Category Archives: Endgames

Queening A Pawn

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White wins easily with almost any move. 1. Kc5 wins easily, for example.

But White played the tempting 1. Ka5 Kxh5 2. Kxa6 Kg4 3. b4 h5 and the win is now not clear.

In chess, you must concentrate to the end.

In this week’s problem, White is faced with the task of trying to queen a pawn.

How does White to play win?

Steven Carr


King And Pawn Endings Are Not Always Easy

Even in King and Pawn endings, concentration is needed until the end of the game. It is very easy to play a move which can lose a game which could have been won, or allow your opponent to get a result he should not have got.

In this week’s problem, White is winning. But how does he do that? And what tempting move only draws the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that after 1. g4 hxg4? , White can draw with 2. Kh8 h3 3. a7 and any pawn move by Black puts White in stalemate, so Black has to play 3… Kb6 4. Kb8 and White can Queen his pawn and then give perpetual check.

Steven Carr


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R4

Going into Round 4 I was on 2½ points and expecting Black against a strong player. Instead I received my third white, being paired against another promising teenager, Peter Sowray.

I already knew Peter, who was to join Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club for the new season the following month. Peter, of course, is still very active today both as a player and a teacher, and still very well known to me as a good friend and colleague, who ran Richmond Junior Club for a few years after the first time I left.

This was another long game but there’s really not a lot to say about it. Peter handled the opening in experimental fashion, choosing a type of hippopotamus formation.

1. Nf3 g6
2. e4 Bg7
3. d4 d6
4. Nc3 Nf6
5. Be2 a6
6. a4 b6
7. O-O e6
8. e5 Nfd7
9. Bg5 f6
10. exf6 Nxf6
11. Re1 O-O
12. Bd3 Qe8
13. Qe2 Bb7

Not liking his position, Peter decides to give up a pawn to free his game.

14. Qxe6+ Qxe6
15. Rxe6 Bxf3
16. gxf3 Nh5
17. Be4 Ra7
18. Rd1 Nf6
19. Bxf6 Bxf6
20. Bd5 Kg7
21. Ne4 Bh4
22. Ng3 c6
23. Bb3 d5
24. Kg2 Raf7
25. Rd3 Bg5
26. c3 Bc1
27. Re2 h5
28. Nf1 g5
29. Rd1 Bf4
30. Rde1 Nd7
31. Re7 Nf6
32. R1e6 g4

There was no need for desperate measures. 32… Rxe7 would have given drawing chances. Now I should have played the immediate Rxf7+ followed by Rxc6.

33. Bd1 Bc1

Missing another chance to take on e7. This time I find the correct response.

34. Rxf7+ Rxf7
35. Rxc6 Bxb2
36. Ne3 b5
37. axb5 axb5
38. fxg4 hxg4
39. Bxg4 Nxg4
40. Nxg4

After a sequence of exchanges I’ve won a second pawn.

40… b4
41. cxb4 Rf4
42. Rc7+ Kf8
43. Kg3 Rxd4
44. b5 Rd3+
45. f3 Rb3
46. Rc5 d4
47. Rd5 Ke7
48. Kf4 Ke6
49. Ke4 d3
50. Rxd3 Rxb5

My two extra pawns are enough to win. I have to keep the minor pieces on the board to avoid a drawn rook, f and h pawns against rook ending.

51. f4 Rb4+
52. Kf3 Bc1
53. Ne3 Rb5
54. h4 Bb2
55. Kg4 Bg7
56. Ra3 Rb1
57. Ra6+ Kf7
58. Ra7+ Kg8
59. h5 Rg1+
60. Kf5 Rh1
61. Kg5 Bd4
62. Ra8+ Kh7
63. Ng4 Rg1
64. Kf5 Rb1
65. Nf6+ Kg7
66. Ne4 Rb5+
67. Kg4 Rb1
68. Ra6 Rg1+
69. Kf5 Rh1
70. Rg6+ Kh7
71. Ng5+ Kh8
72. h6 Bc3
73. h7 Bg7
74. Re6 Bc3
75. Re8+ Kg7
76. Rg8+

Black resigned.

Four long games against fairly strong opposition. Four endings, Three wins and one draw, leaving me up with the leaders. As I’d had the white pieces three times I was bound to be black in the last round and my likely opponent was, if my memory serves me correctly, Robert Bellin.

Find out what happened in the last round next week.

Richard James


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R3

I’d started the tournament with 1½ out of 2, and, as expected, I was paired against another higher graded opponent in Round 3. This time I had White and found myself sitting opposite a strong Manchester player, Dr Graham Burton, who is still active today.

Here’s what happened.

1. Nf3 c5
2. g3 Nc6
3. Bg2 g6
4. d3 Bg7
5. e4 d6
6. O-O e5
7. Nc3 Nge7
8. Nh4 Nd4
9. f4 exf4
10. Bxf4 O-O
11. Nf3 Bg4
12. h3

A careless mistake, losing a pawn. Now Black plans to trade everything off and win the ending.

12… Nxf3+
13. Bxf3 Bxh3
14. Bg2 Qd7
15. Qd2 Be6
16. Bh6 f5

This looks a bit loosening.

17. Bxg7 Kxg7
18. exf5

Stockfish prefers d4 here, when it thinks White is close to equality.

18… Nxf5
19. Ne4 Nd4
20. Ng5 Bf5
21. Rae1 Rae8
22. c3 Rxe1
23. Rxe1 Ne6

A mistake, allowing me to win the pawn back. Nc6 was correct. But I missed my chance to play the tactic 24. Bxb7 when 24… Nxg5 25. Qxg5 Qxb7 is not possible because of 26. Re7+

24. Nxe6+ Bxe6
25. Qe3 Re8

Another poor move, walking into a pin. Rf6 maintains the extra pawn.

26. Bh3 Kf7
27. Qf3+ Bf5
28. Rxe8

Rather inaccurate. 28. Qd5+ leads to an immediate draw.

28… Kxe8
29. Bxf5 gxf5

Black still has his extra pawn, but with his king side pawns split and White’s active queen a win looks unlikely.

30. Qd5 Kd8
31. Kf2 Kc7
32. Kf3 Qa4
33. Qxf5 Qxa2
34. Qxh7+ Kb6

White regains his lost pawn and the game seems to be heading towards a draw.

35. Qh2 Qd5+
36. Ke3 Qg5+
37. Kf3 a5
38. g4 Qd5+
39. Ke3 a4
40. Qf4 Ka5
41. g5

White’s g-pawn is beginning to look dangerous. Black now has to be careful.

41… b5

This is too slow. Qg2 was the way to draw. Black has to activate his queen and play for a perpetual check.

42. g6 b4
43. cxb4+

The pawn on c3 was required to restrict the black king’s options. The winning move was Qf6, preparing Qd8+ in some lines, hitting d6 and potentially controlling Black’s promotion square.

43… cxb4
44. g7

But here Qf6 would only draw as Black now has the safe b5 square for his king.

44… a3
45. bxa3 bxa3
46. Qf8 a2

Black had a perpetual check here with either Qg5+ or Qe5+ but instead he mistakenly goes for the four queens ending.

47. g8=Q

Of course Black can’t trade before promoting because of the impending skewer.

47… Qe5+
48. Kf3 a1=Q

In four queens endings the player with the first check usually wins.

49. Qa8+ Kb5
50. Qgb8+

There was a mate in two: 50. Qc4+ Kb6 51. Qcc6#

50… Kc5
51. Qc7+ Kd4
52. Qc4#

So a lucky win for me against a significantly stronger opponent, but, in all honesty, not a very good game. Black’s endgame play was surprisingly poor considering his grade.

With 2½/3, due for Black, and sure to be paired against another strong player, would my luck run out in round 4? You’ll find out next week.

Richard James


I Had a Tiger by the Tail

In this article I am posting two correspondence chess games against the same opponent. He uses the handle TIGER68 on Stan’s Net Chess. His first name is Angelo and he is from Richmond, Virginia.

My record at Stan’s Net Chess is 68-12-6.

In the first correspondence chess game, I won quickly because my opponent blundered in the opening.

In this second game, I missed some strong moves early in this correspondence chess game and lost my opening advantage. I eventually was able to capitalize on an endgame error by my opponent and thus regain my advantage and win.

I am still playing the third round of this match and that game may end in a draw. I need to outscore my opponent by four wins in order to win this match and move onto the next round of this tournament. In the previous rounds, I won every match in four games save one. That one match took five games to win because I lost a game in it.

Mike Serovey


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R2

In the second round of the London Chess Fortnight 5-day open I had black against a promising young player called Colin Crouch. Colin, of course, later became an International Master, and was sadly lost to us a few months ago.

I’ll skim through most of the game quickly. There’s one interesting position coming up which I’ll consider more closely.

1. d4 g6
2. c4 Bg7
3. Nc3 d6
4. e4 Nd7
5. Be3 e5
6. d5

This is very much what Black’s hoping to see in this line.

6… Ne7
7. Bd3 O-O
8. Qd2 f5

Black has a King’s Indian type position which a couple of extra tempi. In the King’s Indian Black’s queen’s knight often goes to c6 and then to e7, while the king’s knight often goes to d7 from f6, to prepare f5. In this game the knights have reached d7 and e7 in two moves rather than four so Black can get in f5 very quickly.

9. Bh6 Nf6
10. Bxg7 Kxg7
11. exf5 Bxf5
12. f3 c6
13. Bxf5 Nxf5
14. dxc6 bxc6

The engines like Black here but the central pawns might become loose later on.

15. Nge2 Qb6
16. Na4 Qe3
17. Rc1 Qxd2+
18. Kxd2 e4
19. f4 e3+
20. Kc2 Rfe8
21. h3 h5
22. Nac3 a6
23. Rhd1 Rad8
24. Nd4 d5
25. Nxf5+ gxf5
26. cxd5 cxd5

The engines prefer Nxd5 here. Trading knights on c3 is probably not a good plan as White is able to surround and win the e-pawn.

27. Rd4 Ne4
28. Re1 Nxc3
29. bxc3 Re7

Again not best. Kf6, preparing counterplay on the g-file, looks like an improvement.

30. Kd3 Kf6
31. Rxe3 Rxe3+
32. Kxe3

Reaching a rook ending where White has an extra pawn. Is it enough to win?

32… Ke6
33. Kf3 Rc8
34. Rd3 Rc4
35. Kg3 Ra4
36. Rd2 Rc4
37. Kh4 Rxf4+
38. Kxh5 Rc4
39. Kg5 Rxc3
40. Re2+ Kd6
41. Kxf5 d4

Now it’s a race. Black has a central passed pawn advancing down the board while White has two connected passed pawns on the g and h-files.

42. h4 d3
43. Rd2 Kd5
44. g4 Kd4
45. g5 Ke3
46. Rh2

This leads to a draw. The question, which I’ll return to after the game, is whether White can improve by playing Rd1 instead. The engines will tell you White’s winning, but are they right?

46… d2
47. Rxd2 Kxd2
48. g6 Ke3
49. g7 Rc5+
50. Kg6 Rc6+
51. Kh7 Rc7
52. Kh8 Rc4

Black just manages to draw by eliminating the h-pawn on his way to skewering the white king and queen.

53. g8=Q Rxh4+
54. Kg7 Rg4+
55. Kf7 Rxg8
56. Kxg8

Now the result is clear.

56… Kd3
57. Kf7 Kc3
58. Ke6 a5
59. Kd5 a4
60. a3 Kb3
61. Kd4 Kxa3
62. Kc3

And the draw was agreed.

Let’s return to the position after White’s 46th move alternative: Rd1. White’s hoping to gain a vital tempo in comparison with what happened in the game.

Here’s a sample variation as analysed by Stockfish and Houdini:

46. Rd1 Ke2
47. Rb1 Rc5+
48. Kg4 d2
49. g6

Now if Black promotes White has gained the necessary tempo to win, so instead he tries…

49… Rc4+
50. Kh5 Rc5+
51. Kh6 Rc6

51… Rc1 52. Rb2 Ke1 53. Rxd2 Kxd2 54. g7 Rc8 55. h5 and White wins.

52. h5

The pawns must advance together. Not 52. Kh7 Rc1 53. Rb2 Rh1 54. g7 Rxh4+ 55. Kg6 Rg4+ 56. Kf7 Ke1 57. Rxd2 Kxd2 58. g8+ Rxg8 59. Kxg8 and Black wins.

52… Rb6
53. Rxb6

(53. Rg1 Rf6 54. Rg2+ Rf2 55. Rxf2+ Kxf2 56. g7 d1=Q 57. g8=Q and according to the 7-man tablebases 57… Qd7 is the only move to give Black a draw.)

53… d1=Q
54. g7 Qd2+
55. Kh7 Qd7
56. h6 a5

The engines give White a winning plus here but are unable to find a way to make progress so it looks to me like it might be some weird sort of positional draw unless someone out there can prove otherwise. A sample computer generated variation:

57. Rf6 Qc7
58. Kh8 Qc3
59. Rf8 Ke3
60. Ra8 Qf6
61. Re8+ Kd3
62. h7 Qd4

If you know how White can win this please feel free to let me know.

Next time, onwards and upwards into round 3.

Richard James


London Chess Fortnight 1975 5-day Open R1

The Evening Standard London Chess Fortnight, organised by Stewart Reuben, took place in August 1975 at a hotel in Earls Court, West London. The main event was an 11 player all play all tournament which was memorable for providing Tony Miles with his first GM norm. (Miles 7½/10, Timman and Adorjan 7, Sax 6, Nunn 5½ etc).

Among the subsidiary events was a 5-day open Swiss in which I took part. My first round opponent, AA Aaron, seemed, from his name, determined to make the top of the grading list (he clearly hadn’t taken Jacob Aagaard into account). I had the white pieces and opened quietly with a double fianchetto. We’ll skip quickly to the interesting bit.

1. Nf3 d5
2. b3 Nf6
3. Bb2 g6
4. g3 Bg7
5. Bg2 O-O
6. d3 Nbd7
7. c4 dxc4

Rather obliging, trading a centre pawn for a wing pawn.

8. bxc4 Nh5
9. Bxg7 Kxg7
10. d4 c5
11. d5 f5

Again rather obliging. Black now has a backward e-pawn.

12. Nbd2 Ndf6
13. Qb3 Qc7
14. Qe3

The engines prefer Qc3 here.

14… f4

The engines tell me 14… e6 is possible here as after 15. dxe6 Bxe6 16. Qxe6 Rae8 White’s queen is trapped. He can try 17. Ng5 to set up a potential fork but Black can just move his king, leaving the white queen stranded.

15. Qe5 Qxe5
16. Nxe5 Nd7
17. Nd3 fxg3
18. hxg3 Rb8
19. a4 b6
20. e4

With a nice position for White, which, over the next few moves, gets to look even better.

20… Nhf6
21. Ke2 Re8
22. Bh3 Nf8
23. Bxc8 Rexc8
24. e5 Ne8
25. f4 a6
26. Rab1 Nc7
27. Ne4 b5
28. axb5

The other capture was also possible: 28. cxb5 axb5 29. d6 exd6 30. Nxd6 Rd8 31. axb5 Nfe6

28… axb5
29. Ndxc5 bxc4
30. d6 exd6
31. Nxd6 Nd5

Black chooses a tactical defence based on the knight fork on c3. The alternative was to give up his c-pawn: 31… Rd8 32. Nxc4 Nfe6 33. Ne4

32. Rxb8

Now I had to decide which rook to capture. As it happens, the other one was better, although at my level it was too hard to calculate:

32. Nxc8 Nc3+ (32… Rxb1 33. Rxb1 Nc3+ 34. Ke3 Nxb1 35. e6 and Black will have to give up one of his knights for the e-pawn.) 33. Ke3 Nxb1 and Black will be unable to keep his c-pawn while stopping White’s e-pawn.)

32… Rxb8
33. Ra1

The wrong plan. Charlie the c-pawn is Public Enemy No 1 and needs to be stopped. I should have played 33. Rc1, hoping to be able to round him up.

33… Rb2+
34. Kf3 Rb8

Missing an opportunity, according to the engines. Passed pawns should be pushed, even at the cost of a knight. A sample variation:

34… c3 35. Ke4 c2 36. Kxd5 Rb1 37. Ra7+ Kh6 38. Nd3 Rd1 39. Rc7 Rxd3+ 40. Ke4 Rd2 41. Ke3 Rg2 42. Ne4 Ne6 43. Rc3 Kg7 44. Kd3 h5 45. Rxc2 Rxc2 46. Kxc2 h4 47. gxh4 Nxf4 with a draw.

35. Ra7+ Kg8
36. e6

I have no idea why I didn’t just take the pawn here, when White should be winning.

36… g5

Again I don’t understand why he didn’t push his pawn:

36… c3 37. e7 Nxe7 38. Rxe7 c2 and now the only way to draw is to let Black queen while setting up a perpetual at the other end of the board: 39. Nce4 (If White wants to stop the promotion it will cost him both his knights: 39. Nd3 Rb3 40. Ke4 Rxd3 41. Rc7 Rxd6 42. Rxc2 and Black is winning) 39… c1=Q 40. Nf6+ Kh8 41. Nf7+ Kg7.

Now the cutest way to draw is 42. Nh6+ Kh8 (Black will be mated if he takes either knight: 42… Kxh6 43. Ng8+ Kh5 44. Re5+ g5 45. Rxg5# or 42… Kxf6 43. Ng8+ Kf5 when White can choose between 44. g4# and Re5#) 43. Nf7+ Kg8 44. Nh6+, repeating moves.

The second cutest way to draw is 42. Ng5+ Kh6 (Kh8 is also a draw) 43. Kg4 and this time Black has to give a perpetual check to avoid getting mated.

37. e7 g4+

37… Nxe7 38. Rxe7 gxf4 39. gxf4 and White retains a vital pawn along with his extra piece.

38. Kxg4 h5+

38… c3 might lead to an amusing finish. Taking on f8 is good enough but the nicest way to win is to underpromote to a knight on e8. 39. e8=Q is no good because of Nf6+ 39. e8=N Rxe8 (39… c2 40. Rg7+ Kh8 41. Nf7#) (39… Kh8 40. Nf7+ Kg8 41. Nh6+ Kh8 42. Rg7 leads to mate) 40. Nxe8 and White wins.

It would have been good to win the immortal five knights game in this way. Perhaps I should emulate Alekhine and publish this variation as if it actually happened.

39. Kf3

Good enough, although there was no reason not to take the h-pawn. Now White can win the c-pawn and his extra piece decides. No further comment is required.

39… Nxe7
40. Rxe7 c3
41. Nce4 Nh7
42. Nxc3 Nf6
43. Nce4 Rb3+
44. Kg2 Ng4
45. Re8+ Kg7
46. Kh3 Rb2
47. Kh4 Nf6
48. Nxf6 Kxf6
49. Kxh5 Rb3
50. Kg4 Rd3
51. Ne4+ Kg7
52. f5 Kf7
53. Re6 Rd1
54. Nd6+ Kg8
55. f6 Rf1
56. Re8+ Kh7
57. f7
and Black finally resigned.

So I won my first game after an interesting but flawed struggle. Tune in again next week to find out what happened next.

Richard James


Sometimes, An Extra Pawn is Not Enough to Win

This is a recently completed correspondence chess game that was played on the ICCF server. My opponent in this correspondence chess game is an American who lives in Hong Kong with his Japanese wife. Despite my sharp play in the opening and middle game, my extra pawn was not enough to win in the endgame because it was doubled. It seems that the only way that I can beat Barney is to chose a different opening variation the next time that I get White against him.

My draw in this cc game has me temporarily tied for first place. I am also tied for first place in another section on the ICCF server. In both sections, someone who is still playing can knock me out of first place on tie breaks or by outscoring me. I will have to wait and see how things turn out for me in both sections.

I get frustrated when I go into an endgame up material and then I can’t force a win and I have to hope for another blunder by my opponent. The higher rated players seldom make the kinds of endgame blunders that I need to win. Even the weaker players know not to give up the opposition in King and pawn endgames. So, it is going to take some time for me to get my ICCF rating over 2100 points!

Mike Serovey


King Opposition

As I’ve said in previous articles about the endgame, beginners seldom know what to do when in this game phase. Of course, most beginner’s games end well before a proper endgame so I can’t fault them for lacking practical experience. However, one problem beginner’s face when they do end up in an endgame, in which Kings and pawns are the only material left on the board, is the use of their Kings. Beginners tend to leave their Kings sitting inactively on their starting ranks. King activity is absolutely a must in King and pawn endgames!

The beginner who has gained a small modicum of experience knows to defend their King in the game’s first two phases, the opening and middle-game. During the opening, the beginner castles his King to safety and develops his or her pieces actively. During the middle-game, our beginner keeps a watchful eye out for opposition attacks on their King while launching their own attacks on the enemy King. Then, if they reach the endgame, the beginner often attempts to advance pawns across the board to their promotion squares. However, they often do so without the assistance of their King. When the majority of you and your opponent’s material is off the board, you need to employ the power of the King!

When students ask me to analyze their endgame, asking who has the better chance of winning, I first look at the balance of material. If they have a superior force that can corral opposition pawns while helping to promote one of their own pawns, they’ve got the opportunity to win. If the position is equal, material-wise, I look at King activity. If their opponent’s King is active and their King is not, the opposition has better opportunities to win. Again, you have to get your King into the game if you’re going to deliver a successful checkmate!

King opposition is a key factor in endgame play! Simply put, Kings in opposition are Kings facing one another on a rank, file or diagonal with a single square separating them. You’ll want to have the opposition to gain the advantage. What do I mean by having the opposition? You have the opposition when the other King has to move. In other words, if you’re playing the white pieces in such a position and it’s black’s turn to move, you have the opposition. When the black King moves, he gives the white King the right of way so to speak. Look at the example below:

In this example, it’s black to move. The black King moves to f6. The white King now has two choices. He can move to f4, maintaining the opposition, or he can move to d5, outflanking the black King. Outflanking means getting past something by moving around its side. A key point beginners should embrace is the idea that the opposition King can never move to squares controlled by their King. This means that you’ll want to use your King to control squares you want to keep the opposition King off of. This becomes a critical idea when using your King to aid in the promotion of a pawn. Now let’s see these ideas employed in an endgame situation in which both players have their Kings and a pawn each.

It’s black to move, so white has the opposition. The black King moves to d7 (1…d7) in an effort to protect his pawn and go after the white pawn on f5. However, getting the white pawn will prove difficult. It is too soon for the white King to outflank the black King so white keeps the Kings in opposition with 2. Kd5. Black moves his King to e7 (2…Ke7) to prevent white from placing his King on e6. So far, white is dictating the play in this endgame! Only now does white outflank the black King with 3. Kc6. Timing is everything in an endgame scenario such as this. The white pawn on f5 cuts off the e6 square and, combined with the white King’s control of d6 and d7, the black King cannot get onto a good square. Note that the white King is on the same rank as the back pawn, preparing to go after that pawn. In our example, black plays 3…Ke8 which merely puts off black’s demise by a few moves.

White then plays 4. Kd6, heading toward the poor black pawn. One point that should be made about pawn and King endgames is that you should always consider your opponent’s best response to your move before you make it. When white moved his King to d6, he knew that black would play 4…Kf7, trying to protect the pawn. As a beginner, you should note that this type of endgame position relies completely on the Kings. Since the pawns are locked in place, it is up to one of the Kings to free his pawn by capturing the opposition pawn. White plays 5. Kd7 and this is the critical move, placing the King’s in opposition. Since it’s now black’s turn to move, white has the opposition and, because of the position of the Kings and pawns, black is forced away. Black plays 5…Kf8 and white will win.

The game continues with 6. Ke6. White is now next to the black pawn so black tries to hold onto it with 6…Kg7 but white has anticipated black’s move and now plays 7. Ke7. The black King cannot go to g6 because of the white pawn on f5 so he is forced away from the defense of his f6 pawn, playing 7…Kg8. White will now capture the black pawn with 8. Kxf6.

It is at this point in the position that I would tell a student playing white to slow down and think very carefully about the next few moves. Experienced players might say “oh, but this is such an easy win!” The problem is that beginners often see the end result, checkmate, and become so excited that they play quickly which leads to a blunder which leads to stalemate.

Black now plays 8…Kf8. Black is hoping to somehow block the white pawn’s advance but white should fear not because white has his King in front of the pawn. When trying to promote a pawn with the aid of your King, you want your King facing your opponent’s King, in opposition. You don’t want your King behind your pawn which leads to a draw. This means that white has to think carefully about the next move. White plays 9. Ke6, outflanking black’s King. This allows white to control two key squares, e7 and f7. Black plays 9…Ke8, trying to maintain opposition. After 10. f6, black plays 10…Kf8, desperate to stop the advancing white pawn. After 11. f7, black is lost because he has to move off of the white pawn’s promotion square (f8). Black plays 11. Kg7. Here white moves his King to e7 with 12. Ke7, which protects both the white pawn and its promotion square. With nothing better to do, black plays 12…Kh7 followed by white promoting his pawn to a Queen with 13. f8=Q. Needless to say, white will win!

You should always use the ideas of King opposition and outflanking in endgame play. Always bring your King into the endgame and always take your time during this phase. Rather than give you a game to enjoy, here’s some homework: Set up five endgame positions, using Kings and pawns, with your computer or human opponent. Play through them and practice the ideas I presented above. Enjoy your homework!

Hugh Patterson


Endgame Preparation

A student at last week’s summer chess camp asked me when he should start preparing for the endgame. He was a bit shocked when I suggested he start his endgame preparation at the start of the game, during the opening. “Isn’t a game of chess divided into three phases, with the endgame coming last?” he asked. “It certainly is,” I replied. I went on to explain that too often novice players don’t consider the endgame until they’re in it and by that time their position going into this game phase is dreadful. As you advance in your playing abilities, you’ll find that games stop ending during the middle game (or earlier) and go into a real endgame! This means you have to prepare early and the player who prepares from the start will be better off at the end of the game!

Probably the biggest endgame offense beginners make is that of pawn structure. The novice players lives in the here and now, not thinking ahead. Thinking ahead requires experience which the beginning player only gains through theory and practice. While the beginner may follow the opening principles and use central pawns to stake a claim in the board’s center, they often give up non-centralized pawns in an effort to trade material. When the endgame starts, our novice player often faces a pawn majority on one side of the board or the other. If their opponent has twice as many pawns at this point, it is likely that they’ll be able to promote one of those pawns and win the game. The first idea the beginner should embrace is to never capture material unless it improves their position!

Novice players consider pawns expendable since their relative value is the lowest of all the material and there are eight of them at the game’s start. Using simple arithmetic, the beginner sees trading a one point pawn for a three point minor piece as a good deal. In many circumstances it might be a winning exchange. However, if it weakens your position, you might reconsider such an exchange. A more experienced player might be happy to trade a minor piece for a pawn if doing so gives them a better position or substantial pawn majority going into the endgame.

We should always think about pawn majorities, having a greater number of pawns on one side of the board than our opponent has, throughout the game. At some point, minor and major pieces will be traded off leaving both players going into the endgame sometimes with only pawns and their Kings. If your opponent has three pawns on the Queen-side and you have only one, your opponent will most likely be able to promote one of those pawns into a Queen.

Be wary of isolated pawns, those who have no potential protection from their fellow pawns. Pawns are like Sparrows in that they may be small but when they work together they get things done. I watch a group of these wonderful birds in my backyard each morning and when the larger Crows show up to raid the Sparrow nests, the little Sparrows fight back as an angry mob and the Crows give up. You don’t see a lone little Sparrow going out to fight. They, like your pawns work best together. Employ pawn chains to keep you pawns safe during the opening and middle-games. Pawns can do an excellent job of protecting one another, leaving your pieces available for attacking duties.

If you have a passed pawn, send it towards its promotion square. Even if you may not be able to promote it, your opponent will have to deal with it, tying down one of his or her pieces to do so. Remember the saying “Rooks belong behind passes pawns.” If you have a Rook sitting around doing nothing on its starting rank, put it to work as a body guard for a passed pawn! Your pawns and pieces are not in the game if they’re idle. Your material must work!

Another endgame misconception beginners have is the idea that with fewer pieces on the board, a player has to do less thinking. Wrong! Just because you have fewer pieces on the board during the endgame doesn’t mean you can mentally relax, in fact, it’s just the opposite. During the endgame you have to calculate further than in the opening or middle-game. The good news is that with fewer pawns and pieces skulking around the board, calculations are a bit easier to make (but still difficult for the average player). Since you have fewer pawns and pieces going into the endgame, you cannot lose material because the smaller your army, the more disastrous the position becomes when your material is taken away. If both you and your opponent have two pawns and a King each, and suddenly you blunder away one of your pawns, your opponent now has a two to one pawn majority and that’s a winning percentage!

To think or calculate ahead in the endgame, start by considering your opponent’s best response to your potential move. Pretend you’re playing his or her side of the board. You should be doing this through the entire game. Often, you’ll see that what appeared to be a reasonable move can be easily refuted by the opposition. In doing this, you’ll see the best possible moves your opponent can make. Make a mental note of them. If you can’t find an opposition move that thwarts your candidate move, take it one step further and ask yourself If I make move “x” and my opponent responds with move “y”, what is my next move? Go through the response sequence once more. Beginners should start by trying to think through two complete game turns when calculating their endgame positions. While master level players think many, many moves ahead during the endgame, the beginner has yet to train their brains to do this. Therefore, take it slow and build up your calculation abilities.

Another bad habit beginners have when it comes to the endgame is striping their opponents of everything but the King, thinking that leading the mating attacking with an overwhelming force will easily win the game. I have seen so many junior level games end in stalemate because of this. Consider leaving your opponent with a movable piece or pawn to avoid this scenario.

Speaking of Kings, activate yours going into the endgame. While we avoid exposing our King during the opening and middle-game, he becomes a deadly fighter and defender during the endgame. Don’t let your King sit on its starting rank during the endgame. Use him to help get those pawns safely to their promotion squares! Kings must be active in the endgame!

In conclusion, you should always be thinking about the endgame, even during the opening because with fewer pawns and pieces on the board at the game’s end, every bit of material counts. Practice playing endgames with your friends by setting up a board with your Kings and a few pawns each. Then add a minor or major piece to the mix. While there are concepts and principles I didn’t mention, because you could fill a book or three with them, these basic ideas should point you in the right direction. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson