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Sometimes you just have to calculate

May 22, 2012

An exciting endgame from Sunday’s deciding game in the Championship section is instructive:

White to play, Azeez Alade (2040) vs. Matthew Zafra (~1850)

I’m fairly sure Matthew had a win earlier, but he just needed a draw to win the tournament. A win for Azeez would have won the tournament for him as well. So, Azeez takes the chance he needs to to win:

1. Kb6 Kd7?

Kd7 is already losing! Black can easily hold the draw with 1. … Bb8!, and because White can never cover the promotion square with his king, White can’t make any progress as the kings block each other forever. White should have a win after Kd7, but…

2. Ka7 Bc7 3. Draw offer?? 1/2-1/2

Azeez just didn’t calculate far enough here, probably confusing the actual position after promotion and trade:

With this one:

In the real position, while Black’s king is way ahead of the game, but white’s extra pawn on f3 proves surprisingly useful:

3. b8=Q Bxb8 4. Kxb8 Kd6 5. Kc8 Kxd5 6. Kd7 Ke5 7. Ke7 Kf4 8. Kf6 Kxf3 9. Kxg5, after which white easily promotes. Without that f3 pawn, Black wins the race with 8. … Kxg4.

Unbalanced endgames are frequently decided by these races that require calculating 7-10 moves ahead. When you get to one, that’s the time to buckle down and think–trying to get a result on principle might just throw away a perfectly good half point.

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