09 September 2006

Endgame: A choice of drawing variations

The diagrammed position was reached in Endgame: Nimzowitsch - Capablanca, Riga 1913, which has a link to the full game and the references mentioned below. The game is part of a series on Capablanca's games 'to be studied'.

Capablanca played 26...c5, assigned it a '!', and commented, 'The move that gives Black the advantage.' Chernev mentioned that 26...Bxg4 27.Rxf6+ Ke7 28.Rxh6 would be an easy draw for White.

Riga 1913
Capablanca, Jose Raul

Nimzowitsch, Aron
(After 26.Re1-f1)
[FEN "3r4/ppp2k2/5p1p/6p1/3B2P1/2P2b2/P1P4P/5RK1 b - - 0 26"]

White played 27.Bxf6. Capablanca:

If now 27.Rxf3 cxd4 28.Rd3 Rc8 and for all practical purposes Black is a Pawn ahead. My opponent chose the other line of play in order to keep the Bishops of opposite colors, which he thought should give him a draw.

Chernev had a different opinion:

Very attractive, but not the best. Nimzowitsch had good chances of drawing by going into a Rook ending, instead of relying on the opposite colored Bishops. 27.Rxf3 cxd4 28.Rd3 Rc8 29.Rxd4 Rxc3 30.Rd7+ Kg6 31.Rxb7 Ra3 32.c4, eventually reaching an ending of two Pawns to three on the Kingside.

Who is right, Capablanca or Chernev? Kasparov sides with Capablanca:

In the hope of saving himself in the opposite colored Bishop ending a Pawn down. The Rook ending after 27.Rxf3 cxd4 28.Rd3 Rc8! is also unpleasant for White, for example: 29.Rxd4 Ke6 30.c4 Rc5 31.c3 Ra5 32.Rd2 Ra4 etc.

The move 29...Ke6, preventing Rd4-d7, is the move Capablanca had in mind when he noted that 'for all practical purposes Black is a Pawn ahead'. He was referring to White's doubled c-Pawns.

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