Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - May 2021

Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

Champing at the Bit 02

Paul Benson writes:

Here we shall examine a Grand Master with white vs a 20 years old International Master with black. This almost 300 Elo point difference offers a classic "Goliath vs David" clash. Clearly White expects to win, Black probably hoping for a draw. Best laid plans...

B. Socko (2654) - I. Bulmaga (2375), European Individual Championship (Yerevan) 2014.

Diagram, white to move.

White pieces: Kg1, Qd2, Ra1, Rd1, Nf1.White pawns: b2, b3, c4, d5, f2, g2, h2.

Black pieces: Kg8, Qg5, Rc7, Rf8, Nf4.Black pawns: a6, b7, d6, e5, f5, g7, h7.

(Despite the opening being a Sicilian Defence it has passed without excitement, but with 21. ... Qg5 Black cheekily threatens Qxg2+ mate.)

22. f3 e4 23. fxe4 fxe4 24. Kh1 (Sensibly getting off the g-file, ignore x-ray attacks at your peril. Instead blockading the black passed e4 pawn with 24. Ne3 allows 24. ... Nh3+ 25. Kh1 Nf2+, Black wins an exchange on d1. Black to play now grabs the initiative with an attractive sequence of active moves.)

24. ... e3 25. Nxe3

(Forced, any move which takes the white queen off the white 2nd rank allows 25. ... Qxg2+ mate.)

25. ... Re7 (All black pieces are now attacking, White must be very careful. The initial threat is a deflection with 26. ... Rxe3 when the idea is 27. Qxe3 Qxg2+ mate, easily prevented.)

26. g3 (A move of mixed consequences. The mate threats on g2 are eliminated but the light squares of f3 and h3 are handed over to Black.)

26. ... Nh3 (A tactical doubler. Firstly, Black threatens 27. ... Qxe3 winning a piece. Secondly, Black threatens 27. ... Nf2+ winning an exchange on d1.)

27. Re1 Rf3 (Approxi-Kasparovism: “Every black piece is better than every white piece.”, and just for the cost of a pawn. Black now has some nasty threats, White has only a single move to stay in the game.)

28. Qg2 (White escapes the black queen x-ray attack with an attack on the black undefended f3 rook and h3 knight. Instead, 28. Nf1 Rxf1+ 29. Rxf1 Qxd2, White loses the queen for an exchange.)

28. ... Nf2+ 29. Kg1 Rexe3 (Black captures the white e3 knight while maintaining a defence on the vulnerable f2 knight, looks like White has lost a piece, right?)

30. Rf1 (Nice, White triply-attacks the black f2 knight, the “apparently” lost piece is actually being regained.)

30. ... Qh5 (International Master confuses Grand Rabbit. With so much black heavy piece kingside activity combined with temporarily being a piece up the position is surely screaming: "Winning Tactic Somewhere!", perhaps there is, how about:

(A). 30. ... Rxg3 31. hxg3 Rxg3 32. Qxg3 Qxg3+ is a rather cute mate.

(B). 30. ... Rxg3 31. hxg3 Rxg3 32. Rxf2 Rxg2+ 33. Rxg2 Qe3+ 34. Kh1 Qxb3 and a black queen, king, a pair of connected passed pawns will overpower a rook pair, Black is winning.

(C). 30. ... Rxg3 31. Rxf2 Rxg2+ 32. Rxg2 Qe5 Black is simply a queen for rook ahead and winning.)

31. Rxf2 Rxf2 32. Qxf2 Re2 (White has significantly reduced the attacking forces and yet Black still has the initiative. Accuracy combined with some ingenuity is now required if White is to fight on.)

33. g4 (The white queen is in trouble, she needs some breathing space, the g3 square is vacated for her majesty. Instead running away fails:

(A). 33. Qf4 Qxh2+ 34. Kf1 Qg2+ mate.

(B). 33. Qf1 Qxh2+ mate. Rooks just love being on the opposing 2nd rank.)

33. ... Qxg4+ 34. Qg3 Qd4+ (Simplification is a temptation to be resisted until the maximum gain can be squeezed from the position. Yes, in the long-term queens must be removed, but not quite yet, Black keeps prodding around against the white king to immobilise the white queen.)

35. Kh1 Qe4+ (Fighting over control of the e1 square while the black threat of Qg2+ mate needs to be prevented.)

36. Kg1 Rxb2

(A move of mixed consequences. The sacrificed e-pawn gave considerable activity resulting in Black emerging a pawn up. Fine, but surely now White can centralise with Re1 and have some serious threats of his own?)

37. Re1 (As anticipated, White completes development as the time-control approaches, Black must have prepared a good answer to this, but what? Clue: Best move of the game about to be played...)

37. ... Rg2+ (Forcing the game into a won rook and pawn ending, and this clever resource needed to be in mind when capturing the white b2 pawn.)

38. Kf1 (Correctly declining as 38. Qxg2 Qxe1+ 39. Qf1 Qxf1+ 40. Kxf1 a5, putting a squeeze on the white queenside, is a won pawn ending for Black. Instead, 38 Kh1, inadvisably walking into an x-ray attack, offers an opportunity to show how tactics can arise with minimal material present:

(A). 38. Kh1 Re2+ 39. Kg1 Rxe1+ 40. Kf2 Qe2+ mate.

(B). 38. Kh1 Re2+ 39. Kg1 Rxe1+ 40. Qxe1 Qxe1+ avoids mate but is playing on a queen down, never done at this level!)

38. ... Rxg3 39. Rxe4 Rxb3 40. Re6 (Taking the 7th rank gains little as 40. Re7 b5 41. Rd7 Rf3+ 42. Ke2 and Black continues in similar manner to game.)

40. ... Rf3+ (Appropriate Fischerism: “In chess it is important to know when to punch and when to duck.” No one likes to retreat but the black rook must get back to save the d6 pawn. Instead 40. ... Rb6 41. c5 Rb5 42 c6 bxc6 43. dxc6 Rc5 44. Rxd6 a5 45. Rd8+ Kf7 46. Ra8 Ke7 47. c7 Kd7 48. c8=Q+ Rxc8 49. Rxa5 seems to let White off the hook.)

41. Ke2 Rf6 (Black is consolidating. Those extra couple of pawns are a winning advantage, the only question is how long it will take to convert. Perhaps 12 moves or so should to the trick? Too optimistic, keep time on the clock for at least 20 moves, perhaps more?)

42. Re8+ Kf7 43. Rb8 (Aims are clarifying. If White can eliminate all the black centre/queenside pawns it is a draw. To win Black must retain a centre/queenside pawn, ideally a pawn other than the a-pawn.)

43. ... b5 (Neither the black king or rook can defend the queenside pawns, it must be the d6 pawn which is retained if Black is to win.)

44. Rb7+ Kg6 45. cxb5 axb5 46. Rxb5 Rf5

(Despite winning a pawn back White is still losing. Black can simultaneously pressure the remaining white pawns with the rook leaving White to find a way to defend them. Note that White dare not trade rooks, the pawn ending is a simple win for Black. The short-term black aim is to try to surround and capture the white d5 pawn.)

47. Ke3 Kf6 48. Ke4 Rh5 49. Rb2

(Activity gets nowhere as 49. Rb7 Rh4+ 50. Kf3 g5 51. Kg3 Ke5 and the white rook must return to b5.)

49. ... Rh4+ (Forcing the white king back to his 3rd rank allowing the black king to advance to e5, the white d5 pawn is about to be surrounded.)

50. Kf3 (Thinking of using the king to guard the h-pawn permitting the b2 rook to go active again. Trying to stay near the stranded d5 pawn fail, a couple of ideas run:

(A). 50. Ke3 Ke5 51. Rd2 Re4+ 52. Kf3 Rd4 the white d5 pawn falls.

(B). 50. Kd3 Ke5 black follows up with 51. Rd4+ again picking off the white d5 pawn.)

50. ... Rd4 51. Rb5 h6 52. Kg3 g5 53. h3 Ke5 54. Rb8 (The white rook plans making attacks/checks from the distant safety of the 8th rank, these are forlorn hopes, Black has it all under control.)

54. ... Kxd5 (At the point of consolidation, 41. ... Rf6, a guess of 12 moves or so to win was floated. This is 13 moves later and Black might need another 13 moves, right?)

55. Rh8 Rh4 (Establishing a triangle of “Mutual Protection”, a strong static formation worth remembering. The black h6 pawn protects the g5 pawn, which protects the h4 rook, which backwardly protects the h6 pawn. This structure keeps the kingside completely safe permitting other units, here the black king and d-pawn, to make progress in the centre.)

56. Rd8 Ke5 57. Re8+ Kd4

(The black king is using the d6 pawn as shelter while leaving the d5 square vacant for a pawn advance.)

58. Re1 (As attacks from the rear gain nothing this rook plans to annoy the black king from the white 1st rank. Note that it is important to place the maximum distance possible between the disputing pieces when engaging in rook-on-king annoyances.)

58. ... d5 59. Rd1+ Kc5 60. Rc1+ Kb4 61. Rh1 (Defensive duties are being reversed, the white rook defends the h3 pawn releasing the king to try to prevent the promotion of the black passed d-pawn.)

61. ... Kc3 62. Kf2 d4 (Kingside pawn-play would be premature, it is the black d-pawn which must squeeze White into conceding the h3 pawn.)

63. Ra1 (Active defence seems the only chance. Instead, just putting the white king on the back rank simply permits Black to march the king to g3 followed by Rxh3 with an easy win even if the black d-pawn falls in the process. Black to play must take care.)

63. ... d3

(Avoiding the disastrous 63. ... Rxh3 64. Ra3+ a skewer which picks off the black h3 rook and White wins.)

64. Ra3+ Kc2 65. Ra2+ Kb1 (Annoyances from the side cannot continue, White reverts to annoyances from the rear of the black king. However, notice the key word here is “annoyances”, White will never find anything forcing.)

66. Ra6 Rxh3 (We have now had 25 moves since black 41. ... Rf6, consolidating, and yet there is still much more work to be done. White cannot save this but there are always tricks to try, here is a specific formation worthy of mention. Imagine Black marches the king back to the kingside to assist the shuffling forward of the passed pawns. If this idea appeals, there is a self-trap to avoid. Placing the rook on the black 7th rank, say b2 or c2, is fine, but beware that advancing a pawn to h2 with the white king on h1 throws it all away. The white king would be in stalemate if white had no rook, which gives that rook the opportunity to chase the black king with checks, irrespective of the safety of the rook, White wants to give it away. Handled correctly, some careful dancing is required at times, the rook can give a perpetual check until White concedes it cannot be won.)

67. Ke1 Rh2 68. Kd1 Kb2 69. Rc6 (Preventing the black king sprint to the kingside, fine, but does nothing to stop the kingside pawns, the poor white rook is overloaded, it has too much work to do.)

69. ... h5 70. Rd6 d2 (An important change has just occurred. The white king has no legal moves, if White did not have a rook it would be stalemate, which is a clue as to a trick up the white sleeve.)

71. Rd3 (Clearly 71. Rxd2+ Rxd2+ 72. Kxd2 is hopeless for White.)

71. ... g4 (Strategic clue for the black future: At the moment the black rook on h2 guards a couple of vital pawns, fine, but is there a similar square from where the same defences may be given, even if it not yet available? White to play has a clever trick, not forcing but worth a try, you never know...)

72. Rb3+ Ka2 (Avoiding 72. ... Kxb3 stalemate. An immobilised king, here the white d1 unit was effectively in stalemate while the black king sat on b2, should set off alarm bells to both players when that king has just a single friendly fighter remaining in play.)

73. Rg3 (Further attempted gifting fails as 73. Rb2+ Ka3 74. Rb3+ Ka4 75. Rb4+ Kxb4 and the c2 square is available to the white king. Black to play cannot make progress with the king while the white rook owns the white 3rd rank. Furthermore, the kingside pawns are restrained as black pawn h4 drops the g4 pawn. Process of elimination, the black rook needs re-locating, but to where? Clue: On h2 it performs an important double-protection, find the reflection.)

73. ... Rh3 74. Rg1 (Trading-down loses as 74. Rxh3 gxh3 75. Kxd2 h2 and Black promotes.)

74. ... Rd3 75. Rh1 (There is nothing better, treading water fails. Instead, 75. Rg2 g3 76. Rg1 h4 77. Rg2 h3 and the black pawns march through on their own. Note if the white king ever steps off the back rank Black simply promotes on d1, forcing liquidation, those black passed pawns will then be decisive.)

75. ... Rd5 (Double-protection of pawns re-established, centre and kingside secure. Note that when the black rook transferred to the d-file almost all white tricks seeking stalemate evaporated. Now the black aim is to get the black king into the kingside to support pawn advances. And for those keeping count, this is now 34 moves since the black consolidation of the d6 pawn, will this game ever end?)

76. Rg1 Kb3 77. Rg3+ Kc4 78. Rg1 Rd3 (Black could instead drag the king back to d6 and try to charge up the f-file. White might try to put the rook on f2, but then black has pawn h4 and pawn g3, the white rook cannot control the f-file and restrain the black pawns, another case of overloading.)

79. Rh1 Rh3 (Retreating with 79. ... Rd5 80. Rg1 is gaining nothing.)

80. Rg1 Rh2 (Double-protection of pawns on again. Yes, we have been here before, but now the black king is centralised and has a simple route into the kingside. Fine, but surely on h2 the black rook has re-created that potential stalemate trap previously avoided? Stalemating ideas are only possible if the black king denies the white king access to the c2 flight square.)

81. Rg3 Kd4 82. Rd3+ Ke4 (A variation on the theme, Black avoids 82. ... Kxd3+ stalemate.)

83. Ra3 Rf2 (Vacating h2, the h5 pawn is ready to run.)

84. Ra4+ (There is nothing better, shuffling on the white 3rd rank fails, the black h-pawn just rolls through.)

84. ... Kf3 85. Ra3+ Kg2 0-1

(Nothing sensible can stop the black h-pawn. With 41. ... Rf6 black consolidated the rook ending, it then took 44 moves to arrive at resignation. Patience in endgames is not only a virtue but sometimes a necessity.)