Active Pieces in the Endgame – Damian Lemos

Active Pieces in the Endgame

Do we need to study the old classical games? Can we still learn from the games of the old masters? These questions come up again and again. Many amateur players think that there is no point in analyzing old, antiquated games with plenty of mistakes which are immediately spotted by strong chess engines. Strong masters, however, say that studying the classics can not be overestimated. All the Super Grandmasters today know about the old games played by Botvinnik, Tal or Capablanca.

One advocate of studying the classics is GM Damian Lemos. In his latest video, he analyses an old game between Frank James Marshall and Jose Raul Capablanca which was played back in the year 1918. This game is an excellent example to illustrate the importance of active pieces in the endgame.

Are you ready to accompany GM Damian Lemos on a journey through time and experience a game which was played 100 years ago?

New York 1918: Marshall, Frank James – Capablanca, Jose Raul 

In the first part of the video, GM Damian Lemos takes a look at the game right from the start and guides us through the opening and the middlegame. The game started 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 O-O 7.Rc1 (see the diagram on the right).Active pieces

It is really fascinating to see that although the game was played almost 100 years ago, the same opening moves are still played today by modern chess giants such as Magnus Carlsen. It seems like not all has changed in chess and some opening principles proved to be very stable throughout time.
Without further ado, let’s turn to the start of the endgame after Black’s 20th move (see the diagram on the left): Active pieces
First of all, let’s take a look at some of the key factors of the position. Obviously, White is a pawn up and he has a strong knight on c6. At first glance, the position looks bright for White. But what does Black have in return?
Firstly, he has got an active rook on the second rank which threatens to grab White’s pawn on b2. Secondly, Black has a bishop against a knight which is often advantageous in endgames with pawns on both sides of the board. Moreover, due to the fact that bishops are long range pieces and tend to work together well with rooks.
It is White to move here. He played the passive move 21.Rb1 which is probably the first mistake in the endgame.
In endgames, activity is much more relevant than material. Despite being up a pawn, White can not relax and play passive moves. It’s often a good idea to give up a pawn in order to active important pieces.

Black continues with 21…Re8 and brings his last piece into the game. Black doesn’t worry about the a7 pawn here, as Nxa7 be answered by Rxe4 and all of Black’s pieces are active. 22.e5 (see the diagram on the right)Active pieces – White had to do something against the threat of …Rxe4. Otherwise, Black would have restored the material balance with the plus of having much more active pieces.

The position at hand is a good training exercise. How should Black proceed? Can you spot the brilliant strategic move which Capablanca played here? Think about the position for 10-15 minutes and try to come up with a move.

Black has two problems in the position. He would like to play 22…Bxc6 23.Rxc6 Rxe5, winning back the pawn and still having the more active pieces in the endgame. However, this sequence would lose to 24.Rc8+ and mate follows. The second issue for Black in this position is that if White has the time, he would follow up with f2-f4, securing his pawn on e5. Hence, Capablanca played a move which solved both problems – 22…g5! (see the diagram on the left)

Black just played the strong move ...g5!
Black just played the strong move …g5!

He restricts White from playing f4 and at the same time gives his king an escape square on g7. Of course, the game isn’t over yet. Black is still a pawn down but he has good prospects of outplaying White.

If you want to see the how Capablanca won a fantastic endgame? In order to get in touch with all the instructive ideas in this kind of endgames, you definitely need to watch the whole video and listen to the explanations by GM Damian Lemos.

Do you want to learn a lot more about chess strategy? Click here in order to get the full course “Chess Strategy Masterclass” by GM Damian Lemos.

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