With help from Russell Linnemann, I've analyzed this ending fairly thoroughly and have come to the conclusion that I did not throw away the win at any point. The key position occurs after 60....e3+?! 61. Ke2
Here, Black wins with 61... Nd6 62. Bg5+ Kg4 63. Kxe3 Nf5+ White has 3 defensive plans, but they all appear to fail.
1) Run to the queenside with the King and capture Black's pawns. 64. Ke4 Nxh4 65. Be7 (65. Bd8 Nf3 66. Kd5 Ng5 67. c4 bxc4 68. Kxc4 h4 69. Kb5 h3 70. Bc7 Ne4 71. Bh2 Kf3 72. Kb6 Kg2) 65... Nf3 66. Kd5 Ng5 67. Kc5 h4 68. Kxb5 h3 69. Bd6 Ne4 70. Bh2 Nxc3+ 71. Kb6 Nd5+ 72. Kc5 (72. Kxb7 Nxb4) 72... Ne3 and 73... Nf1 wins.
2) Try to speed up the queenside play with c4, so that the king can take the path e3-d3-c4-b5 instead of the longer e3-e4-d5-c5xb5 64. Kd3 Nxh4 65. Bf6 Nf3 66. c4 bxc4+ (66... Kf5 also looks good) 67. Kxc4 Ng5 68. Be5 h4 69. Kb5 Ne4 70. Bh2 h3 71. Kb6 Kf3 72. Kxb7 Kg2 73. b5 Kxh2 74. Kc6 Kg2 75. b6 Nd6! 76. Kxd6 h2 77. b7 h1=Q 78. b8=Q Qh2+ -+
3) Block the h-pawn with the king and defend the queenside with the bishop. 64. Kf2 Nxh4 65. Bf6 Nf5 66. Kg2 Kf4 67. Kh3 Ke4 68. Bh8 Kd3 69. Bf6 Kc4 70. Be5 Ne3 71. Kh4 Nd5 72. Kxh5 Nxc3 73. Kg4 Na2 74. Kf3 Nxb4 75. Ke2 Kb3 76. Kd1 Na2 77. Bg7 b4 78. Bf6 b5 79. Bg7 Nc3+ 80. Kc1 Ka2 -+ Black will follow with 81... Na4, 82... b3 and 83...b2
In the game after 62. Bg5 Kg4 63. Bd8 Kf4 64. Bg5+ Ke4 Instead of the game continuation 65. Bd8?! the tougher try was 65. Bh6 but Black still wins with 65... Kf5 66. Kf3(else the Black king returns to g4 and wins as above) 66... Ne5+ 67. Ke2 Kg4 68. Kxe3 (68. Bg5 Nf3 puts Black ahead of the other lines) 68... Nf3 69. Ke4 Nxh4 70. Kd5 Nf5 now White has to waste a lot of time to get his bishop in position to cover h2. 71. Bf8 h4 72. Bc5 h3 73. Bg1 Nh4 -+
If you are a chess fan, this is the time each year that you most look forward to. Tomorrow the Linares supertournament begins. Once again, it is a great field with world #1 Kasparov, 5 others in the world top 10 including the current and former FIDE champions #7 Ponomariov and #3 Anand, the current and former FIDE runners-up #8 Ivanchuk and #9 Shirov. World #5 Adams and local player Vallejo Pons rounds out the field. Vallejo Pons better be on his toes among these sharks. To me, it looks like a great field for the Boss to dominate. Four of his six competitors have never beaten him, and it has been a long time since Anand or Chukky accomplished the deed. My prediction is Kasparov by at least a full point with at least a +6 score (9 out of 12).
As if having Linares wasn't enough, this year we are getting an added bonus in Cannes, where the best of the rest are slugging it out. This is an interesting field similar to Wijk aan Zee with no clear cut dominant player. This field includes #4 Morozevich, #6 Topalov, #10 Leko, #11 Gelfand, #12 Bareev, #16 Karpov, and the "French Open" of #19 Lautier, #41 Bacrot, and locals Fressinet and Nataf. I'll bet on the hot horse and pick Bareev to duplicate his Wijk aan Zee victory half a point ahead of Topalov.
Eleven of the top 12 in action plus former World Champion Karpov. Too bad they couldn't get all these guys together in the same event. The winner could then play a match with the only missing guy, the World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik. I wish they would finally figure out what they are doing with the Kramnik vs. Deep Fritz match. Kramnik keeps missing the supertournaments to prepare for this endlessly delayed man vs. machine matchup.
I played in the annual Land of the Sky tournament in Asheville, NC this past weekend. It was a very strong field including 6 GMs. I struggled to reach my score from last year of 3-2 despite being paired down every round. My play featured some terrible blunders and a fair share of time pressure (time control for this tournament is 35/90 followed by SD/1). In the first round I built up a strong attacking position with Black against Mario Mercado after 18.Be3xNd4
18...exd4 18...cxd4 is also good, but it seems logical to open up the bishop 19. Nd5 hxg4 19...Qf7 is probably simplest. On 19... Qh7 I was worried about 20. Nxf6? Rxf6 21. e5 but simply 21... Bxb3 win, so White would have to do something like 20. gxh5 when Black should stand much better 20. fxg4 Rxh3? 21. Nxf6?? 21. Rxh3 Rxh3 22. Kxh3 Qh7+ 23. Kg2 Qh2+ 24. Kf1 Black probably has to try to bail out to a draw with 24... Qh1+ 25. Kf2 Qh2+ since the winning try 25... Qh4+ 26. Kg1 Bxg4 seems to fail after 27. Qf2 (27. Qg2 Bh3 28. Qf2 Bg3 29. Qxf6 also looks good.) 27... Bg3 28. Qg2 Bh3 29. Ne7+ (29. Qf3 Bh2+) 29... Kd7 30. Nf5. White can acquiesce to perpetual check or can try for more with 26. Ke1 Qh4+ 27. Kd2 Bxd5 28. Rf1 (28. exd5 Bf4+=)] although Black should be able to hold the ending. 21...Rh2+ and Black soon won.
I had White in Round 2 against Mark Hathaway. I ended up with 2 extra pawns after 25...Rf8-c8 but started running a bit low on time.
26. Qe3?! a step in the wrong direction. The immediate 26. Qb3 is better 26... Rc2 27. Qb3 Qc4 28. a4 this gives back a pawn. Better was 28. a3 although he would still have a bit of activity with 28...Rc3 28... Qxb3 29. Rxb3 Bc4 30. Rbb1 Ba2 31. Rbc1 Rxc1 32. Rxc1 Rxb4 33. a5 Ra4 34. Rc7 Rxa5 35. Rxe7 g5 36. Nh3?! both 36. Re8+ Kg7 37. Nh5+; and 36. Nh5 look better the knight is woefully out of play on h3. 36... Bc4 now Black regains his pawn and at least equalizes. 37. Be4 37. Nxg5? Ra1+ 38. Bf1 Bxe2 39. f4 Rxf1+ 40. Kg2 Kf8 -+; it looks like White is reduced to 37. f3 when both his minor pieces look pathetic. 37... Bxe2 stronger is 37... Ra1+ 38. Kg2 Bxe2 when White is tied up in knots, but that move doesn't contain the obvious threat that White completely misses. 38. Nxg5?? 38. f4! and we are back to a roughly equal position. 38...Ra1+ [0:1]
I followed that game up with an opening disaster against Klaus Pohl in Round 3. In the position after 14. Nd2xe4
Instead of 14...dxe4 with equality, I went for the "dynamic" 14...fxe4?? since he can't push f5 because I have 3 attackers and he only has 2 defenders. 15. f5! Splat! I considered resigning here, but decided to play another couple of moves to see if maybe I could pick up the e-pawn and have two central pawns for the piece. 15...Bxf5 16. Nxf5 c6 16... Rxf5 17. Rxf5 Qxf5 18. Qxd5+ and 19. Qxa8+ where the check prevents Black from any back rank tricks. Now almost anything is an easy win for White except for perhaps 17. Bxe4? Qa7+ and Black regains his piece, although it really isn't enough. 18. Be3 Bc5 19. Bxd5+ Kh8 20. Bxc5 Qxc5+ 21. Kh1 Qxd5 22. Qxd5 cxd5 with a strong extra pawn. I struggled on for quite some time (even managing to trade the weakling on d5 for his monster e-pawn), but don't think I ever entered the drawing zone.
On Sunday, I had White against Dean Arond. After his very uncommon opening (1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ne4)I managed to keep my extra pawn and start an attack against his king. After 18...Kc8-b8
I had a long, frustrating think. 18. Qc6 It seemed like my attack should be coming through fast, but I spent a lot of time on moves like 18. Rb5 Rxe3 19. fxe3 Bxh2+ 20. Kxh2 Qxf1 when the exposed king leaves White with little. For example, 21. Rxc5 Qe1; 18. dxc5 Bxc5 19. Rb5? (19. Qc6 Bb6) 19...Rxe3 with a clear advantage to Black. What I missed was in the last line, the simple 19. Qb5 hitting both c5 and b7. 18... Re7 19. dxc5 Rc7 19...Bf4 20. Qf3; 19... Be5 20. Qa4 with the idea of c6 gives White the edge. 20. Qb5 I spent a good portion of my remaining time considering 20. Rxb7+ Rxb7 21. cxd6 Rc8 when I thought ...Rb1 would cause me some headaches. But after 22. Qa6 tying Black down to a7, it looks like White is better. 20... Bxc5 21. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 22. Rxd1 b6 I thought 22... a6 was a bit better although White keeps the pressure on with 23. Qa5 (23. Rd5 Qc8 is fine for Black) After the text White gets time to make luft for his own king. 23. h3 the immediate 23. Rd5 is well met by Qe4 23... f6 24. Rd5 Qc8 25. Bxc5 Rxc5 26. Rxc5 Qxc5 27. Qe8+ 27. Qxc5! bxc5 Russell Linnemann and Doug Hyatt helped me analyze this pawn ending 28. h4 Threatening a breakthrough with g4. (28. f4 also seems to be winning) 28... g4 29. Kh2 Kc7 30. f3 f5 (30... gxf3 31. g4) 31. fxg4 fxg4 32. Kg3 and White wins. I should have remembered this breakthrough from my games against Martinovsky and Jordan 27... Qc8 28. Qxh5 Qxc4 29. Qh8+ Kb7 30. Qg7+ to drive the king back to an exposed position on the back rank or to force him in front of the soon to be passed a-pawn. 30... Ka6 31.Qxf6 Qxa2 32. Kh2 Qc4 33. Kg3 Qh4+ 34. Kh2 This game I managed to avoid a howler with 34. Kf3?? g4+ 34... Kb5? He was also in heavy time trouble, so I'm not sure why he didn't go for repetition with 34... Qc4 35. g3 35. f4 is also winning, but I went for the line that didn't require much calculation on the last move of time control. 35... Qh5 36. Qe5+ Ka6 37. h4 Qf3 38. Qe3 Qf6 39. hxg5 Qh8+ 40. Kg2 Kb5 41. Qd3+ Kc6 42.Qc4+ Kd6 43. Qd4+ Qxd4 44. cxd4 a5 on 44... Ke6 temporarily stopping the progress of both pawns, White steps into the square of the a-pawn with 45. Kf1 45. g6 Ke7 46. d5 a4 47. d6+ [1:0]
In the final round I had Black against Chris Chambers. I was worse out of the opening, but in the time scramble he blundered a pawn. We entered a N vs. B ending after 40. Ke2xNf3 Black is much better because of the extra pawn and the poor White bishop, but the closed nature of the position gives White some drawing chances. I've spent some time looking at this ending, but it still requires more work. There seem to be some moves where putting his bishop on a different square might make things more difficult for me.
40...h5 41. h4 perhaps he should avoid this as now the h-pawn becomes weak 41... Ne5+ more straightforward is 41... gxh4 42. gxh4 e5 for some reason I got into a rush to play ...b5 which is totally unnecessary at this point, especially with the knight on c4 guarding b6. 42. Ke2 gxh4 43. gxh4 Ng6 44. Bg5+ Ke5 so I've managed to get my knight and king on worse squares with tempo. 45. Ke3 b5 46. axb5 cxb5 47. Bh6 I thought 47. Bd8 was a tougher defense. After 47... Nh8 (47... d5 48. Bc7+ Kf6 49. Bd8+ Kf7 50. Kd4) 48. Bb6 Kf6 Black should still be able to carry out his plan by putting his knight on g6 and his king on c6 then carrying out the break ...e5 and ...d5 47... d5 47...Nxh4?? 48. Bg7# 48. Bg7+ Kd6 49. Bf6 e5 50. Bg5 Ke6 51. Bd8 Nh8 52. Kd3 Nf7 53. Bb6 Nd6 54. exd5+ Kxd5 55. Bd8 Nc4 56. Bf6 e4+ 57. Ke2 Ke6 58. Bd4 Kf5 59. Kf2 Kf4 60. Bf6 e3+?! I'm not yet ready to give this the ? it may deserve. I haven't had time to analyze it completely. It's certainly a bad move. I have no explanation why I lost patience here and realized what I had done right after I moved. Black may be able to sacrifice the e-pawn for the h-pawn and still win. Of course, 60... Nb6 coming to d5 is much simpler. 61. Ke2 Kg3 I stopped recording here. The next couple of moves may not be entirely accurate, I couldn't really remember the path my king took to e4. Basically, I wanted to make a few king moves to run him down on the clock a little bit (he only had around 3 minutes to my 30) before analyzing the variations where I give up the e-pawn. One sample variation starting from this position is 61... Nd6 62. Bg5+ Kg4 63. Kxe3 Nf5+ 64. Ke4 Nxh4 65. Be7 Nf3 66. Kd5 Ng5 67. Kc5 h4 68. Kxb5 h3 69. Bd6 Ne4 70. Bh2 Nxc3+ 71. Kb6 Nd5+ 72. Kxb7 Nxb4 and Black wins, but White has several alternatives along the way. Many of these positions seem to depend on where White puts his Bishop. Linnemann kept holding the position against me the chess club last night, but I haven't been able to reconstruct all of those variations. I want to analyze these positions further before giving a final verdict. 62. Bg5 Kg4 63. Bd8 moving the bishop to e7 or f6 would allow Black to reposition his knight with 63...Nb6 63... Kf4 64. Bg5+ Ke4 65. Bd8? he had to stay on the e-pawn with 65. Bh6 65... Nd6 He spent most of his remaining time kicking himself for his last move, but there's nothing left for White now anyway. 66. Bb6 Nf5 67. Bd8 Ng3+ 68. Ke1 Kd3 69. Bc7 Ne4 70. Bb6 Nd2 71. Bc5 Nf3+ 72. Kf1 e2+ [0:1]
I'm going to finish the bishop vs. pawn endings for now. If you haven't gotten your fill, the second part of GM Muller's column on that topic is now posted at the Chess Cafe website. I want to get back to annotating my games against GMs. I've added my game vs. Palatnik from early last year. Not a terribly impressive effort on my part. I played some dubious moves in the late opening/early middlegame and Sam constructed a textbook victory by White against the Benoni.
There are many examples of fortresses in bishop vs. pawn endings, but #168a is not one of them. The position would be a draw if it was shifted one file to the left, but here Black just needs to get his bishop out of the way to avoid stalemate.
Here's another example of bishop versus pawns from my own practice. I had blundered away a winning N vs. B ending against Ernest Colding and had just given up my knight for his freshly promoted queen on a8.
Although I was kicking myself for letting the win slip, I still maintained enough composure to find my way to the half point. 62...Ke3 63. Kb2 Kd2 The White king needs to be tied to the defense of the c-pawn. If he could get to b4, Black could not defend his own c-pawn since White has infinite tempi to spend with his bishop. 64. Bd5 h2 65. Bg2 Kd3 66. Bh1 Kd2 67. Bg2 Kd3 68. Bd5 Kd2 69. Be4 otherwise the Black king just bounces between d2 and d3 all day. 69...Ke3 abandoning the attack on the c-pawn, but White can do nothing but save his bishop 70. Bd5 [½:½] since Black will now return to the d2 and d3 squares. Not very deep, but I hadn't seen anything like it before.
Continuing the theme of bishop versus pawns, here's an amusing problem I recently stumbled across in the December 2001 issue of the British magazine Chess.
The task is White to play and win. While this (legal) position isn't of much practical value, there's always a place for fun in chess. I'll give the solution at the beginning of next month.
In keeping with the theme of bishop versus pawns, I've added #164A to the corrections to Basic Chess Endings section. In this example, a bishop manages to hold off 4 connected passed pawns.