Sunday, November 8, 2009

End GameLesson #3: Bishops of Opposite Color - Another Draw?

My year long chess end game study continues.  I have been at it for about seven weeks now and I feel like my end game has improved drastically.  However, that is a double-edged sword because of the old saying, "The more you learn the less you know".  I believe this nugget of wisdom to be truth.  The more you learn the more you realize there is a vast ocean of information you simply don't know.

Opposite-Colored Bishops Endgame
"Without other pieces (but with pawns) these endings are notorious for their tendency to result in a draw. These are the most difficult endings in which to convert a small material advantage to a win. "
-Wikipedia Article-

I cannot count the number of times I've heard over the last two years (amount of time I've been playing tournament chess), "Blah. Bishops of opposite color endgame, it's a draw."  This is dangerous thinking my friends.  I know the principles.  I know the general rule that bishops of opposite color endgames are drawish.  Yet these generalizations are not gospel, they are simply that... generalizations. 

It's white to move here.  Ok granted, black has a tough road to walk down for a draw with two enemy pawns on the 7th.   But is he really that bad off?  Both queen squares are controlled, the white bishop is totally passive and black has an outside passed pawn of his own.  Moreover, white's bishop controls neither queening square.  If black can decoy the white bishop off of the h2-b8 diagonal he will win the pawn on c7 and then just sit back and wait to snipe the pawn if it ever moves to g8. 

White's only chance to win this sucker to force black to give up his bishop for the g7 pawn and then bring his king over and protect the c-pawn while the white bishop pulls guard duty on the black a-pawn. Sounds easy right?  Let's show one quick example of how this fails with tremendous flair.

1. Ke5 a5 2. Kf6 a4 3. Ke7 Kc8 (3... a3? 4. Kd8!+) 4. Kf8 a3 5. g8(Q) Bxg8 6. Kxg8 a2 7. Be5 whew, looks like white has it covered.

Black brings white back to reality with 7... a1(Q)! 8. Bxa1 Kxc7=

Ok back to the original position.  So now we see the problem as clear as crystal. That a-pawn is throwing a wrench into our cogs.   If white can stop the a-pawn and continue with his own ideas then he will be winning.  It just so turns out in this position with white to move he can force a win.  Let's take a look.

1. Kc3!  (buying valuable time) Bf7 (the Bishop absolutely has to stay on this diagonal or he is toast) 2. Kb4 (now black cannot safely push his pawn) Be6.

Now that our first goal has been realized we have to look towards the next step in this operation.  The white king will never be able to force the black bishop to give itself up if it is pulling guard duty for this dinky little rook-pawn.  So we have to get the white bishop over to a5 where it blocks the a-pawn and defends the c-pawn.

3. Be5 Bf7 4. Kc5 Bb3.

Here is the position.  It would seem like white cannot maintain guard on c7 and black's a pawn but...

5. Kd6! (Black still cannot play 5... a5 on account of 6. Kd7 and white will queen one of his two pawns.)  5... Kc8 6. Bc3 Bf7 7. Ba5 (bingo) Be6 8. Ke7 Bb3 9. Kf8 Ba2 10. g8(Q) Bxg8 11. Kxg8

Black could resign with dignity here but he plays on because he has one more sinister trick up his sleeve.

11... a6 12. Kf8 Kb7 13. Ke8 Kc8 14. Ke7 Kb7 15. Kd8 Ka7

If you thought it would be a good idea in this position to play 16. c8(Q) then pat yourself on the back, you're the proud owner of a Bishop and Queen in a completely drawn position.

16.  Bc3! a5 17. c8(Q) and black has several different ways he can choose to self destruct but white scores a pretty mate after 17... a4 18. Bd4#

Remember, there is no room for mechanical thinking in chess. This principle is amplified in the endgame.  Thinking that a bishop of opposite color end game is an automatic draw is dangerous thinking whichever side you find yourself on.  Imagine how stupid you would feel if you traded into the original position as black with the assumption you had a draw in the bag.  I admit it would have been hard to work out that entire 10 move sequence where black has to give up the bishop to save the game, however all of the possibilities are certainly there. 

No comments:

Post a Comment