13 Jul

Opening into the Endgame

Endgame specialist GM Edmar Mednis (1937-2000) wrote a particularly good - and very highly recommended - book in the early 1980s entitled From the Opening into the Endgame, and it was solely designed to show tournament players how they could bypass the complexities of the middlegame in chess by reaching favourable endings just by adopting certain openings.


Mednis was the original endgame maven and he, more than any other player, explained this sphere of the game so lucidly and so well. Writing in the New York Times, Fred Waitzkin - the author of Searching for Bobby Fischer, that was subsequently turned into a movie - said that Mednis “was drawn to the endgame, with its sparse winter landscape and formal beauty, rather than to the randy, crowded and crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics of the middle game.”

And his From the Opening to the Endgame was a book I took to heart and learned a lot about endings from - and it was particularly satisfying to see my opponents squirming, as I managed to quickly consign their labyrinth of deep opening theory to the dumpster. The only downfall to this book was that the openings selected had a limited range; though nevertheless when I did manage to get one of his opening/endgames, I did very well - and even more so when I faced some young chess wunderkind, who suddenly found all the pieces being quickly exchanged off the board and facing an early endgame.

And after Wei Yi’s “Chinese Immortal” of last week, it seems some of the more experienced players are beginning to adopt this policy to deprive him of the highly complex positions and tactics he so revels in - and this became abundantly clear just the round after his now famous game that “shot around the world”, as eventual 6th Hanan Danzhou winner, veteran Wang Yue, brought the 16-year-old back down to earth by demonstrating that he still has much to learn in the game.

For Chinese No.1 Wang Yue, 28, the game proved to be the catalyst for a return to form, as he went on to win the tournament undefeated on 7/9 to finish a full point ahead of 32-year-old GM Ni Hua (who also used this same line against Wei Yi later in the tournament for an easy draw). Third place was Ding Liren on 5.5-points and in fourth place was Wei Yi on 5-points.

Wang Yue - Wei Yi
6th Hainan Danzhou, (3)
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.h4!? This is an interesting little line that takes all the Grünfeld 'fun' out of Black's position - the idea being to go quickly for the endgame and look for better outposts for his pieces. 5...Bg7 6.e4 Nxc3 7.dxc3 Qxd1+ 8.Kxd1 b6?! Four rounds later, Ni Hua reached this position against Wei Yi, obviously played because he liked the simple, complicated-free position Wang got from this game. But Wei Yi, like most teenagers, learns quickly - against Ni Hua he improved here with 8...Nd7 and 9...Nf6 and reached a much safer position, going on to draw. But here, after 8...b6, Wang Yue gets exactly what he wants. It may not look like much but White has a small but pleasant edge, mainly because ...e5 takes that square away from the Black pieces and makes c4 such an inviting outpost to work from. 9.Bf4 Bb7 10.Bb5+! c6 The alternative cedes the bishop-pair to White, offering a long-term endgame advantage. 10...Nd7 11.Ne5 Bxe5 12.Bxe5 f6 13.Bxc7 Rc8 14.Bh2 Bxe4 15.f3 Bc6 16.Ba6 Rd8 17.Kc2 There's not much in it, but White has a grinding, trouble-free advantage. 11.Be2 Nd7 12.Kc2 e5 13.Be3 c5 14.Nd2 f5 15.f3 Nf6 16.Bd3 0-0 17.a4! Helping to break-up Black's queenside and securing the all-important c4 outpost - White almost has a game that now practically plays itself. 17...Rac8 18.a5 b5 19.a6! Ba8 20.Bxb5 fxe4 21.Bc4+ Kh8 22.h5! exf3 Not 22...Nxh5? 23.Nxe4 Bxe4+ 24.fxe4 Ng3 25.Rhd1 Nxe4 26.Rd7 Ra8 27.Rad1 And White is in total command. 23.gxf3 gxh5 24.Rh4 Rfe8 25.Ne4 Nxe4 26.fxe4 Bf6 27.Rxh5 Bxe4+ 28.Bd3! (See Diagram) The forced exchange of bishops gives White's king access to c4, from where he easily wins the ending. 28...Bxd3+ 29.Kxd3 Re6 30.Kc4 Rcc6 The ending comes down to one deciding factor: The active White king. The rest is simply just a matter of technique. 31.Bxc5 Be7 32.b4 Bxc5 33.bxc5 e4 34.Kd5 e3 35.Rh3 e2 36.Rh2 Rg6 37.Rxe2 Rc8 38.Re5 Rd8+ 39.Kc4 Rg4+ 40.Kb5 Rb8+ 41.Kc6 Rg6+ 42.Kc7 Rb3 43.Rd1 1-0

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