Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(42) The ending of two knights Vs a pawn for the first time.

On an evening in February 1989 I was chatting with Bill and Sheila Evans-Evans whilst studying an article by Stuart Conquest in a contemporary edition of the magazine CHESS.
It concerned a recent game which he had played in an event in Greece that had resulted in his winning the notorious ending of two Knights Versus a pawn.

Two Knights Versus a lone King is a draw, but when the defending side has a pawn there are some exceptional situations where the Knights may force checkmate, and onesuch had arisen in Conquest´s game - the first time he had ever had this rare ending.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_knights_endgame

I remarked that I myself had never yet had that ending occur in any game of mine, although it had looked very much as if it were going to crop up in a game I played with Karl Bowden from the 1986 British Championship.

I saw the post mortem of a game between Viktor Korchnoi and John Nunn at the 1980 London Phillips and Drew tournament where, in quite an important variation, this rare ending could crop up.
Korchnoi, who had played a match for the World Championship two years before and would play another the following year, admitted to me that he did not know if the position was winning or drawn.
Both World Championship matches of Korchnoi were against Anatoly Karpov. The above Wikipedia article cites an instance of his losing this very ending against Veselin Topalov in 2006.
Each man made errors. Each has held the title of World Chess Champion.

The following day I played GM Mihai Suba in the final round of the Barnsdale Country Club Masters.
After a complex struggle in which he had for a long time held the advantage, he blundered and a position resulted in which I had two Knights and he had only a pawn.

I offered a draw. He declined... and my flag then fell to indicate that I had run out of time!

A loss on time was awarded by the arbiter, but then an appeals committee sat to judge it, and upheld the decision.

A protest was lodged that one of the members of this hastily convened committee would be effected by the decision, and so another committee sat.

This one upheld the earlier decision, and Suba thus won the 1200 Pounds first prize.

But a lot of unhappiness was expressed about the outcome in many quarters, including articles in national newspapers, and. almost certainly as a direct consequence, the sponsorship ended up being withdrawn and the event folded.

Afterwards Sheila Evans-Evans remarked on the coincidence of my saying that I had never yet got this notorious ending and then it happening to me the very next day.

The only subsequent time it arose in a game of mine was in a rapidplay tournament at Javea in Valencia on September 4th 2012.
I could not win it. Although at least, in contrast to the game with Suba, I was trying to do so.

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