, Muskogee, OK

January 23, 2014

In endgame, knight overpowers bishop

By Eric Morrow
Chess Corner

— The prestigious Tata Steel Chess Tournament in the Netherlands began Jan. 10 and will finish Sunday.

Levon Aronian of Armenia, whose player rating is the second-highest in the world, has led throughout the tournament.

In the fourth round, Aronian defeated the United States’ best player, Hikaru Nakamura, whose world ranking is No. 3.

This week’s position is from their game. Aronian is white; Nakamura, black. Aronian wins by taking his knight on a tour of the position. With this hint in mind, please try to find white’s winning moves and plan.

The players have entered a knight versus bishop endgame.

White’s pawns are all on squares whose color is opposite that of black’s bishop. This makes white’s pawns safe. But black’s pawns are not safe from white’s knight, which can land on any color of square. This highlights the weakness of a bishop in a knight versus bishop endgame.

Aronian exploits this by moving his knight to g7, threatening black’s h5 pawn. This forces the h5 pawn to h4.

White’s knight hops back to f5, again threatening black’s h4 pawn. Black defends the pawn by moving its bishop to e1.

Now Aronian maneuvered his knight to e3. The e3 square is a launching pad for the c4 square. From c4, the knight and white king combine to capture black’s a5 pawn.

Nakamura was helpless against this attack. He moved his king to e6 and Aronian moved his knight to c4.

Nakamura resigned. After Aronian captures black’s a5 pawn, white’s passed pawn on a4 will be decisive.

The lesson this week is that in a knight versus bishop endgame, the knight’s ability to occupy squares of either color often decides the outcome.

In this game from the world’s best, we saw a knight go on tour and visit both dark and light squares on its way to the critical square.