Leicester Folly

As I write this article, the British Championships are taking place at my Alma Mater: De Montfort University, Leicester.

It was the City of Leicester Polytechnic when I was there, and, for a season and a half, we had a team in the Leicestershire League. It seems like a good opportunity to look at one of my games from that period.

I’m currently researching chess in Leicester in the 1930s: my opponent in this game, Charles Hornsby, was playing chess as a teenager at the time, his name sometimes appearing in the local press.

I had White in our 1969 game, and we rapidly traded off pieces into a double rook ending.

Here Black has to choose his 20th move. What would you suggest for him?

Black should be able to draw here: 20.. Rc8! 21. c7!? Kf8! 22. Rd8+ Re8 is holding. His second best option is 20.. Kf8?! when White has some winning chances after 21. Rab1! b5 22. c7. But, probably without too much thought, he played the natural capture:

20.. Rxe2?

Now I could have won by playing:

21. c7! Ree8
22. Rd7 Rac8
23. Rad1 Kf8

Necessary to prevent Rd8.

Reaching this position.

This is just winning for White, who might usefully continue with 24. a4 or 24. Kg2, for example. Now Black only has pawn moves left: any king or rook move will allow Rd8. For example, 24. a4 Re2 25. Rd8+ Re8 26. Rxc8 Rxc8 27. Rd8+. So you might consider (depending on how exactly you define the word) that, after 24. a4, Black is in Zugzwang.

But what actually happened over the next few moves was Leicester folly at Leicester Poly.

Have a look.

20.. Rxe2?
21. Rac1?

I knew even then that Rooks Belong Passed Pawns. Not in this position, though.

21.. Rc8
22. c7

Now Black should play 22.. Kf8! when 23. Rd8+ is met by Re8 and 23. Rd7 can be met by either 23.. Re7! or 23.. Ke8! (when 24. Rcd1? would lose to 24.. Re1+!)

22.. Ree8?

Now White can again reach the Zugzwang position with 23. Rd7! Kf8 24. Rcd1!

23. a4?

I wanted to fix his backward b-pawn and prevent him creating a passed pawn, but this move wastes a vital tempo, giving Black time to defend.

23.. Kf8
24. Rd7

Black should be able to draw now after 24.. Re7!, for example, 25. Rxe7 Kxe7 26. Rc6 Kd7 27. Rxb6 Rxc7 28. Rb5, when Black can either defend the a-pawn or give it up to activate his rook.

24.. g6?
25. Kg2? (Rad1! wins)
25.. Kg7? (Re7! draws)

Now anything reasonable wins for White, including my choice:

26. Rc6 Re6

Hanging the rook, but it doesn’t make any difference.

27. Rxe6 and Black resigned.

Not very impressive, but I guess you go to college to learn things and I could have learnt a lot from this ending. I didn’t of course, but then I didn’t have Stockfish, or even a chess teacher, to help me.

As always in my ending articles, play through the moves yourself and play out the variations against an engine or a training partner and you might learn more than I did.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes.uk. View all posts by Richard James

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