”Our patience will achieve more than our force”
Edmund Burke (1729–1797)
gm Bachmann, Axel
gm Narciso Dublan,Marc
Barcelona GM 2015.11.7 The penultimate round. Position after White’s 54th move (54.Kh7-g6). Black has been courageously defending a lost game for some time, but now it finally seems that he can throw in the towel as White will simply advance his h-pawn.
If now 54…Nd6 55.h6 Nf7 56.h7 and there is nothing to do against the coming deflection 57.d1(Q+) which will drive off the Black Knight, allowing White’s h-pawn to promote.
BUT the Paraguayan star finds a clever way to continue to resist a few more moves:
If now the anticipated 55.h6(?) Nxd7 56.Kg7 (or 6.h7? Nf8+ 57.Kg7 Nxh7 58.Kxh7 Kd6 and only Black has winning chances!) 56…Nf8 57.Nb5 a4! and White can not win! (See diagram below)
White can not make progress. The Black a-pawn prevents the White Knight to go over to the Kingside, while should White promote his h-pawn (forcing the win of Black’s Knight) then Black’s King would head over to the Queenside where Black has the advantage! White would have to struggle to draw.
BUT Narciso finds a clever idea:
The idea of this move is to deflect the Black King.
Now if 56…Nd7 57.Kg7! and the h-pawn can not be stopped.
Even though Black is still lost, Bachmann must be given great credit for his ingenuity. A sign of a great player is the ability to constantly put unexpected obstacles in front of his opponent.
Again premature is 57.h7(?) Nf8+ 58.Kg7 Nxh7 59.Kxh7 Kd7 and only Black has chances, though the game should, objectively, be drawn.
57.Kf6 Nf8! 58.Kf7 Nh7!
Any endgame manual will tell you that (if we remove White’s Knight and c-pawn; as well as Black’s Queenside pawns and his King(!)) the White King can not chase away the Knight: the orbit h7-g5-e6-f8 prevents the h-pawn from safely advancing. AND, in the above position, with the Black a-pawn tying down the White Knight, it very much seems as though Bachmann has escaped with a draw!
IN THE GAME CONTINUATION, probably short of time already–and relying only on the 30-second increment per move–Narciso could find nothing better than 59.Kg7 Ng5 60.Kg6 Ne6 61.Kf6 Nf8 62.Kf7 Nh7 63.Kg7 Ng5 64.Kg6 1/2-1/2 with a three fold repetition after 64…Ne6.
Grandmasters Narciso(l) and Bachmann at play in the middlegame.
AFTER the game it was established that White can win from the above position, BUT the correct method is very difficult to find. And, I may add, BRILLANT:
A very subtle move, virtually impossible to discover with little time remaining on the clock
The idea of this move is that if now the logical 59…a4!? 60.Kg7! Ng5 61.Kg6! Ne6 (see diagram below)
Looks a lot like the position after move 58, but…
Deflecting the Black Knight is the ONLY winning method! If Black now takes the Knight then the h-pawn is unstoppable, while after 62…Nf8+ 63.Kf7! Nh7 64.Kg7 Ng5 65.Kg6 the Black Knight can no longer prevent the h-pawn from promoting.
There are a couple of other lines to be considered after the position after 59. Nb5!, but the essence is that the key winning manoeuvre Nd4 can not be long prevented. VERY INSTRUCTIVE! (Apparently 59.Nc2, with the same Nd4 manoeuvre in mind, would also win; but would be a bit more complicated as it would allow 59…b5)
In any case, Bachmann was able to save this difficult ending, and made good use of the extra-half point by defeating (crushing) the tournament leader Morozevich in the final round, enabling him to tie for first place with the Russian! Congrats!! Carpe Diem!
Bachmann vs Morozevich in the last round. (Photos courtesy of tournament organizers.)