Bishops in Quarantine

by GM Joel Benjamin

Even when bishops aren’t safeguarding from Covid 19 they can find themselves locked down.  Let’s look at some classic examples.

Valery Salov (2645)
Artur Yusupov (2605)
Linares, 1991

White’s bishop looks fine for now
41…c4 42.Nb4
With hindsight, White might prefer something like 42.Rb5!? cxd3 43.Nb4 dxe2+ 44.Kxe2 with a pawn less but chances to fight on.
42…Nc5 43.Rc3
43.Ke1 Rxa3 44.dxc4 is no fun at all, but in trying to hold onto everything, White ends up in a really bad way.
43…e4! 44.d4 h5!?
44…Nb3+ 45.Ke1 Rxa3 is good, or perhaps even better, 45…f5 46.Bh3 g6 47.g4 Rxa3 48.gxf5 Rd6 with a winning position.  The well-schooled Yusupov plays for a classic bishop imprisonment.
45.h3 Nb3+ 46.Ke1 f5 is even clearer as the bishop doesn’t have access to h3.
45…Na4 46.Rc2 f5 47.h3 g6!
The standard business; the bishop will have no diagonal to shift to.
48.Na2 Ra5 49.g4 h4!

The bishop is dead, whether it knows or not.
50.Kd2 Kg7 51.Rf1 Be6 52.Rf4
Or 52.gxf5 gxf5 53.Nc3 Nxc3 54.Rxc3 b5–+.
52…Nb6! 53.gxf5 gxf5 54.Rxh4 c3+! 55.Kc1
55.Nxc3 Nc4+ and 55.Kxc3 Rxa3+ would both be hopeless.
55…Bb3! 56.Nxc3 Bxc2 57.Kxc2 Rxa3 58.Nxe4 fxe4
It’s typical to try to free the imprisoned bishop with a sacrifice but it’s definitely too little too late here.
59.Bxe4 Rxe3
And Black won easily 0–1

Who hasn’t seen this position from the classic game, Winter-Capablanca, Hastings 1919?  The Black bishop is technically bad, but has freedom of movement, while the same cannot be said for its counterpart.

Surely grandmasters are smart enough to avoid be stuck with such a bishop.   Sometimes these things seem to sneak up on you, as a world class player learned the hard way.

Nigel Short (2698)
Vladimir Kramnik (2800)
[C48] London Chess Classic (2), 2011

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nd4 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5 dxc3 7.exf6 Qxf6 8.dxc3 Bc5 9.Qe2+ Qe6 10.0–0 0–0 11.Qf3 d6 12.Bg5 Qf5 13.Be7
13.Qxf5 Bxf5 14.Bd3 would almost certainly lead to a draw.  Short doesn’t sense danger until it is too late.
13…Qxf3 14.gxf3

14…a6! 15.Ba4
15.Bxf8 axb5 16.Be7 f6 and we see a different imprisoned bishop!
15…b5 16.b4 Re8!
More accurate than 16…Bb6 17.Bxf8 bxa4 18.Be7 f6 19.c4 Bd4 20.Rad1 Bc3 21.c5 when White would be okay.
17.bxc5 Rxe7 18.cxd6 Re6! 19.Bb3 Rg6+ 20.Kh1 Bb7 21.h4 c5! 22.c4 Bxf3+ 23.Kh2 Rxd6 with a horrid position for White.
17…Bb6 18.Bb3 Bb7 19.Kg2
It’s not easy to take of the other problem. White’s position is bleeding all over after 19.c4 Bd4 or 19.Rad1 a5.

The unbelievable truth dawns on Short—he has the Winter bishop!  Despite all my engines claiming White is only a little worse, there is really nothing to be done now; White is effectively playing a piece behind.
20.Re5 c6 21.Rae1 Bc7 22.R5e2 Bc8 23.a4 Bd7 24.Bh4 Rxe2 25.Rxe2 Re8 26.Rxe8+ Bxe8 27.Bg3

There is no reason to mindlessly trade and straighten out White’s kingside pawns.  The only hope for Short is to achieve a fortress, and the doubled pawns will kill any such attempt.
28.Be5 f6 29.Bb8 Bg6 30.axb5 axb5 31.Kf1 Kf7 32.Ke2 Ke6 33.Ke3 Bb6+ 34.Ke2 Bh5 35.Ba2 g5 36.Bb3 f5 37.Ba2 f4 38.Bb3 Kf5 39.Bd6 g4 40.Kf1 g3!
Not allowing any blockage.
41.fxg3 fxg3 42.Bxg3 Bxf3 43.Ba2 Be3


Resignation may seem a bit early, but White is pretty well doomed.  One straightforward continuation would be 44.Bf2 Bxf2 45.Kxf2 Kg4 46.Bb1 h6 47.Ke3 Be4 48.Kf2 Kh3 (48…Kh4) 49.Kg1 Bg6 50.Kh1 Bf5 51.Kg1 Be4 52.Ba2 Bxc2 53.Kh1 Kg4 54.Kg2 Kf4 55.Kf2 Bd3 56.Bb3 d4 57.cxd4 Ke4 58.Ke1 Kxd4 59.Kd2 Be4 60.Bf7 Bd5 and the b4-pawn drops.

Take good care of your bishops, everybody.

These games and theme were explored in a video from my Internet Chess Club (ICC) series “Need to Know Basics.”  If you like my style, check out my videos on ICC.  You can also look forward to learning a lot in the coming months from my camp, school, and adult classes on the American Online Chess Academy.

Joel Benjamin

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