Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames

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Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames by Grandmaster Sahaj Grover and Fide Master Daniel Barrish is a new and highly instructive Chessable course.

Timeless Technique: Strategic EndgamesStudy Endgames!

‘Study endgames!’ is advice we often hear but rarely follow. The advice doesn’t usually go into detail on what and how we should study so I was interested to see the approach taken in the two authors.

We discussed the course in our recent interview with Grandmaster Sahaj Grover and he told us:

‘Readers will find a comprehensive guide on endgame strategy, this is not a theoretical guideline but rather a practical approach on how to play winning, worse and equal endgames. Furthermore, readers will learn the different types of approaches one must keep in mind when encountering such situations in a game.’

Time now to delve into Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames to examine the practical approach and to see how it relates to real-life experience.

Do Not Rush

Strategic Endgames Do Not Rush

One of the most important pieces of endgame advice is do not rush! A lack of patience leads to many points slipping through our fingers, but it is very difficult to train oneself to take a lot more time when we feel we should be pushing home an advantage.

We need role models and pertinent illustrative games. This one features two of the most patient players of all time.

Do Not Rush in the Endgame

Anatoly Karpov – Ulf Andersson

USSR v Rest of the World, 1984

White to play

This game is on board one of the first round of the big match.

This is the assessment of Sahaj and Daniel:

‘White is clearly better here due to the weakness of b7 and Black’s complete lack of counterplay. The conditions are ripe for not doing anything. Due to Black’s lack of a promising plan, White can take as much time as he wants – slowly improving his position, testing Black’s defences, and simply irritating him. Black’s first weakness on b7 is not enough – clearly a second weakness is needed on the kingside. Karpov plans to create one, but he is in no rush at all. This endgame perhaps stretches the definition of ‘strategic endgame’ slightly, but the idea which Karpov used here is what is important.’

The authors are definitely on the ball; this is one of the best possible examples of a player taking his time to make absolutely sure of eventually earning the full point.

A Second Weakness

How does Karpov (who was still World Champion at the time; Garry Kasparov played on board two of this match) keep the queenside pressure bubbling while creating a second weakness? He started with 23 Qf3 Rf7 24 Kf1!

Fast forward to move 35 and we see the point of the king move.

Strategic Endgames Do Not Rush
White to play

No, your eyes do not deceive you. Karpov really has moved his king all the way to a1! He is also keeping b7 under very close observation and is now ready to open up the kingside. Still, Andersson is holding firm and at this time in his career he was more than capable of matching anyone in the world when it came to being patient.

We are not even halfway through the game. Time to fast forward a little more, this time to move 37 and Karpov’s direct jab on the kingside.

Karpov and Anderssen Do Not Rush
Karpov has just played 37 g4!

Karpov and the Art of ‘Doing Nothing’

There followed a flurry of moves on the kingside and an exchange of the last minor pieces, bringing us to this position, in which Karpov has just played 45 Rxf4.

Karpov appears to be making progress on the kingside. Sahaj and Daniel take up the story:

‘Incredibly, over the next 25 moves, White does seemingly absolutely nothing – White simply shuffles his pieces around a bit with seemingly no purpose in mind at all. However, there was a purpose. Attacking g6 is clearly not sufficient to win the game on its own. As a result, White’s only real, active idea here is to play the e3-e4 break. However, if this is rushed, it could backfire horribly – for example, after …dxe4 the Black queen becomes active on the a2-g8 diagonal. As a result, White bides his time, waiting for the perfect moment to play the e4 break.’

This really is an exemplary case of patience. Karpov’s 66th move will take some finding. Incidentally, note that Karpov’s king has returned to the kingside, ready for the final push.

Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames
White to play

Predict the Move

What would you do now?

66 a3! 

Extraordinary! Yet, as the authors explain, this is all part of the same demonstration of patience.

‘An important subtlety to include, as part of Do Not Rush. As we’ll see a bit later on in the course as well, Eliminating Counterplay is incredibly closely-related to not rushing. In this case, White realised that the e4 break could leave the a2 pawn hanging after …dxe4 – so all he did was play the little improving move a3 in order to nip that idea of Black’s in the bud.’

Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames

White to play

Only now, after immense preparation, does Karpov make the highly-anticipated central advance.

71 e4!

Back to Sahaj and Daniel for the full explanation.

‘White finally decides to play his planned pawn break. After almost 50 moves of pure torture from the starting point of this example, White finally undertakes decisive action. Sensing the right time to open up the position and start playing concretely is not an easy thing to do. There are two simple things to look for though:

  • Are your pieces on their ideal squares ?
  • Are your opponent’s pieces not on their ideal squares ?

If both of these can be answered ‘yes’, then you might want to consider beginning concrete action. In this case, all of White’s pieces are perfectly poised, while Black is rather awkwardly-placed. Still, despite this, Black shouldn’t be objectively losing this – however, we think that the accumulated pressure over the last 50 moves took its toll on Black.’

Indeed, there is little pleasure in defending a slightly worse position for so long.

We now come to the conclusion of the game.

Karpov's Breakthrough

White to play

85 Qg7+ and Andersson resigned (1-0) because of the line 85 …Kd8 86 Qf8+ Kd7 87 Qxf5+ and Black’s resistance is finally at an end.

The Game in Context

To add a little context to the game, this was the first round of the match and the USSR were in danger of losing. Karpov’s lengthy game – which had been adjourned at move 40, in the good old style – secured a 5-5 draw for his team. The other three match games between the same players all ended in relatively short draws.

This example is typical of the high-quality material presented by Sahaj and Daniel. We may not all be able to match Karpov’s truly extraordinary patience but we can all take on board the reminder not to rush in our games.

Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames

Timeless Technique Chessable Course

Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames is available now. Click here for further information.

We will have an interview with co-author FM Master Barrish tomorrow.

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