Category Archives: Endgames

King and Pawn Endings are Difficult

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White draws with 1. Kb7!

If Black replies with a5, White continues with 2. Kxc7 a4 3. Kd6 a3 4. f7! and White queens his pawn.

In this week’s problem, White has to play and win.

It is quite difficult. One difficulty is that when White promote his c-pawn, Black will be left with a pawn on the rook’s file. Generally, that is a draw as the best White can usually do is stalemate the king in the corner of the board.

But in this particular example, White can eventually deliver checkmate.

How does White win?

Steven Carr


Kids and Chess, Part One

A few years ago one of the chess coaches in the Tampa area had an annoying habit of telling his students that I hated little kids. Because I got tired of that, I decided to make a sarcastic reply if I heard him say that again. He did during one of his group lessons, so I replied with, “Actually, they taste quite good with a little peanut oil and basil”! I got a laugh from that. So, now I am including a few quotes by W. C. Fields about kids.

W. C. Fields quotes about kids

I do not actually hate or eat kids, but I may want them to think that I do! Considering that I have been playing rated chess off and on for 41 years, I really do dislike losing to someone who has been alive less than 20 years! In this case, I lost to someone who has been alive about one third as long as I have been playing chess!

My opponent is this Wednesday night tournament round is a thirteen-year-old girl. Her mother was the TD for this event. I lost the previous round to a gentleman that is older than I am. I told both Sara and her mother, Shirley, that I had a lousy tack record in OTB chess against human females regardless of age or rating. That is true, but I need to correct a few things. Prior to this loss, my last loss in an OTB chess game to a human female was to a 17-year-old Dutch girl who later became the under 21 female champion of the Netherlands. She was not exactly a patzer! Sara, my opponent is this loss, is the number five ranked female of any age in the state of Colorado. Again, not exactly a patzer!

The correction is that I beat and drew Sara’s sister, Rebecca, and I beat some female beginners in Tampa prior to moving to Colorado. However, Sara is one of three teenage girls that I have lost to in OTB chess in the past 20 years or so. Prior to getting out of the US Army in 1986, I never lost an OTB chess game to a human female! Now, that record is shattered.

Also, prior to my discharge from the Army, I rarely lost to a kid that was lower rated than I was. Since then, I have had only one loss to a lower rated kid that I can remember. However, that rating difference was over 800 points! I have also barely escaped losses to lower rated kids on at least two occasions in the past five years.

Across the range of ratings that my opponents have had and the time that I have been playing chess, my losses to kids after I graduated from high school have numbered less than the number of wins against them. However, I do not know the exact numbers.

Mike Serovey


One Good Blunder Deservers Another One

This chess game is from the first round of a chess tournament that is being played on Wednesday nights in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There is one round each Wednesday night and I have completed two rounds so far. I have lost both rounds, and there are only eight players in this section! I should have an easy time with Black in the third round.

This event is being played in a restaurant that is called Smashburger. The food is OK, but the playing conditions are poor. The lighting there is not good and I have to wear a hat to keep the overhead lights out of my eyes. The noise level is too high for me to play good chess. Some of the players are wearing headphones and drowning out the noise with music. However, I have yet to try that. With my hearing problems the music may become just as distracting as the ambient noise there. I doubt that I will play there again after I complete this event.

My opponent in this chess game is older than I am and owns his own computer business that he works with his son. Paul misplayed the opening and I ended up two passed pawns on the queenside. However, I blundered on move number 51 and the game was lost for me after that.

Mike Serovey


Recognising the Patterns : Challenge # 22

While playing single minor piece endgames, the defending side has a deadly weapon to draw a game. That is to trade the attacker’s last pawn (usually) against his own piece because a single minor piece can’t checkmate and sometimes even with the help of a rook’s pawn. But how many of you actually recognize this in practice. Here few positions are given to test your knowledge.

Example 1 – Black to Move

Q:How could you save the game?
Hint: A knight can never lose a tempo
A: Black can save the day as follows:


Sacrificing whole piece against pawn as white’s knight won’t be able to help his king from getting out of prison

2. Nxg4

This is now a draw because White’s knight can never control the f7 square when the Black king is on f8.

Example 2 – Shirov against Mascarinass – Black to move
This example has been taken from Grandmaster Secrets: Endings by Andrew Soltis.

Q: Black is a piece down for two pawns, are two pawns worth the bishop here?
Hint: White has the wrong colour Bishop
A: Black can save the game with

The only move that forces to release the control of e5 or g4.

2. Bxb5

If 2.Kc5 then 2…Ke5 or if 2.Bd1 then 2…b4 and b3 which forces White to release the control of one of the squares.

2…g4 3. hxg4

Forced, otherwise …gxh3 on the next move is simple enough to draw the game.


Threatening to capture the pawn with king as far as c6 and d7 squares are available to White’s bishop
If 3…fxg4 then 4. Kd4 and now 4…Kg5 5.Ke5, 4…g3 5.Bd7 or 4…h3 then 5.g3 followed by Bc6 is winning.

4. gxf5 h3! 5. gxf3 Kxf5

The position is now drawn as g3 or g4 won’t work because the c6 square is not available to White’s bishop.

Ashvin Chauhan


Recognising the Patterns : Challenge # 21

This is one of the key endgame patterns that you must know by heart. Silman called this position as “Cat N Mouse” position. I called it “Tom and Jerry” when explaining it to my students so they can remember it easily. In this position whoever has the move will lose. The pawns could be at any file or rank, of course you can’t achieve this position when the pawns are on the rook file.

Now try to solve following problems by recognizing the above pattern:

Hermann Voigt against Emanuel Lasker in 1892 – Black to Move

Q:Black is exchange up, find the quickest way to win this position.
A: Black can win this position by pinning the rook as follows:


This achieves the Tom and Jerry position on next move by capturing the bishop.

81. Kg4 Rxf3 82. gxf3 Ke3

Achieving the desired position where white will lose the pawn and game by force.

Semen Khanin against Semen Dvoirys in 2014 – Black to Move

Q: In the above position Black played 31…d5 to try to deprive a5 square from Black’s rook. How would you evaluate it?
A: 31…d5 is a blunder while with 31…Kd6 Black would have had better chances to hold the position despite losing the a6 pawn.

31…d5?? 32. g5 Kd6

If 32…Kd7 then 33. Rxf6 wins

33. Rxf6+ Rxf6 34. gxf6 Ke6 35. Ke3 – Kxf6

Despite the material balance Black’s position is hopeless.

36. Kd4 Ke6 37. Kc5 Ke5 38. d4 Ke4

White has achieved the desired position but he must be careful

39. a3!

And not a4 which in fact is winning for black. But after a3 white went on win in few moves.

Ashvin Chauhan


More King and Pawn Endgames

In this week’s problem, White has to try to save the game.

King and Pawn endgames are very good for improving your powers of calculation. White has to play precise moves to draw this position.

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that Black wins with 1… Kd5 2. Kb4 Kd4 3. Ka5 f5 or 2. b4 f5 3. b5 f4 4. b6 Kc6 5. Ka6 f3 6. b7 f2 7. b8=Q f1=Q+ and Black wins the White Queen.

In the game, the strong grandmaster playing Black , played 1… f5.

This only draws, as White can play 2. Kb4 Kd5 3. Kc3 Ke4 4. Kd2 Kf3 5. b4.

Steven Carr


King and Pawn Endings

King and Pawn endings are very good practice for calculating variations.

Even the simplest looking endgames can contain difficulties.

In this week’s problem, the strong grandmaster playing Black, made a mistake and failed to find the win.

What is Black’s winning move?

In last Monday’s problem, White wins with 1. f4+! gxf4 2. Kf3! fxe3 3. fxe3 Kd5 4. Kf4 Ke6 5. e4 fxe4 6. Kxe4 and the endgame is a win.

Steven Carr


Outside Passed Pawn (2)

The reason for my interest in the type of pawn ending you saw last week was a recent game in which I had the white pieces. We reached this position, with Black to play after hoovering off all the big guys very quickly, ending with a trade of rooks on the d-file.

Just as last week, if you’re a chess improver yourself, play through these positions before reading on. If you’re a chess teacher, give them to your students to play through. Feel free to add some more tweaks yourself and see what happens.

The game finished bathetically as my opponent (rated slightly below me) carelessly failed to notice my threat to create an OPP. 24… c4?? 25. g4 Kc6 26. h5 Kd6 27. h6 and Black resigned.

In fact this position is not very exciting. Black has four drawing moves. He can play f5 to prevent g4 or move his king to the c-file (it doesn’t matter which square) when he’ll be able to stop the pawn from queening. Reasonable play from both sides will then result in a draw. I’d have to be careful, though, not to play h5 at the wrong time when I’ll just end up losing it.

It’s interesting to tweak the position to see which positions are winning for White and which are drawing. Let’s assume White has played g4 and place the kings on different squares.

Try this, for example, with White to play.

Here White, according to Stockfish, has three winning moves: h5, Kd3 and Kf3. Ke3, though, is only a draw.

Let’s play a few moves.

1. h5 gxh5 2. gxh5 Ke6 and now the white king has to decide which way he’s going.

The simple plan is to head towards the h-pawn. We’ll then be able to give up our passed pawn and capture the two black king-side pawns in return. A sample variation: 3. Kf3 f5 4. Kg3 Kf6 5. Kh4 b5 6. b4 cxb4 7. cxb4 a6 8. h6 Kg6 9. h7 Kxh7 10. Kg5 f4 11. Kf5 f3 12. Kxe5 Kg6 13. Kf4 Kf6 14. Kxf3 and wins.

We can also win by going the other way, but it’s rather more complicated. For instance: 3. Kd3 Kf5 (other tries: 3… f5 4. h6 Kf6 5. Kc4 a6 6. Kd5 e4 7. h7 Kg7 8. Ke5 Kxh7 9. Kxf5 and wins or 3… b5 4. c4 b4 5. h6 Kf7 6. Ke4 Kg6 7. h7 Kxh7 8. Kd5 Kg7 9. Kxc5 e4 10. Kd6 f5 11. Ke5 and wins) 4. a4 Kg5 5. Ke4! Kxh5 6. Kf5! e4 7. c4 a5 8. Kxf6 (Kxe4 is simpler but this is more fun) 8… Kg4 9. Ke5! Kf3 10. b3! (In this line White only wins because he has this spare move) 10… Kxf2 11. Kxe4! Ke2 12. Kd5! Kd3 13. Kc6! Kc3 14. Kxb6! Kxb3 15. Kb5! and wins.

On the other hand, 3. Ke3, as Winston Churchill is alleged to have commented when meeting a new young MP called Clive Bossom, is neither one thing nor the other, and in fact loses after 3… f5 when White won’t be able to hold the h-pawn, leaving Black with an extra pawn and a simple win.

Richard James


King and Pawn Endings

King and Pawn endings are not as easy as many people think they are.

In this week’s position, White has an extra pawn,but it is not easy to convert it into a win.

How does White win this game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White wins with 1. Kd5! b1=Q 2. c4+ and the new Queen is taken, leaving an easy win for White.

Steven Carr


Outside Passed Pawn (1)

You can’t understand chess openings unless you understand middle games. You can’t understand middle games until you understand endings. And you can’t understand endings until you understand pawn endings. If you’re in a rook ending you need a constant awareness of what’s likely to happen should the rooks get exchanged, so that you know whether or not you should be aiming for a rook swap.

Now some pawn endings can be extremely complex, defeating even strong grandmasters, but there are also some basic principles which will aid understanding. A recent game of mine which resulted in a pawn ending got me thinking about positions where one player can create an outside passed pawn.

Consider this position:

At the start of the game we like to keep our pawns near the middle of the board. ‘Capture towards the centre’, we’re told. At the end of the game, though, there’s a lot to be said for having pawns on the side of the board.

This formation favours White in pawn endings. We hope to play h5, forcing an exchange and creating an Outside Passed Pawn (OPP), trade our h-pawn for the black f-pawn so that our king will reach the queen-side first. But it all depends where the kings are. Here, White’s king is further up the board so we have the additional idea of immediate infiltration on the queen-side.

I’d suggest you play these positions out, firstly with white to move and then with black to move, before reading on. If you’re a chess teacher give them to your pupils to play out. You might want to get them to score the games so that you can ensure they really understand what’s happening.

With White to move we can just follow our plan with 1. h5 and win easily.

With Black to move White is going to have to be slightly more subtle. After 1… Ke6 Black can meet 2. h5 with Kf7, so instead we’ll play on the queen-side first, for instance with 2. c4. If Black plays Kf7 at some point we’ll play Kd5, and if he plays Kd6 we’ll reply with h5. We do have to be a little bit careful here, though: 2… Kd6 3. h5 f5+ when we have to play 4. Kf4 rather than 4. gxf5 gxh5 when Black gets the OPP.

Now let’s tweak the position a bit so that the black king is further advanced. Again, play it out yourself with both colours, or give the position to your pupils.

With White to move it’s still a trivial win as long as we exercise a little care. We’re going to follow the same plan: push h5, create an OPP, trade our h-pawn for the black f-pawn and get across to the other side of the board first.

With Black to play, though, it seems to be only a draw with best play as Black can approach the white h-pawn from in front of the f-pawn. A sample variation:

1… c4+ 2. Ke3 Ke5 3. h5 gxh5 4. gxh5 Kf5 5. Kd4 Kg5 6. h6 Kxh6 7. Kxc4 f5 8. a4 f4 9. Kd3 Kg5 10. b4 f3 11. Ke3 Kg4 12. Kf2 Kf4 13. c4 Ke4 14. c5 bxc5 15. bxc5 Kd5 16. Kxf3 Kxc5 and White will get back in time to draw.

So we can draw a couple of basic principles. Having a potential OPP is good. Having your king nearer the centre is also good. With both advantages you’ll probably be winning the game.

Next time we’ll add some more pawns and make it a bit more complicated.

Richard James