Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Fine Art of Defense

There has been much debate in the chess blogosphere about the «dull» games between Kramnik and Deep Fritz. This tells me that endgame lovers are a tiny minority. Months ago I would have joined the chorus. But now I begin to discover the beauty of endgames. This position, for example, is much more interesting than it seems at first sight:

It is quite obvious that Deep Fritz is better. Firstly because his King is in the center and the black King is not. Secondly due to the weak pawn c6. Thirdly because Black has 4 pawn islands and White has only three of them. Fourthly because pawns are on both wings which favours the Bishop over the Knight.

All grandmasters expected Kramnik to move f7-f6 to build a fortress. One even said «please not f5». All wondered why Kramnik used so much time on the move. Then Kramnik moved f7-f5!

Arthur Jussupov explained why this is better: White can infiltrate the «fortress» with Ke3-f2-g3-h4-h5. Now Black has the problem of defending three weak pawns. Thus it was much better to get rid of one of them.

A general rule says that in a minor piece endgame the defender must try to trade as many pawns as possible. Kramnik just has applied this rule. Can chess on the highest level really be so simple?


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