31 January 2014

Square of the Pawn

A correspondence game that finished yesterday offered a few positions that illustrate well the square of the pawn, an important elementary pawn ending concept. I have previously discussed this concept in "Simple to Complex" (June 2012).

Yesterday's finish ended a game full of gross errors. In the beginning I overestimated my attack and let my opponent gain a rook. My attack ran aground and I was hopelessly lost. My faint hope of some counterplay was underestimated by my opponent and suddenly I seemed to have compensation for the rook. After mostly finding a series of strong moves, I exchanged into a queen and pawn ending where I had more pawns.

I captured the wrong enemy pawn and gave up a few of my own. We reached the position in the first diagram.

White to move
After 63...Kg7
With four pawns to three, I would like the queens off the board. However, forcing the exchange would be an error here as my king is too far away to stop Black's h-pawn.

Chess By Post, the app on which this game was played, offers an analysis board that lets players work out whether the king could stop the pawn. Of course, counting is easy enough even without such assistance. But even counting is unnecessary.

Rather, I imagined the exchange of queens on b2, thrust the h-pawn forward, and in my mind drew a diagonal arrow forward from the pawn to the first rank. From that arrow, two more arrows complete a triangle.

White to move
Hypothetical Position
My king is not able to step into any square of the triangle. This triangle comprises half of the square of the pawn--the space that the defending king must be able to occupy in order to stop the pawn. The diagonal arrow, resulting triangle, and derived square (two triangles) allow a player to quickly perceive by geometric observation, rather than calculation, whether a pawn may be stopped.

I played 64.Qc2 and the game continued.


Black could have played 64...h5 with a likely continuation 65.Qe2 h4 66.Qg2 h3! 67.Qxh3 Qd3+ and Black forces a draw by repetition.

65.Qd3 Qc7??

White to move
After 65...Qc7??
Now I am able to force an exchange of queens with my king one square closer to the h-file.

66.Qc3+ Qxc3 67.Kxc3 Kf6

Black could try 67...h5, but my king will enter the square.

White to move
Hypothetical Position
White's king is able to step into the triangle. The pawn may still promote on h1, but the White king will stand on g2 when it does. At that point, White's queenside majority assures the win (see "Fox in the Chicken Coop" [July 2013]).

My opponent opted for a different course.

67...Kf6 68.Kd4 h5

My king is already in the square.

69.b5 h4

White to move
After 69...h4

My king was forced to step into the square.

70...g5 71.a4 Ke6 72.a5 Kd6


White to move
After 72...Kd6
White has several ways to win, but I like the manner than I chose.

73.e5! Kxe5

Black might have tried 73...Kc7, leading to 74.e6 Kd6 75.b6 axb6 76.axb6

Black to move
Hypothetical Position
In this hypothetical position, Black's king is in the square of both pawns until each advances another square. Capturing the e-pawn removes the defending king from the square of the b-pawn. This floating square is a win for White.

74.b6 axb6

White to move

75.a6! 1-0

75.axb6?? loses because the Black king stops all White's threats. He enters the square of White's passed pawn with 75...Kd6.

Black resigned.

30 January 2014


This position is from Kalnicky -- Charousek, Budapest 1896 and is another game found at Chessgames.com that is absent from the ChessBase Online database. As one of the knight forks yesterday, it requires promoting a pawn to something other than a queen. White has just promoted a pawn on h8, winning the pawn race but not the game.

Black to move

29 January 2014

Creating Knight Forks

Lesson of the Week

Young chess players this week have a challenging worksheet. The plan is for them to work through these eleven problems with a partner for no more than fifteen minutes. If need be, I give them the answer to the first problem. Number four is on the demonstration board for the purpose of going through it briefly at the end of the fifteen minutes.

A combination is a series of forcing moves that often begins with a sacrifice and that culminates in a gain of material or checkmate. These eleven problems all feature a knight fork that results in a decisive gain of material. In a few problems, the combination leads to simplification of a position where a material advantage is already present.

In most of these eleven, the player to move sacrifices a queen to fork the enemy's queen and king, while other pieces are gained in the process.

White to move (1-8)









Black to move (9-11)




28 January 2014

Database Problem

This position occurs in a game found in the collection at Chessgames.com.

White to move

The position is from the game Charousek -- Engländer, Košice 1894. This game is not in the ChessBase Online database, which I suspect contains the same 104 games of Rudolf Charousek (1873-1900) as in Big Database (plus seven consultation games). 365Chess.com contains even fewer games by the short-lived Hungarian master--100. ChessTempo has a much larger collection with 138, but lacks the one containing the brilliant attack that follows from this position. Chessgames.com contains 184 games played by Charousek.

Two of the Charousek games in ChessBase's Big Database have dates that precede his birth--1853, 1856. There are other egregious errors that have been known for a long time (see Edward Winter's "FatBase 2000" 2003).

Massive databases raise questions concerning the authenticity and accuracy of the games contained therein. They are suspect sources for historical research, and yet this blog employs them with regularity.

Who was Engländer? Chessgames.com contain four games by this player--all against Charousek, all losses. No first name is given.

What print sources exist for this game?

Possibly it appears in Victor A. Charuchin, Chess Comet Charousek, trans. Andreas Dengler, Manuel Fruth, and Gregori Maksheev (Schachfirma Fruth, 1996)* or Philip W. Sergeant, Charousek's Games of Chess: With Annotations and Biographical Introduction (Dover, 1989). At present I lack access to both of these books.
Edward Winter offers an older source for the diagram position above: G. Négyesy and J. Hegyi, Combination in Chess (Budapest, 1970), 32 (see "Long Calculation" 11 July 2010).
Likely there are Hungarian sources yet to be tapped by those producing databases. Chessgames.com, which has far fewer games in my experience than ChessBase at least seems to be ahead of others with respect to Charousek. But the authenticity of the game score and its source remain uncertain. Moreover, some important information is lacking.

*Charuchin is reviewed at www.chesscafe.com/text/charousek.txt.

27 January 2014

Breaking Through

Playing on the Phone

After some inaccuracies late in the opening that left me slightly worse, my opponent grabbed a pawn with the consequence that he lost an exchange. The resulting position was almost locked up, but not entirely. I found ways to maneuver for a threatened breakthrough. Eventually my rooks penetrated and my opponent resigned.

This game was played on ChessTime, an iPhone/iPad app. The entire game lasted just over two weeks.

Stripes,J -- Opponent [D78]
Playing on Chess Time (1), 13.01.2014

Black to move

28... Nxf4?

28...Rd7 29.Ngf6+ Nxf6 30.Nxf6+ Bxf6 31.exf6 with approximate equality.


It was better to capture with the other knight: 29.Ngf6+ Kf8 30.Nxe8 Kxe8 and White has a slight advantage.


Erasing White's inaccuracy.

30.Nxf6+ Kg7 31.Nxe8+ Rxe8 32.Kh2 Nd5

White to move


The dubious evaluation is a reflection of post-game engine evaluations. However, this evaluation must be treated skeptically. As a practical matter, it makes sense to eliminate Black's most active piece. On the other hand, Black's kingside pawn majority may get rolling. Then, the bishop could serve a defensive role while the rooks work to exploit weaknesses elsewhere.

33...exd5 34.Re2 Bf5

Preventing f7-f5

34...f5?? 35.exf6+ Kf7 36.Rxe8 Kxe8 37.Re1+ Kf7 38.Re7+ Kxf6 39.Rxh7+-

35.Kg3 Be6 36.b4 a6 37.Rd3 Bf5 38.Rb3 Be6 39.a4 Bd7

The time control was three days per move, but most moves by both players were made within hours of the adversary's last. I seem to recall spending a couple of days contemplating this position, however.

White to move

40.Kf4 Re6 41.Reb2 h6

41...f6 42.Re2

42.h4 Re8 43.Rg3 Re6 44.h5 g5+ 45.Ke3

Black to move


Black had a moment here to get the pawns rolling.

45...f5 46.f4 g4 47.Kf2 Be8 48.Rc3 Bxh5 49.b5

46.f4 f6 

White to move


47.fxg5 was better 47...fxg5.

47...Bf5+ 48.Kc3 fxe5 49.fxe5 b5?? 

Black is helping create weaknesses that White may exploit. 49...Kf7 was better.

White to move


Perhaps hasty.

50.Rf2 Be6 51.Rgf3 bxa4 52.Rf6 Re7 53.Rg6+ Kh7 54.Rff6 Bf7 55.Rxh6+ Kg7 56.Rxc6+-.

50...axb5 51.Rf2

51.Ra2 might be slightly more accurate.




One rook breaks through. A rook on the seventh is called a pig. What do we call one on the sixth?

Black to move


52...Bf7 53.Rxc6 Ra8 54.Rg1

53.Rg6+ Kh7 54.Rf3 Bg4

54...Bf7 55.Rxc6

55.Rff6 1–0

Final position (Black to move)

The White rooks will eat all the vital pawns.

26 January 2014

Aronian -- Van Wely, Tata Steel 2014

Bitten by the Dutch

When I awoke a little later than usual this morning, Levon Aronian had lost with White to Dutch player Loek Van Wely. Van Wely played the Dutch Defense and the game quickly reached an interesting position where both players seemed to have chances. In time pressure, Aronian missed something and lost.

Levon Aronian won the Tata Steel Grandmaster tournament in Wijk aan Zee with a convincing performance that included wins against Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Sergey Karjakin. Today's game did not matter for the final standings. Two games remain to finish as I am writing this post. Both of those games affect second place. Karjakin can finish in second alone with a win, or tie for second with a draw. Harikrishna can tie for second with a win.

Aronian,Levon (2812) -- Van Wely,Loek (2672) [A80]
Tata Steel Chess Wijk aan Zee (11), 26.01.2014

1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 

Aronian spent three minutes on this offbeat move. It is three times as popular as the Raphael Dutch that I played in my only draw against a FIDE Master. 3.g3 and 3.c4 account for the vast majority of games against the Dutch.

3...d6 4.e3 h6 5.h3 

Black to move

Already the players have nearly left previously trodden paths. Three games in the database have reached this position. Aronian has used more than ten minutes; Van Wely has used six.

5...g5 6.Bh2 Bg7 7.Nbd2

ChessBase Online finds two games in this position--both Black wins. The games were played in the 1990s among players of a far lower caliber than these two.

7...0–0 8.c3 Nc6 9.Bd3 Rb8 10.0–0 Qe8 11.Re1 Qh5

White to move

There are two questions that immediately crop up when I see this aggressive queen: Will she slay the White monarch? Can she be trapped?

Both players have used a lot of time. Aronian used 23m33s on his last move. Van Wely used 13m21s on this queen foray. Although I know the final result, and that both players were short on time near the end, I am going through this game unaided looking for critical points.

Analysis by Grandmasters and engine aided analysis almost certainly will differ in identification of the critical points of the game. This blog is a personal and public online journal of my development as a chess player and chess teacher. I am a USCF A Class Player hoping to break into Expert Class. If I continue to improve through my fifties, I may yet be a chess master before the inevitable decline of old age takes its toll. When I started this blog in November 2007, I was a weak B Class player.

Following Aronian's games is personal chess training.

12.Qc2 g4 13.hxg4 Nxg4 

Oh my!

White to move

Two attackers are not usually enough to crash through a defense, but Black's knight and queen will keep some of White's pieces tied down. Meanwhile, the Black king threw his pawn shield forward and stands naked. Unfortunately, there is no clear way for the White pieces to exploit this apparent vulnerability.

14.Bb5 Kh8

Van Wely spent twelve minutes on this move.


The rook on b8 is a target, as is the knight. Had the king remained on g8, the check would have won the knight. The open diagonal is exploitable, it seems. But, Black's king is likely quite safe on h8.

15...Nd8 16.Bg3 e5 17.dxe5 dxe5

White to move


The rook on f8 is vulnerable due to pressure on e5. White's knight and bishop that seemed consigned to defense against Black's aggressive queen and knight nonetheless have a role in attack, too. This game is sharp and instructive. There is a bit of chaos on the board, and both players are burning time negotiating the minefield.


Protecting the rook.


Seizing the open file. It is tempting to say that White has an edge in development, but piece coordination and vulnerability would seem more important than such abstractions.


Black's pawns seem to be doing more than White's. Yesterday, I remarked that Aronian was giving lessons in Philidor's concept of the centrality of pawns. Today, Van Wely seems to be our teacher.

20.Qb3 Nc7 21.Be2 Be6 22.Bc4 Bd7 23.Be2

Black to move

Aronian would probably be happy to repeat the position, winning the tournament without a loss. The Dutch master, however has a nice position and seems in an aggressive mood.


Putting more pressure on White's defenses.

24.exf4 exf4 25.Bh4 Bc6 26.Be7 Rf7 27.Bc4 Nd5 28.Bh4

Black to move

White seemed to be attacking for a few moves.


If White had a development advantage, it must be gone now. The Black rook on b8 is ready to swing into action. Most of Black's pieces seem to be bearing down on the kingside and there seems no way for the White pieces to get at the Black king.

Knowing the result of this game hinders objectivity, but I do like Black's position.

29.Bd3 Rff8 30.Bb1 Rbe8 31.Rxe8 Rxe8

Both players have a rook on an open file.

White to move

32.Ne4 Nde3

Van Wely finds a simple discovery that exchanges knights, but that also weakens the position of the White king. Black threw his king's pawn shield forward in attack. Now his pieces work to wreck the White king's shield.

33.fxe3 Bxe4 34.Bxe4 Rxe4 35.Qxb7

So often in Aronian wins a pawn when his opponent is under time pressure, then converts the win in the second time control. Here, however, both players are low on time.


White to move


This weakening of the back rank may have been the decisive error.

36...Kh7 37.Qd5 Re6 38.exf4 Bd4+ 0–1

The bishop's interference is reminiscent of Aronian's loss to Anand in last year's Tata Steel Tournament.

25 January 2014

Dominguez -- Aronian, Tata Steel Chess 2014

Levon Aronian leads the 2014 Tata Steel Grandmaster chess tournament by 1.5 with two rounds to play. The event is taking place in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, where it has been held since 1938. This year, two rounds were played on the road--round four was played in Amsterdam and round nine was played in Eindhoven.

Rather than try to watch all the ongoing games, I decided to choose one game each round and follow it closely. I tried this idea last year and was happy with the result. At first I thought I might follow a couple of my favorite players, but decided by round three to stick with Aronian through the whole event. It was a good choice. He is near his peak rating on the Live Ratings list because he has been doing well at this event. His current live rating is 2828.4, while his highest ever is 2829.7. Only Magnus Carlsen and Gary Kasparov have had higher live ratings.

I watch the games on the official website with the option to have the engine evaluation turned off. I also leave the expert commentary turned off. During the game, I make my own observations and post them here. My only external resources are reference to the ChessBase Online database, which I access through ChessBase 11 database software. I also use this program to create the diagrams and facilitate accurate game notation.

As I am under 2000 Elo, there are many nuances I may miss. Nonetheless, some readers my be interested in my views on the game as it develops.

Dominguez,Leinier (2754) -- Aronian,Levon (2812) [C84]
Tata Steel Chess Wijk aan Zee (10), 25.01.2014

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.Nc3 d6 9.a3

The players were at move 17 when I awoke and started looking at the game. The long think time that Dominguez used for move 18 gave me time to enter the moves in my database and start this post. His ninth move, however, caught my eye as unusual. ChessBase  confirms that it is far less common than 9.a4. It is also a move that Dominguez has played before. In 2013, he had a win against Peter Svidler with this line and a loss to Sergey Karjakin.

Black to move


Reference Game:
Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2723) -- Svidler,Peter (2769) [C77]
Thessaloniki FIDE GP Thessaloniki (4), 25.05.2013
9...Be6 10.Nd5 Nd4 11.Nxd4 exd4 12.Nxf6+ Bxf6 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.a4 Qd7 15.b3 c5 16.Qg4 Qf7 17.Bd2 c4 18.Bb4 Be7 19.axb5 axb5 20.Rxa8 Rxa8 21.f4 Ra2 22.e5 h5 23.Qh3 d5 24.Bxe7 Qxe7 25.Qxh5 Rxc2 26.Ra1 Qb7 27.Qe8+ Kh7 28.Qh5+ Kg8 29.f5 cxb3 30.Qe8+ Kh7 31.Qh5+ Kg8 32.Qe8+ Kh7 33.Qg6+ Kh8 34.f6 Rc7 35.Rf1 Rf7 36.Rf3 1–0

10.Ba2 Be6 11.Bg5

Reference Game:
Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2754) -- Karjakin,Sergey (2756) [C77]
Beijing Sportaccord rap Beijing (1), 12.12.2013
11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.b4 Nc6 13.Bd2 d5 14.Re1 Qd6 15.h3 Nd7 16.Ne2 a5 17.Rb1 axb4 18.axb4 Rfb8 19.Ng3 d4 20.c3 dxc3 21.Bxc3 Ra4 22.Qb3 Kh8 23.Red1 Nd4 24.Nxd4 exd4 25.Bd2 c5 26.bxc5 Nxc5 27.Bb4 Nxb3 28.Bxd6 Bxd6 29.Rxb3 b4 30.Ne2 e5 31.Rdb1 Rc8 32.Kf1 Rc2 33.f4 Raa2 34.fxe5 Bc5 35.Nc1 Rf2+ 36.Ke1 Rac2 37.Ra1 h5 38.e6 Rxg2 39.Kf1 Be7 40.Ra8+ Kh7 41.Rc8 Rcf2+ 42.Ke1 Bh4 0–1

11...c5 12.b4

12.Bxf6 was played in the three prior games that I located in the database.

12...Nc6 13.Nd5 Bxd5 14.exd5 Nd4

White to move

15.bxc5 Nxf3+ 16.Qxf3 dxc5 17.Rfe1 Nd7 18.Bd2 Bd6 19.a4 f5 20.Bb3 e4 21.dxe4 c4 22.Ba2

Black to move

François-André Danican Philidor wrote that "pawns are the soul of chess" (or the heart, or the life, depending on the translation). Aronian is giving lessons on the meaning of Philidor's statement. Seeing Black's pawns roll in this manner in the Spanish Opening would not have been my prediction for this game.


I must confess that I was looking at 22...Ne5. But, why not threaten the h-pawn? It worked well yesterday. If Aronian wins today, he wine the tournament outright. A draw today assures him of no worse than a tie for first. Tomorrow, he has White and wins the event with a draw, winning it alone if he does not lose today.

Aronian has an hour more time on the clock than Dominguez. Errors in time pressure have been a pattern for Aronian's opponents in this event.


Has Dominguez decided to sacrifice the exchange? A few rounds back, some commentators noted that exchange sacrifices had been played in several games that day, and the material advantage did not prevail.

Maybe he's simply trying to return the pawn.

23...Bxe5 24.g3 Qg4 25.Qxg4 fxg4 26.c3 Bf6

White to move

After a youth tournament in which a team that I coach, which has taken the team prize the past five consecutive tournaments, tied for second behind the other team that I coach, I am back home reviewing the end of the game. I learned during round one of my event that Aronian had won today, because I was able to check the standings on my phone.

27.Bb1 b4 28.Re3 Rad8 29.Bf5 h5 30.Rd1 b3

White to move

Knowing that Aronian won this game makes it harder to be objective in my evaluation. Nonetheless, the reason to favor Black is this position is not difficult. Both players have a passed pawn. Black's pawn is supported by a pawn; White's is farther advanced, but only supported by a rook. White's passed pawn is more vulnerable to becoming surrounded and captured.

31.Bc1 Bg5 32.Be6+ Kh8 33.Re2 Bxc1 34.Rxc1 Nc5 35.a5 Rfe8 36.Kf1 g6 37.Rce1 Kg7

White to move

When Black gets both rooks, knight, and king in position, the bishop will have fewer defenders than attackers and the vulnerability of White's passed pawn will be clear.


Consequently, Dominguez pushed the pawn, leading to an exchange of most pieces.

38...Rxe6 39.Rxe6 Nxe6 40.Rxe6 Rd7 41.Re8 Rxd6 42.Ke2 Rd3 0-1

Levon Aronian has won the tournament! No one can catch him. There is still a battle for second place.

23 January 2014

Aronian -- Karjakin, Tata Steel 2014

Battling Karjakin's Queen's Indian

In the 2014 Tata Steel Grandmaster tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, Levon Aronian leads after eight rounds with 6.0. Sergey Karjakin is one-half point behind in second. Their battle today is critical to the final standings. Aronian has White.

Aronian,Levon (2812) -- Karjakin,Sergey (2759) [E15]
Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee (9), 23.01.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Nc3 0–0 8.Bg2 c6 9.e4 d5 10.exd5 cxd5 11.Ne5

Black to move


Reference Game: 11...Nfd7 12.0–0 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Nd7 14.Re1 dxc4 15.Bxa8 Qxa8 16.Bh6 Rd8 17.Qg4 Bf8 18.Rad1 Nc5 19.bxc4 Bb7 20.Rxd8 Qxd8 21.Rd1 Qc7 22.Bf4 Qc6 23.f3 Nd7 24.Ne4 Qa4 25.Rxd7 Bxe4 26.Rd8 Bg6 27.Bg5 Qa3 28.Qd4 h6 29.Qd6 Kh7 30.Qxf8 1–0 Aronian,L (2816) -- Karjakin,S (2778) Sao Paulo 2012

12.0–0 Nc6 13.Bf4 Na5 14.Rc1 Ba3 15.Rb1 Bb4

White to move


Reference Game: 16.Na4 Ne4 17.a3 Be7 18.cxd5 exd5 19.b4 Nc6 20.Rc1 Rc8 21.Bh3 f5 22.f3 Nd6 23.Qd3 Nxe5 24.dxe5 Rxc1 25.Bxc1 Nc4 26.f4 b5 27.Nc3 Qb6+ 28.Rf2 d4 29.Ne2 Rd8 30.Qxf5 d3 31.Qe6+ Kf8 32.Qf5+ Ke8 33.Qxh7 d2 34.Bxd2 Rxd2 35.e6 Rd1+ 36.Bf1 Qxe6 37.Qh5+ Kf8 38.Nc3 Qc6 0–1 Aronian,L (2813) -- Karjakin,S (2767) Sandnes 2013

16...Nc6 17.Bg5 Be7 18.Nf4 Qd6 19.Bxf6 Bxf6 20.cxd5 exd5

White to move

21.Bxd5 Bxe5 22.dxe5 Qxe5 23.Re1 Qf6 24.Nh5 Qh6 25.Qg4 Qg6 26.Qh3 Rad8

White to move

There are some tactics here. I considered two moves, favoring the one played by Aronian.


Be4 was the alternative.


Of course. White can threaten checkmate with 28,Be4, but after 28...g6, White no longer seems to have an attack. How will Aronian increase the pressure?


I was hoping there was something better. But, I did not find it.


Maybe if I understood why Karjakin spent more than nine minutes for this move, I would be a decent chess player, too.

29.Nd5 Qg7

Forcing a minor piece exchange is the first candidate move that comes to mind: 30.Ne7+ Nxe7 31.Bxb7. Aronian has an hour to half an hour for Karjakin. Will the clock be a factor over the next eleven moves?


This move shows why I follow Aronian's games. While I am looking at a simple tactic that creates an imbalance, but that also reduces the material on the board, he improves his weakest piece. Aronian finds ways to build pressure. Karjakin has faced this pressure before, of course. He became the youngest Grandmaster in history a dozen years ago, and his record stands today.

Among the building threats is an exchange of rook for two minor pieces.


Most of the tactics that I was considering rely on a check at e7. Karjakin took that away.

White to move


Aronian shows there is still a discovery on c6 without the check.

31...axb6 32.Bxc6 Bxc6 33.Rxc6 Rd2 34.Qh4

I sometimes miss these quiet moves.


White to move

I was contemplating 35.Rxb6, but did not like 35...Qb2 with a battery on the second rank.


Revealing the purpose, or one of them, behind the quiet move. Now, Qb2 loses instantly. Aronian should win the b-pawn. He will then have a passed pawn against which Karjakin must defend. Meanwhile, Karjakin will not be able to develop threats against f2.

35...h5 36.Qxb6

The pawn falls. With twenty minutes to go for four moves, Karjakin should easily reach the time control. However, his position is now clearly worse even though the advantage for White is not yet decisive.

36...Ra1 37.Rcc1

Can Aronian get a rook behind his passed pawn and keep it there? Perhaps his plan is to post his queen on c5 in order to usher the pawn to b6.

One possible line: 37...Rxc1 38.Rxc1 Qb2 39.Qe3 with threats of Qc6+ and Qh6+ may be bad for Black. We may see. Qh6+ does not look dangerous, but an exchange of queens on c3 should give White a winning advantage.

37...Rxc1 38.Rxc1 Qb2

My line has been played part-way, and now I notice that 39.Qe3 is not necessary to defend the pawn because Qc5 hits the rook.

White to move


So often when I am looking at one move and Aronian plays something else, I instantly realize that his idea offers more flexibility. I go for the obvious direct threat; he builds pressure. He is number two in the world; I am an A Class club player.

39...Kh7 40.Qb5

I was looking at 40.Qb7.


Both players have made the first time control. I must leave for work soon. Chances are good that this post will be finished many hours after the game ends.

41.Qd3 Rb8 42.Rb1

Black to move

I marvel at how Aronian managed to get his rook behind his passed pawn.

42...Qe5 43.Qd2 h4

How will Aronian address the threat of h4-h3?


I think the queens are coming off. White's extra pawn should prove decisive. How far will they play it out? On the other hand, 44...Kf6 may give Black a sufficiently active king to hold the position a pawn down.

Karjakin thought for eighteen minutes and chose the line that I thought was best.

44...Qxb2 45.Rxb2 Rb4 46.Kf1

Black to move

I expect Aronian to win this game, but that may simply reveal how little that I understand rook endings.

46...Kf6 47.Ke2 Kf5

I'm off to work and will update this post this evening long after the game has ended.

Shortly after I arrived at work, I was able to check on this game and see that Aronian had won. I went over the whole game with a couple of my chess students.

48.Kd3 g5 49.Kc3 Rb7 50.b4 Kg4 51.b5 Kh3 52.gxh4 gxh4 53.f4 Kg4

White to move

54.b6 f5 55.Kd4 Kxf4 56.Rb3 h3 57.Kd5 Kg4 58.Kc6 Rb8 59.Rg3+ Kh4 60.b7 f4 61.Rg7 1-0

Black to move

It took me a couple of minutes at lunch to see that, indeed, Black is utterly and hopelessly lost and that I could finish it against a computer or Anand or Carlsen. The ending was probably elementary for Aronian, but most of the rest of us can learn from his technique.

Leinier Dominguez, one of three players 1 1/2 points behind Aronian has White against him on Saturday. Dominguez is the strongest Cuban player since Jose R. Capablanca.