A hard day's night

Grandmaster Michael Adams probably missed a win just before the time control in this game against GM Rapport at Biel last month. As a consequence, he faced a difficult technical task here in this unusual 7-man ending beginning after White's 54th move.

White is a piece ahead; his problem is that he has the wrong coloured bishop for the h-pawn. This means he cannot consent to a rook exchange unless Black were co-operative enough to let it happen on g6 where a pawn recapture would be decisive. The black passed pawn makes it awkward for White to concentrate his forces but mating possibilities mean that in the long run the stronger side should win. The tablebase says White can mate in 24 moves but, unsurprisingly, there were some slips on the way. The first plan Adams tried nearly worked; his second attempt succeeded. Eventually he won in 116 moves.

Michael Adams (2740) - Richard Rapport (2671)
48th Biel International Chess Festival 27.07.2015

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.e5 Nfd7 7.c3 Nc6 8.0-0 h5 9.Qe2 a5 10.dxc5 Qc7 11.Bb5 a4 12.b4 axb3 13.Nxb3 Nxc5 14.Nxc5 Bxc5 15.c4 0-0 16.Bf4 dxc4 17.Bxc4 Be7 18.Rac1 Ra3 19.Rfe1 Rd8 20.Bb3 Ra5 21.Ng5 g6 22.Qe3 Bb4 23.Re2 Ba3 24.Rc3 Bb4 25.Rc1 Ba3 26.Rc3 Bb4 27.Rc4 Rad5 28.h4 b5 29.Rc1 Rd3 30.Qe4 R3d4 31.Qf3 Bb7 32.Qg3 Ba3 33.Rc3 Bf8 34.Nxe6 fxe6 35.Qxg6+ Qg7 36.Bxe6+!? [Time was running short but the online engine spotted a win by 36.Qxe6+! Kh8 37.Rg3 Rxf4 (37...Bc8 38.Qxc6 ) 38.Rxg7 Bxg7 39.Qg6 ] 36...Kh8 37.Qxh5+ Qh7 38.Qxh7+ Kxh7 39.Bf5+ Kh8 40.Be4 b4 41.Rc1 Rd1+ 42.Re1 Rxc1 43.Rxc1 Nd4 44.Bxb7 Ne2+ 45.Kh2 Nxf4 46.g3 Ng6 47.f4 Rd2+ 48.Kh3 Rxa2 49.Rc8 Rf2 50.h5 Nxf4+ 51.gxf4 Rxf4 52.Kg3 Rf5 53.Kg4 Rxe5 54.Rxf8+ 54...Kg7 55.Rf3 This is not the best square for the rook although, with best play, is only move slower to mate than White's optimal plan which forces the h-pawn through or mates: [55.Rd8! Rc5 This is the plan adopted by Black in the game: to have checks from the side and support the b-pawn from behind if necessary. (55...b3 is instructively refuted: 56.Rd6 b2 57.Rb6 Re2 The Black rook is now tied down to the defence of its pawn and importantly cannot check on g2. 58.Kf5 A little triangulation to rule out side-checks 58...Rf2+ 59.Kg5 Re2 60.h6+ Kh7 Now the tablebase finds 61.Bc8 Also Bf3 and Bc6 win in the same number of moves. The threat is Bf5+. 61...Rg2+ 62.Bg4 The king must retreat. 62...Kh8 63.Rb7 Kg8 64.Kf5 Kh8 65.Rb8+ Kh7 66.Kg5 and Black can only prolong the game by giving up material.; 55...Rb5 ) 56.Be4 Rc4 57.Kf4 Rc1 (57...Rc5? 58.h6+! Kxh6 (58...Kf7 59.h7 and Black can only stop the pawn by giving up his rook.) 59.Rd7 is a mating net.) 58.h6+ Kxh6 59.Rd7 Rf1+ 60.Kg4 Rg1+ 61.Kh4 and Black can only prevent mate by the hopeless 61...Rg6 ] 55...Rc5 Relatively best (equal). From here White should mate in 24, starting 56 Be4. 56.Ba6?! Sub-optimal; adding five moves length to the task. 56...Rc6 57.Bb5 Rc5 58.Ba6 Rc6 59.Bb5 With only 50 moves to win material (or tempt the black b-pawn forward) White cannot really afford repetitions. 59...Rc5 60.Be8?! [With 60.Bd3 ; or 60.Bd7 it would still be 24 moves to mate but after White's next move it is 35!] 60...Rc4+ 61.Kg5 61 Kf5 is slightly more accurate; two more moves added to the path. 61...Rc5+ 62.Kg4 Rc4+ 63.Kf5 This time the correct move. 63...Kh6 64.Re3 Rc5+ 65.Kf6 Rc8 66.Ke7 Rb8 67.Rb3?! This is the second-best move (mate in 33) but a serious retrograde step in terms of accomplishing the task. There was no need to blockade the pawn, especially as a pawn advance would "restart the clock". Serious progress towards a mating net was being made and White should have played [67.Re6+ which mates in 26. The tablebase's main line then goes 67...Kg7 (67...Kg5 68.h6 Rb7+ 69.Bd7 Rb8 70.Kf7 Rb7 71.Rd6 ) 68.h6+ Kh7 69.Bc6 Now there are no rook checks so Black must play 69...b3 Now the "clock" is off the agenda. 70.Be4+ Kg8 (70...Kh8 71.Kd7 b2 Black uses up his last tempo move, creating the possibility of winning the pawn. 72.Bb1 Kg8 73.Re2 Kh8 74.Kc7 and if Black continues to protect the pawn, he is mated in one by Re8.) 71.Kd7 b2 72.Bb1 Kh8 73.Kc7 Ra8 74.Rb6 etc.] 67...Kg5 68.Bg6 Kh6 69.Kd6 Rb6+ 70.Kc7 Rb5 71.Kc6 Rb8 Now it is 37 moves to mate! 72.Bf7 Rf8 73.Bg6 Rb8 74.Kc5 Start of a new plan: Adams will transfer his king to the blockading role and try to win the b-pawn before it's too late. Could that have been prevented? 74...Rb7 75.Kd4 Rb8 76.Kd3 Rd8+ 77.Kc2 Rb8 78.Kb2 Rb7 79.Re3 Kg7 80.Kb3 Kh6 81.Re5 Rb8 82.Be8 Rb7 83.Re6+ Kg7 84.Bg6 Rb8 85.Be4 Kh8 86.Re7 Rb5 87.Bg6 Rb6 88.Bd3 Rb8 89.Rd7 Rb6 90.Rd5 Kg7 91.Bb5 Kh6 92.Kxb4 With the fall of the b-pawn, the win becomes simpler, but still takes time. 92...Rb8 93.Kc3 Rb6 94.Kd4 Re6 95.Bd3 Re1 96.Ra5 Re7 97.Be4 Rg7 98.Bf3 Re7 99.Ra6+ Kg7 100.Be4 Kh8 101.Ra5 Kg7 102.Ke3 Rf7 103.Bg6 Rf6 104.Ke4 Rf8 105.Ra6 Rf6 106.Ra7+ Kh8 107.Bf5 Rf8 108.Kf4 Rb8 109.Kg5 Rg8+ 110.Bg6 Rg7 111.Ra5 Rg8 112.Ra4 Rg7 113.Kf6 Rg8 114.Ra7 Rg7 115.Bf7 Kh7 116.Ra8 Kh6 117.Rb8 Rh7 118.Bg6 1-0

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