Games: Chess

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The rules of thinking change when you exchange the last pair of pieces into a King and Pawn endgame. When men other than pawns are on the board, you often think in terms such as "a little better for White" or "good winning chances for Black", but when only pawns remain, any position has to be calculated to a win, loss or draw. In this position, from the game Ippolito-Mueller, Bermuda 1998, White made the mistake of exhcanging from an inferior rook and pawn endgame into a hopeless king and pawn one.

It was White to play and he has not a great deal to worry about. The game continued 1.Rd2 f5 2.Rd3 Re4 3.h4 Rd4 and now White realised that he should have thought about this possibility earlier. If he avoids the rook exchange, then Black's rook will penetrate to d2.

Now 4.Rxd4 cxd4 5.Ke2 Kc5 6.Kd3 Kb4 wins for Black, so play continued 4.Ke3 Rxd3+ 5.Kxd3 b5 6.Kc3 Kb6 and now White faced a dilemma. 7.Kd3 bxc4+ 8.Kxc4 Kc6 would leave him with the unpleasant choice between 9.Kd3 Kd5 10.Ke3 (or 10.Kc3 Ke4) 10...c4 11.bxc4+ Kxc4 12.Kd2 a4 13.Kc2 Kd4 14.Kd2 Ke4 15.Ke2 h5 and Black wins, or 9.Kc3 Kb5 10.Kd3 Kb4 11.Kc2 c4 with a similar result.

In the game, he went down without a fight, playing 7.Kc2 bxc4 8.bxc4 a4! 9.Kd3 Ka5 10.Kc3 h5! 11.b3 (sadly this is the only move he has left since any king move loses to Kb4) 11...a3 and Black resigned.

White loses these king and pawn endgames because Black has a spare move with his h-pawn on the K-side. He should have thought about this when playing 3.h4. With his Q-side pawns already compromised, he cannot afford the luxury of a disadvantage on the other wing as well. In the diagram position, White would have done better to play 1.g4. he may have been afraid of 1...b5, but 2.Rd2 is an adequate reply.

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