>From the Club Championship The recent Club Championship featured a game that was so hard-fought and instructive that I am annotating it rather than one of my own games. It was the sixth round, and Bill Hughes had White against Jeff Schreiber. The two were tied for second place with four points, but a draw would have been slightly more favorable for Schreiber, as he had already faced both David Gertler and me, while Hughes had yet to play Gertler. Bill Hughes is one of my generation--we played a game in my first rated tournament, the 1965 Pittsburgh Metro. In this game, he uses the slow, python-like fianchetto style that has characterized his opening repertoire with the White pieces for many years. Jeff Schreiber is the most recent addition to the ranks of Pittsburgh's masters. His progress in the last few years has been impressive. 1 c4 Nf6 2 g3 e5 3 Nc3 Nc6?! 4 Bg2 Black's third move is a common mistake. Who can resist developing knights before bishops? To understand what's wrong, think of the opening as a Sicilian with colors reversed. Black can't play it open Sicilian style because he can no longer play ... d5. But if he plays it closed Sicilian style, his king knight gets in the way; it's just on an awkward square, as we'll see in the game. I used to play this way against the English opening myself. Naresh Jhunjhnuwala vs. Leverett [[note to editor: that's the right spelling]], Hong Kong 1981, went 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 Be7 4 Nc3 O-O 5 e4 Nc6? (5 ... d6 followed by 6 ... Nbd7 is OK) 6 Nge2 d6 7 d4. I thought for a long time, wondering if I had a single useful move on the whole board. I couldn't find one, and played 7 ... exd4 8 Nxd4 Nxd4 9 Qxd4, with a lifeless position that I eventually lost. This is the game that finally convinced me that I had to learn something about the English! Here's a more recent game with a similar opening: Leverett-Schreiber, D & K Electronics Open, November 1990. 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d6? 5 Bg2 g6 6 O-O Bg7 7 d4! White gets a substantial advantage in space no matter how Black plays. Jeff chose complications with 7 ... e4 and went down in flames. If he had learned the right lesson from this game he would have played a better defense against Bill Hughes! I don't mean to imply that Black's third move in Hughes-Schreiber is fatal. Every player of the Nimzovich defense (1 e4 Nc6) or some kinds of King's Indian Attack (such as 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 g3?!) knows that putting knights on awkward squares is not a mortal sin, as long as you know what you are getting into. But 3 ... Bb4 or 3 ... c6 or 3 ... d5 would have been much better. 4 ... g6 5 e3 Bg7 6 Nge2 O-O 7 O-O d6 8 d4 White's method of taking advantage of Black's error is as good as the method used in Leverett-Schreiber. Compare this position with a similar position from the "book" variation of the Closed English: 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 e3 d6 6 Nge2 Nge7 7 O-O O-O. It's exactly like the game, except that Black's king knight is on e7 instead of f6. If White then plays 8 d4, Black equalizes easily with 8 ... exd4 9 exd4 Bg4. If now 10 h3 Bxe2 11 Nxe2 Nf5, Black's pressure on d4 forces 12 d5, giving up control of c5 and e5. But in the text, 8 ... exd4 9 exd4 would simply surrender the center for nothing. 8 ... Bd7 9 d5 Na5? A serious error. 9 ... Nb8 or 9 ... Ne7, despite their drawbacks, were playable. 10 Qd3! Threatening to trap the knight with 11 b4. 10 ... b6 The only alternative was 10 ... c5 11 dxc6 Bxc6, and now either 12 Nd5 or 12 e4, in either case forcing an eventual ... b6, a horrible weakening of Black's queenside. 11 e4 Nh5 12 b4 Nb7 Not only is Black's queenside hopelessly passive and weak, but also this knight has no easy way of getting back into the game. 13 Be3 f5 14 exf5 Bxf5 15 Qd2 Qd7 16 Ne4 a5 Black begins a plan of counterplay along the a-file. This could have backfired. But passive play, or exchanging with 16 ... Bh3, was not necessarily better. 17 a3 axb4 18 axb4 Ra4 19 Ng5 Rfa8 Black may have rejected 19 ... Nd8 because of 20 c5. 20 Rxa4 Qxa4 21 Ne6 Rc8 22 Nxg7 Nxg7 23 h3! Ra8 24 g4 Now both Black knights are paralyzed. 24 ... Bd7 25 Ng3 Qa2 26 Qxa2 Rxa2 27 Ne4 Ne8 28 Rb1?! White could have ended resistance with 28 f4! The threat of opening the f-file and playing Bh6 and Rf8 mate is very strong. For instance, 28 ... exf4 29 Bxf4 Rc2 30 Bh6 Ng7 31 Nf6+, or 29 ... Kg7 30 Bg5 Rc2 31 Be7 Rxc4 32 Bf8+, etc. Black can defend the mate by 29 ... Nd8, but then 30 c5 breaks through in the center and queenside. Also notice that 28 ... Re2? 29 Bd2 traps the rook. 28 ... Ba4!? 29 Nc3 Bc2 30 Rc1? And here White could have called Black's bluff with 30 Nxa2 Bxb1 31 Nc3 Bc2 (Bd3 is no better) 32 Bf1 and 33 Be2. White will invade by bringing his king to b5 via f1, e1, d2, c1, b2, b3, and a4. Black is remarkably helpless to prevent this. Instead, White falls into passivity. 30 ... Rb2 31 Bf1 Nd8!?? Oddly enough this move, which looks like a blunder, may be just a trap. After the routine 31 ... Kf7, White would have a hard time making progress. He could try 32 Bd2 (with the idea of Be1, Nb5, and Ra1); then after 32 ... Bd3 33 Bxd3 Rxd2 34 Bc2 at least his queenside would still be secure. 32 c5 Finally breaking through--or falling for it? Unless White can achieve something tangible with this break, he is just dissipating what's left of his advantage. 32 Bd2, as in the previous note, was plausible. Time pressure was playing a role at this point. The time control was at move 40. 32 ... bxc5 33 bxc5 dxc5 34 Bxc5 Nb7 35 Ba3 35 Be3 was more patient. 35 ... Rb3 36 Nb5 Threatening 37 Bc4. The logical 36 Rxc2 leads to 36 ... Rxa3 37 Nb5 Ra8! 38 Nxc7 Rc8! 39 Bc4!? Rxc7 (39 ... Nxc7 40 d6+ Kf8 41 Ba6 Nxa6 42 Rxc8+ Kf7 is unclear) 40 d6+ Rf7 41 d7 Ned6 and Black is apparently hanging by a hair. 36 ... Bd3 37 Bxd3 Rxd3 38 Nxc7 Nbd6? 38 ... Nxc7 39 Rxc7 Rxa3 40 Rxb7 Rxh3 was suggested in the post-mortem. It looks like a draw: 41 Re7 Rd3 42 Rxd5 h6! (preventing 43 g5 and threatening ... Kf7 and ... Kf6) 43 f4 Rd4! (but not 43 ... Rg3+ 44 Kh2 Rxg4 45 d6 Rxf4 46 d7). 39 Bxd6 Nxd6 40 Kg2 Kf7 The post mortem suggestion of 40 ... Rd2, threatening 41 ... Ne4, is interesting. 41 Kf3 is met by 41 ... Rd3+ 42 Ke2 (42 Kg2 repeats the position) 42 ... Rxh3 and now 43 Rc6 looks menacing, but after 43 ... Nf7 44 d6 e4! Black's rook gets back into the game. 41 Rc2 h5! A finesse. Black forces a trade of pawns (favorable for the defender) and does so on his own terms, since 42 gxh5 gxh5 would leave White's own pawns in ruins. 42 f3 hxg4 43 hxg4 Ne8 A fateful decision. Black's knight, rook, and king are all well posted. The most logical plan is to capitalize on this: 43 ... g5, with the idea of ... e4, ... Kf6, ... Ke5, etc. (But not immediately 43 ... e4 because of 44 f4.) Black's defense plays itself: 44 Rc6 Ke7 45 Ne6 e4 46 Nxg5 exf3+ 47 Nxf3 Rxd5, etc. It may also be possible to draw by doing nothing (moving the king back and forth), but in this case the more active plan is the safer one. The text move should also have led to a draw, but it's a very different type of endgame. With the exchange of knights the game becomes more complicated, not less. Rook and pawn endgames can be very intricate, and this one is a good example. At the same time, rook and pawn endgames are by far the most common type, and every player can benefit by studying them. 44 Nxe8 Kxe8 45 Rc5 45 Rc6 is similar. 45 ... Kf7 45 ... g5! was best. The point is to prevent White's next move and establish a blockade. Of course Black must be careful not to lose the g-pawn or end up two pawns down: 46 d6 Kf7! 47 Rxe5 Kf6, or 47 Rc7+ Ke6 48 Rg7 Kf6. 46 g5! An inspired conception. Even with only kings and one pair of rooks on the board, an advantage in space can be important! 46 ... Rd2+!? 47 Kg3 Ke7 48 Rc6 Rxd5?! There was nothing wrong with 48 ... Kf7. Sometimes the defender should just hold tight. In this case after 48 ... Kf7 49 Rf6+ Kg7 50 d6 Kh7, White's king is boxed in and has no way to come to the support of the d-pawn. For instance, 51 Rf7+ Kg8, or 51 f4 Rd3+ 52 Kg4 Rd4. 49 Rxg6 Kf7 50 Rf6+ Kg7 51 Kg4 The sealed move. White has a dangerous passed pawn. Black's king is on the ideal square, right in front of the pawn, so that if the other two pawns were traded off, the endgame would usually be a draw. (But as we'll see, this is not an ironclad rule.) Black should strive to keep his rook mobile, but this must be combined with perfectly timed tactics: defending his own pawn; attacking White's pawns; and an occasional cheapo. 51 ... Ra5 is possible. If 52 Kf5? e4+ draws, while 52 Kh5 Ra3 is also a standoff. But 52 Rb6 is very dangerous. For instance 52 ... Kf7? (52 ... Ra3 is OK) 53 Kh5 Ra3 54 Kh6! Rxf3 55 g6+ Kf8 (55 ... Kg8 56 Rb8+ Rf8 57 Rxf8+ Kxf8 58 Kh7) 56 Rb8+ (56 g7+ Kf7 57 Rb7+ Kf6!) Ke7 57 Rb7+! (57 g7 Rh3+) Kf8 (57 ... Kf6 58 Rf7+) 58 g7+ wins. This variation shows the subtlety of rook and pawn endings even with the smallest amounts of material. The clearest draw would have been to proceed to the third rank immediately: 51 ... Rd3; and stay there. White has no way to make progress. 52 Re6 Re3 (but not 52 ... Rd4+ 53 Kh5 Rf4 54 Re7+! transposing to the game) 53 Kg3 Re2! keeps things under control. 52 Ra6 Rb3 53 Ra4 Kg6 54 Re4 Rb5, or 53 Ra5 Re3, is equally harmless. Schreiber, giving credit to Tom Magar, Fernand Gobet, and Fred Sorensen for help with analysis, gives several interesting lines starting with 51 ... Rd3 52 Ra6 Kf7 53 Ra4 Rd1. Now 54 Re4 Rg1+ 55 Kf5 Rg3 56 Re3 e4! is a spectacular drawing combination. If 54 Kf5 Rf1? 55 Ra7+ followed by 55 Ra3 wins, but 54 ... Rd3 appears to lead to a draw against either 55 Ra7+ or 55 g6+. But I think that in this line, 53 ... Kg6 is much clearer and safer. Now back to the game. 51 ... Rd1 52 Kf5 Rg1 53 Re6 Rg3 54 Re7+! Kf8 55 Rxe5 Rxf3+ 56 Kg6 White is winning. Black's king has been pried off the queening square and can't get back: 56 ... Kg8 57 Re8+ Rf8 58 Rxf8+ Kxf8 59 Kh7. Meanwhile White's king snuck into g6 at a time when Black's rook was too busy to check it away. What went wrong? It appears that Black's 51st move was the culprit, because I haven't found any saving alternatives for Black after that point. 56 ... Rf1 57 Rb5 Rf2 58 Rb8+ Ke7 59 Rg8 Is Bill trying to promote his rook to a queen? Not to worry, he soon gets back on track. 59 ... Rf1 60 Kh7 Rh1+ 61 Kg7 Rg1 62 g6 Rf1 63 Rh8 Rf2 64 Rh4 Rg2 65 Re4+ Kd8 66 Kh7 Rh2+ 67 Kg8 Rg2 68 g7 This is the Lucena position. The winning method is essential knowledge for the student of rook and pawn endings. Black puts up the most resistance with 68 ... Rh2. White then wins by 69 Kf7 Rf2+ 70 Kg6 Rg2+ 71 Kf6 Rg1 (or 71 ... Rf2+ 72 Kg5 Rg2+ 73 Rg4) 72 Re5 followed by 72 Rg5. 68 ... Rg1 69 Rh4 Ke7 70 Kh8 Resigns Enough chess for three games! Hughes went on to take clear second place by holding Gertler to a draw in the last round. Schreiber tied with Gertler for third with five points.