23 October 2014

A $20.000 Endgame

By now, everyone knows that GM Wesley So won the Millionaire Chess Open, beating GM Ray Robson in the final round of the top section. But what about the lower sections? Thanks to Alan Lasser’s Game of the Week newsletter (GOTW; last seen on this blog in Unauthorized Psychedelic Opening Laboratory), I learned about one battle in the Under-2200 section -- that's the USCF Expert class -- where Rustam Bunyatov beat Matthew Derek Meredith in the final match for the top prize:-

Congratulations to GOTW subscriber Derek Meredith for winning second place in the under 2200 section of the Millionaire’s Open, I’m sure that $20,000 check is good consolation for losing the playoff for the $40,000 prize first prize.

The first two games of the playoff were drawn at the time limit of game/25. The next two games were at game/15; with the white pieces in the first game his position began to slip around move 21, so a few moves later he gambled on a speculative piece sac, which did not turn out well. That meant Derek had to win the second game with the Black pieces to tie up the match and send it to the five minute playoff games.

Alan called the second game 'the $20,000 endgame' and gave most of the moves, along with a few computer generated notes that flagged the main turning points. The top diagram shows the start of the endgame in Bunyatov - Meredith.

White has just lost the exchange for a Pawn and is now faced with a long battle for a draw, sufficient to win the two game mini-match. Black's plan is clear: Penetrate with the King into White's position and return the material at the right time for a winning King and Pawn endgame. White's plan is less clear: Trade off as many Pawns as possible, reducing to a drawn Rook vs. Bishop endgame. This will depend on some cooperation from Black.

Many moves later, the players reached the position shown in the bottom diagram. Both players have followed their respective plans, but Black is now faced with a critical decision, how to defend the d-Pawn. Black should play 63...Kc3, freeing the Rook for decisive action on the Kingside against the e- and h-Pawns. Instead he played 63...Rd7, tying the Rook to the d-Pawn. Here White played 64.Bd5, allowing 64...Kc3 after all. Better would have been 64.Bb5 (kicking the Rook off its best rank), with the idea 64...Rd8 65.Bc4 (stopping the Rook from reaching g8) 65...Kc3 66.Kf5 (heading for the h-Pawn). Black still must show that the win is there.

I imagine that similar dramas took place in more of the ten sections of the Millionaire Open. The GMs might get all the attention, but the amateur players share in the fun. For more about the tournament, see the TWIC report at Millionaire Chess 2014.

No comments: