Sunday, February 15, 2015

Aronian - Karjakin: Rules are for Fools

True masters of their craft regularly ignore rules and recommendations that act as clutches for the rest of us. Consider the following position from a blitz game between Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin at the 2015 Zurich Chess Challenge after 19. ... Rb8

White (Aronian) to move after Karyakin's 19. ... Rb8
Aronian played 19. Kf2 and eventually won the game after both players put their kingside pawns in motion.

I'm wondering though... in the diagram above... Why didn't Aronian just take the bishop on b7? 

It's a well-known rule of thumb that in endgames with pawns on both wings, the bishop is superior to the knight. In the diagram above, there may even be the chance to lock Black's queenside pawns in place on light-colored squares, which would make White's bishop even stronger.  

Obviously, Aronian is aware of all this, so he must have had his reasons to keep his knight (and Karyakin's bishop) on the board.

Would this not be a textbook example of a position where the Bishop is stronger than the Knight?
Was he afraid that the afraid that the advantage wouldn't be enough to win the position?
Did he see "ghosts" or overlooked something? After all, this was a blitz game. Or is the evaluation of the diagram above different at a super-GM level compared to mere amateur play?

Aronian won the game regardless. However, Karyakin "helped" by pushing for a win himself. It seems to me that if Black chooses to play for a draw, the task is much easier in the first diagram than in the second.

The complete game can be found here:
Aronian - Karyakin, Zurich Chess Challenge Blitz, 2015

I really don't know. Which is why I was fascinated by this example and chose it for this blog.

Oh well... these guys are 2700 GMs for a reason, and I am not...


  1. You asked if he was "afraid that the advantage wouldn't be enough to win the position".

    And yes, Stockfish thinks that 20. Nxb7 is a draw, and that on the other hand 20. Kf2 puts white ahead by 0.22 pawns.

    Having looked to depth 38, examining 1.27 billion positions, here's the current best line of play following 20. Nxb7:

    20... Rxb7 21. e4 Rc7 22. Rd2 Nd7 23. Kf2 Rc1 24. f4 e5 25. g3 f6 26. Ke3 Nb6 27. b3 Rc3+ 28. Rd3 Rc2 29. fxe5 fxe5 30. Rd2 Rc3+ 31. Rd3 Rc2

    (posted here for your convenience:

    But that doesn't really answer your question, does it?

    What could the answer possibly be? Is it that for this particular pawn structure, the bishop doesn't give enough of an advantage? Unless it has a knight to help?

  2. Looking at depth 44, 6B positions, still a draw, new line: