It's Thursday night at the Marshall, and I'm ready for my weekly cracktion fix. One week I'll go Whole Foods, get Indian food from the hot table, sit upstairs, eat dinner and watch the world go by in Union Square. Another week I'll get a salad or sandwich from Cosi and take to the club and eat in the back room before the round starts. When I'm feeling cheap or on a later train I'll bring a sandwich from home. This week I went for the salad at Cosi and brought it to the club. The usual cast of characters is there. Steve's busy taking entries, Jay's schmoozing with people, Asa's sizing up the competition to see if it's worth his while to enter, kids are playing blitz and various chess teachers are giving lessons.
One teacher has been working with a adult beginner for the last couple of months. She's made a lot of progress from "this is a bishop and it moves diagonally" to basic checkmates, pins, forks, and this week her teacher was working from Silman's "Complete Endgame Course". He was showing positions using a knight against a lone pawn. Since they were sitting next to me I couldn't help but to listen in, watch what he was showing her, and come up with the answers in my head before her. Little did I know how useful this information would be in awhile.
These positions all come from Part Three - Endgames For Class D Minor Piece vs. a lone pawn. The basic premise with a knight is that's it's a short range piece but if it can get in front of the pawn or control the square that the pawn needs to land on the position is a draw. The first example is the knight against a bishop pawn.
The draw is pretty straight forward. In this particular position it doesn't matter whose move it is. If it's White's move 1. Nb4+ Kc4 2. Nc2 Kb3 3. Nd4+ Kb2 4. Kg7 c2 5. Nxc2. In this sequence the knight checks the king and then gets in front of the pawn. It doesn't matter which side the Black king comes in to the knight White has a check.
Take the same position with Black on move. 1... Kc4 2. Na5+ Kb4 3. Nc6+ Kc5 4. Na5 c2 5. Nb3+ Kc4 6. Nc1 Kc3 7. Kg7 Kb2 8.Nd3+ Kc3 9. Nc1. Once again the knight dances around the king with checks or covers the queening square.
An advanced rook pawn gives the knight more trouble because there is only one side to work from. Depending on whose move it is, the pawn may be able to get through.
In this particular position if it's White's move he draws. 1. Nb5 a2 2. Nc3 Kb2 3. Nxa2 Kxa2 1/2 - 1/2
If it's Black's move he wins. 1...a2! (all other moves draw) 2. Nc4 Kb1 3. Na3+ Kc1 0-1
If White's king is closer then it's a draw.
1... Kb1 (1...a2 Kc2!) 2. Nb5 a2 3. Nc3+ Kb2 4. Nxa2 Kxa2 1/2-1/2
In this position black has only one move that gives him any possibilities. 1...a2. (1...Kb2 2. Nc4+ or 1...Ka2 2. Nc4 these lines draw) White still plays 2. Nc4. (2. Nb5?? Kb2 and White can't prevent the promotion.) 2...Kb1 3. Nd2+ Kb2 4. Nb3 1/2 - 1/2)
This is all pretty straight forward but for a beginner it's easy to go wrong by putting the knight on the wrong square and not being able to cover the square the knights going to land on. I found interesting watching the student working out all the different knight moves and telling her teacher why the move works or fails. Listening and watching these exercises proved very beneficial during my first round game.
I played Yevgeni Margulis in round one. He's one of the old Russian guys who frequents the club on a regular basis. He bounces around between 2150 and 2230. I've played him seven times before. Lost six, and nicked him for a draw once. He showed up almost 10 minutes late, but I've learned the hard way that one can not take a large time advantage for granted. I had given most of the time back when he decided it was time eat something and smoke a cigarette outside. So by the time he came back I had 7 minute advantage. We ended out trading off all the major pieces and ended out in this position after 47 moves.
I was concerned I would not be able to get my king over in time to prevent him from promoting the a pawn after he takes my a pawn. However the Knight vs. Rook Pawn lesson came to mind and I was able to resolve the problems of the position and hold the draw.