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I played a couple of games of chess last weekend in the first rounds of the 4ncl in Birmingham. This is newsworthy because, before this, my most recent competitive game was the final round of last season’s 4ncl, six months ago. My inactivity is due, in part, to being busy with work, including nearing a finish to a Playing 1.e4 book.

Through bad luck of the draw, my opponent on Saturday was IM Sam Collins of Ireland. I say bad luck, because when I make a 600-mile round trip from Glasgow to Birmingham, I would rather play someone I haven’t played before, not an old friend. I will just show the end of the game, though analysing the earlier parts of the rook ending could fill a book.

John Shaw – Sam Collins

4ncl 14.11.2015

A small crowd had gathered as this was one of the last games to finish. I later learned one of the spectators thought I had put my rook en prise to the black pawn. Which way are the pawns going?

A sneaky try to block the a-file using a check on c6 first.
The simple approach allows White to draw by a tempo. For example: 50…Kb3 51.h6 Kb2 52.h7 a1Q 53.Rxa1 Kxa1 54.Kg7 b5 55.g5 b4 56.g6 b3 57.h8Q Rxh8 58.Kxh8 b2 59.g7 b1Q Not a check. 60.g8Q=

This felt like an only move, and is the most practical choice, but allowing the black pawn to queen would also draw, as my tandem get close enough to prevent Black making progress.

51.g5 Rc6+ 52.Kh7 Ra6 53.Rxa6 bxa6 54.g6 a1Q 55.g7= (55.h6=) 55…Qb1+ 56.Kh6! Qc1+ 57.Kh7 Qc2+ 58.Kh6 Qd2+ 59.Kh7 Qd3+ 60.Kh6 Qe3+ 61.Kh7 Qe4+ 62.Kh6 Qf4+ 63.Kh7 Qf5+ 64.Kh6 Qf6+ 65.Kh7 A set-up to remember: Black cannot win. 65…Qf7 66.h6 (Even 66.Kh6 works. 66…Qg8 67.Kg6 Kc5 68.h6=) 66…Kc5 67.Kh8 Qf6 68.Kh7=

Or similarly: 51.h6=

51…Rxa2 52.h6 Kc5

Good enough to draw, but I should have tried the alternative: 53.g5 Black can draw in many ways, but if he tries to bring his king over, then care is needed: 53…Kd6 54.Kh7! Ke7 55.g6 Ra8! The only drawing move, and so nearly winning (55…Rg2? 56.Kg7!+- and the h-pawn queens). 56.g7 Kf7 57.g8Q+ Rxg8 Stalemate always feels like an undeserved draw.

53…Rh2 54.Kg7 Kd6
This came as a nasty surprise, as I expected a simple draw with: 54…b5 55.g5 b4 56.g6 b3 57.h8Q Rxh8 58.Kxh8 b2 59.g7 b1Q 60.g8Q

55.h8Q Rxh8 56.Kxh8 Ke5

My g-pawn is lost and the prospects of my king on h8 catching the b7-pawn do not look good. I had been contemplating resignation after 54…Kd6, but then a Reti study popped into my head.

57.Kg7! b5
Now we both promote. The Reti study-like line was 57…Kf4 58.Kf6 Kxg4 59.Ke5 and I catch the b-pawn and draw.

58.g5 b4 59.Kf7 b3 60.g6 b2 61.g7 b1Q 62.g8Q Qa2+ 63.Kg7 Qxg8+ 64.Kxg8


I am sure everyone already knows, but the Reti study I had in mind was:

With the draw: 1.Kg7! h4 2.Kf6 Kb6 3.Ke5.


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  1. Ray
    November 17th, 2015 at 17:48 | #1

    This is indeed study-like – nice!

  2. Pinpon
    December 21st, 2015 at 18:55 | #2

    Late BESN would have liked it !

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