Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Analyzing the duc-chessart Endgame

Now I'm ready to go on this, from the position: White: K on b1, R on f7, P's on a2 and c2; Black: K on g4, R on a8.

1...Rb8ch 2 Kc1 Ra8?

The principle both sides need to keep in mind here is that White should seek to jettison his a-Pawn in exchange for obtaining a winning position with his remaining c-Pawn. The reason for this is that the ending of Rook and Rook's Pawn vs. Rook is notoriously drawn. (For White to win the Black Rook needs to be cut off half a board or more away from the Queening square. Here, I will surely be able to get my King closer than this before White is ready to Queen his a-Pawn.) Therefore, I should play 2...Rc8 rather than Ra8, as I should seek to limit the advance of his c-Pawn, and not worry so much about the a-Pawn.

3 Kb2?

Following the principle just articulated, White should play 3 c3! Note that 3 c4 doesn't work because I then simply win the c-Pawn with 3...Rc8. However, after 3 c3 he has a Pawn on the 3rd and my King cut off by 3 files, which the book says is a win. White's most straightforward win would now be 3...Rc8 4 Kd2 Rd8ch 5 Ke3 Re8ch 6 Kd4 Rd8ch 7 Ke4! Rc8 (If 7...Re8ch 8 Kd5 Rd8ch 9 Kc6 Rc8ch 10 Rc7 1-0) 8 Rg7ch! (Forcing Black's King another file away. Strictly speaking this may not be necessary, but this gives White a margin of error, so that he can now win even if he doesn't know the intricacies involved in the "3 files away" win.) K-h file 9 Kd3 Rd8ch 10 Kc2 Rc8 11 Rg1! K moves 12 Kb3 Rb8ch 13 Ka4 Ra8ch 14 Kb5 Rb8ch 15 Ka6 Rc8 16 Rc1! Rc4 17 Kb5 and the Pawn will advance. Or, 13...Rc8 14 Rc1 K-g file 15 c4 Kf6 16 Kb5 Rb8ch 17 Kc6 Ke7 18 Re1ch Kd8 19 Rd1ch Ke7 (19...Kc8 20 Rh1 1-0) 20 c5 and White has the Lucena Position.

Rb8ch 4 Kc3 Ra8 5 Kb3 Rb8ch 6 Ka4 Rc8 7 Rf2 Ra8ch 8 Kb3 Rb8ch 9 Kc3 Rc8ch 10 Kd2 Ra8 11 Rg2ch??

White completely loses his way here. There is no reason in the world for this move, other than that White simply is at a loss for a productive plan on how to proceed. This move lets my King out of his prison, for no good reason. It accomplishes nothing positive for White.

Kf3 12 Rg1

This is where his Rook should have gone in the first place, preparing to move behind his c-Pawn at the proper time.


My King will now get in front of his c-Pawn, and my drawing chances just shot up immensely. I do not take the a-Pawn, feeling it is more important to get my King into play.

13 Ra1 Kd4 14 a4 Kc4 15 a5 Kb5 16 c3?

This is wrong on principle. White should keep his Pawn back so that he will have a tempo move with the Pawn if he needs it to achieve the opposition.

Rxa5 17 Rxa5ch Kxa5 18 Kd3 Kb5 19 Kd4 Kc6 20 Kc4 Kb6 21 Kd5 Kb7 22 c4?

Another ill-considered Pawn push. Simply 22 Kc5 keeps the opposition for White. However, White still has the win.

Kc7 23 Kc5 Kb7 24 Kd6 Kc8 25 Kc6 Kb8 26 c5??

The final blunder for White. Now I have an easy draw. He should have played 26 Kd7 and his King escorts his Pawn to the Queening square. Perhaps White had the old adage "passed pawns should be pushed" drilled into his head at some point in his chess career. But, like any rule of thumb, it has exceptions!

Kc8 27 Kb6 Kb8 28 Kc6 Kc8 29 Kd6 Kd8 30 c6 Kc8 31 Ke5 Kc7 32 Kd5 Kc8

Not 32...Kd8?? 33 Kd6 Kc8 34 c7 1-0. You always go straight back in these situations.

33 Kd6 Kd8 34 Kd5 Kc7 35 Kc5 Kc8

Again, straight back.

36 Kb6 Kb8 37 Kc5 Kc7 38 Kd5 Kc8 39 Ke6 Kc7 40 Kd5

This repeats the same position for the third time, with the same player to move. Thus, I could have claimed the draw. When I started playing on the Internet I assumed the system would automatically declare a draw when a three-time repetition came up. In time I learned that you have to claim the draw, the idea being that in an over-the-board tournament you have to claim the draw, so the same should hold true in Internet play. I recommend clicking on the "draw" button as often as possible in these situations. You may not always have time to do it after every move, but the more often you can do it the more chance to end the game.

Why is White playing on here? One reason might be frustration at not being able to convert his position to a win. It is hard psychologically to admit you have blown a won game. The other reason might be more insidious. In a sudden death time control, as this was, White literally has nothing to lose playing on and hoping to run Black out of time. If he himself runs out, he still has the draw as Black does not have mating material; whereas, if Black runs out White has mating material with the Pawn and can get the win.

This illustrates the folly of the sudden death time controls which have proliferated in American chess in the last 20 years. It is really a sad trend in my opinion, because it converts what should be a beautiful game of mental acuity into a game of physical dexterity, as time scrambles are inevitable in which each player seeks to move and punch his clock as fast as possible. Also, it opens the door to all kinds of disputes--illegal moves and what should be done about them, punching the clock with one hand and moving the piece with the other, et al.

I don't know what the time was in my game, as my game score does not have the times recorded, but it is possible that I was down to a few seconds and he was trying to run me out of time. Fortunately, the draw was so easy at this point that I didn't need much time to make the moves.

Kc8 41 Kd6 Kd8 42 c7ch Kc8 43 Kc6 Stalemate

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Ending of Rook, Rook's Pawn, and Bishop's Pawn vs. Rook

Over the weekend I was going over some of my Internet Dragon games and I came to a five-minute game played on 3-2-08 vs. "duc". After 39 Rf7, we got to the following position: White: K on b1, R on f7, P's on a2 and c2; Black: K on g4, R on a8. Being two Pawns up, one would think White would win handily, but the game continued 1...Rb8ch 2 Kc1 Ra8 3 Kb2 Rb8ch 4 Kc3 Ra8 5 Kb3 Rb8ch 6 Ka4 Rc8 7 Rf2 Ra8ch 8 Kb3 Rb8ch 9 Kc3 Rc8ch 10 Kd2 Ra8 11 Rg2ch Kf3 12 Rg1 Ke4 13 Ra1 Kd4 14 a4 Kc4 15 a5 Kb5 16 c3 Rxa5 17 Rxa5ch Kxa5 18 Kd3 Kb5 and drawn in 25 more moves as he played it out to the bitter end.

When I first annotated this I made the comment that "White should have an easy win". After playing around with the position awhile, I crossed out the "n" and the "easy", and said simply that "White should win".

Then I decided to check my ending books, and found that all three said this ending was a book draw, although one commentator stressed that in practice White often wins because of imprecise play by Black. It bothered me, though, that all of the positions given had Black's King near the Pawns, and in none was the Black King cut off as in my game.

After stewing about this all Saturday night (literally, as I tend to wake up during the night and study chess positions in my head), I woke up yesterday morning and got the idea of ignoring the a-Pawn and treating it as Rook plus c-Pawn vs. Rook. The book learning on this is that it is a draw when the Black King can reach the Queening square, and a loss if it cannot. When the Black King is in front of the Pawn, it is called Philidor's Position, and when the Black King is cut off by a file from the Pawn, it is called the Lucena Position.

In the latter position, the White Rook does duty cutting off the Black King, while the White King attempts to escort the Pawn to the promised land. When the Pawn is on the 5th rank, this is easy. But when the Pawn is not yet on the 5th rank, it becomes quite tricky. If you play with the position you will see that the Black Rook stays in front of the Pawn, on its back rank if possible, i.e., he sets up camp on White's Queening square. Just as in my game, he then checks the White King whenever the King attempts to slide up the board beside the Pawn, hoping to support its advance.

It is therefore apparent that to achieve the Pawn's advance from the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rank, the assistance of the Rook will be necessary. The Rook can assist either from the rank or from the file, behind the Pawn. When the Rook does this the Black King will then have time to come closer to the action, hence it must initially be cut off by *more* than the single file required when the Pawn is on the 5th rank. Fine, in "Basic Chess Endings", gives the rule as follows: "If the P is on the 3rd or 4th rank and its K is near it, White can always force a win if and only if the Black King is cut off at a distance of 3 files from the Pawn (NP), or 2 files from the Pawn (BP or center P). If the P is on the 2nd rank, and Black's K is on the 4th or 5th, White wins if and only if the K is cut off at a distance of 5 files from the Pawn."

It is obvious that with the c-Pawn it is impossible for the Black King to be cut off by 5 files. It is possible with the b-Pawn, and Fine gives this example, position 317: White: K on b1, R on f1, P on b2; Black K on h4 and R on b8. This illustrates the principle well, because (according to Fine) White to play wins, while Black to play draws; i.e., White to play can play 1 Rg1, cutting off the Black King by the required 5 files, while if it's Black's turn he plays 1...Kg4, getting one file closer to the action. The winning method with White to play runs 1 Rg1 Kh5 2 Kc2 Rc8ch 3 Kd3 Rb8 4 Kc3 Rc8ch 5 Kd4 Rb8 6 Rb1 (the Rook slides over behind the Pawn) Kg6 7 b4 (White gets the Pawn pushed finally) Kf7 (Black gets another file closer) 8 Kc5! Ke7 (8...Rb8 does not help, as 9 Kd6 Rb8 10 Kc7 Rb5 11 Kc6 allows the Pawn to advance next move, where it will be on the 5th with an easy win) 9 Kc6! winning. If 9 b5? Kd7 and the Black King will get to the Queening square and draw. But after 9 Kc6!, White keeps the King out with a little trick: 9...Kd8 10 b5 Kf8? 11 Rh1! and Black either gets mated or loses his Rook.

Euwe and Hooper, in "A Guide to Chess Endings", give the exact same position as the Fine position just discussed, but they give it a little different treatment. Their winning line with White to move is 1 Kc2 Rc8ch 2 Kd3 Rb8 3 Kc3 Rc8ch 4 Kd4 Rd8ch 5 Kc5 Rc8ch 6 Kd6 Rb8 7 Rb1 (The White Rook slides over behind his Pawn) Rb3 8 Kc5 Kg5 9 Kc4 Rb8 10 b4 winning.

Euwe and Hooper point out that in the initial position White's simplest win is to cut off Black's King on the rank with 1 Rf5 Kg4 2 Rc5 Kf4 3 Kc2 Ke4 4 Kc3 winning as b4 follows.

Euwe and Hooper's discovered that Fine was wrong in saying Black draws if he moves first in the initial position. They give 1...Kg5 (Not 1...Kg3 2 Rf5, and not 1...Kg4 2 Rf6 Rh8 3 Ra6 ) 2 Rf2 Kg4 3 Kc1!! This discovery they atribute to Kopaiev, the idea being it puts Black into zugzwang. Both Black's King and Rook are on their best squares, and Black loses because he must move one of them!! Now if 3...Rc8ch 4 Rc2 Rh8 5 Rc5 Rh2 and White wins by moving his K to a3 and then advancing the Pawn to b4. After 3 Kc1!! Euwe and Hooper's main line goes 3...Rh8 4 b3 Kg3 5 Rf6 Rh2 6 b4 Kg4 7 b5 Kg5 8 Rf8 Rh7 9 Rb8 Kf6 10 b6 Ke6 11 b7 and they say wins though I don't understand why Black's King can't simply move in for the draw.

But now Euwe and Hooper give an example with the c-Pawn. Position is White: K on c1 R on g1, and Pawn on c2; Black: K on h5 and R on c8. Very similar to the last position but on the c-file rather than the b-file. They say White wins, contradicting Fine on the number of files the Black King needs to be cut off (only 4 here). Here the White King moves up on the short side, which wasn't there for the b-Pawn as there was only one file on the "short side" there. The main line runs 1 Kb2 Rb8ch 2 Ka3 Rc8 3 Kb3 Rb8ch 4 Ka4 Rc8 5 Rc1 (the usual "sliding over" of the White rook to support his Pawn's advance) Kg6 6 c4 Kf6 7 Kb5 Rb8ch 8 Kc6 Ke7 9 Re1ch Kd8 10 Rd1ch Ke7 (10...Kc8? 11 Rh1 threatening Rh8) 11 c5.

In my game,. however, the King is cut off by "only" 3 files, so White cannot win using this method. However, there has to be a way to win using fact that he has the extra pawn on the a-file. This requires further study.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The So-Called "Housing Crisis"

An NPR story today states that: "Many people can't afford to sell their homes; as many as one-third of homeowners owe more than their home is now worth, and there are few buyers. Americans who once expected mobility now find themselves grounded, with their careers and lives fixed in place. They can't move to better job markets without taking a huge financial hit."

This dorp in home prices has been painted by many as a "crisis", when in reality it is simply a normal and expected adjustment to abnormally high rises in prices during the past decade. The proof of this lies in an amazing chart contained in the following website: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/08/24/129397321/in-the-long-view-home-prices-are-still-high

This site has a chart which shows that the rise in prices since 1890 closely parallels the inflation rate: i.e., there has been little or no rise in the real price of a home. Instead, the rise has been due to inflation, and people have conned themselves into believing that their homes have actually risen in price, due to a lack of understanding of inflation. The chart in question shows that the real value of homes has been in the neighborhood of 100 ever since 1890, until about 2005, when there is a *huge* spike in prices raising them to about 200!!

The drop-off since then has brought prices down to about 125, which is still a bit higher than at any time in the period of 1890-2000. The conclusion is that prices are still high and will fall further to get into line with historic trends.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Tax Policy

Letter to The Lima News:

Your editorial "Reagan's Wisdom on Cutting Taxes" really missed the boat. You failed to mention that Reagan's tax cuts, combined with his military spending, resulted in massive budget deficits which tripled our national debt.

Alan Greenspan recently spoke to this issue, saying "I don't agree with paying for tax cuts with borrowed money". Greenspan concluded that "At the end of the day, that proves disastrous."

I agree with Greenspan.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Clemens Indictment

A number of observations come to mind concerning the indictment of pitching great Roger Clemens for lying to Congress about using steroids.

First, the news accounts say he was indicted for "allegedly lying to Congress". No, he was indicted for "lying to Congress", not for "allegedly lying to Congress". When someone is indicted for murder we don't say he was indicted for "allegedly committing murder", we say he was "indicted for murder". Just another example of the media being afraid to speak plainly.

Second, Clemens has been known to be an arrogant jerk for many years, going back to when he was thrown out of a playoff game in the late '80's and denied cursing the umpire. It was only many years later that the umpire spoke up and said that yes, Clemens had indeed cursed him. And then there was the beaning of Piazza and throwing the broken bat at Piazza, in two separate incidents.

Third, I have seen in the practice of law for three decades that people can be mistaken about something, without necessarily being guilty of "lying". People seem able to actually convince themselves something did or did not happen, even though all evidence is to the contrary. Here, Clemens just cannot accept that he used steroids, so he denies it to himself and to others.

Fourth, it should be remembered that Clemens did not have to testify to Congress. He insisted on testifying after his name came up prominently in the Mitchell report on steroid use in baseball. He insisted on the opportunity to clear his name; instead, he only dug himself a deep hole.

Fifth, Clemens was offered a plea deal and turned it down, so nobody should feel sorry for him when he gets convicted and goes to prison. He still insists he never took steroids and arrogantly thinks he can prove it in court, even though any rational person can see that he will lose. His arrogance simply knows no bounds. Perhaps a year in prison will give him the personal character which he now lacks.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Erik Kratz

One of the baseball stories I love so much is the player who knocks around in the minor leagues for many years and finally, at age 30 or more, gets his shot at the majors. Now comes the story of Erik Kratz, who has special interest as he is a graduate of EMU and a member of the Souderton, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Church. After 8+ years in the minors, he got called up in July by the Pirates. Apparently he got sent back down after 21 days (just like Crash in "Bull Durham"), but at least he got a taste of it. His loyal wife and their two young sons were also spotlighted in the story in a recent "Mennonite Weekly Review".

Bethel Gets a New President

News is that Bethel College has named Perry D. White as its new president. What is surprising and perhaps alarming is that he has no background in the Anabaptist tradition or the peace tradition. His credentials seem to be that he has attracted increased donations in his past positions.

So convoluted was the attempt to create Mennonite roots by the writer of the article in "The Mennonite" that she sees fit to remark that White's wife has a degree from the University of Kansas. This pathetic attempt to demonstrate some rationale for the appointment just illustrates that Bethel has sold out to the larger culture and has really fallen on hard times. Unfortunately.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kagan's Confirmation

The vote was 63-37 to confirm Kagan. One Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against Kagan. Nelson is a complete joke. His stated reason, that his constituents oppose her, is totally lame. We elect leaders to lead, not to follow. Surely he does not really believe that his constituents have an informed opinion on what kind of justice Kagan will make. Think for yourself, Nelson!

The five Republicans who voted for her deserve credit, these being the two Maine senators, SC's Lindsay Graham, NH's Judd Gregg, and IN's Richard Lugar. MA's Scott Brown came down against her just before the vote.

To put this into proper context, here are the votes against confirmation for recent Republican nominees to the Court: Kennedy (0), Scalia (0), Alito (42), Roberts (22), and Thomas (48). Votes against for Democratic nominees are Breyer (9), Ginsburg (3), and Sotomayor (31).