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Rooks and opposite-coloured Bishops

TEACHING COORDINATION OF PIECES.
ROOKS AND OPPOSITE-COLOURED BISHOPS.

by Kirill Kusnetsov

I. PREFACE

1) Why should anyone study this endgame

My interest in the subject of this report was not significant, until I became a witness of the following game:

Perunovic - A. Rychagov, Korinthos, 2002
Black to move

37. ... Qd2
The target of the subsequent maneuvering is to create pawn weaknesses in White's position. 38. Qe2 Qc3 39. f4 exf4 40. gxf4 f5 41. Qe7+ Kh6 42. Qg5+ Kh7 43. Qe7+ Bg7 44. Qe2 Qd4 45. Qf2 Qd6 46. Qf3 Bc3 47. Qf2 Kh6 48. Qe3 Bd4 49. Qf3 Bb6 50. Qg3 Bc7 51. Kf3 Kh7 52. Qg5 Qd5+ 53. Ke2 Qe6+ 54. Kd2 Qd6 55. Ke3 Bb6+ 56. Kd2

After 56. Kd2

It is clear that Black achieved a lot already.

56. ... Bf2!
Threatening 57. ... Qc5 (e6) and thus winning a pawn. 57. c3 bxc3+ 58. Kxc3 Be3 59. Qg2 Bxf4 60. Qb7+ Kh6 61. h3 Qc5+ 62. Bc4 Qe3+ 63. Kb4 Qxh3 64. Qe7 Qe3 65. Qf8+ Kg5 66. Qd8+ Kg4 67. Qd1+ Kg3 68. Ka4 h4 69. b4 h3 70. b5 h2 71. Bd5 Be5 72.Qh1 Qd4+, 0-1.

I was almost sure the game would end up in a draw. However, my friend managed to win, slowly improving his position and making White solve problems at every move.

Then it came to my mind that Queens (Q) + opposite-coloured Bishops (B) (or Rooks (R) + opposite-coloured Bishops, which is even better), with some pawns present, are the purest form of material balance in chess, free from any occasional knight tricks or hard-to-count complications that arise when the board is full of pieces. In other words, one can really feel the geometry of a chessboard when playing such endings.

NB: endgames with such a balance (Rook+Rook+Bishop v Rook+Rook+Bishop, opp.-coloured or Rook+Bishop v Rook+Bishop, opp.-coloured) occur, or may occur in variations, very often in modern chess practice. And they are among the most instructive and useful ones.

Even more so that the following circumstances are governing the strategy in a chess game nowadays:

  • reduction of time control,

  • commercialisation of chess,

  • numerous Swiss tournaments when the price of a half-point can be extremely high, and playing for a win with no risk to lose, although just tiny chances to win either, became a common approach,

  • re-evaluation of some "adjacent" endings, e.g. R+B v R,

  • at the same time many opening variations (Exchange Slav, Queen's Gambit Accepted, Sveshnikov Sicilian etc.) are much more drawish than the endgames we are examining in this report. So if the chess masters are playing these openings, why shouldn't they try to win the R+B v R+B (opp.-col.) ending, or an "adjacent" one?

Let me also remind Nimzovich's words that simultaneous study of different position types can only make the student feel uncertain and lost, whereas ground and deep studying of, say, positions with the central line for one side versus side-attack for another will improve the general positional understanding or serve as a good endgame training.

And the students with a clear mind and a mathematical way of thinking will certainly like the harmony of R+B coordination, as well as of the "adjacent" endgame types.

2) "Adjacent" endings

Prior to studying the rooks and opposite-coloured bishops endgames, it is necessary to know the key ideas in the following "adjacent" endgames where the RB-RB-opp. endings are often transferred:

  1. Pawn endings

  2. Rook endings

  3. General endgame rules and principles (activity of pieces, activity and safety of the king, principle of 2 weaknesses, etc.)

- the above 1. to 3. should be learnt in first hand, of course.

  1. Rook versus Bishop (without pawns) - here the general rule is to move the king of the weaker side to the corner having opposite colour, compared to his own bishop:

    Draw

  2. Rook and pawn versus Bishop - here the student should have studied, as a minimum, the following game.

    Szabo-Botvinnik, Budapest, 1952.
    Draw

    Black firmly controls the f7 square, ready to check if white king advances at g6 or e6.

    So it should be clear for the student that if he has the upper hand in a similar ending, he should advance with his king first rather than with a pawn.

  3. Endings with opposite-coloured bishops.

    Several ideas should be understood here:

    1. these endings are sometimes drawish, but there are many exceptions,

    2. passed pawns are the key issues when evaluating the position,

    3. isolated passed pawns are often more dangerous than the connected ones,

    4. pawns should often be placed on the squares of your own bishop's colour (unlike similar middlegames when the above is usually false).

    The student should also know that if the strongest side has 2 isolated passed pawns, the distance between them is the key factor. If there is only 1 empty file in between, it's usually not enough to win, whereas having 2 or more files may often bring a victory.

  4. Rook + Bishop versus Rook.

    It might be good (although not obligatory) for the student to know the famous Philidor position (see above).

    White wins by a cunning combination of rook checkmate threats from both sides and protecting his own king with the bishop from behind, making the black rook occupy an unfavourable position.

    It was a common belief that the endgame R+B v R is almost always drawish, until the recent "computer" era turned a lot of such beliefs in chess upside down.

    Now it is established that the strongest side can win around 1/3 of these positions.

    If we take into account the ongoing reduction of time control etc. (see I, 1)), it becomes clear why in most cases draws are not agreed in these endings until the weaker side shows his skills and protects successfully (usually after 30-40 moves!).

    Below is one example when the weaker side failed to stand the permanent pressure and lost.

    Nataf - Short, New Delhi, 2000

    57. ... Kd7 58. Rc4 g4 59. Rc7+ Kd8 60. Rg7 Kc8 61. Be5 g3 62. Bxg3 Rd2 63. Ke6 Rd7 64. Rg8+ Rd8 65. Rg7 Rd7 66. Rg5 Rh7 67. Bd6 Rh6+ 68. Kd5 Kd7 69. Rg7+ Ke8 70. Kc6 Re6 71. Kd5 Rh6 72.Re7+ Kd8 73. Kc6 Rh1 74. Rf7 Re1 75. Rf8+ Re8 76. Rf2 Re1 77. Bb4 Re6+ 78. Kd5 Re3 79. Rf8+ Kd7 80. Rf7+ Ke8 81. Ra7 Re2 82. Bc3 Re7 83. Ra8+ Kf7 84. Be5 Rb7 85. Ke4 Rb1 86. Kf5 Rf1+ 87. Bf4 Ke7 88. Ra7+ Kd8 89. Ke5 Kc8 90. Rf7 Rd1 91. Ke6 Rd7 92. Rf5 Rd1?? (Rg7) 93. Rb5 Re1+ 94. Be5, 1-0.

  5. R+p v B+p.

    If the pawns are blocking each other (e.g. f4 and f5), then White does his best to cut the black. King first, then sacrifice his rook for the bishop and pawn, then promote the pawn.

II. KEY IDEAS

1) Passed pawns

If the stronger side has one or more passed pawns, it is very difficult to defend. Usually the pawn can advance even without support from the king.

Kramnik - Svidler, Dortmund, 1998

24. Rad1 Rc3 25. Rd3 Rac8 26. d6 b5 (26. ... Rd8 27. Rc3 dc3 28. Rc1 is also hopeless) 27. Rc3 dc3 28. e6 Kf8 29. e7 Ke8 30. Bf7!, 1-0.

Kelecevic - Tukmakov, Bern, 2000

1. ... h4! 2. Bd5 Rc8 3. Bb3 h3 4. Kg3 Rh8 5. Bd5 h2 6. Rd1 (6. Bh1 Rg8 7. Kh2 Bf4 8. Kh3 Rh8 9. Kg2 Rh2 10. Kg1 (10. Kf3 Rh3) 10. ... Ra2 -/+)

6. ... Bf4! 7. Kf4 Rd8 8. Rh1 Rd5 9. Rh2 Rd4 10. Kf3 Ra4 -/+

Kramnik - Kasparov, London (m/2), 2000

25. Re1!
Keeping an extra pawn and activating the rook.
25. ... Qxf4 26. Qxf4 gxf4 27. e6 fxe6 28. Rxe6 Kg7 29. Rxa6 Rf5 30. Be4 Re5
Immediate 30. ... Rb5 31. a4 Rb2 was better.
31. f3 Re7 32. a4 Ra7
Of course, White avoids the exchange of rooks.
33. Rb6 Be5 34. Rb4 Rd7 35. Kg2 Rd2+ 36. Kh3 h5
Kasparov was already in a severe time trouble.
37. Rb5 Kf6 38. a5 Ra2 39. Rb6+ Ke7?
Loses at once. After 39. ... Kg7 some hopes for a draw remained. Then 40. Rg6+ Kf8 41. a6 Bd4 would possibly follow. Black should place the rook on a5 in order to cut White's king.
40. Bd5
Black resigned, 1-0.

Nisipeanu - Eljanov, Warsaw, 2005

Despite the material equality, White's position is much better. The advance of white pawns in the centre can hardly be prevented.

57. ... c4 (reasonable sacrifice, otherwise the black bishop would have no moves) 58. Bxc4 Kg7 59. Bb3 Bc5 60. e5 Kg8 61. f4 Bd4 62. Kf3 Bc5 63. g4!

A good way to blow up the castle, better to say a loose fence, built by Black.

63. ... hxg4+ 64. Kxg4 Kg7 65. Kg5 Bd4 66. Rd7 Bc3 67. Bc2 Kg8 68. Bb3 Kg7 69. Bd5 Bb2.

The preparation is over.

70. e6 Bf6+ 71. Kg4 Kg8 72. exf7+ Kg7 73. Rb7 Bd8 (73. ... Rh8? 74. f8Q+!) 74. h5 gxh5+ 75. Kxh5. White should win this position with no difficulties. But Nisipeanu wants to be 100% sure and is not in a hurry. Or maybe he doesn't have enough time or is tired after 9 preceding rounds. Anyway, he is very accurate not to lose the advantage.

75. ... Bf6 76. Bb3
(immediate win could be achieved after moving the rook to "g" file, 76. Rb3! E.g. 76. ... Rh8+ 77. Kg4 Rd8 78. Kf5! Rxd5+ 79. Ke6, and then checking from g3).

76. ... Bd4 77. Kg5 Rd8 78. Kh5 Bc5 79. Rc7 Bb4 80. Rc1 Kf8 81. Rg1 Ke7 82. Rg8 Rf8 83. Rg6
(an interesting win was possible here after 83. Kg6 Ba3 84. f5 Bb2

85. Rg7! Bd4 (85. ... Rc8 86. f8Q+ Kxf8 87. Rg8+; 85. ... Rh8 86. Rg8) 86. Rh7! Rb8 (Black cannot play 86. ... Rh8 87. Rxh8! Bxh8 88. Kh7 or 86. ... Be5 87. Rh1, and the rook moves to "e" file) 87. f8Q+! Kxf8 88. f6 Bxf6 89. Kxf6. Black cannot prevent a checkmate).

83. ... Rd8 84.Rb6 (wrong direction) 84. ... Bc5 85. Rc6 Bb4 86. Kg6 Kf8 87. Be6 Be7 88. f5 Rd1! 89. Rc8+ Rd8 90. Rc7 (90. Rc4! Rd1 91. f6 Rg1+ 92. Bg4 Bc5 93. Re4 +/-) 90. ... Rd1 91. Rc8+ Rd8 92. Rc1 (92. Rc4!) 92. ... Rd2 93. Kh5 Rh2+ 94. Kg4.
A new round of tease begins.

94. ... Rd2 95. Kf3 Bf6 96. Rb1 Rd8 97. Rb5 Rd3+ 98. Ke4 Rd4+ 99. Ke3 Rd8 100. Bd5 Rc8 101. Ke4 Rd8 102. Rb6 Kg7 103. Ra6 Rb8 104. Kf3 Rd8 105. Bc4 Rc8 106. Ba2 Rd8 107. Bc4 Rc8 108. Bd5 Rd8 109. Ra5 Rb8 110. Rc5 Rd8 111. Rb5 Rc8 112. Rb1!
Finally, White finds the right way.

112. ... Kf8 113. Rg1! Ke7 114. Kg4! (protected by the rook from behind, white king advances at g6) 114. ... Rd8 115. Ba2 Bc3 116. Rg3 Bb2 117. Kg5 Ba1 118. Bb3 Bb2 119. Rg2 Bg7 120. Re2+ Kd7 121. Re8 Bf8 122. Kg6 Kc7.

123.Rxf8!. Black resigned.

And here is a good example of successful protection against a passed pawn.

Volokitin - Akopian. Beer Sheva, 2005

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Bd3 c5 8. Be3 Qc7 9. O-O c4 10. Be2 Bd6 11. Ne5 O-O 12. h3 c3 13. bxc3 Nd5 14. Qd3 Qxc3 15. Qxc3 Nxc3 16. Bf3 Rd8 17. a4 Rb8 18. a5 a6 19.Nc4 Bc7 20. Nb6 Bd6 21. Rfe1 h6 22. Bc1 Bc7 23. Bb2 Nd5 24. Nxc8 Rdxc8 25. c4 Nb4 26. Re2 b5 27. axb6 Bxb6 28. c5 Bc7 29. Bc3 a5 30. g3 Rd8 31. Rb2 Rd7 32. Rab1 Rbd8 33. Bxb4 axb4 34. Rxb4 Rxd4 35. Rb7 Be5 36.Re1 Bf6 37. Rc1 Be5 38. c6 Rc8 39. Re1 Bd6 40. Ra1 Rc4 41. Rd7 Bc5 42.Ra2 g6 43. Rb2 Kg7 44. Kf1 Rb4 45. Rc2

For 12 moves already, White is trying to make use of his main advantage (far advanced passed pawn "c"), however this is almost equalised by Black exerting pressure on f2 while keeping the similar f7 point safely blocked by the pawn on e6.

After 45. Rc2

45. ... Bd4 46. Be2 Rb1+ 47. Kg2 Rb2 48. Rxb2 Bxb2 49. Bb5 Bc3 50. Kf3 Ba5 51. Ke4 Rc7 52. Rd3 Kf6 53. Kd4 Bb6+ 54. Kc4 Ra7 55. Ba6 Ke7 56. Kb5 Bd8 57. Bb7 Ra5+ 58. Kb4 Ra2 59. Rd7+ Ke8 60. c7 Bxc7 61. Rxc7 Rxf2 62. Kc5 Rd2 63. Bc6+ Kf8 64. Rd7 Rh2 65. h4 g5 66. hxg5 hxg5 67. Rd3 Ke7 68. Kd4 f5 69. Rf3 Kf6 70. Bb5 e5+ 71. Kd5 e4 72. Rc3 Rd2+ 73. Kc4 f4 74. gxf4 gxf4 75. Rh3 f3 76. Kc3 Rd1 77. Rh8 Kg5 78. Rf8 Kg4 79. Ba6 e3 80. Bb7 Rf1 81. Bxf3+ Kg3 82. Kd3 Rxf3 83. Rh8 Kf2 84. Rh2+ Kf1 85. Re2, 1/2-1/2.

2) Attack on f7 (f2)

The last example showed that f7 (f2) square is of particular importance in these endings. Thus placing the bishop on d5 (d4), or sometimes c4 (c5), especially if protected by a pawn and supported by a rook acting along the 7th (2nd) rank, is one of the key ideas here.

Keres - Pirc, Munich, 1936

White is in a winning position, despite an almost symmetrical structure on the board! But the weakness on f7 is decisive. White is simply advancing the king's-side pawns in order to clear the way for his king.

1. g4! h6 2. h4 g5 3. hxg5 hxg5 4. Kg3 Kg7 5. f4! Be3 6. fxg5 Bxg5 7. Kf3! (moving to f5 in order to support the pawn advance g4-g5-g6) Bd8 8. Kf4 Kg6 9. Bd3+ Kg7 10. Kf5 Kh6 11. Bc4 Kg7 12. g5 Kg8 13. g6. Black resigned.

Jussupow - Razuvaev, Kislovodsk, 1982

We know already that f7(f2) pawn could be especially weak in such endings, provided that the remaining bishop can attack it.

Even if the rook(s) cannot support this attack from the 7th rank, as in the above example, keeping "f7" square under attack is limiting the opponent's possibilities and just making him to repel your attacks.

But how to put the bishop on a2-g8 diagonal? It's very simple!

1. b3! Rfc8?

Black hardly pays any attention to White's slow maneuvering, whereas if he did by moving 1. ... b5!, White's task would be no easy one.

2. a4! Kf8 3. Bd5 Ke7 4. Bc4 +/= (White managed to win finally).

3) Good/poor bishops

Sometimes a bishop, even occupying a strong outpost in the centre, is "empty", i.e. not doing any useful job.

Reti - Romanovsky, Moscow, 1925

Black bishop on d4 is "empty", although looks perfect. However White pays little attention to this piece when executing his plan.

  1. Put the rook on c4

  2. Kf3 and e3, attacking the bishop (and the black rook should then move to c8 to protect c5 pawn)

  3. Place the bishop on d5

  4. Move the king to e4

  5. Then the rook may attack the king's (queen's) side

Ni Hua - Morozevich, Beer Sheva, 2005

Not only is Black enjoying an extra pawn or a better pawn structure, but the difference in bishops' position is equally clear. White bishop is "empty".

35. Kf2 Ra2+ 36. Re2 Ra3 37. Rb2 Rb3 38. Rxb3 Bxb3 39. Ke3 Rd7 40. Ra1 a4 41. Kd2 Ra7 42. Bd6 Ra6 43. Ba3 Kf7 44. Ke3 Ra8 45. Kf2 Rh8 46. Rh1 Bd5 47. Rh3 Be4 48. Ke3 (48. h5!?) 48. ... Rh6 49. h5 Ke8 50. Rg3 Rxh5 51. d5.
Last hope for White, trying to breakthrough with his king and create checkmate threats. Equally poor was 51. Rxg7 Rh3+ 52. Kd2 Rd3+ 53. Ke2 Rxc3 -/+.
51. ... g5 52. dxe6 g4 53. Kd4 Rh3 54. Rg1 g3 55. Ke5 g2 56. Rd1 Rh1 57. Rd7 g1Q 58. Bd6 Bc6.

White resigned, 0-1.

4) Position of pawns, active pieces

J.Polgar - Kasparov, Geneva, 1996

The passed pawn "b" doesn't play any role here, because a) it is not yet advanced, and b) Black immediately starts attacking White's weak pawns that could not be protected by the bishop. Black pieces are better coordinated.

35. ... Be3 36. Rc4 Rd5 37. Re4 Bd2 38. Be8 Rf5 39. Rd4 Bxf4 40. Rd8+ Kc7 41. Rd7+ Kc8 42. Rxf7 Kd8 43. Rxf5 exf5 44. Bf7 Ke7 45. Bg8 Kf8 46. Bd5 Bxh2 47. Kc2 Bf4 48. Kd3 Bxg5 49. b4 Bd8 50. Ke3 Kg7 51. Kf4 Kf6 52. b5 h5 53. Kg3 g5 54. Kf3 g4 55. Kg2 h4 56. Kf2 Bb6+ 57. Kg2 h3 58. Kg3 Kg5 59. Kh2 Bc7+ 60. Kg1 g3, 0-1.

Svidler - van Wely, Tilburg, 1998

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bb5 Bg7 5. O-O d6 6. e5 dxe5 7. Bxc6+ bxc6 8. Re1 Qc7 9. d3 Nf6 10. Nxe5 Nd5 11. Qe2 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Qxe5 13. Qxe5 Bxe5 14. Rxe5 c4

15. dxc4!
Doubled (tripled!) pawns is not the thing one should be afraid of when playing R+B v R+B (opp.-col.) endgames. The lines for your pieces and initiative are more important!

15. ... f6 16. Rc5 Bd7 17. Ra5 Kf7 18. Be3 Bf5 19. Rb1 Bxc2 20. Rb7 Rhb8 21. Rxb8 Rxb8

22. h4! Rb7 23. Bxa7 Bd3 24. Bc5 Bxc4 25. a4 Ke6 26. Ra8 Kd5 27. Be3 Rb1+ 28. Kh2 Ra1 29. a5 c5 30. Ra7 Kd6 31. Bh6 Bd5 32. Bf4+ e5 33. Bh6 Ra2 34. Ra6+ Ke7 35. Be3 c4 36. Bc5+ Kf7 37. Rd6 Be4 38. a6 f5 39. a7 f4?! 40. Rd7+ Ke6 41. Rxh7 Bc6 42. Rh6 Be4 43. Rh8 Kd7 44. Bb6 Ra6 45. Rd8+ Ke7 46. f3 Bc6 47. Rg8 Kf7 (47. ... Rb6 48. Rg6 Ra6 49. Rc6 Ra7 50. Rc4 etc.) 48. Rc8 Bd5 49. Rd8 Ke6 50. Bc5 Bb7 51. Kh3 Ra5 52. Re8+ Kf5 53. Bd6 Bc6

54. Rxe5+! Rxe5 55. Bxe5 Kxe5 56. Kg4 Kf6 57. Kxf4 Bb7 58. g4 Bc6 59.Ke3 Ke5 60. f4+, 1-0.

Huebner - Smyslov, Hastings, 1968

34. b4?
Better was 34. Be7 Bb5 35. Ra3 (so as to move Rc3 in response to ...Rc8) with a drawish position.
34. ... Rg8! 35. Be7 Rg4 36. Bg5 d4!
Giving way to the bishop, advancing the passed pawn, limiting white king's movement - a multi-purpose move.
37. Rh1 Bd5 38. Rh2 Kg6 39. b5

39. ... Rg3!
Now that all white pieces are protecting the king's side, it's time to attack on the queen's side!
40. Bxh4 Rb3 41. Ke2 Bc4+ 42. Kd1 Rxb5 43. Be1 Rb1+ 44. Kd2 Ra1 45. f5+ Kxf5 46. Rxh5+ Ke4 47. Rh7 Rxa5 48. Rxf7 Ra2+ 49. Kc1 b5 50. Bd2 Kd3! 51. Rf2 Bd5 52. g4 b4 53. g5 Rc2+ (54. Kd1 b3), 0-1.

Karpov - Kasparov, Moscow, 1985 (m/4)

There followed 33. ... Rxc2, and Black lost in 30 moves after 34. Bxc2 Qc6 35. Qe2 Qc5 36. Rf1 Qc3 37. exd5 exd5 38. Bb1! (exploiting the weakness of b1-h7 diagonal).

All commentators of this game put a "?" or "?!" sign after this move, suggesting instead 33. ... Qc8 34. exd5 exd5 35. Qxc8 Rfxc8 36. Re2 Rc1 37. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 38. Kh2 Rc8 39. Bg6 Bf6 "with a probable draw".

But would the protection be that easy for Black here?
White can play for a win without any risk, whereas Black can just wait.
The game might have continued as follows:
40. Kg3 Rf8 41. f4 Rc8 42. Re6 Ra8 43. Kf3 Kg8 44. Rd6 d4 45. Ke4 +/-...
I dare say that Karpov, obviously being on top of his form, most likely would have won in this case as well.

5) Exchange of rooks

Usually the rooks are exchanged only when the stronger side can promote a new queen soon, be it with the help of his king or not.

Asrian - Ni Hua, Beer Sheva, 2005
(after 37. Rf1-d1!, preventing 37. ... Bd4
and thus preparing 38. Kf2)

37. ... f5 38. Kf2 f4 39. Re1!
Exchange of rooks is winning, because White king can penetrate at the queen's side (key square b6!).
39. ... Rxe1 40. Kxe1 Bc3+ 41. Ke2 Kf7 42. Kd3 Be1 43. Bd1 Kf6 44. a4 Ba5 45. Kc4 Be1 46. Kb5 Ke7 47. Bg4 Kd8 48. Kb6, 1-0.

Kaliberdin - Kuznetsov, Internet, 2005 (m/1)

Despite the lack of pawn, Black is playing for a win.

38. Bf1 Rh4 39. Bd3 Kf6 40. Rg2 Ke5 41. Kg1 Kd4 42. Bc2

42. ... Rxh2!

Now that Black king is in the centre, he can exchange rooks. Without "a" and "b" pawns it would not be possible, since the distance between pawns "e3" and "g5" is too small.

43. Rxh2 Bxh2+ 44. Kf1 Bf4 45. Ke2 g4 46. Bb1 Bd6 47. Bc2 Bc5 48. b4 Bd6 49. e5 Bxe5 50. Bf5 g3 51. Kf3 Bf4 52. d6 Bxd6 53. Bg6 Bf4 54. Bf5 Kc3, 0-1.

6) Checkmate threats

This theme is quite usual with such endings (e.g. see game Karpov - Kasparov above).

Kaliberdin - Kuznetsov, Internet, 2005 (m/3)

Black has an almost winning position, however it is not at all easy to win.

30. d5 cxd5 31. cxb6 axb6

Black didn't like 31. ... d4 because of 32. b7 Rb8 33. Bd5 (White gets a very dangerous pawn!) 33. ... Rb5 34. Bc6, although after 34. ... Rb6! 35. Rc1 d3 36. Rec4 Kg7 Black could also receive great winning chances.
But one general rule for the endgames "rooks + opposite-coloured bishops" could possibly say - if you stand better, your opponent should not get (a) far advanced passed pawn(s), even if you can win a pawn or two.

32. Rxd5 Rc8 33. Kh2 h5 34. Re6 Rc1

Here a typical move, for such pawn structures, 34. ... h4 was possible. If 35. Rd1, then maybe 35. ... b5 or 35. ... Rf8 36. Rb6 Be5 37. Kh1 Rff2 38. Rg1 Rfd2 followed by 39. ... Bd4 -/+.
However White protects himself by 35. Rxb6 Rb1 36. Rb8+ Kg7 37. Rbd8 =/+.

35. h4 Kh7?

Wrong square! If Black wants to move the king, 35. ... Kg7 is much better. Later when White would take on g6 with a bishop, it would not be a check. And taking with the rook is evidently worse because of ... Kf7.
But best of all was 35. ... Rf1! with the idea 36. ... Rff2 -/+.

36. Rb5 Rbb1

Alas, 36. ... Bh4 with the idea Rbb1 and Rh1# is just a fantasy because of 37. Rexb6 and 38. Bg8+ winning the exchange.

37. Rb4 Rh1+ 38. Kg3 Rbf1 39. Bc2!

A strong move. Due to the weakness of "g6" square (e.g. 39. ... Bc3 40. Bxg6 Kg7 41. Rbxb6 Be1 42. Rxe1 Rxe1 43. Bxh5), Black has to go into maneuvering.

Here Black managed to analyse the position and find plenty of ideas for both sides (e.g. with the following position of pieces:
White - Rc4, Rb3, Bc2,
Black - Ra(e)5, Rh1, Bf6,
a funny checkmate is possible! 1. ... Bxh4! 2. Rxh4 Rxg5 3. Kf4 Rxh4 4. Kxg5 Rg4#.
Or another idea. Bring the king to h6, then g5, then checkmate with the pawn or the bishop).

There follows a forced series of moves up to 57. Rf1 (which basically means that White is already lost).

39. ... Ra1 40. Bb3 Rac1 41. Re3 Kh6 42. Ree4 Rcf1 43. Rxb6 Rf5 44. Be6 Be5+ 45. Rxe5 Rxe5 46. Bf7 Kg7 47. Bxg6 Re3+ 48. Kf4 Re2 49. g4 Rf1+ 50. Kg3 Re3+ 51. Kg2 Ra1 52. gxh5 Rxa2+ 53. Kf1 Rf3+

Not falling into White's last trap (53. ... Rc3 54. h6+!).

54. Kg1 Rf6 55. Rb1 Rf4 56. Re1 Kf6 57. Rf1 Rxf1+ 58. Kxf1 Rh2 59. Kg1 Rxh4 60. Kf2 Rh3 61. Kg2 Rb3 62. Be4 Kg5 63. Bg6 Kf4 64. Bf7 Rg3+ 65. Kh2 Rg4 66. Kh3 Kg5 67. Be6 Rh4+ 68. Kg3 Rxh5 69. Kf3 Rh4, 0-1.

III. PRACTICAL RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. There are certain parameters one should have in mind when transitting to a R+B v R+B (opp.-col.) endgame:

    • passed pawns,

    • safety of the king,

    • position of bishops and pawns (it is often useful to have your bishop protected by the pawn, and place backward pawns on the squares of the same colour as the bishop so as not to lose them, whereas advanced pawns may be placed on the opposite-coloured squares to simplify their further advance and to control more space),

    • whether f2(f7) pawn can be attacked by the bishop(s),

    • doubled pawns are often useful (see the games Nisipeanu - Eljanov and Svidler - van Wely).

  2. Studies and puzzles are quite useful.

  3. The ideal level to study these endgames is Grade II - Grade I (approx. 1600 - 2000 National or FIDE ELO).

IV. LITERATURE

  1. A.Panchenko, "Teorija i praktika shahmatnykh okonchanij". Ioshkar Ola, 1997.

  2. L.Portisch, B.Sarkozy, "600 okonchanij". Moscow, 1979.

  3. P.Keres, "Practical Chess Endings". London, 1988.

  4. Chess Informant # 80, 2001.

  5. Die Schachwoche, 1998-2000.

  6. Internet (www.chesspro.ru, chess.scourt.vens.ru, other sites).

  7. M.Shereshevsky, "Strategija Endshpilja". Moscow, 1988.

  8. M.Dvoretsky, A.Jussupow, "Tehnika v shakhmatnoj igre". Kharkov, 1996.

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