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Gata Kamsky vs Etienne Bacrot
MTel Masters (2006), Sofia BUL, rd 2, May-12
Spanish Game: Closed Variations (C84)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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May-13-06  percyblakeney: <Yes, but Benjamin, Ftacnik, Lalic, Movsesian and Kharitonov are all fine players>

Absolutely, and Benjamin has lost the ending twice! Anyway many of the few occasions where it wasn't a draw began with a bad position for the knight side, but that sure doesn't mean that it has to be a draw.

Kamsky did well to win this, and I of course don't think he did anything wrong. This type of ending was much discussed not long ago, when Nakamura was criticised for trying to win it:

Nakamura vs Zhu Chen, 2004

<what a jerk. no respect>

<despise this guy. no etiquette>

<this is obviously a DEAD DRAW even for a novice>

<Personally, I will consider this as a lack of sportsmanship>

<bad sportsmanship by Nakamura>

...and many more examples :-) A recent game where this ending occurred is Bareev vs Shirov, 2006

I don't know what point I'm trying to make, if any, but it was interesting to see that Kamsky could win this game...

May-13-06  percyblakeney: ...and Chessbase on the ending:

<The rook and pawn endgame they reached "should" be drawn, but it turned into an adventure. Several times it looked like a simple draw, but Bacrot avoided the simple and Kamsky kept up the pressure. It came all the way down to rook versus knight with no pawns! This is tricky but usually drawn at the master level but both players were terribly short on time (no time increment in Sofia) and reaching the seventh hour of play, it was far from tablebase perfect. It was drawn, then lost, then drawn, then finally Kamsky put the hammer down after the Frenchman's final mistake.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: It shows that, although you can't keep your talent in a little bottle, with some hard work talent will show through. Kamsky shows what a great talent he is.
Premium Chessgames Member
  technical draw: Rule of thumb for rook vs. knight endgame with no pawns: Go after the knight and forget about the opposing King.
May-14-06  dakgootje: So if youve got in such an ending the knight and king, its mostly about keeping them together and if possible go to the center?
May-14-06  euripides: <79..Kf1?? instead of 79..Nh4+ = is particularly interesting, because the "principle" tells you to keep your knight in contact with your king, while in reality here you have to move the knight away.> Glad to hear even <acirce> finds this tricky ! Neither player saw the point immediately, since Svidler missed the win first time and Bacrot then repeated the mistake. Mueller and Lamprecht use an Arab endgame study from 1140 to warn about the danger of the knight being on g2 (b7 in their case). But I think the ideas in that study are different from this game. Kamsky's double zugzwang on moves 82 and 85 -whether or not it's a new idea - sheds light on this quite frequent endgame, and future textbooks should include it.
May-15-06  FHBradley: Why is this variation of Ruy Lopez
(7. ... 0-0 8. h3 Bb7 9. d3) currently so popular among super-GMs? Is there something special about it, as opposed to more traditional lines, or have these -- I meant the traditional lines -- been analyzed to equality? Or is this just a matter of fashion?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: It seems that everyone is so afraid of facing the Marshall that anti-Marshall lines like 8 h3 have taken over.
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: Yes, and it doesn't seem that white is scoring very well with the anti-marshall lines. Maybe the Four Knights will have a renaissance.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Maybe the Four Knights will have a renaissance.> Doesn't sound promising, but I am getting my head handed to me on Gameknot in that opening right now.

It does seem that if White is going to play d3 against the "normal" Ruy Lopez, there will be a greater focus on 4. d3 against the Berlin, in place of the constant 4. 0-0 Nxe4 5 d4 Nd6 etc. we see now.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: Or why not a comeback of 3 Bc4 or even 2 Nc3?
May-15-06  MATE101: Is there any way to print the board showing the final position in the "Gata Kamsky vs Etienne Bacrot" game?
May-16-06  acirce: <This type of ending was much discussed not long ago, when Nakamura was criticised for trying to win it>

I agree that the comments you quote are stupid, but it should be said that it is much easier to play it for the defending side with the king+knight in the middle of the board, like in that game. Even I would have held a draw against Nakamura there, I'm fairly sure... Bacrot had a much more difficult task although he too would probably have saved it if only MTel used increments, as ought to be standard.

May-16-06  percyblakeney: <it is much easier to play it for the defending side with the king+knight in the middle of the board>

Absolutely, and looking through some other games with this ending many don't even try to win it from a favourable position, so Bacrot's loss can be "blamed" on the time control. GM Marin's annotations are interesting to look through, he gives five <?> to the players between moves 79 and 89:

Jan-05-09  zdigyigy: <capablancafan> Lets see you win this end game against a 2600 hundred grandmaster and then you can talk about mastering endgame analysis.
Jan-05-09  WhiteRook48: wow. either you get your knight taken or you get your knight pinned and taken anyway. Why did Bacrot blunder? Was it time pressure?
Apr-21-09  WhiteRook48: or where was the mistake?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Plaskett: The ending of R vs N occured between Hebden and Basman in an Allegro Finish of a game at a weekend event in Edinburgh 1983. Spectating, and noting that, as here, black had just underpromoted with check to avoid mate, I told both players that the position was a book draw. But one side´s flag had just fallen!
The arbiter ruled it drawn.

Hodgson insisted that another arbiter, in 1989, was right to rule Suba the winner when I had two knights vs his pawn (he was white and the pawn was at h6) when my flag fell. I had offered a draw only a move or two earlier. Julian cited a recent instance where he had played Nunn, had a Rook vs Nunn´s Knight, and had lost on time when Nunn had but 6 seconds remaining. There seemed no consensus on whether arbiter David Eustace had correctly ruled against my appeal that the game with GM Suba be called a draw. IM Pein later told me, "MANY people agreed with it." IM Hartston wrote in The Independent that when setting the rules for The Master Game GM tournament, some years earlier, their first rule was, "We are all gentlemen." He added, "There were never any disputes."

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: At move 79, ... Nh5 is the only drawing move.
Aug-16-19  gambitfan: THIS GAME IS MENTIONED IN Wikipedia as an example of endgame Rook|Knight which is mostoften a draw
Aug-16-19  gambitfan: WIKIPEDIA

Rook versus a knight: this is usually a draw. There are two main exceptions: the knight is separated from the king and may be trapped and won or the king and knight are poorly placed (Nunn 2002a:9).[8] Kamsky vs Bacrot, 2006 is an example of a rook vs knight ending which resulted in a win. In this game, Black underpromoted a pawn to a knight to avoid a checkmate and eventually lost the game after allowing his knight to be separated from the king.[9]

Aug-16-19  gambitfan: 74... e1=N+ !! underpromotion to a Knight instead of a Queen in order to avoid a mate !!

Black avoid a loss and hope for a draw which happens most of the time in these endgames...

Aug-16-19  gambitfan: Endgame Rook|Knight Endgame Explorer gives 17.5% win and 82.5% draw
Premium Chessgames Member

click for larger view

Although Bacrot ultimately lost, he played the star move in this game: 63..Ke4!!

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: This ending is featured in de la Villa's <100 Endgames You Must Know> as a sort of in-between case to the R v. N ending where the king and knight are in the center of an edge row (Ke1, Nd1, say) which is a relatively easy draw, and the same ending with the king and knight in the corner, which is a quick loss.

Here's the game after Kamsky has played 78.Rf2-f8, which has the virtue of forcing Bacrot to decide on a course of action.

click for larger view

Bacrot played 78....Ng2, which de la Villa calls a knight's "dumb square" (along with its counterparts on b2, b7, and g7, of course). It's not a mistake, but easier would have been 78....Nc2, and if 79.Kf3 Kf1, without many problems. Other kibitzers have dealt with the course of the game after 78....Ng2 79.Kf3 Kf1? 80.Kg3+? Kg1 81.Kf3 Kg1 82.Rf7! (Kamsky sees it!) Ne1+ 83.Ke3+ Kg1 (83....Kg2 also loses to 83.Ke2) 84.Ke2 Ng2 85.Rh7 and the last pair of errors that followed.

I would have played 78....Nd3, which loses quickly after 79.Kf3!!. Moving away from the mating square and stepping in front of the rook seems strange to me, but it wins. First, of course, it prevents 79.....Kf1 because of the discovered check. Second, 79....Nf2 loses after 80.Rd8 Kf1 81.Rd2. Third, 79....Ne5+ 80.Ke4 and the g-file is off-limits, so the knight keeps getting driven further away and eventually lost. Fourth, 79....Ne1+ 80.Ke2 Ng2 81.Rh8 (81.Rg8 also wins, but less quickly) 81....Nf4+ Kf3 and again the king and knight are driven apart. Basically, what happened in the game after 85....Rh7.

Just to illustrate how unfair chess is in general and this ending is in particular, here is the position after 89.Re4, immediately following 88.Ke2? (88.Ke3 wins) 88....Kg2! (only move).

click for larger view

The knight has three squares that don't lose immediately: c6, d7, and f7. The tablebases tell us that 89....Nc6 and 89....Nf7 (which Bacrot played) lose; 89....Nd7, which takes the knight as far from the king as possible, draws.

How unjust is that?

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