Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review of Chess Endgames 12 - Rook vs Knight by GM Karsten Muller

Karsten Muller p- Chess Endgames 12 – Rook vs Knight – fritztrainer DVD – ChessBase

Unless you are new to chess or just returning to chess after an absence of several years you are most likely aware of German GM Karsten Muller’s excellent DVD series on the endgame.

With this release, GM Muller continues his quest to impart high level endgame knowledge to the viewer.   This time in an ending that, while somewhat rare, is difficult to convert without the knowledge of how to do so.

This DVD is broken down into eight chapters.  They are:

1.       Rook versus Knight

2.       Two Rooks verses Rook and Knight

3.       Rook and Bishop versus Bishop and Knight With Opposite Colored Bishops

4.       Rook and Bishop versus Bishop and Knight With Same Colored Bishops

5.       Rook and Bishop versus the Knight Pair

6.       Rook and Knight versus the Knight Pair

7.       Rook versus Bishop and Knight

8.       Rook versus Two Knights

ChessBase was kind enough to send me this DVD to review, and so after watching the DVD here are my thoughts…

First of all, let’s acknowledge just exactly what it is that we are dealing with here….is Knight versus Rook an ending that you can expect to play frequently?  The answer to that is no, it is quite rare.  How rare is it you ask?  So rare that it happens roughly one in every 100 endgames (0.97% to be exact according to Fundamental Chess Endings which was written by GM Muller back in 2001 along with Frank Lamprecht.)

So what is the value in studying something that you will only see a handful of times in your career?  Well, one answer is that perhaps someday you’ll face it in the last round of a tournament with $5,000 on the line.  But that’s not likely.  What is likely is that you will be able to take the concepts that you learn from the study of this endgame and apply them to late middlegame situations as well.

For example, GM Muller introduces the concept of the “knight check shadow” early on in the DVD.  Here are the main two examples:


[FEN – “8/3N4/8/1k4p1/3p2p1/8/1K6/8 w - - 0 63”]


[FEN – “8/8/6n1/8/2K1R3/8/2k5/8 b - - 0 71”]

In the first example the king is limiting the mobility of the enemy knight, while in the second example it’s the rook that is restricting the knight.

The idea of the knight check shadow is to force the knight to spend more tempi to get where it needs to be, if indeed it can get there at all.
Another benefit to this DVD is that when you take all of the various configurations covered in the chapters and add them up you are looking at approximately 20% of the endgames you will play.

Here is an ending from Chapter One that illustrates the knight check shadow technique:

Ju – Kosintseva 2011


[FEN – “R4nk1/2R4p/p4r2/6p1/8/8/7P/6K1 w - - 0 49”]

In the intro to this video clip GM Muller begins by stating that although it may seem surprising White is winning.  This is mainly due to the fact that she can activate her king along with the fact that Black’s pawn on g5 is slightly overextended.

Black begins by exchanging off a pair of rooks to alleviate her cramped position, but ultimately White is then able to dominate the Black knight by using the knight check shadow technique.

49.Kg2!? Rf7 50.Raa7 Rxc7 51.Rxc7 Ne6

[ 51...Ng6 52.Kg3 Ne5 53.Rc5 Nf7 54.Kg4 Kg7 55.Kf5 Nh6+ ( 55...Nd6+ 56.Ke6 Ne4 57.Rc2 g4 58.Ke5 Ng5 59.Kf5+- ) 56.Kxg5 Nf7+ 57.Kf4+- ]

52.Ra7 Ng7

[ 52...Nd4 53.Kg3 h5 54.Rd7 Nf5+ ( 54...Ne6 55.Re7 Nf8 56.Re5 Nh7 57.Kf3 Kf7 58.Ke4 Kg6 59.Re6+ Kf7 60.Rxa6 h4 61.Kf5+- ) 55.Kf3 Ng7 56.Ke4 h4 57.Kf3 Ne8 58.Rd8 Kf7 59.Kg4 Ke7 60.Rd1 Kf6 61.Rd5+- ]

53.Kf3 h5?!

[ 53...h6!? 54.Rxa6 Kh7 55.Kg4 Ne8 56.Kf5 Ng7+ 57.Kf6 Nh5+ 58.Kf7 Nf4 59.Ra7 Nh5 60.Re7 Nf4
61.Kf6+ Kg8 62.Rd7 Kh8 63.h4 gxh4 64.Rd4 Ne2 ( 64...Ng2?! 65.Kg6+- ) 65.Rg4 h5 66.Rxh4 Ng367.Kf7 Kh7 68.Rh3 Kh6 69.Rxg3 h4 70.Rg8 Kh5 71.Kf6 h3 72.Kf5 Kh4 73.Kf4+- ]

54.Ke4!? g4

[ 54...h4 55.Rxa6 Kf7 56.Ke5 g4 57.Rf6+ Ke7 58.Rg6 Kf7 59.Rxg4+- ]

55.Kf4 Ne6+ 56.Kf5 Nd4+

[ 56...Ng7+ 57.Kg6 Ne8 58.Kxh5 Nf6+ 59.Kg6 Ne8 60.Rxa6+- ]

57.Kg6 Kf8 58.Kxh5 Nf3 59.Kxg4 Nxh2+ 60.Kf4 Nf1 61.Rd7


After watching the analysis clip of the position above I gained an appreciation for these types of endgames where the appearance can be deceiving.  I looked at the position before watching the clip and thought it to be a dead draw.  After hearing GM Muller explain the concepts (for example the misplaced pawn on g5) I will be more mindful of these items in my own games.

Chapter Two is Two Rooks vs Rook and Knight.  This chapter starts out with an example taken from a game between Garry Kasparov and Evgeny Bareev from Novgorod 1997.

Here is the starting position of the video clip:

[FEN – “4r3/6R1/8/5K2/8/8/1R2n2k/8 w - - 0 72”]

GM Muller starts off by pointing out that when there are no pawns on the board then positions tend to be drawn the majority of the time, but that White has chances to play for the win.
In the game Kasparov played 72.Rg6!? and then after 72…Re3? 73.Re6 Bareev resigned as he can’t prevent the loss of the knight.
However, Bareev could have played:
72…Kh3! as after 73.Rb3+ Kh2 the position is a draw.


[FEN – “4r3/8/6R1/5K2/8/1R6/4n2k/8 w - - 0 74”]

In fact, I let Houdini run for 3-4 minutes in this position and clipped the analysis below.  Feel free to play through it to see the ideas.
Analysis by Houdini 1.5a w32:
1. =  (0.26): 73.Rb3+ Kh2 74.Rg4 Rf8+ 75.Ke5 Re8+ 76.Kf6 Rf8+ 77.Ke6 Rd8 78.Ra3 Rf8 79.Rg7 Nf4+ 80.Kd6 Re8 81.Rg4 Nd3 82.Rg7 Nf4 83.Rg4

2. =  (0.21): 73.Kf6 Re3 74.Rg8 Ng3 75.Kg5 Re5+ 76.Kf4 Rf5+ 77.Ke3 Re5+ 78.Kd3 Rf5 79.Kd4 Rf4+ 80.Ke3 Ra4 81.Rb1 Ra3+ 82.Kd4 Ne2+ 83.Kc4 Rc3+ 84.Kd5 Ng3 85.Rb4 Re3 86.Rc4 Ne2 87.Rc6 Ng3 88.Rcc8 Kg2 89.Rc2+ Kh3 90.Rh8+ Kg4 91.Rg8+ Kf3 92.Rf8+ Kg4 93.Rc4+ Kh3 94.Rh8+ Kg2 95.Rc2+ Ne2 96.Rf8 Kg3
When pawns are on the board it can be a completely different matter.  Here is a famous example of this type of endgame from St. Petersburg 1914 between world champion Emmanuel Lasker and future world champion Alexander Alekhine.

GM Muller first discusses this position:

[FEN – “r7/2R5/2pr4/2N2k2/8/8/1P6/1K6 w - - 0 47”]

If either of the Black rooks were removed along with the White rook then this is an easily winning position for Black, a fact which is confirmed by six piece tablebases.  Therefore Black’s plan here will involve trading off a set of rooks.

GM Muller then fast forwards to this position:

[FEN – “3r4/8/2p5/1k6/8/1PKN3r/8/3R4 b - - 0 83”]

80.Rd1 Rh2+ 81.Kc3 Rd8 82.Rg1 Rh3 83.Rd1 Rdh8 84.Rg1 R8h5 85.Kc2
[85.Rg4 Rd5]
85…Rd5 86.Rd1 Rg5 87.Rd2
[87.Rf1 Rgg3 88.Rd1 Rg2+ 89.Kc3 Rg5 90.Rd2 Rhg3 91.Rd1 Rc5+ 92.Kb2 Rg2+ 93.Ka3 Rcc2]
87...Rhg3 88.Nc1

[FEN – “8/8/2p5/1k4r1/8/1P4r1/2KR4/2N5 b - - 0 88”]

[88.Nf4 Rc5+ 89.Kb2 Rcc3 90.Ne2 Rcd3 91.Nd4+ Kc5]
88...Rg2 89.Ne2

[FEN – “8/8/2p5/1k4r1/8/1P6/2KRN1r1/8 b - - 0 89”]

[89.Rxg2 Rxg2+ 90.Kc3 Rg3+ 91.Nd3 c5 92.Kc2 Kc6 93.Ne5+ Kd5 94.Nc4 Kd4 95.Kb2 Rg2+ 96.Ka3 Kc3 97.Nb6 Rg4 98.Na4+ Kd4 99.Kb2 Rg2+ 100.Kb1 (100.Ka3 Rh2 101.Nb6 {101. Nb2 Rh3 102. Ka4 Kc3 103. Nc4 Rh4 104.Kb5 Rxc4 105.bxc4 Kd4} 101...Rh6 102.Na4 Ra6 103.Kb2 c4 104.Nc3 cxb3 105.Nb1 Rb6 106.Nd2 Kd3) 100...Rh2 101.Kc1 Re2 102.Kb1 Kd3 103.Nxc5+ Kc3 $19 104.b4 Kxb4 105.Nd3+ Kc3 106.Nc1 Re1]

89...Kb6 0-1
In the interests of space I won’t cover examples from every chapter, but suffice it to say that each of the remaining chapters also breaks down ideas and concepts into variational truths such as the examples given above.
My opinion of this DVD is that this is something that pretty much any player serious about improving should own, if for no other reason that a lot of this material is sparsely covered elsewhere.
Does this mean that you are likely to start getting these endgames in your own games?  Not necessarily, but many of these concepts will translate into late middlegame concepts.  Also, knowing the material in this DVD gives you one more weapon in your arsenal as you will have know when to trade into these endgames with confidence.
I give this DVD four out of five stars.


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