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Ultimate Challenge: A quiet endgame

By GM Christopher Lutz

While many games in the Ultimate Challenge are sharp tactical encounters, the following game is quite the contrary: In the opening THE_MACHINE went for an early exchange of queens even though keeping the queens on bord would have been favourable to him. Instead (after the exchange) the position was completely equal. But then ChessLion began playing sloppily and his position gradually became worse. Eventually a bishop ending arrived which White converted to a win with precise play.

[Event "Long 90' + 30'', Unrated, Infinity Chess"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.04.26"] [Round "3"] [White "THE_MACHINE"] [Black "ChessLion"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2447"] [BlackElo "2361"] [Annotator "GM Lutz"] [PlyCount "135"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] 1. e4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} c5 {[%emt 0:01:00]} 2. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d6 {[%emt 0: 00:18]} 3. d4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} cxd4 {[%emt 0:00:12]} 4. Nxd4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:12]} 5. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} a6 {[%emt 0:00:12]} 6. Be3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} e6 {[%emt 0:00:15]} 7. a3 {[%emt 0:00:00] This is a rather tame move, preventing ...b5-b4 before Black even played ...b7-b5. The main value of this move is to get Black out of the book and go into rather unexplored territory.} (7. f3 {is the main move, of course. White intends an attack with g2-g4, Qd2, 0-0-0.}) 7... Nc6 {[%emt 0:00:15]} (7... b5 $5 {with good play for Black is possible, even though White sort of discouraged this move.}) 8. Be2 {[%emt 0: 00:00]} Be7 {[%emt 0:02:53]} 9. Qd2 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nxd4 $6 {[%emt 0:14:50] Probably Black shouldn't hurry with this exchange, as the centralized queen gives White some extra possibilities.} (9... Bd7 10. O-O-O (10. g4 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 e5) 10... b5 {with a typical Sicilian position.}) (9... Qc7 $5 {is another standard move.}) 10. Qxd4 {[%eval 0,35] [%emt 0:00:54]} O-O {[%emt 0: 02:46]} 11. O-O-O {[%eval 0,38] [%emt 0:00:50]} Bd7 $6 {[%emt 0:00:54] I am not too happy with this move, but possibly Black has some slight problems already.} (11... b5 $2 {is the natural move here, but runs into} 12. e5 dxe5 13. Qxd8 Bxd8 14. Bf3 {and Black loses the exchange.}) (11... Qc7 $5 12. Qb6 $5 (12. f3 b5 {is a better version of the game, as the f6-knight can still retreat to d7.}) 12... Qb8 (12... Qxb6 13. Bxb6 Bd7 14. Bc7 Ne8 15. Ba5 {and Black's position is cramped.}) 13. g4 Nd7 14. Qd4 b5 15. g5 Ne5 {with a sharp fight ahead. Black might play ...b5-b4 quickly.}) 12. f3 {[%eval 0,26] [%emt 0: 05:38]} Qc7 {[%emt 0:05:38] Now Black is ready for ...b7-b5 ...} 13. Qb6 $6 { [%eval 0,8] [%emt 0:08:49] ... and White blocks it. But White could (and should) continue with queens on board.} (13. g4 {asks a difficult question to Black: "What will you do against g4-g5?"} Rfc8 (13... Bc6 {clears the natural d7-square for the knight, but after} 14. g5 Nd7 15. h4 {White's attack is a few tempi ahead.}) 14. g5 Ne8 {and the knight on e8 doesn't inspire confidence. White is better.}) 13... Qxb6 {[%emt 0:01:23]} 14. Bxb6 {[%eval 0,14] [%emt 0: 02:11] Apparently White put some hopes into the b6-bishop, which is cramping Black's play. But in fact the position is just equal.} Bc6 {[%emt 0:00:22]} 15. Rhe1 {[%eval 0,12] [%emt 0:00:20]} d5 {[%emt 0:03:14] With this central break Black should solve most of his problems, but it was also possible to delay it a bit.} (15... Rfc8 {is another good option, e.g.} 16. Bf1 (16. g4 d5) 16... Kf8 {and ...d6-d5 is coming next.}) 16. exd5 {[%eval 0,15] [%emt 0:00:00]} Nxd5 {[%emt 0:00:25]} 17. Nxd5 {[%eval 0,8] [%emt 0:00:09]} Bxd5 {[%emt 0:00:16]} 18. Bf1 {[%eval 0,18] [%emt 0:01:22] Because of the threat Rxd5 Black has to do something about his e7-bishop.} Bg5+ $6 {[%emt 0:02:59] This impulsive check helps White to get his queenside majority rolling.} (18... Rfe8 {is more accurate. With Black's bishop on the diagonal a3-f8 it is difficult for White to get his b- and c.pawns moving.} 19. Kb1 Rac8 $11 {with equal play.}) 19. Kb1 {[%eval 0,14] [%emt 0:00:00]} Rac8 {[%emt 0:01:51]} 20. b3 {[%eval 0,15] [%emt 0:02:03] Now White gets c2-c4 in.} Bc6 {[%emt 0:03:58]} (20... Bd8 21. Bxd8 Rfxd8 22. c4 Bc6 {transposes to the line below.}) 21. c4 {[%eval 0,12] [%emt 0: 00:00] Currently White still has only a very slight advantage. His queenside majority has already started moving and his rooks are well centralized. But with some precise moves Black should be able to fully equalize. But over the next few moves Black's play is imprecise, allowing White to increase his advantage.} Bh4 $6 {[%emt 0:02:04] It looks tempting to lure the e1-rook to e2 where it blocks the f1-bishop. But in fact it just becomes easier for White to double his rooks on the d-file.} (21... Bd8 {is better, immediately exchanging White's most annoying piece.} 22. Bxd8 (22. Bc5 $2 Bxf3) (22. c5 $2 {is not possible, as} Bxb6 23. cxb6 Bd5 {loses the b6-pawn.}) (22. Bf2 Be7 23. Kb2 Rfd8 ) 22... Rfxd8 23. Kb2 Kf8 24. Kc3 Ke7 25. b4 g5 {and the game should end with a draw}) 22. Re2 {[%eval 0,15] [%emt 0:04:02]} Rfe8 $6 {[%emt 0:01:05] Black is dallying around.} (22... Bd8 {is still preferable.}) 23. a4 $5 {[%eval 0,7] [%emt 0:02:18] White uses the time that his opponent has donated to him to extend his grip on the queenside. This is quite an ambitious idea which succeeds thanks to Black's cooperation.} Bf6 $6 {[%emt 0:04:21]} 24. Rc2 { [%eval 0,23] [%emt 0:02:44]} Bd8 {[%emt 0:01:43] Finally Black understands that he should exchange the b6-bishop.} 25. c5 {[%eval 0,18] [%emt 0:03:33]} Kf8 {[%emt 0:01:11] Black wisely brings the king to the action.} (25... Bxb6 { is not right as Black has trouble along the opened c-file:} 26. cxb6 Bd5 (26... Kf8 27. Rdc1 Ra8 {(otherwise Bxa6)} 28. Rxc6 bxc6 29. Rxc6 {with strong play for White.}) 27. Bc4 Bxc4 28. Rxc4 Rxc4 29. bxc4 {with an advantage for White.} ) 26. Ka2 {[%eval 0,18] [%emt 0:08:09] White advances his king to support the advanced pawns.} Ke7 {[%emt 0:02:09]} 27. Ka3 {[%eval 0,29] [%emt 0:01:51]} Bd5 $6 {[%emt 0:04:53] Black misses the right moment to take on b6.} (27... Bxb6 { is good here:} 28. cxb6 Bd5 29. Rdc1 Rxc2 30. Rxc2 Kd6 {and the idea of playing ...e6-e5, ...f7-f5 and ...e5-e4 gives Black enough counterplay, e.g.} 31. Bd3 e5 32. Be4 $6 Bxe4 33. fxe4 f5 {and Black gets a dangerous passed pawn on the e-file. Suddenly the white king is offside.}) (27... a5 $5 {was another reasonable option, stopping a4-a5.}) 28. a5 {[%eval 0,31] [%emt 0:02:34] Now White has clamped Black's queenside.} Bxb6 $6 {[%emt 0:00:34] One move too late, White can take back with the a-pawn now.} (28... Bc7 {is better, Black shouldn't allow White such a far advanced pawn.}) 29. axb6 {[%eval 0,65] [%emt 0:01:05] The b6-pawn is rather annoying for Black. There is the permanent threat of c5-c6 in the air. Of course, at the moment the c6-square is well covered by Black, but White might exchange the d5-bishop by Bc4 or Be4 at the right moment.} Red8 {[%emt 0:03:22]} 30. b4 {[%eval 0,92] [%emt 0:01:57]} Bc6 { [%emt 0:01:14] White already has some pressure and therefore Black intends to exchange the rooks. But this doesn't make his life any easier.} ({After e.g.} 30... g5 {White can play} 31. Bd3 {intending Be4.} Bc6 (31... h5 32. Be4 $16) 32. Rcd2 Rb8 (32... h5 33. Be4) 33. Be4 {with pressure}) 31. Rcd2 {[%eval 0,93] [%emt 0:00:25]} Rxd2 {[%emt 0:01:25]} 32. Rxd2 {[%eval 0,93] [%emt 0:00:01]} Rd8 $2 {[%emt 0:00:21] But this move is just wrong. Black has to keep one pair of rooks on the board.} (32... Bd5 {is better. The game can continue with} 33. Rc2 g5 $5 (33... Bc6) 34. b5 axb5 35. Kb4 h5 36. Bxb5 {and White is better, as c5-c6 is always in the air.}) 33. Rxd8 {[%eval 0,93] [%emt 0:01:48]} Kxd8 { [%emt 0:00:08] It looks as if White hasn't achieved much, but in fact he has a large advantage. Due to White's advanced pawns on the queenside, Black's king and bishop must stay close to the d7- and c6-square respectively. But this factor alone is not yet enough for White to win the game, he must create a second war zone on the kingside. I cannot say whether Black still has a way to save his position or if it is already winning for White by force. Either way, in the subsequent moves White demonstrates a very precise conversion of his advantage.} 34. f4 {[%eval 0,93] [%emt 0:00:23] If you only have one bishop, then it is usually a good idea to place the pawns on squares of the opposite color, i.e. the color that the bishop doesn't control. White improves his pawn position before Black can play ...e6-e5 or ...g7-g5.} h6 {[%emt 0:01:02]} 35. Kb3 {[%eval 0,93] [%emt 0:02:42] White cannot win on the queenside alone, his king has to be brought over to the center and the kingside.} Kd7 {[%emt 0:03: 37]} 36. g3 {[%eval 0,93] [%emt 0:02:17]} Kc8 {[%emt 0:01:37] Black cannot do much, so he shuffles his king around.} 37. Kc3 {[%eval 1,15] [%emt 0:01:21]} f6 {[%emt 0:02:19]} 38. Be2 {[%eval 2,5] [%emt 0:00:00]} Kd7 {[%emt 0:00:53]} 39. Bd3 {[%eval 2,42] [%emt 0:01:52]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:01:31] Black has to keep the kingside closed as otherwise White can enter. Both ...e6-e5 and ...g7-g5 only help White, as some sample lines show.} (39... g5 40. fxg5 hxg5 (40... fxg5 41. Kd4 {and the white king enters via the e5-square.}) 41. h4 $18 {and the passed h-pawn is too much for Black.}) (39... e5 40. Bf5+ Kd8 41. fxe5 fxe5 {and White brings the king to e3 and prepares the exchange of the bishops on e4, e. g.} 42. Kd3 Ke7 43. Ke3 Kd8 44. Be4 Kd7 45. g4 Bxe4 46. Kxe4 Kc6 47. Kxe5 a5 48. bxa5 Kxc5 49. a6 Kxb6 50. axb7 Kxb7 51. Kf5 {with a winning pawn ending.}) 40. Kd4 {[%eval 2,56] [%emt 0:01:05]} Kd7 {[%emt 0:00:22]} (40... g5 41. fxg5 hxg5 42. Be4) 41. Bg6 $1 {[%eval 2,71] [%emt 0:04:58] White wants to play g3-g4-g5, but he has to be precise. With his last very subtle move White "physically" prevents Black from playing ...g7-g5. This move is a nice echo of putting the other bishop to b6 earlier in the game.} (41. Be4 $2 {now is not convincing, as White's king has no squares to enter after} Bxe4 42. Kxe4 Kc6 $11) (41. g4 $2 {is premature as well, as after} g5 42. fxg5 hxg5 $11 {White cannot create a passed pawn on the h-file.}) 41... Bf3 {[%emt 0:00:58]} 42. Kd3 {[%eval 2,71] [%emt 0:00:00]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:00:36]} 43. Ke3 {[%eval 2,82] [%emt 0:01:35]} Bc6 {[%emt 0:01:13]} 44. g4 {[%eval 3,4] [%emt 0:01:57] Finally the pawn can get going.} Kd8 {[%emt 0:00:54]} 45. g5 {[%eval 3,33] [%emt 0:01:03]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:03:08]} (45... hxg5 46. fxg5 fxg5 47. Kd4 {and White's king comes to e5 with devastating effect, e.g.} Kd7 48. Bc2 Bf3 49. Ba4+ Bc6 50. Bb3 Bh1 51. Ke5 $18) 46. gxf6+ {[%eval 4,16] [%emt 0:00:52]} gxf6 {[%emt 0:00:33]} ( 46... Kxf6 47. Be4 $18 {is immediately curtains.}) 47. Kf2 {[%eval 4,38] [%emt 0:00:03] The center is still closed for White's king, but he has found a new target - the h6-pawn.} Kd7 {[%emt 0:03:52]} 48. Kg3 {[%eval 7,78] [%emt 0:02: 08]} Ba4 {[%emt 0:01:57] Black wants to put his bishop to d1 to stop the white king from coming to h5. But now he leaves the diagonal h1-a8...} 49. Be4 { [%eval 8,57] [%emt 0:00:11] ... which is now used by White to drive Black's king to the back rank.} Kc8 {[%emt 0:01:30]} (49... Bc6 50. Bc2 {(intending Kg4-h5)} Bd5 51. Ba4+ Bc6 52. Bd1 Bd5 53. Kg4 {is winning for White, as counterplay with} a5 {just comes too late:} (53... Kc6 54. Ba4#) 54. bxa5 Kc6 55. Kh5 e5 (55... Kxc5 56. Kxh6) 56. fxe5 fxe5 57. Kxh6 e4 58. Kg5 $18) 50. Bf3 {[%eval 9,61] [%emt 0:01:12]} Bc2 {[%emt 0:00:29]} 51. Kh4 {[%eval 12,60] [%emt 0:09:38]} Bg6 {[%emt 0:00:23]} 52. Bh5 $1 {[%eval 13,70] [%emt 0:02:46] Before going for the final breakthough, White improves the position of his bishop. After the forthcoming exchange of the the f5-pawn against the h6-pawn, White's bishop is better placed on e2 than on f3 when it comes to fighting Black's e- and f-pawn.} (52. f5 $5 Bxf5 53. Kh5 Bd3 54. Kxh6 e5 55. Kh5 $1 {is also winning for White, but 52.Bh5 is more precise.}) 52... Bf5 {[%emt 0:00:32] } 53. Be2 {[%eval 14,55] [%emt 0:00:16]} Bg6 {[%emt 0:00:22]} 54. f5 $1 { [%eval 15,95] [%emt 0:00:22] The decisive breakthrough. White gives his f-pawn, but gets the h6-pawn in return. White is winning.} Bxf5 {[%emt 0:02:17]} 55. Kh5 {[%eval 112,91] [%emt 0:01:19]} e5 {[%emt 0:01:07]} 56. Kxh6 {[%eval 128, 36] [%emt 0:01:18]} Kd7 {[%emt 0:01:03]} 57. Kg7 {[%eval 128,37] [%emt 0:00:58] Putting the king out of the way of the h-pawn.} e4 {[%emt 0:02:24]} 58. h4 { [%eval 128,40] [%emt 0:00:54]} e3 {[%emt 0:01:11]} 59. h5 {[%eval 128,41] [%emt 0:00:47]} Ke6 {[%emt 0:00:23]} 60. c6 {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:04:34]} Be4 { [%emt 0:00:22]} 61. c7 {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:39]} Kd7 {[%emt 0:01:51]} 62. Kxf6 {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:40]} a5 {[%emt 0:00:33]} 63. Ke5 {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:00]} axb4 {[%emt 0:00:24]} 64. Kxe4 {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:21]} b3 {[%emt 0:00:17]} 65. Ke5 {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:00]} b2 {[%emt 0:00:13]} 66. Bb5+ {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:37]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:00:27]} 67. c8=Q {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:00]} b1=Q {[%emt 0:00:43]} 68. Qe8# {[%eval 0,0] [%emt 0:00:01] Mated} 1-0