The Fabulous 00s: Close but no Mohata

Chess Life Online Weirdness

Often times, Chess Life online articles are written hastily (presumably to keep their entertainment value fresh) and the readers really miss out on what’s going on.

In a World Open 2008 article that just appeared, FM Todd Andrews presents some endings in an article titled “Endgame Joy in Philly”.

Let’s look at a particularly bizarre example – since it’s presented without notes and we are led to believe WGM Mohata playing black was somehow ground down (she was ground down earlier that day vs FM Andrews) – but what actually happened?  White was Andrews’ buddy FM John Bick.  CLO readers are having Caissic wool pulled over their eyes here.

Let’s start the action from Andrews’ first diagram.  Black to move.

Position after white’s 39th move in FM Bick – WGM Mohata.   Mohata all the way in this position.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  GONGING NOISE: Mohata stands better! The classical advantage of a 3 on 2 majority versus a 4 on 3 majority plus white’s b2 and a3 pawns are on the same color as the white bishop.  White has a bad game!   Mohata’s got the joy goin’ on!  GONG!!  CLO Readers WAKE UP!!! I can only hope that GM Benko never sees this article. He gets offended when the superior side loses.

To compound white’s difficulties, black can constantly threaten to make a K&P ending and invade with her king versus white’s rickety king-side pawns as the variations will show.  How could she lose?  It took something special, and something quite illogical. These are the questions Andrews might have talked about in the article.  But since the remaining moves (where White wins?!?!?!) have no notes, the reader might just believe Mohata was somehow outplayed.  The truth is black can easily win this position in many plausible lines and white at best can hope for a draw.  For black to lose is totally outside the pale of human dignity.

Let’s see how black can reel in the Bick for a full point using the above-named advantages in some sample lines where white makes even tiny inaccuracies.

For convenience, I will just call this move number 1.

1….Ke6! Always king to the center first before undertaking operations.  The f4 hole beckons.  1…Bd4? 2. Bc3 Be5?? (2…Bg1 =) 3. Bxe5 fxe5 4. Kc3 Ke6 5. Kb4 Kd6 6. Ka5 Kc6 7. g5! wins for white (not 7. Kxa6? g5! drawing).

2. Bc3 Bc7 3. h3 a5 4. Ke3 g5! and by fixing the hole on f4 black is totally winning.  For example, 4. Kd4 Bb6 mate! Or 5. Ke2 Be5 and black easily wins the K&P ending.  OK that defense didn’t work out for white.  Let’s try again.

4. Kc2 This hunker-down is plausible but not so easy to play OTB; the usual instinct is to stay more active.  4…a4!? A possible try. 5. Bd2 Bb6 6. f4 g5! A nice shot; if white takes twice on g5 black has Ke5 and Kxe4.  So white plays 7. fxg5 fxg5 8. Bc3! keeping the king out.  I don’t see a win then.

Let’s go back and see some more ideas.

1…Ke6  2. Ke2? This passive move is crushed!  2…Bd4!  3. Bc3 Ke5! White is running very short of move.   Do you want to see another nice move/plan?  The foxy 3…Be5! 4. h3 Bxc3! 5. bxc3 Ke5 6. Ke3 g5! (Always this move, fixing white’s f4 hole) and black wins. This suggests 4. h3? is a blunder crippling white’s majority and let’s try 4. h4! instead.  Now, 4…Bxc3 5. bxc3 Ke5 g5 is only a draw because white gets a protected passed pawn.  So after 4. h4, black should play 4…h5! fixing the h-pawn on black and retaining good chances.  If 4…h5! 5. Ke3? Bg3! wins.  White must play 5. Kf2 to guard the g3 square for the time being.  Then 5…Bf4 does not seem to lead anywhere; white can move his own bishop.  How about 5…Kf7!? establishing what may be a very pretty zugzwang?

5…Kf7 – Zugzwang!?

For example, 6. Kg2? (moving the king too far afield) and now the thematic 6…a5! winning.   A very nice shot here: 6…a5! 7. Kf2 Bxc3 8. bxc3 g5! making a passed h-pawn.  As has been written in many ending manuals, the white king cannot dance at two weddings!  Or, 6. gxh5 gxh5 7. Kg2 a5! with the brutal finale 8. Kf2 b4 9. axb4 Bxc3 10. bxc3 a4 and queens!  8. g5 Bxc3 9. bxc3 fxg5 and once again black will have his two remote passed pawns which decide.  Note also that 6. gxh5 gxh5 7. Bxe5 fxe5 just lands white in a lost K&P ending with inevitable zugzwang giving black’s king decisive entry points.

4. Kd2 a5! and black is way on top. A nice tactical motif.  For example, 5. h4 Bxc3+ 6. Kxc3 (6. bxc3 Kf4 wins) Kf4 7. a4 (or 7. Kd4 Kxf3 8. g5 fxg5 and wins queen and pawn ending) 7…bxa4 8. Kxc4  Kxf3 9. g5 (last try) 9…fxg5 and black wins the queen and pawn ending.

Let’s go back and try some other lines.

1….Ke6 2. Bf8 (Waiting).  2…Ke5 3. Bg7 With a USA-style subtle threat.  3…g5!! (Cold shower) and black wins.  Note how black can afford, in many position, to fix her kingside on black because white is so hopelessly compromised on black squares in the 3 on 2 majority situation on the queenside.

1…Ke6 2. f4! A plausible move getting rid of the hole on f4.  Now, if black plays 2…Bc7 3. Ke3 g5 4. f5+ Kf7 5. h3 Bf4+ 6. Ke2 Be5 7. Bc3 Bxc3 8. bxc3 the single white problem, the backward pawn on e4, won’t be enough. 8…Ke7 9. Ke3 Kd6 I do not see a win in this K&P ending, because if black’s king goes too far on the queenside white can break with e4-e5.  That position is a draw as long as white does not go crazy with 10. Kd4 a5 11. a4?? bxa4 12. Kxc4 Ke5 and black wins.

So let’s try the immediate  1….Ke6 2. f4 g5!? as a trickier try.  Of course, 3. f5+?? now loses to 3…Ke5 4. Bc3+ Bd4! and white has to resign.

White could answer with 3. fxg5 fxg5 4. Bc3 trying to keep the king out, but then black has the nice switcheroo with 4…Bc7! 5. h3 Be5! (The thematic idea to capitalize on the 3 on 2 majority).  Now, 6. Bxe5?? Kxe5 lands white in a lost ending with black using the usual motif of decoying with the remote passed pawn to win white’s remaining pawns.  He must stay calm with 6. Ke2 and hold on passively – indications are he can hold it unless I am missing a black resource.  There is actually a nice variation buried here to show how narrow the path is.  6. Ke2 Bxc3 7. bxc3 Ke5 8. Ke3 a5 9. Kf3 Kd6 10. Ke3 Kc5 (the only try) 11. Kd2 b4

Position after 11….b4 (analysis).  Close but no Mohata.

and now black is hoping for the blunder 12 axb4??+ axb4 13. cxb4+ Kxb4 14. e5 Kc5 15. Kc3 Kd5 16. e6 Kxe6 17. Kxc4 Ke5 and wins!  Correct for white is the tactical 12. cxb4+! (a narrow saving resource!) 12…cxb4 13. a4! Only move! 13…Kd4 14. a5 c3+ 15. Kc1 Kd3 16. a6 b3 17. a7 b2+ 18. Kb1 Kd2 19. a8=Q c2+ 20. Kxb2 c1=Q+ 21. Ka2 Qc2+ 22. Ka1 and draw.  Whew!

Let’s look at another, more craven, formation.

1…Ke6 2. Kc2 (Passive cowering). 2…Ke5 Black can also torture with 2…Bg1.

3. Bd2 (More passive cowering).  3…Bg1 4. h3 This incredibly passive formation is the best white’s been doing so far!  Maybe, just maybe, he can hold this one and make a draw.   There is a cool K&P variation hidden here:  1…Ke6 2. Kc2 Ke5 3. Bc3+?  Bd4 4. h3 Bxc3 5. Kxc3 Kf4 6. Kb4 and now black to play and get good winning chances.  Take a look.  Solution next time.  Hint, don’t play 6…Kxf3?? 7. g5! and white wins!  That would lose the game for Mohata, imagine that!

What’s the most iron-clad draw?  Many of the ‘draws’ above are kind of scary for white. Some of the lines above point out tenuous white draws.   But black is certainly pressing. Andrews should have pointed out Mohata’s fundamental advantages starting from his first diagram but I concede many Chess Life Online articles are crazy rush jobs.  I welcome readers’ inputs on these lines and also it would be nice if someone had a definitive evaluation from the diagram – black wins or a draw?    Poor Mohata – she lost the actual game. None of the instrinsic advantages were used.  Did I mention that?

3% Vicary

Elizabeth Vicary had minimal contribution to this post.

Postscript:  A Curious Warrior Gambit Opening Omission in Chess Life

In the curious article “The Bathhouse & the Indian” (yes, an ampersand was employed in this article’s title, Earth calling CL Editor) GM Kraai omits an important move that was known in the time of the Toltecs or, failing that, at least the To’hona Oodham and the Yavapai.  I did enjoy references to truck grease but I wish the article had included somebody eating the worm out of the tequila bottle.  Let’s get to the chess.

In his notes to  Johnston vs Leeds-Tilley, after the moves

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 0-0 6. Be2 e5 7. 0-0 Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. b4 For some reason, Kraai awards this an exclamation point.  Radjabov wouldn’t like that!

9. … Nd7? A huge lemon simply because it allows so many juicy white continuations.  Every Russian schoolboy knows about 9…Nh5!

Now, in the game, white played 10. Be3 and very oddly, this move passes by without comment.  White has a far more entertaining option.  Let’s go back to the position after black’s 9th move to summon the spirit of what is known from the past.  Eugene Meyer must have shown me these lines 30 years and many moon ago.

10. c5!

10. c5! Ye Olde Toltec Gambit.

Summoning the spirit of <insert deity/deities>.  Accepting is very risky.  For example, 10…dxc5 11. bxc5 Nxc5 12. Ba3 Nd7? 13. Nb5! with a juicy edge. For example, 13…c5 14. dxc6 e.p. bxc6 15. Nd6 with complete paralysis as in Schenk-Braun Boeblingen 2003.  Or, 12…b6 13. Bxc5 dxc5 14. Na4 and white has scored very heavily starting from here, for example 14…Nxd5? 15. Qxd5 Qxd5 16. exd5 e4 17. Nd2 Bxa1 18. Rxa1 and white won easily, Savchenko-Maier, Porto San Giorgio 2000.

Declining is the Better Part of Valor

In this gambit, declining looks like a better bet. For example 10…f5 11. Ng5 Nf6 12. f3 h6!? is not ridiculous. 13. Ne6 Bxe6 14. dxe6 d5 15. exd5 Nfxd5 16. Nxd5 Qxd5! is murky as practice has shown.  White might do better with  11. Ng5 Nf6 12. Bf3!? but here, black has what may be a TN, 12…a5!, with counterplay.  That suggestion is hot off the Rybka griddle. I don’t think that position has been seen before.

This gambit stuff would make the Yavapai proud!  Very bold and thematically fitting into the article.  I would lose the ampersand in the title, though – editor?

GM L. Ftacnik, Hero!!

Wish I had seen this.  From J. Shahade’s CLO World Open 08 story,

“Co-winner GM Lubomir Ftacnik became heroic to some and notorious to others early in the tournament when he grabbed the mike and yelled “Shut-up” repeatedly when announcements began, even though some of the games had been going on for 20 minutes”.    Is there any question?  Hero!!!!

By the way, Ftacnik was a runner-up in the epic World Junior Championship that the USA’s Mark Diesen won way back in 1976.  Ftacnik got there by swindling pre-tourney favorite Vladimirov.

What’s New Elsewhere

I just posted the blunderfest Ehlvest-Liu from the NY International 2008 Part Deux.

Awesome Error Message

From the site at 12:23 EST Sunday July 13, trying to read an article, I get:

Fatal error: Out of memory (allocated 262144) (tried to allocate 6144 bytes) in /nfs/eagle/export0/www/docroot/global/ on line 464

That’s better than the article!  All I wanted was a measly 6144 bytes!

Unrelated Query

Presumably correspondence players, having plenty of time to think (and even access to chess engines) should be able to find good moves.  Why is it that correspondence games presented in Chess Life magazine are usually of such poor quality?

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2 Responses to “The Fabulous 00s: Close but no Mohata”

  1. Scourge Says:

    Okay. I played over the moves in the CLO article. Mohata lost this game by playing a poorly timed 43…f5 which was followed by 44.exf5+ gxf5 45.Be3 and now the unthinkable 45…fxg4? 46.hxg4.

    With the passed Pawn, White had all the cards, despite his miserable king position.

    I cannot find a clear draw here for White. Best strategy is to cower and count to 50 every time a pawn moves.

  2. Elizabeth Vicary Says:

    Nothing? nothing?


    For starters, I know Todd. Also, he mentions me in this exact article for relaying Ivanchuk’s Moscow …d5 move. Also, I am also bad at endgames.

    MG Note 7/13/08: Duly noted. I bumped the EVP (Elizabeth Vicary Percentage) from 0 to 3%.

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