Horrific mistake

The Norway Chess tournament is until now (after round 5) a very exciting tournament with lots of fighting chess and some spectacular upsets.

Who would have thought that Magnus Carlsen would be in the bottom half of the standings with a meager 1½ points after five rounds with still four rounds to go?

Magnus is joined in the lowest ranks by his fellow countryman Ludvig Hammer. That is not surprising because Ludvig is by far the lowest rated player (2677) of the line up. But he is of course still a very strong player.

See diagram. Hammer and Topalev reached this position after an exciting game. The position in the diagram should be a draw. White has two pawns for the piece.

Converting in the right moment to an endgame with the bishop and some pawns would yield a draw. And even when all the pawns disappear from the board white still has hope for a draw because the rook + bishop versus rook ending is, except for some positions, also a draw.

Although in that case black would definitely have practical chances. Unfortunetely even strong grandmasters sometimes make horrific mistakes in the endgame. As usual there is a big difference between ‘should be a draw’ and ‘is a draw’. 

Another instructive endgame

We can learn a lot from endgame studies. Studies show a concept in it’s purest form.

The idea is that all the pieces on the board have a certain function. There is no unnecessary clutter which disturbs the concept.

What I like about endgame studies is that the positions might have arisen from real games in contrast to some compositions where you have to mate in a couple of moves. These compositions often look a bit artificial and couldn’t have evolved from a real game. Therefore I am not very fond of them. Of course this is a matter of taste.

I do like positions that pose a tricky ‘clean problem’. See the diagram. It is white to move. Can he win? If so, how?

See solution…

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