Monday, February 24, 2014

Understanding the nuances!

After some festive reporting, its now time to get back to serious work. Its a study that will make you work hard and force you to find the little nuances! 
As they say the real mastery lies in the eye which can spot the details!
B- Ka8 b3 c5 b7

For the serious player I recommend taking 20 mins on the clock and writing down all the variations and then check them with my answer to see how you fared!

This position I found from the book Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten Mueller and Frank Lamprecht.
It  has become my night time companion as I can read the book even without a board. Its a nice book and I would say a good competitor to the very popular Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. I have given links for this book in as well as on the left of this blog.

So lets get back to the problem!
The above problem is given in a note in the book but I was quite fascinated by it and found that it really was a gem! So lets get it started.
How should we approach the problem?
As I always say, we must start off with the most natural variation. If you are looking at flashy variations from the start, you are not trying to solve the study, you are just trying to grope in the dark.
The most natural move of course is to take the pawn on c5. So lets see the initial moves

The Million dollar Question is how should black react to the check? Kb2 or Qa2

I think it was more natural for me to investigate the move Kb2 first. I dont know why but when in check, first reaction is to move the king. So lets see this variation.

The position that we have reached now is critical for this entire study

Very important for us to understand what is the result of this position.

As always lets start with the most natural idea of running towards the black pawn.

White loses the game, because of the very famous concept of mined squares!

This variation should give us the idea that white has to defend not by attacking the black pawn but he has swallow his pride and go underneath the black king so that when black takes the pawn on b6, white is ready to take the opposition with Kb4!

Hence the right move is:

So does our variation really draw? Is this the right answer! Let us not forget that we have yet to check the other variation when the White rook checks from a5!

The queen interpose starts to look more logical after we have analyzed the above variation!

Thus we see that after Qa2 there is absolutely no chance for White to make a draw. Hence white must seek improvement on the first move itself. Lets have a look at the problem once again.

We are back at the start of the position. Some might say we have wasted time, but I disagree. Now we have a feel for a position and a lot of ideas have come to our mind due to preliminary analysis. This means that when we will start calculating other variations we will have some positions in our mind that we can relate to.

So let us see how the Rook check on a8 works out.
1.Ra8 Kb2! and we see that the check has been pointless. Black now threatens c4,c3 queening his pawn.
Hence we must play 2.Rc8 when black has the good move 2...Ka3 3.Rc5 (Ra8 Kb4) 3...b2 and the pawn queens. 

So Rc5 doesnt work nor does Ra8+. Hence the right move for white is 1.b6!!
After you see this move things start becoming obvious. White threatens Rc5 and then can move to b5 square as he has cleared that square now. So blacks choices are limited now. He has to push his b pawn. Lets see how the game will continue:

The position of black king on a2 instead of on a1 makes the move Qa2 impossible! A subtle change but one that changes the result of the game!!

Now after Kb2 Rb5 Kc2 Rb1 Kb1 we reach the position that we have already analysed to a draw!

The move Kg3!! now gives white a draw as we had seen in our preliminary analysis!

The first move b6 cannot be found just like that! Not even Magnus Carlsen can do that! You first have to calculate the most natural move Rc5, understand the subtleties in that position, create certain memory markers i.e point of references in your head. This will help you to find the critical move 1.b6! 

But one thing that GMs will do better than us when presented with this position is to be objective. They will immediately realize that its white who is fighting for a draw here and will try to direct their analysis in that direction. I hope for a long time you didn't try to win for white! Thats the reason why I didnt write at the start, white to play and draw. Because during a game no one tells us whether it will be a win or a draw!
I hope you enjoyed the position and just for the completeness sake, I will put the entire analysis in one board here.

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