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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Black Throws Away a Win

The following position arose in an offhand club game against an opponent rated around 1700 (otb-USCF).  I was playing White and an early sacrifice did not work out at all well and we reached this ending. In this position Black is winning, but it is not so easy.  What’s his best move?

Black can safely play several moves here: 33…Ke8 and 33…Ra4 come to mind.  I like 33…Rc3.

33…      Ra2? 
Attacking the g and h Ps may look attractive; Black still has the advantage, but it’s not as great as before.
34. c5!    ….
Obviously he can’t capture because of 35.d6
34…     Kf6?
Moving his K away from the action is not a good idea.  Best was 34…Ke8 35.c6 Kd8 36.Rd7+ Kc8 37.Kf3 and he still has a winning advantage.

It would have been better to play 35.c6 Bf6 36.c7 Ra4+ 37.Kd3 Rd4+ 38.Ke3 Rc4 but even in that case Black wins because the c-Pawn cannot advance, Black’s d-Pawn is safe and my K is cut off from the P.  Now, however, the position is critical for Black because he must find the one move that keeps his winning chances alive.

35…    Ra4+?
This check is meaningless and, in fact, it is harmful to Black’s position because it allows my K to advance and assist the P.  Obviously he can’t take the P on g2: 35...Rxg2 36.Rxe7 Re2+ 37.Kd3 Rxe7 38.dxe7 and White wins.  And, 35...Bxd6 is a bad alternative because after 36.Rb6 Rxg2 37.Rxd6+ Kg5 38.h3 only yields a draw.  The correct move is 35…Bf3! Then after 36.d7 he has to find 36…Rd2! and White is stymied.

36.Ke5     Bf6
37.Ke6 Ra6
This is inferior to 37...Re4+ 38.Kd7 when Black has only a slight advantage. Correct is the cunning 37...Ra2! 38.d7 Ra6+ 39.d6 Ra5! (Threatening mate by ...Re5) 40.d8Q Bxd8 with a slight advantage.

38.Rc7 Kg5
Another rather pointless move.  38...Ra2 and Black could have gained the advantage 39.Rc6 (But not 39.d7 Re2+ 40.Kd6 Be5+ 41.Kc6 Rc2+ with an easy win) 39...Re2+ (39...Rxg2 only draws 40.d7 Rxh2 41.Kd6 Ra2 42.Rc8 h5 43.Rf8 Bg5 44.d8Q Bxd8 45.Rxd8 Kf5 46.Rh8 Kg4 47.Ke7 Re2+ 48.Kf7 Rd2 49.Ke6 drawn) 40.Kd7 Rxg2 and Black should win.

39.Rc6   Ra8
40.d7  ....  
Now it is Black who is fighting for the draw.

40…   Rd8?
40...Kg6 would keep Black in the game 41.Rc8 Ra2 42.d8Q Bxd8 43.Rxd8 Rxg2 44.d6 Re2+ 45.Kd5 Rd2+ 46.Kc6 Rc2+ 47.Kd7 Rxh2 48.Rc8 Kf7 49.Kd8 g5 50.d7 Rd2 51.Kc7 Rc2+ 52.Kb6 Rd2 53.d8Q Rxd8 54.Rxd8 and White has a theoretical win, but I doubt I could have pulled it off.

41.Rc8 Kf4
42.Kd6 Be5+?
Of course Black couldn’t resist the check, but it loses outright. 42…Ke4 getting the K into the action offered better chances of fighting on.

43.Kc6 Bf6
44.Kc7  Resigns

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