Category Archives: Endgames

Amateur Versus Master: Game Fourteen

They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum
Where people come to see ’em
They really are a scream
The Addams Family.

So get a witches shawl on
A broomstick you can crawl on
We’re gonna pay a call on
The Addams Family.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Addams Family!

This song kept running through my head every time that I got a card from Gary Adams or looked at this chess game. Once, I asked him on a card that I sent to him, “How is the “Adams family doing?”. I got no reply. I do not know if he failed to get the joke or just did not think that it was funny.

This game is one of the four that I drew in the 2011 Golden Knights Postal Championship, Final Round. I ended this section with 1 win, 1 loss and 4 draws. This even score is what I wanted, but it failed to put me over 2200 points because of losses in other sections of correspondence chess. I am still waiting to see how I place in this section.

Mike Serovey


Experimenting with the Smith-Morra Gambit

I rarely try to play the White side of the Smith-Morra Gambit, but in this chess game I did try to play it. Black declined the gambit pawn by playing 3… d5. If I was going to decline this gambit that is the way that I would play it,

By move number 5, I (White)  ended up with an isolated Queen’s pawn and for a few moves afterward play revolved around Black attacking that isolated pawn and White defending it. A series of exchanges in the Center allowed me to get that isolated d pawn onto e5, where I could better protect it.

On move number 16, I offered the exchange of queens, which Black wisely declined. Black’s reply to my 16th move took me out of my database of games, but it may not have been his best response.

On move number 17, I offered some exchanges that favored White. By move number 20, both queens are off the board and Black has doubled pawns on then e file. So, I decided to leave my King in the Center and played 20. Ke2.

For several moves Black concentrated his pieces in the Center in an attempt to win my pawn on e5 and White doubled his rooks on the c file and then went after the Black King.

After forcing the exchange of all rooks, White had his King in the Center and we had bishops of the opposite color. Theory says that in a King and pawn endgame with bishops of the opposite colors, the game is most likely to end in a draw. I knew this but I was counting on my opponent making an endgame error and he did.

After placing all of my remaining pawns on dark squares where my Bishop could protect them, I began maneuvering my Bishop so it could protect my pawn on f2 and then my King could go after Black’s pawns on the a and b files.

Black allowed me to get my Bishop on e3, defending my pawn on f2. Then, he abandoned his own kingside pawns in an attempt to win my pawns on the Queenside. This backfired and he got outmaneuvered in the endgame.

Mike Serovey


I tried to Stack the Odds in My Favour

This is one of my correspondence chess games that was played on the ICC Server. My opponent is this game is from Australia. Whenever I suspect that my opponent will play some anti-Sicilian line I will sometimes alter the move order and play a Franco Sicilian. When they think that I am going to play the French Defense and then I throw in c5 on my second move many of the less experienced chess players will get confused. This usually works only once against each opponent. Sometimes, I have had some difficulty against the better prepared players. Eventually, we ended up with some odd Benoni variation.

I wasted a move when White kicked my Bishop and then I realized a move later that I needed to capture White’s Knight on f3.  I dislike trading bishops for knights, but sometimes I need to.

White tries to get some pressure on the e file by doubling up his rooks,  but I mange to reduce some of that pressure by trading off some pieces.

It took me 20 moves to reposition my pieces and then to get a fianchettoed position.

White managed to keep control of the e file for quite a while, so I opened up the b file and grabbed that file with my rook. That gave me some counter play. After trading off queens neither side had any real advantage.

After trading off some pawns I ended up with two isolated but passed pawns on the Queenside versus a passed pawn for White on the d file. After more captures it was my passed pawns on the Queenside versus White’s passed pawns in the Center. I then set up a clever exchange of bishops that left us with just one passed pawn each. However I dropped my last pawn and I ended up in a King and Rook endgame in which White had the only pawn left on the board.

Once we got into the endgame tablebase I convinced White that the position was even and he agreed to a draw.

Mike Serovey


Amateur Versus Master: Game Thirteen

This is my second cc game with Harold Boege. The first game was in the previous round of the 2011 Golden Knights Postal Championship. This game is
from the final round and it may be my only win from this round. I am the only NON master in this section and I expect to finish it with an even score.
Although I am not 100% certain, I believe that Harold is the highest rated opponent that I have defeated in correspondence chess.

I started off playing something resembling the Bremen System and ended up with something that I have never seen before or since this game, except in my analysis.

Mike Serovey


Experimenting With the Slav Defense, Chameleon Variation, Part 1

This chess game was one of my first attempts at playing the Slav Defense, Chameleon Variation. I saw a YouTube video in which GM Leonid Kritz advised playing this opening, so I decided to give it a try. So far, the results have been mixed. That video can be viewed here:

I won this chess game and that result gave me third place out of seven. My opponent is currently in last place. That third place is temporary as there are still games in progress in that section.

The first four moves of this variation are typical of the Slav Defense, but playing a6 on move number 4 allowed me to delay or disguise which variation I was going to transpose into. It seems to offer some degree of flexibility.

By move number nine, Black is lagging a little in piece development but has a space advantage on the Queenside. On move number 11, I (Black) moved a Knight for the second time before I castled. I do not normally move a piece twice in the opening unless I have a good reason to, such as the piece is being attacked. I no longer remember why I did here.

By move number 14, I was trading pieces in the Center and attacking the White Queen on the c file. By move number 20 we got the queens and rooks off the board and I am down a pawn. I continued moving my pawns forward and trading off material. Normally, I try to trade pieces when I am up material and pawns when I am down material. In this chess game I did a little of both.

Once we got into the endgame I centralized my King. It is important to bring my King into the Center once the queens and rooks are off the board because then the King is less subject to attacks and can become a supporting piece in an attack on my opponent’s material.

On move number 28 I am still down a pawn and my opponent helps me by offering to trade pawns. Of course I accept the trade even though it gives my opponent a passed pawn that is also isolated.

On move number 30, White begins to centralize his King. On move number 34 I am still down a pawn and then I sacrificed more material for a chance to queen a pawn first. White takes the free pawn but not the Bishop. On move number 36 White blunders and then he can’t stop me from queening the passed a pawn.

On move number 38 I decided to keep the White Knight tied down to defending a1, the queening square, and I also needed to prevent White from queening his own passed pawn.

On move number 41, I pulled my Bishop back to f6 so that it could help me to stop White from queening one of his two passed pawns. I kept my Bishop on the a1 – h8 diagonal for as long as I could.

Then, I found that I needed to keep my Bishop on the a3 – f8 diagonal. Although my opponent could have lasted for several more moves, he resigned in a position in which he had no good moves left to play.

Mike Serovey


My Favourite Things

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” Jolly nice they are too, but they’re not MY favourite things.

I like to tell my students that my three favourite things are chocolate, especially plain chocolate, ice cream, especially chocolate ice cream and … pawn endings.

So imagine my excitement when I saw this position on the board while watching some games at Richmond Junior Chess Club the other day.

It was White’s move in a game between two of our (relatively) stronger players, round about 1200 strength. RJCC, sadly, isn’t what it was 20 or 30 years ago.

Let’s have a look at how the game continued.

It’s immediately clear to any experienced player that, with the kings on e3 and e5, White, to move, will lose, whereas Black, to move, will not be able to make progress. A classic case of the OPPOSITION. The players both told me after the game they’d heard of ‘the opposition’ but clearly White, at any rate, didn’t actually understand it. This is why you need worksheets to test that children have actually understood the lessons at a higher level.

Players of this strength tend to think statically rather than dynamically, which is why they’re stuck at 1200 strength. If you’re only thinking statically it will be natural to play Ke3. You know you want to defend your pawn so you move your king next to it. If you’re applying dynamic thinking to chess positions you’ll be looking ahead, calculating everything that moves, and then you’ll see the problem.

So White can draw by playing Ke2 (or Kf3). He needs to be able to play Ke3 when Black plays Ke5 so he needs to stay in contact with the e3 square as long as Black is in contact with the e5 square.

White, after some thought, played 1. Ke3? and Black of course replied with Ke5. Now White realised he had a problem and tried 2. Kf3 Kd4 3. e5. This is a good attempt, forcing Black to make a decision about how to capture the pawn. He chose to take with the king. When I asked him why after the game he told me he wanted to keep his pawns together. This seems to be to be a case of misunderstanding basic principles. Generally speaking you want to keep your pawns together to make it easier for you to create a passed pawn (you’d rather have f and g pawns v g pawn than f and h pawns v g pawn, for instance), but if you have the chance to create a passed pawn in the ending you should generally seize it with both hands. After 3… fxe5 Black wins very easily. Play it out for yourself if you’re not sure. Instead, 3… Kxe5? left White having to make a decision about which way his king should move.

Again, if you understand the opposition you’ll make the right decision and play Ke3, which, as long as you know what you’re doing, will lead to a draw. Of course you have to know exactly how to defend after 3. Ke3 f5 4. gxf5 Kxf5 but this is very basic knowledge which all competitive players of any age should know back to front. But if you don’t understand the opposition and you’re thinking statically rather than dynamically you may well do what White did in the game and play Kg3 instead. He explained to me after the game that he wanted to be near his pawn to defend it. This time Black made no mistake and the game continued 4. Kg3? Ke4 5. Kg2 Kf4 6. Kh3 Kf3 (you need to understand that in this sort of position the white pawn can be attacked from two squares but only defended from one square) 7. Kh2 Kxg4 and Black soon obtained a queen and delivered checkmate.

So much to learn from such a simple position. You can see why pawn endings are among my favourite things.

Meanwhile, you might be wondering what happened to my adventures with 1… e5. Well, I’ve had a few more blacks without facing 1. e4 again. I did reach a pawn ending, although not a very interesting one, in my most recent game, though.

Although there are lots of pieces on the board here both players should be thinking about a potential pawn ending as either player can trade queens and White can, whenever he chooses, initiate a mass exchange on d5.

I had the black pieces and had to make a decision in this position where White has just played 26. c4. At this point we probably both realised that any potential pawn ending would be drawn. I decided to trade queens at the point and centralise my king so we continued 26… Qxf4 27. gxf4 Kf7 28. Kf2 Ke7. Now White can continue to maintain the tension but instead chose to trade on d5. I then had to decide how many pieces to trade off. I could perhaps have kept one pair of rooks on the board, although it’s unlikely that the result would have been different. Instead I went for the pawn ending: 29. cxd5 Bxd5 30. Bxd5 Rxd5 31. Rxd5 Rxd5 32. Rxd5 exd5. It’s well known that this type of pawn ending is drawn. Black can never activate his king because of White’s protected passed pawn and likewise White cannot activate his king because of Black’s queenside pawn majority. We continued 33. Ke2 b5 34. Kd3 a5 35. a3 b4 36. axb4 axb4 37. Kc2 c4 (The only move to draw. Black has to threaten to create a passed pawn. 37… Ke6 38. Kb3 is winning for White.) 38. h4 h5 39. Kd2 Ke6 40. Ke2 Ke7 and my draw offer was accepted.

Richard James


Crash Them Through

It is often a good idea in endgames to advance your pawns. How else are you going to turn one of them into a queen?

A menacing pawn storm in the middle game can worry your opponent. and a menacing pawn storm in the endgame can also worry your opponent.

If your pawns are advanced enough, sometimes you can crash them through with the aid of blasting the opponents pawns out of the way.

Here is an example. How does Black queen one of his pawns?

The solution to last Monday’s problem was that Nh5 was a blunder because White replies Nxd5. The Knight is safe because if it is taken by the pawn, White has Bc7 trapping the Black Queen.

Steven Carr


A Question of Time

In last week’s game, with more time and more ability I might have had to assess this king and pawn ending (with White to play) before choosing my move.

So what’s happening here? Let’s start by considering this position.

If Black has to move his king it’s clear he will lose. If it’s his move he will, if White is careful, run out of pawn moves first and White will win. But if it’s White’s move he can only draw because he’ll run out of pawn moves first.

So White’s aim is to reach this position with Black to move.

White needs to get his king in so, from the first diagram, obviously starts with 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Kf4. After 2… Kd7 3. Ke5 White has achieved his aim, reaching the second diagram with Black to move. Now Black has a choice of pawn moves. We’ll look at each in turn.

After 3… g5 White can choose three pawn moves: one wins, one draws and one loses. The winning pawn move is 4. g4 h6 5. f3 and Black has to give way. If he prefers he can draw by playing 4. f4, for instance 4… gxf4 5. gxf4 h5 6. f5 exf5 7. Kxf5. Or he can choose to lose instead with 4. f3 h5 5. f4 h4 6. gxh4 gxh4 7. Ke4 Kxd6 8. Kf3 Kd5 9. Kg4 Ke4 10. Kxh4 Kxf4. Another way to draw is 4. Kf6 Kxd6 5. Kxg5 e5 6. Kh6 Kd5 7. Kxh7 Ke4 8. Kg6 Kf3 9. Kf5 Kxf2 10. g4 Kf3 11. g5 e4 12. g6 e3 13. g7 e2 14. g8Q e1Q

Returning to the second diagram Black might also play 3… h6. This time White has two winning pawn moves. 4. f4, which drew against g5, now wins. After 4… h5 5. Kf6 is now winning for White, while after 4… g5, 5. fxg5 hxg5 6. g4 forces Black to give way. 4. f3, which lost against 3… g5, also wins, meeting 4… h5 with 5. f4 and 4… g5 with 5. g4. But 4. g4, the only way to win against 3… g5, this time is only a draw after 4… h5. Another way for White to win is 4. Kf6, which was only a draw against 3… g5.

Back to the second diagram for the last time, and now Black plays 3… h5. It’s clear that 4. f4 wins at once. On the other hand, 4. g4 now loses after 4… h4 with a passed pawn (but 4… hxg4 only draws) and 4. f3 also loses after 4… g5 followed by 5… h4. 4. Kf6 this time is a win for White.

So to summarise from this position:

After 3… g5, g4 wins, f4 and Kf6 both draw, f3 loses.
After 3… h6, f3, f4 and Kf6 all win, g4 draws.
After 3… h5, f4 and Kf6 both win, f3 and g4 both lose.

So White can win with optimal play.

Back at the first diagram, then, after 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Kf4 Black might want to consider alternatives. His best try is 2… g5. Now 3. Ke5 is met by h5, when Black’s passed h-pawn will distract White and enable him to draw. So White needs to play 3. g4 to prevent this.

We now need to consider another position.

If it’s White to move in this position it’s a draw with best play but Black has to get his timing right.

1. Kf6 Kxd6 2. Kxg5 Kd5 (Paradoxically, perhaps, 2… Ke5 loses because White gains an extra tempo: 3. f3 Kd4 4. Kh6 Ke3 5. Kxh7 Kxf3 6. g5 e5 7. g6 e4 8. g7 e3 9. g8=Q e2 10. Qg1 and White wins) 2. Kh6 Ke5 3. Kxh7 Kf4 4. f3 e5 5. Kh6 Kxf3 6. g5 e4 7. g6 e3 8. g7 e2 9. g8=Q e1=Q with a draw.

If it’s Black to move, though, White wins easily after 1… h6 2. f3 with Zugzwang.

Now consider what happens if White starts with 1. f3 h6.

This time it’s White who has to be careful if he wants to draw. Kf6 is now winning for Black so the only move is Ke4, to be able to take the opposition when Black takes on d6, after which he can make no progress.

2. Ke4 (2. Kd4 Kxd6 3. Ke4 Kc5 4. Ke5 Kc4 5. Kxe6 Kd3 6. Kf5 Ke3 7. Kg6 Kxf3 and Black wins) (2. Kf6 Kxd6 3. Kg6 Ke5 4. Kxh6 Kf4 5. Kh5 e5 and Black wins) 2… Kxd6 3. Kd4 e5+ 4. Ke4 Ke6 and Black, despite his extra pawn, only has a draw.

So, returning to our first diagram, after 1. Kf3 Ke8 2. Ke4 g5 3. g4 White’s primary aim is to reach the third diagram with Black to move while Black has to prevent this. So Black avoids 3… Kd7, instead playing Kd8, preparing to meet 4. Ke5 with Kd7. We now know that this is only a draw so White cannot achieve his primary aim but he still has a winning plan. His king has to take a journey to the queen side. He can win by playing Kc5 in reply to Kd7 (just as he can by playing Ke5 in reply to Kd7) or by playing Kc6 at some point. Black cannot prevent both these ideas.

White must continue 4. Kd4 (the only move to win) Kc8 5. Kc4 (again the only move to win: 5. Kc5 Kd7 is a draw) 5… Kb8 (or 5… Kd7 6. Kc5 and wins because it’s Black’s move) 6. Kb5 Kb7 7. Kc5 Kc8 8. Kc6 Kd8 9. d7 and wins.

Finally, we can conclude that the pawn ending is winning for White with best play (and that, returning to last week’s game, I could have won by selecting 38. Bd5). Chess is just too hard!

Richard James


From Russia with Love

Well, not quite. However, my opponent in this chess game is a Russian woman. I did win and I love winning! My opponent’s last name sounds like that of another woman from Russia, Anna Kournikova.

In this section I ended up with 5 draws and 1 win. This game was my only win in this section. As a result of my failing to win an earlier game, the best that I can do in this section is third place.

I started this chess game off wanting to play the Max Lange Attack and I ended up with a Giuoco Piano instead. This line tends to be drawish, but my opponent gave my some chances for play and I took them.

I had the position after move number 9 in another correspondence chess game that I lost. This time, I played more accurately and my opponent is the one who was inaccurate.

On move number 11 I could have played the sharp Bxf7+, but I decided against that for some reason that I no longer remember. Perhaps the line that In played is safer for White.

On move number 12 I decided that it was best to get my King off the same diagonal as the Black Queen was on. Discovered checks can be a pain! Once Black castled queenside it was a race to see who could checkmate the other one first. However, I was not positioned for a queenside attack and thus I had to reposition some of my pieces.

On move number 14 I got my sacrificed pawn back. By move number 17 I had all of my White pieces in this game, but I still was not clear on where to attack first.

Move number 19 finally started some queenside play. Move number 21 started a combination that favored White (me). Starting at move number 23 both sides were aggressively attacking the other side and Lidiya never let up her attempts to trick or trap me until she was clearly lost.

Starting at move number 28 White was putting pressure on both the Black Rook and the backwards Black pawn at  f6. At move number 31 I won the Black pawn at h4 and then the Black pawn on f6 ten moves later. I was up two pawns at that point but Lidiya continued to fight.

On move number 42 Lidiya sacrificed her Bishop by taking the White pawn that was on h3, but I was not dumb enough to fall into her trap and I moved my King instead. She recovered one of her lost pawns but she was still losing.

On move number 44 I played the only move that wins for White and Lidiya had no chance from there. Still, she lasted for another 15 moves before she finally resigned.

Mike Serovey


Work On Your Openings, Work Even Harder On Your Middlegame And Endgame

In a recent article I touched on the mystery of Magnus Carlsen’s dominance in chess. Grand master Nigel Davies suggested that the answer to Magnus Carlsen’s dominance may actually be very simple. He went to explain that in an age when the top players are focussing on opening preparation they are neglecting endgames. Jan Timman and Lajos Portisch have both pointed this out. Why are the top players neglecting endgames? Who knows! Carlsen then creates a moving target for his opponents by varying his opening repertoire and then uses his superior core skills being superb endgame technique, calculation and good positional understanding. In the past some of the super grandmasters were quite predictable in their choice of openings. For example Garry Kasparov as white was largely an e4 or d4 player while as black he played Sicilian Defence against e4 and King’s Indian against d4 though he abandoned that in later years in favour of the Grunfeld Defence. Carlsen has no intention of making it so easy for his opponents.

The great Alexander Alekhine once remarked”To win against me, you must beat me three times: in the opening, the middle game and the endgame.” Whether that was said in jest or in all seriousness I do not know but it contains a good deal of truth. To be a good chess player you have to be good in not just the opening, middlegame and endgame as well.


Many chess players put a great deal of time in the opening but they have to do even more work  in the middle game and endgame. The middlegame is the most complex part of chess while the endgame is the most scientific. There are now 7 and 6 endgame tablebases which means that once there are 7 or 6 pieces left on the board, with perfect play from both sides the outcome of the game can be determined. If you are very strong in the opening, you will probably get a very good position coming out of the opening but what do you do with it if you are weak in the middlegame or endgame? That is where most games are really decided. A strong player in the middlegame and endgame can rescue a bad position from the opening if given half a chance. A stronger player in the opening but weak in the middlegame and endgame is likely to throw away his advantage from the opening unless it is an overwhelming one.

Because a day only has so many hours, a chess player has to decide how best to split their day. Whatever they decide work on the middlegame and endgame should be allotted some hours as well. Working only on the openings is like only working on your serves in tennis. What do you do when your opponent returns the ball? Are you able to play long or short rallies as circumstances demand? If you were a soccer player or team, you might be very strong in attack but how do you respond to a counter-attack or how do you handle the pressures and demands of defence. An all-around ability is required to maximise your chances of winning every chess game.

So maybe by super grandmaster standards Magnus might be ok or good in the opening or even mediocre but in the middlegame and endgame he is an outstanding player. A great deal of discipline is required to ensure that a chess player does not neglect any part of the game in his development. Work hard on your openings but work even harder on your middlegame and endgames!

Bruce Mubayiwa