I have this annoying tendency to overlook rook pins following captures, arguably one of the most common tactical motifs in chess, especially in minor piece+rook endgames. Yesterday, for example, I wasted at least 10 minutes of precious calculation time gauging a variation emerging from knight takes pawn, bishop takes knight, queen takes bishop (as seen in the gif), only to realize that the variation is a no-go due to the in-between move Re1. Even though this is a very basic and straight-forward pattern, certain subtleties are to be heeded, in particular: (A) can your queen or rook move out of the pin and counter-attack a hanging enemy piece? (B) if we’re dealing with a rook vs rook pin, can the pinned piece move away and protect your rook at the same time? If our rook is on a black square, for example, a pinned black-square bishop can move out of the pin and move to a square from which it protects your rook, rendering the pin harmless.
Complementing the previous post: Once again, White to move, red squares signify Black king positions that lead to a draw with perfect play, green squares signify a Black king position leading to a win for White to move with perfect play. And once again, White’s standard plan is to cut the enemy king off with his rook. However, in some cases, for instance the first green file for rook pawns or the odd green square that’s very close to the pawn, White needs a king move or a check to win. So don’t move your rook heedlessly, thinking that cutting off the enemy king wins automatically.
Based on Silman’s Complete Endgame Course and the Nalimov endgame tablebase, the following gif illustrates the rook vs rook and pawn on the 4th rank endgame. It’s White to move. If the Black king is on a green square, White wins; if it is on a red square, the game is drawn. White’s winning strategy usually consists of cutting off the king from the pawn as far away as possible, and then set up a Lucena position with his king and pawn.
In her new column at Chess Café, Abby Marshall sums up nicely the reasons for playing the Tarrasch Defence:
It’s a great opening for improving players, because it’s very important to learn how to play open positions with active piece play; while not any position can become closed, any position can become open. The Tarrasch can also be played against almost all queen-pawn openings. And, it’s fun.
This is exactly why I am currently building my opening repertoire around isolated pawns and opt for openings such as the Tarrasch. Prodigal Pawn has kindly agreed to share some annotated games on the subject of the isolated pawn, and has a freshly annotated game by Anderssen against Morphy up at his blog.
Meanwhile, Michael Goeller harkens to the Smith-Morra’s siren call. I’ve been playing the Smith-Morra myself against the Sicilian because I was concentrating on open lines and thought the Smith-Morra offered plenty of opportunities to practise attacking play. I’ve even scored a (dubious) victory against a 1750-player in a 90/20 game. However, I’ve got this hunch that the Smith-Morra doesn’t tend to follow “natural” attacking patterns, so I might drop it in favour of the Alapin variation — sticking to the c3-push but with a more solid long-term plan. In case you’re interested in the Smith-Morra, Michael links to a “super Smith-Morra webliography”. Good stuff.
Black sacrifices a bishop and a queen in order to promote his remaining pawn with check and transpose into a winning endgame:
The idea is reminiscent of winning the Lucena position with a rook pawn.