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Anatoly Karpov vs Garry Kasparov
"When We Were Kings" (game of the day May-09-2011)
Interpolis 15th (1991), Tilburg NED, rd 7, Oct-25
King's Indian Defense: Orthodox Variation. Modern System (E97)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Premium Chessgames Member
  playground player: I have been known to throw things around when I lose a won game on account of my own inexplicable stupidity. But what I'd like to know about this monster of a game is, how long did it take to play it? These guys had to be running on empty.
Feb-19-08  GoldenKnight: Rather obvious, "fork" the King and Bishop!! -:)
Premium Chessgames Member
  The Long Diagonal: Seeing this game was a déjà vu for me... I suddenly remembered that at the age of 14 (I had got intererested in chess half a year earlier or so), I was planning to play this game through with my father since it was published on the chess column of a local newspaper. Unfortunately, there was a printing mistake in the paper and black's fourth move was missing. At those days, neither of us had no knowledge on KID or any chess theory at all (unless knowing scholar's mate is counted), so we couldn't figure out that the missing move had to be 4. - d6. As a result we never played through the game, which I had wanted to do because the huge number of the moves had made me curious, and I never saw Kasparov's stalemate trick until this day... I guess I would have found it even more convincing back then - though I'm not sure if I had understood as a newcomer what the point of the whole endgame was.
Feb-19-08  Jim Bartle: "But what I'd like to know about this monster of a game is, how long did it take to play it? These guys had to be running on empty."

This game was adjourned after 40-odd moves and completed a couple of days later.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: The ending was unwinnable,in any case. Three pieces cannot defeat a rook without some inferior play from the rook's side.

The ending here-was achieved in a flash! If white takes the rook,black is stalemated-and to do otherwise would result in a bear two knights vs king. That is a situation where mate is possible,but cannot be forced.

Feb-19-08  Jim Bartle: Seirawan wrote about this tournament in Inside Chess. After this round was played (and this game adjourned), he wrote something like, 'Karpov has a situation he loves, where he can push and push with no risk at all of a loss, while making Kasparov suffer."
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Murphyman: There cant be many sports where you can fall on your sword so late on as in chess - boxing perhaps?>

Very true. We've all had horrible experiences like yours. Most of us have also had games where we've robbed our opponents of well-deserved wins. I think it was Seirawan who said that chess is the cruelest sport because there is just one point to divide between the players. In most other sports (say basketball or tennis), if you're beating the hell out of your opponent the whole game and make one gross mistake, your opponent scores a point or two but you still win the game. But in chess you can crush your opponent for 60 moves, make one careless mistake and lose the game. Very frustrating.

<MarkThornton: after <113. Ng5>, Black has a single path to draw, based on a stalemate trap, i.e. 113...Ra6+ 114. Kf7 Rf6+>

Interesting. That suggests that if not for the "stalemate = draw" rule, the R v. NNB ending might actually be a win for the pieces.

<tjshann: Regarding Benko, there is an anecdote in Bobby Fischer Goes to War about how Benko and Fischer engaged in "fisticuffs" between rounds at an Interzonal, because Fischer thought the second providing analysis on their adjourned games was spending too much time assisting Benko.>

That episode is also discussed in Bohm and Jongkind's great book, "Bobby Fischer: The Wandering King" and Benko's autobiography "Pal Benko: My Life, Games and Compositions." Apparently what happened was that a USCF official told Fischer that the second the USCF had hired would just be working for Fischer during the Interzonal, but told Benko that he and Fischer would be sharing him. Benko wanted the guy to help him analyze an adjourned game, and Fischer said "no, he's working for me" (understandably, given what Fischer had been told). Benko (understandly given what he'd been told) was furious and punched Fischer. Benko felt terribly guilty. According to Benko that affected all the rest of the games between the two: Benko had always done well against Fischer (including two wins), but after that incident Fischer completely dominated him for the rest of their careers.

Feb-19-08  zenpharaohs: At first, it appears that 114 ... Rf6+ is the best move.

But now that I have looked at the game record (which I don't do until I come up with my solution) it turns out that any move is equally good. Black is entitled to a draw on the 50 move rule no matter what move he makes.

Feb-19-08  Jim Bartle: <Murphyman: There cant be many sports where you can fall on your sword so late on as in chess - boxing perhaps?>

If I understand the phrase correctly, we can add tennis. At a Grand Slam tournament (except US Open), there's no tiebreak in the fifth set. You can be holding serve easily for game after game, while pressuring the other player's serve (without breaking through), then have a couple of errors or double faults and all of a sudden you're lost.

Maybe three or four years ago Andy Roddick won a quarterfinal in Australia over a Moroccan player (can't remember name right now) 20-18 in the fifth. It was equal, and exhausting, then the guy had a bad game and it was over.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Regarding the possibility of 44...Rxg4!?, it is interesting that Kasparov annotates the game in Chess Informant, volume 53, game 642, but doesn't even mention that move. That's a little weird, since I'm sure that he and Karpov were both well aware of it. Evidently Karpov would have liked to try to win that ending, and Kasparov didn't want to chance it. I suspect that Kasparov does not regard it as a clear win for White, though, or he would have mentioned that in Informant.
Feb-19-08  jovack: This draw was not as straightforward as yesterday, but still easy to see.
Feb-19-08  mistreaver: I got this 1 easier then yesterday's one. Pretty obvious
Feb-19-08  cannibal: <FSR>
44. ...Rxg4? is a theoretical loss, even though an incredibly complex one, of course. See my last post.
Feb-19-08  MiCrooks: The draw was obvious, but it seems like way back on move 44 Kasparov could have taken the Bishop and then avoided having a pawn stopped such that it allowed him to get mated.

It seems like after Rxg4 Nxg4 h4 there is no way for White to get a Knight in front of the pawns in time. Given that Kasparov was obviously shooting for a drawn two knights position however, I have to assume I am missing something as Kasparov IS Kasparov after all.

Feb-19-08  MiCrooks: I guess it depends if the 50 move rule was in effect or not. I had to go look up the "Troitzky" line (the square the pawn has to be stopped by in order to force checkmate with two knights) and for both the h and the d pawn they have to get to d3 and h3 respectively. White can easily stop the d-pawn on d4 so theoretically Rxg4 would lose. However, you have to stop them both before they move to d4 and h4 respectively to force checkmate in 50 moves. I can assume that the 50 move rule was suspended for known forced mates or that he just didn't want to risk not playing the best move and getting mated within the 50-moves, as the pawns can both easily get to the 4th rank.
Feb-19-08  cade: In the past the 50 move rule was extended for known theoretical wins to a longer move rule to allow the attacking player to prove the theory. This rule has now be changed to the simplified 50 move rule in all scenarios we have today. Back when this game was played however I am sure Karpov would have had the necessary time to win.
Feb-19-08  wals: Noting think - The good lord save us - another can of worms ? As it stands it looks to me that the game is a stalemate if the black rook makes the right move, so let's try Rf6 +
PM =
Spot on
Feb-19-08  sombreronegro: I was thinking ... Ra5.
If the bishop moves
Ra5 X g5 which should draw. Even without the rook the king is in the wrong corner to mate with a knight and a bishop. Anything that does not move the bishop means rook X bishop and that leaves 2 knights and that draws. Obviously the other move was better.
Feb-19-08  zb2cr: I found a note at

in a column authored by Geurt Gijssen, titled "Arbiter's Notebook", he answers a question with the following:

"In 1979 the 50-move rule did exist as well, but at that time there were exceptions for some endings. Since 1992 these exceptions have not existed anymore. For all positions we have now one rule, without no exceptions."

So this game (1991) was played under the 100-move rule, not the 50-move rule. Now, if someone could just find out whether 3 minor pieces vs. Rook was one of the "...exceptions for some endings", we will have answered the question of why Kasparov didn't claim a draw at move 113.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OBIT: Well, the way the 50-move rule is stated, I suppose Kasparov could make the claim at any point. So, maybe he played on, going for a clear draw by, for example, capturing the bishop, and if he got into a position where he realized, "Oh, s---, I'm lost", then he would have claimed the draw by the 50-move rule. :)

In a flash of insight, it occurs to me Karpov almost certainly had a won position before the last pawn was taken. As has already been pointed out in this thread, B+N+N vs R is generally drawn because the rook has the drawing resource of RxB, reaching a drawn king plus two knights vs bare king ending. However, B+B+N vs R is generally won, because the rook can't be sacrificed to eliminate one of the minor pieces to reach a drawn ending. Here's the key point, though: while king plus two knights vs bare king is won, king plus two knights vs king plus pawn is winnable if the pawn is not sufficiently advanced.

I'm looking at the position after 47...Ra4. Black still has a d-pawn that can be blockaded - it won't get any further than d4. Checking the Nalimov database, I see that N+N vs pawn on d4 is usually winnable when the pawn is blockaded. So, I'm thinking, the way to win this is to keep the d-pawn on the board, get rid of the h-pawn, and work the Black king into a corner.

For White's 48th move, I don't like 48. Ngf4, as the Black king can confuse the issue by moving to f6, threatening Rxf4. Instead, I like 48. Kh2 Kg7 49. Kh3 Kf6 50. Nxh4. With only the blockaded d-pawn left on the board, now White pushes the Black king to a corner to win. Geez, simple technique, how did Karpov miss this? (Of course, we need a 7-piece to confirm this with absolute certainty, but it's gotta be right!)

Feb-19-08  TheaN: 2/2

114....Rf6+ salvages the half point for Kasparov.

115.Kxf6 stalemate =
115.Ke8 Rxf5 116.Nxf5 =

<sombreronegro: I was thinking ... Ra5. >

How is 115.Ng6# not checkmate that way ? Remember that you're removing the rook from the g6 defence.

Feb-19-08  newzild: Easy peasy today - only took about two seconds with yesterday's puzzle fresh in my head.
Feb-19-08  JG27Pyth: <In 1979 the 50-move rule did exist as well, but at that time there were exceptions for some endings...>

Oh thank god, I didn't hallucinate this! I knew I distinctly remembered there was some exception to the 50 move rule for some NN v P endings... the rule has been changed? Since 1992 you say?

I'm always the last to know.

Premium Chessgames Member
  OBIT: Yes, the rule is now 50 moves for anything. That is certainly for the best, since it's ludicrous to believe any human can play these endings perfectly. Back in the 1970s, when endgame databases were just getting started, I remember how extremely difficult it was for anyone to beat a computer with a database in the K+Q vs K+R ending. Even GMs could not get the mate in 50 moves - just ask Walter Browne!

However, if you think this rule is unfair - I mean, here you've studied K+N+N vs K+P, you get to the ending in a game, and you realize you can't win it in less than 50 moves, bummer! - then there are a whole bunch of new limits that need to be defined. Allowing 100 moves for K+N+N vs K+P is just the tip of the iceberg - heck, how about this K+R+N vs K+N+N position, which requires 262 moves to win...?

Mind boggling, eh?

Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Just for fun, I composed an ending where NN&B win vs. R. It's not a beauty, and I'm not a composer, but it might amuse you.

White: Kb6, Bc7, Nd7, Ne7
Black: Ka8, Rc8
White mates in 4.

1.Nxc8?? is stale, and Black threatens 1...Rxc7!, so 1.Nd5!

1...Rxc7; 2.Nxc7X
1...Rh8; 2.Ka6,Rh6+; 3.N(either)b6+,Rxb6; 4.Nxb6X
1...Rd8; 2.Ka6!,Rxd7; 3.Nb6X
1...Rb8+; 2.Ka6,Rb1; 3.N(either)b6+,Rxb6; 4.Nxb6X

The key is that White's Ne7 must be able to occupy two squares that are already occupied by White's King and Bishop. He must also avoid a lot of stalemate traps. I hope you like it, flaws and all.

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