philadelphia 1998.

The infamous RP+BP. The choices are (a) a5 (b) Kc8 (c) Rd8. Evans starts out on the wrong foot by saying that Black's last move Ka7-a6 was a mistake. This is incorrect, Black is already lost. His analysis of 1. a5 as a win for White is OK, but there are problems in the other two variations. The game continuation was 1. Kc8? Kb6! 2. c7 Kc6! 3.a5 Rh8+ 4. Rd8 Rh7 5. a6 Rxc7+ 6. Kb8 Rg7 7. Re8 and here Evans throws in a note 7. a7 Rb7+ 8. Ka8 Rb1+ "locks in the King." This would be true if the Black king was already on c7, but here White wins via the well known variation 9.Rc8+! Kd6 (9...Kd7 10. Rb8! Rh1 11.Kb7! Rb1+ 12.Ka6 Ra1+ 13. Kb6 Rb1+ 14. Kc5 +-)10. Rb8! Rh1 11.Kb7! Rb1+ 12. Kc8 Rc1+ 13. Kd8 Rh1 14. Rb6+ Kc5 15. Rc6+. The final choice 1. Rd8 is given a question mark by Evans. The tablebase says this is the fastest way to win! Evans abandons the position as a draw after 1...Ka7, but the position after 2. Kc8 is a win for White even without the a-pawn.

That is just a sampling, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were numerous additional errors. I also didn't like the layout of one diagram per page. Do we really need 304 pages for only 200 examples? I also didn't really care for the selection. How much value does 3 examples of KNN vs. KP add? So overall, I have to give this book very poor marks. If you are interested in this type of puzzle book, I would recommend instead Test Your Endgame Ability by Livshits and Speelman. That book packs 522 positions into 201 pages and does not have the annoying multiple choice format. It also gives suggested time limits if you want to grade yourself. As always, the first endgame book I would recommend is Fundamental Chess Endings, by Müller and Lamprecht. Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual is also an excellent choice.


05/07/04 - Boone Open II

I played in a Grand Prix event in Boone, North Carolina the weekend before last. I almost ended up not playing as I had quite an adventure getting there. The nominal 3 hour drive ended up taking me twice that long, as my directions got me turned around and headed back towards Knoxville after I left the interstate. In Round 1, I had the Black pieces against Chris Mabe. This ending attracted a lot of attention. This is one of the few times I have had multiple requests to post a game on this site. I don't know if I've given it sufficient detail, but perhaps reader feedback will spur further investigation. After 18....Kd7

we reached a position that I had played twice before. My judgment of this position was probably skewed by those games. In 1983, I had beaten Charles Kramer and in 1993 I had the better of a draw with Lester van Meter. However, examining the position more carefully now, I think the true assessment is only a very slight edge to Black. 19. a4 This is the move van Meter played. Kramer played 19. f4, which also isn't bad. 19... Rac8 It is more accurate to move the other rook as I played against van Meter 19... Rhc8. 19...d5!? also deserves attention. 20. c3 I think it was slightly better to play 20. axb5 Rxc2 21. bxa6 Ra8 22. Kf1 Rxb2 and the White pawn is so advanced, that he shouldn't have any trouble holding. 20... Rc4 21. f3 d5 21... Rxe4 also deserves serious consideration. I wanted to exchange rooks and be able to take over the resulting open file and didn't see that I'd be able to do anything with an open f-file. 22. Rd4 In the analogous position with the Black rook on a8, van Meter played 22. Rg4?! a move which I don't really understand. Why cripple your pawn structure and give Black a passed pawn? 22... Rxd4 I also considered 22... b4 but 23. Rxc4 dxc4 24. cxb4 Rb8 25. b5 axb5 26. a5 looks pretty equal. 23. cxd4 Rb8 23... bxa4 24. Rxa4 Ra8 with the idea Kc6-b5 (24... Rb8 transposes to the game.) can be met by 25. b4 Kc6 26. Ra5 Kb6 27. Kf2 Rc8 28. Rc5; 23... Rc8 24. axb5 axb5 25. Ra7+ Rc7 is also equal, while instead 25... Kd6 26. Rxg7 Rc1+ 27. Kf2 Rc2+ 28. Kg3 Rxb2 29. Rxh7 looked more dangerous for Black. Probably the best way to try to keep the game going was 23... b4 24. Rc1 b3!? (24...Rc8=) 25. Kf2 Rb8 26. Ke3 Rb4 27. Rc3 (27. a5!?) 27... e5)] 24. axb5 Rxb5 25. Rxa6 Ke7 26. Ra2 Rb4 27. Kf2 Rxd4 28. Ke2 Kf6 29. Ra3 Rb4 30. b3 g5 31. Kd3 Rb8 32. Kc3 Rc8+ 33. Kd3 Rb8 33... Rc1 34. Ra2 intending Rb2 also looks equal.34...Rb1 would be met by 35. Kc2. 34. Kc3 Rc8+ Black could keep the game going with 34... Ke5 or 34... h5, but I didn't think it was enough to waste the energy over 35. Kd3 [½:½]

In round 2, I got into the win column with White against Jeremy Davenport. I thought I had a small edge after 19. Qb2 because of his bad Bb7 plus the latent power of the two bishops.

Here, he made a positional blunder with 19...Nd7?! allowing my unopposed bishop to bury itself in his position 20. Bd6 with a much more pronounced advantage to White which I managed to convert.

In round 3, I had Black against Mark Lisle. He played an aggressive rook move early in the middle game Re4-h4, which was probably not warranted by the position. I had a pretty clear advantage after 19...Rd5 because of his weak pawns and offside rook.

My last move intended ...Rb5 to start working on his pawns, but also contained a hidden idea that he overlooked. 20. Nd3? g5 snagging the rook 21. Rg4 Nxg4 22. hxg4 Bxd4 23. Nb4 Rb5 [0:1]

The next morning I had White against Todd Andrews. We played a very double-edged game and both spent a great deal of time right from the opening moves. The critical position arose after 23...Qa5

Todd only had a few minutes left and I had even less to make it to the time control at move 35. I played the direct 24. b4 He was more afraid of 24. Rf7, which is also awkward for Black to meet. The problem was that after 24... Qxa3 [24...Qc7 25. Nb5 +-] I intuitively sensed that Black must be in trouble, but burned most of my remaining time before playing the horrible 25. dxc6? This move probably deserves two question marks, it opens the d-file and surrenders the e6 square to Black's Nf8. After 25...Bxc6 and Black is much better. Afterwards we looked at ideas like 25. Rc2 and 25. Ke1 with the idea of Kf2 connecting the rooks. The latter move has the seeds of the correct idea, and White could realize it right away with the fantastic 25. Kc2!! completely coordinating White's position. Because of the threat to trap Black's queen, White obtains a raging attack. For example 25...Qxb4 26. Ra1 (even stronger than 26. Rb1 Qa5 27. Ra1 since both rooks will be involved) and the threat of Rfb1 means White's attack crashes through on a7 then the b-file. 25. Kc2 is an incredibly hard move to find, and I don't know if I could have found it with an hour on my clock as opposed to the minute or so that I had.

In the final round I had Black against Ian Sanders. I think he made a mistake in a Kings Indian by prematurely exchanging Be3xNc5. After 14. f3 an interesting position arose.

The white pawn is a bit awkward on h4 and I went after it immediately with 14...Bf6 However, 14... f4!? deserves serious consideration with the intent of following up with Bf6-h4-f2-d4. Look at the sorry state of the White minor pieces after that move. 15. O-O-O White understandably does not want to play the line 15. h5 Bh4+ 16. Kd1 f4 Also difficult is 15. g3 f4 when it only appears White is holding after 16. Kf2 fxg3+ 17. Kxg3, then the illusion is spoiled by the tactical shot 17...Bxh4+ 15... Bxh4 16. g3?! a better follow-up was 16. f4 exf4 17. Nf3 Bg5 18. e5 Nf7 19. e6 Nd6 with some compensation because Black's queenside pieces are a bit bound up, but is it worth 2 pawns? 16... Bg5 17. f4 exf4 18. e5 f3 This intermezzo gives Black the advantage 19. exd6 19. Bxf3 is met by Nxc4; relatively best was 19. Bd3 Nf7 20. e6 Ne5, but this is nowhere near as good as the position in the note to White's 16th. 19... fxe2 and Black won.


5/4/04 - Site Change

After several years, I've finally decided to abandon Tripod as the home for this webpage. It had slowly deteriorated, continually adding new advertisements. In the beginning they had one banner, and supposedly paid people who got a lot of traffic to their site. But then, one banner became two, and payments ceased. Then, pop-up ads in addition to the banners. Next, keyword search on the page to deliver ads without giving the developers any cut. Finally, the last straw for me was it's forced opening of a useless search pane on the left side of the screen of those who browse using Internet Explorer. (By the way, if you don't already, please try the Mozilla browser. I find it vastly superior to IE, automatic popup blocking and tabbed browsing are among the highlights. I was even unaware of the problems IE users were having until one of them told me about it.) So, for the time being, I'm hosting this site at Comcast. I think I got most of the links changed over, please let me know if you find any that are still pointing back to tripod. I don't know how long I will host it here. I haven't been a big Comcast fan in the past. However, if you set your bookmark to be www.bereolos.net, then wherever I move to, the link should follow. Finally, since I'm no longer at a free site, I decided to put up a donation button. If you like this site and have a few cents to spare, feel free to make a donation. Or continue enjoying this site for free. My plan is to pass on any donations to worthy chess organizations, although finding a worthy organization these days isn't the easiest thing to do.


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