As noted in the last post, when we find we can create an equal or greater threat, it is often unclear where it will lead and the variations can become quite sharp and complicated. To maintain focus through those complicated variations, I recommend looking for all three possible outcomes with your counterattack: win, draw, or defend.
Last post we looked at positions where we were able to use an EGT to force a winning position. In this next series of posts we’ll look at positions were we use an EGT to force positions that are draws. So let's get started!
When it comes to drawing there are three types of positions you can try to reach:
• Draw by stalemate;
• Material draw (equal material, fortresses, etc); and,
• Draw by repetition.
I personally start my search for draws by looking for stalemates, then for material draws. This is because the analysis for stalemate/material draws can often be done quickly based on a material evaluation, and maybe some short calculations to see if you can forcibly trade off pieces. Draw by repetition is often more dynamic and can involve some pretty cool positions with lots of material still left on the board.
For this post I am going to follow the same process I’ve used in previous posts for analyzing the position -- evaluate the material, identify/prioritize threats, and search for specific moves using the five defensive ideas. But -- based on feedback from Tomasz -- I am going to try out another format for presenting the analysis. Let me know what you think!
Black just played 1…d2. White to move.
|8/8/8/2p5/2P5/kr6/1r1p4/K1Q5 w - - 0 1|
Let's evaluate the position, and then find and prioritize all of white's threats.
Evaluation: White is down two points (Queen vs two Rooks and a Pawn), and all of black’s pieces are very active compared to white’s. Black is playing for a win, and white is fighting for a draw.
Threats: Black is threatening to capture white’s queen and promote to a rook/queen giving checkmate. If the white queen moves and unpins black’s b2 rook, black can checkmate with …Ra2#, and if the white queen leaves the defense of the first rank (b1 in particular) black will checkmate with …Rb1#. If we skip white’s move we would quickly see that the most immediate checkmate threat is 2…dxc1=Q/R#, which is our priority for calculations.
Now that we have found black’s greatest threat, let's now look at the five defensive ideas to see what candidate moves we find, calculate each one, and then pick the best move. I am going to try this chart format to support the verbal analysis. Hopefully this helps convey the ideas a bit better, but let me know what you think. Take a look at this chart:
The five defensive Ideas are in the column on the left. Then there are columns for specific moves, space to calculate those moves, enter the evaluation, and then track your King of The Hill rating. This follows the general process of calculation – use ideas to generate specific candidate moves, calculate each one completely, then pick the best move.
We will start the process by searching for specific moves to put in the “moves” column next to each of the five ideas.
Idea 1 – do something to the attacking piece (the d2 pawn). We can capture it (2. Qxd2), we cannot pin it to anything of greater value, and we cannot deflect it. So Idea 1 has generated one specific candidate move. We enter it, and move on to defensive Idea 2 to search for more candidates.
Idea 2 – block the attacking piece (the d2 pawn). It is not possible because there are no squares between the pawn and queen. It is in fact never possible to block a pawn, knight, or king.
Idea 3 – move the piece being attacked (the white queen). There is only square the queen can move to that keeps an eye on all three key squares (a2, b1, and d1) – that gives us 2. Qc2. The queen has several other squares she can escape to, but they can all be refuted by black with an immediate mate in one (either Ra2#, Rb1# or d1=R/Q#). So Idea 3 has helped us find our second specific candidate move (2. Qc2).
Idea 4 – reinforce/defend the attacked square or piece (the white queen). There are no legal ways to defend the queen.
Idea 5 – counterattack with an equal or greater threat (of checkmate in one). Looking at the EGT chart from earlier we can see that against a mate in one threat, the only EGT possible must begin with a check. In this position there is only one, and that’s the capture-check on b2 (2. Qxb2+).
This process has generated three specific candidate moves that we can enter in our chart:
The next step is to calculate each of those three (and ONLY those three!!) candidate moves. How to pick which one to calculate first?
We can either start with the most forcing, or the easiest to refute. I think I’ll start with the most forcing this time, which is the capture-check 2. Qxb2+:
This greater threat allows us to change the position, but it is not yet clear if it will lead to a WIN, DRAW, or new possibilities to DEFEND…or if it leads to a loss and the move is just plain bad!
As mentioned above I personally like to start by looking for draws by stalemate first because it is the easiest to eliminate. In most positions you’ll have multiple pawn moves or your pieces will enjoy freedom of movement around the board, and you can very easily see if stalemate is an option. A quick glance at this position shows white has very limited moves, which is an indication that stalemate IS in fact a defensive option for white. White's only pawn has no move or captures, and the king is in the corner and cannot move. If we can force the queen off of the board then white will have no legal moves...we would just have to make sure that it is white's turn to move and not black's, which would turn a stalemate position into a checkmate position!! Stalemate positions are often very easy to recognize. The tricky part is to remember to consciously search for it!
Back to the check. Black now has one capture, and two king moves in response. Let’s see which of the three variations is best for black starting with the most forcing (the capture):
(1) 1…d2 2. Qxb2+ Rxb2 Stalemate. Since our initial assessment was that white should be fighting for a draw, this should be good for white. But before making this our KOTH, we need to see if there are any replies black has that are better for him than a draw? Let’s see.
(2) 1…d2 2. Qxb2+ Kb4 3. Qxd2+ Kxc4 Endgame tablebases will say this is a win for white in like 50 moves. The general process is to get the king active, win the black pawn, then the Queen vs Rook endgame is a technical win. Practically speaking this endgame is very hard to actually win, but black is at a disadvantage because his king is already on the edge of the board. Although the outcome OTB would most likely be a draw, it is only white that has any winning chances. So black should reject this line in favor of the forced draw by stalemate. There is only one other option for black after the capture check.
(3) 1…d2 2. Qxb2+ Ka4 3. Qxd2 This is almost identical to the variation above, except this time white has an extra pawn, so the evaluation would be slightly better for white – most likely a draw, but winning chances for white. Black should reject this line, too, in favor of the stalemate since a draw is better than a loss!
We can now say that the mainline for this variation is the first one, leading to stalemate. Here is an updated chart showing our variations, evaluations, and current KOTH:
White’s current KOTH is stalemate, which is pretty good considering he was fighting for a draw in our initial evaluation. But let’s check to see if either of white’s other candidate moves offer him anything better than a draw, starting with the most forcing (the capture) 2. Qxd2:
1…d2 2. Qxd2 (unpinning the b2 rook) Rb1# A clear refutation of white's candidate! Here’s our updated chart showing this line:
White’s current KOTH is still stalemate, but let’s quickly check his last candidate move 2. Qc2:
This candidate is also easily refuted by black with the simple promotion -- 1…d2 2. Qc2 d1=Q+ 3. Qxd1 Ra2# (3. Qc1/Qb1 QxQ#)
Here again is an updated chart showing this final candidate move:
This is the process you should be able to do mentally: use ideas to search for specific candidate moves, calculate each one completely, and then pick the best variation based on the final evaluation.