I was intrigued watching this game at the end of the Pikes Peak Open. It was the last game to finish and there were only a handfull of us left to see it. A contest between two friends (and competitors) of mine, and concluding in a classic, basic rook and pawn ending, I couldn't begin to drag myself away. Paul slowly turned a small edge in the middle game into a three pawn advantage. But Shaun defended flawlessly cashing in on more advanced, dangerous queenside pawns, eventually leaving Paul with rook verses rook and pawn. With five pieces on the board, the basic rook and pawn is a known result thanks to tablebases. As I watched, I suspected that the game was teetering back and forth between win and draw. So I was anxious for Paul to send the moves. Most of my comments are near the end and are the product of those tablebase lookups in the basic endgame. It's interesting how perfect play is needed to win or draw here, and I wonder if a grandmaster would find the right moves.
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nf6 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.h3 Bh5 8.g4 Bg6 9.Bxg6 hxg6 10.g5 Ne4 11.Nbd2 Nxd2 Fritz gives Paul a small advantage here.
12.Bxd2 e6 The computer's main line here is 12...Qc7 13.Qa4 e6 14.Ne5 Bd6 15.f4 Kf8 16.0-0-0 b5! 17.Qc2 when black has some initiative.
13.Bf4 Be7 14.Qb3 Qb6 This gives black pawn structure problems that could have been a problem. My guess is that Paul liked the idea of having the open rook file, which did work for him eventually.
15.Qxb6 axb6 16.b4 Leaves c3 undefendable. Playing Kd2 and a3 give white a comfortable game here.
16...Ra3 17.b5 Na5
18.Kd2 Nc4+ 19.Kc2 Bb4 20.cxb4 Rxf3 21.Bg3 Ra3 22.Rhb1 Rxg3 The results of this exchange look good for black, but they pave the way for Shaun to begin to steamroll on the queenside. Probably just taking on h3 was best.
23.fxg3 Na3+ 24.Kb3 Nxb1 25.Rxb1 Rxh3 26.Rg1 Now Shaun seems to keep finding the all of the right moves.
26...Rh5 27.a4 Rxg5 28.a5 bxa5 White's queenside pawns are getting to be a real problem now and bringing the king in doesn't seem any better. After 28...Kd7 29.a6 bxa6 30.bxa6 Kc7 31.Ka4 Rg4 32.Rc1+ Kb8 33. Rc6 Ka7 34.Rc7+ 34...Ka8 35.Rxf7 Rxd4 36.Re7 Re4 37.Kb5 e5 38.a7! wins
29.bxa5 Kd7 30.Rc1 Fritz thinks playing b6 or Kb4 is better, but white clearly has ideas of aggressively moving those pawns and it'll be tough to stop them.
30...Rxg3+ 31.Kb4 Rh3 It's hard to find a good plan for black. Once black's b-pawn is gone, white's two pawns will be decisive. Fritz considers the next 7 moves to be played perfectly.
32.b6 Kd6 33.Rc7 Rh1 34.Rxb7 Rb1+ 35.Ka4 f6 36.Rxg7 Kc6 Now Shaun repeats, likely to reach time control in a won position.
37.Rc7+ Kd6 38.Rf7 Kc6 39.Rc7+ Kd6 40.Rf7 Kc6 41.Rxf6 Ra1+ 42.Kb4 Rb1+ 43.Kc3 Kb5 44.Rf8 Ka6 45.Ra8+ Kb7 The computer thinks both sides continue to play the best possible moves.
46.Ra7+ Kb8 Kc6 may have been better maintaining a more active king.
47.Re7 Rb5 48.Rxe6 Rxa5 49.Kb4 Ra1 50.Kc5 g5 51.Rg6 Kb7 52.Rg7+ Kb8 53.Rxg5 Rc1+ 54.Kxd5 Shaun's excellent endgame play has brought him to a two pawn advantage that should win, but Paul's not giving up and one slip can cost half a point.
54...Kb7 55.Rg6 Rb1 56.Rd6 Re1 57.Rc6 Rd1 58.Rc4 White chose this moment in time to jettison the second pawn in hopes of promoting the other. Turns out, after this, the position is a tablebase draw. Instead, after 58.Rh6 Rd2 59.Ke5 Re2+ 60.Kd6 Kxb6, white can win with 61.Kd7+ Kb7 62.Rh1 Rd2 63.Rb1+ Ka7 64.Kc7 Ka6 65.Kc6 Rc2 66.Kd6.
58...Kxb6 59.Kd6 Kb5 The only move that draws.
60.Rc5+ Kb6 61.d5 Rh1 62.Rc6+ Kb7 63.Rc7+ Kb8 64.Re7 Rh6+ There was only one move here for black to draw and that was Kc8!, which gains control of the queening square. Now the game is a win for white.
65.Kd7 The only move to win was 65.Re6! Then 65...Rh1 66.Kc6! which keeps the black king out of c8 where it can control the queening square and allows the pawn to advance. Now we're back to a draw again.
65...Kb7 Paul found the only move that draws.
66.d6 Rg6 There were 7 moves that drew here, but this wasn't one of them. The rook needs to stay on the h file as in 66...Rh1 67. Kd8 Kc6 68.Rc7+ Kb6 69.Rc2 Rh8+ with a perpetual. Now the game is won.
67.Rf7 Back to a draw again. The quickest way to win was 67.Re6.
67...Rg8 Black needed to play Rh6. It's a win again.
68.Rh7 Kb8 69.Rh1 Rg7+ 70.Kc6 Rg8 Black would hang on a little bit longer with Rg6, but it's over. Next could be 71.Rh4 Rf6 72. Kd7 getting control of the queening square.
71.Rb1+ Ka8 72.d7 Rh8 73.Kc7 1-0