Battle of Endgames
1066 Stratagems for you to Conquer by Ray Cannon
Way back in 1972, Saturday 22nd January 1972, to be precise, Anatoly Karpov gave a 26-board simultaneous exhibition at the London Central YMCA in its temporary building in Endell Street. The future World Chess Champion had competed in the recently concluded Hastings international tournament tying for first with Victor Korchnoi on 11/15 in a 16-player round robin event.
It was traditional then following Hastings for Soviet International Grandmasters to give simultaneous exhibitions. After Anatoly’s first four displays he had scored a total of 90 wins, 8 draws without loss including a total wipe-out of 20 wins at one club. However, Centymca, as the club was also called, had a thriving and enthusiastic chess scene with several strong players. In the end AK could only score 17 wins and 4 draws even losing 5 times. I even managed to gain a draw on move 29 when the position had become totally blocked and, for the record, here is the game:
Anatoly KARPOV – Raymond CANNON
1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 g3 d5 4 d4 c5 5 cxd5 Nxd5 6 Nf3 cxd4 7 Nxd4 Nxc3 8 bxc3 Qd5 9 Rg1 e5 10 Bg2 Qd7 11 Nb3 Qxd1+ 12 Kxd1 Nc6 13 Be3 Be6 14 Kc2 Ba3 15 Nc5 Bf5+ 16 Kb3 Bxc5 17 Bxc5 Be6+ 18 Kb2 0–0–0 19 Rgd1 Kc7 20 a4 b6 21 Bxc6 bxc5 22 Be4 f5 23 Bc2 e4 24 Rxd8 Rxd8 25 Rd1 Rxd1 26 Bxd1 Bc4 27 e3 Bd3 28 Bb3 c4 29 Bd1 a5 Now Karpov proposed a draw. ½-½
Afterwards, AK was interviewed by chess dynamo Mike Wills, in Russian, who had organised the event. Every club or organisation needs one for chess to flourish or even survive in their area. We are lucky nowadays to have Adam Raoof in the London area, organising and promoting chess and without him there would be far fewer opportunities to play serious chess.
In the interview one question among many asked was: Can you advise us what we must do to improve? AK: I don’t know what you do at the moment! What do we do really? We study openings a lot, we play a lot I suppose. AK: But endgames not very much – do the opposite study endgames!
Anatoly Karpov gives very good advice and so this brings us to the real point of this article which is to introduce you all to my book on the endgame!
It wasn’t in my plans to write this book. Some chess players suggested I do so after seeing my sheets of 100 endgames containing mainly elementary puzzles in which only the first move and only correct move had to be found. I had produced 1200 (12 sheets of 100) in all. One player who very much urged me to do so was Ashok Damodaran, the father of Patrick Damodaran, the very talented young player who had won an adult tournament in 2018 at the age of five! That was in the under-135 section at Hampstead, another one of Adam’s tournaments.
I wanted a title which had some originality and so I used a play on words from an important date in English history. 1066 positions then had to be selected. The majority of these came from those 1200 but about another 200 were not. They all needed annotating so there was much to do. This happened during lockdown and many months onwards. It wasn’t my life’s work as someone has suggested though! However, I do possess many decades of newspaper cuttings on chess going back to the 1970’s, chess books in different languages, magazines likewise, websites, games I had witnessed and some compositions of mine to call upon etc.
When selecting my puzzles, my first port of call was Leonard Barden’s Evening Standard column which appeared daily for many decades from Monday to Friday until a few years ago. Often a position was taken from a game that had only been recently played. Leonard’s various chess columns are nearly always topical and, in my opinion, the disappearance of this particular column this century was a great loss to chess.
In my book you will find many practical endgames of all sorts that occur frequently. If you get to obtain a copy, my advice is to set each position up on a board before solving. Chess is usually played in a three-dimensional setting except when you play online, of course! At Docklands in the November rapid-play event one online player told me that he enjoyed his first ever over the board game and found it exhilarating!
Here is an example of how easy it is for even strong players to go wrong in the endgame. This position occurred in the third-round of an international master norm tournament at Muswell Hill on 10th August, 2021, organised by Adam.
Jonathan Blackburn (2235) – Conor Murphy (2382)
It’s White’s move. What would you play here?
Play continued 45 h5? Rh1+ 46 Kc2 Ke2 47 Rf4 e3 48 Rf5 Ke1 49 Ra5 Rh2+ 50 Kd3 e2 51 Ke3 Rh3+ 52 Kf4 Kf2 53 Kg4 e1Q 54 Ra2+ Kg1 55 Kxh3 Qe6+ 0-1
45 Re5! was the right way to proceed. White’s h-pawn is nowhere near as important as keeping the black e-pawn under wraps. As Nimzowitsch once wrote: “The passed Pawn is a criminal, who should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient.” After 45…Rh1+ 46 Kc2 Kf3 47 Kd2! Rh2+ 48 Ke1 Ke3 (or if 48…e3 49 Rf5+) 49 Kf1 will draw. White’s rook stays on the e-file unless the black king moves to another file, then the white rook can check from behind.
All this reminded me of a game involving my son Richard when playing black in round 4 against Meri Grigoryan at the first Imperial College FIDE Open on 6th November, 2011.
Meri Grigoryan (2026) – Richard J Cannon (2084)
Here play continued 66 Rb7? Ra1+ 67 Kf2 e3+ 68 Kf3 Rf1+ 69 Kg2 e2 70 Rd7+ Kc4 0-1 Again keeping tabs on the e-pawn with 66 Re7! was the only way for White to proceed. This prevents the manoeuvre as in the game for now if 66…Ra1+ 67 Kf2 e3+, it will be simply met by 68 Rxe3+. Also, 66…e3 allows 67 Rd7+ and checking from the rear ad infinitum. Black’s best try is to threaten mate with 66…Ke3 but then White has 67 Kf1 when after 67…Kf3 68 Rf7+ Ke3 69 Re7, Black cannot make progress.
Position 1028 in my book strongly resembles these two examples. I suspect most of us have had similar positions and have misplayed them at some time or another whether it be at standard-play, rapid-play, blitz or even friendly ‘knockabout’ games. All this goes to prove that there is nothing new under the sun especially when it comes to the endgame.
Published and printed by Amazon in June 2021, it is also available from both Waterstones and Foyles on their websites. BATTLE OF ENDGAMES: 1066 Stratagems for you to Conquer, is not so much as a book of endgame studies but more of a book of basic endgame stratagems that should be studied. Containing 248 pages and priced at a modest £9.95, I think you will find it is good value for money.