The recently concluded Tata Steel Tournament didn’t exactly work out the way I wanted it to. In the end, I was fairly lucky to avoid the embarrassing last place, though I’m not sure that 13th place is a good omen either. I squandered a great deal of chances, but then again, I made some pretty lucky saves as well. Oh well, no time to think about lost opportunities, as I have new ones in Moscow in a week!
As I started realizing that my head wasn’t working properly, started using more of my energy on preparation. Obviously – judging from my results – that didn’t help much, but I did come across the following instructive ending:
Do you know it already? Actually, to be completely honest, the position I looked at was with additional pawns on g3 and h7, but that makes black’s draw much easier, as all he has to do is to take the g3-pawn before returning to the a-file. Black’s problem is that he can’t approach the white pawn with his king, as when he enters the e-file, white goes a7, after which the standard Rh8-skewer next will win black’s rook. But, if white were to go a7 here, he wouldn’t have any way to improve his position, as a king march to b5 is met by lots of checks on the 1st rank by black’s rook. As it is, white will go to the hiding spot on a7, which frees the rook of its duty to protect the white pawn. The win will then be easy.
However, black has a smart trick to make a draw! From the initial position, black goes 1…Ra5! 2.Ke2 Re5+! 3.Kd3 Re6! 4. Kc4 Rf6! Now black has rearranged his pieces to check the white king from the f-file. White’s rook is stuck on a8, as the pawn needs defending. If white plays Kb5, black will start checking until the king is pushed back from the defense of the a6-pawn, and the rook returns to f6. If white tries pushing his pawn, black will go behind the pawn again – to a6 – and white has no way of making progress.
At least my preparation led me to some good repetition of a basic rook-ending!