Till I Collapse

Over at the Chess Mind blog (http://www.thechessmind.net/), there was an entry from March 9th about an interview with Judit Polgar (the interview is here). One of the two noteworthy items (according to Monokroussos) was her disgust over IM Maria Muzychuk playing “too long”, especially with regards to the “last two moves.” That seemed somewhat interesting so I took a look at the game.

The full game can be seen over at the chessgames site, with the small caveat that 38…Rb6 is almost certainly 38…Qb6. Otherwise Black could have resigned a lot sooner …

Just for reference, the position before the last two moves was:

(FEN: 8/5r2/1P2k3/8/1K6/8/8/3R4 b - - 0 62)

Black played 62…Rd7 here (and the game ended after White’s 64th move).

Really though, the position was relatively trivial after 47.Rxd6.

(FEN: 5k2/6p1/3R1p1p/4p2P/2r1P1P1/5P2/1P6/1K6 b - - 0 47)

White’s king can escort the passed pawn, and Black has no prospects for counterplay as her king is cut off and the rook can’t get behind the kingside pawns (even if it could, there’s nothing to really attack). But I might not resign just yet against anybody – if I was playing Polgar, though, I might.

According to some further commentary on chessgames.com, the “truly” resignable position was after 60.Rd1:

(FEN: 8/5r2/8/1P6/4k3/1K6/8/3R4 b - - 0 60)

Ok, this is pretty trivial and I’d definitely resign here. Nothing has fundamentally changed from the position above (on move 47), except that the removal of all the kingside pawns makes it easier to see that Black is toast. The rest of the game went: 60…Ke5 61.Kb4 Ke6 62.b6 Rd7 63.Rxd7 Kxd7 64.Kc5 and Black resigned.

Was that really so insulting after “fighting five to six hours”? I’m guessing that Muzychuk didn’t spend an hour pondering those two moves and then resigning. The two extra moves probably took 30 seconds to execute, maybe even less since she knew this K+P endgame at the age of six.

I knew how to checkmate with a bishop and knight around the age of 7 (and demonstrated it just after turning 7) – does that mean I should expect everybody to resign against me now? Definitely not!

Meanwhile, at a US Junior Championship one year, I was asked by my opponent during the game why I didn’t resign in a certain endgame position (at the time, I was down a rook for two pawns, the pawns being doubled on c4 and c3). I ended up winning the game.

Of course, I’m pretty sure that if you polled my opponents, I’d be the guy who doesn’t resign until the bitter end. There are plenty of games where I play on in the vain hope that I can save a half-point. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, nothing’s changed – when it does, I’ve got an extra half-point. So it goes.

In most sporting events, playing until the end is a celebrated quality – not something to be ashamed about or make the opponent feel insulted. Nobody faults top tennis players like Djokovic and Nadal for scrambling on defense. Or Federer with possibly the best get I’ve seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQHHBWbtEmA. Sure, that’s a little different than a chess game, but how about something like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2kcpTmheM4&t=1m50s.

That’s in a Super Bowl too.

I’ve gotten annoyed before about an opponent playing on too long – but the annoyance usually passes pretty quickly unless a good portion of the game time is spent waiting for that inevitable resignation. If it takes a few minutes to come to terms with the position, fine by me. I’ll be long over my annoyance by the time I see a computer to blog about it, and in the meantime I’ll just enjoy the fact that I’m winning.

If, however, you’re down a bishop with no compensation and it takes you 30 minutes to play 10 moves and then resign, that’s not so cool. The “punishment” in that cases was that I declined to do a post-mortem. Had my opponent resigned sooner, I would have gladly gone over the game, but that post-mortem time was spent waiting at the board.

Finally, here’s an amusing little endgame that took a couple minutes to find in ChessBase:

(FEN: 8/7p/5r2/3p4/3k2K1/R7/7P/8 w - - 0 51)

Black just played 51…d6-d5. It’s a pretty simple win at this point and White could be forgiven for resigning here in a Category 19 round-robin. Instead, the game continued until move 62, when Black’s king reached d2. Oh, and the players?

It was Polgar – Illescas Cordoba,Dos Hermanas 1999.

Haha, oops.

One response to “Till I Collapse

  1. Thanks for the blog updates, Vinay! They are always enjoyable.
    I agree with you about playing quickly being OK when dead lost but playing slowly, that is not cool. Looks like Polgar forgot her past!

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