Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rook Superior to 2 Minor Pieces

My experience and chess education predispose me to favor 2 minor pieces vs a rook + 2 pawns even though materially a rook + 2 pawns is material ahead. I have some bad memories of struggling just to make a draw vs James West in a Philidor Counter Gambit where White's ( my ) rook and two pawns were going nowhere vs Black's minor pieces. I believe I favor the minor pieces because using the rook effectively is harder than using the minor pieces effectively. I do mean to master this trade off and I was lucky to find this nice example of using the rook + pawns to win.
Karpov - Spassky Candidates Semifinal 1974
The rooks were better here because there were no supports for White's pieces in the center, Black was ahead in development and at some key moments White's back rank weaknesses required loss of tempi. Even so the position remained unclear for much of the middle game and perhaps Karpov missed some chances to keep the position unclear for longer.
Kramnik-Smeets Some really nice technique from Kramnik.

The next example is very clear cut but it required an understanding of how the endgame would play out to trade 2 pieces for the rook and 2 pawns from a somewhat unclear middlegame.

A game in a topical line of the Botvinnik Semi-Slav where White surrenders two minor pieces for a rook and pawn. Theory considers White to be better as Black has difficulty coordinating.
Another game on the same theme with a much more complex feel Bacrot-Fressinet French Championship 2002 I will use this post to collect more examples of rook + pawns being winning vs 2 minor pieces