Category Archives: Endgames

Amateur Versus Master: Game Eighteen

Although I have been able to draw masters in both Over the Board (OTB) chess and correspondence chess (CC), this correspondence chess game is the very first time that I have been able to draw an International Master (IM) in any variation of chess! I chose a rather boring (solid) chess opening and used both my databases and my chess engines to avoid any outright blunders. That combination worked in this correspondence chess game.

Although I was not sure of where the opening was going when this correspondence chess game started, we ended up transposing into the Vienna Game. This is the very first time that I have played either side of that chess opening.

After 15 moves I, Black, had the better pawn structure against someone who was rated 310 points above me. I was willing to accept the draw, but I was playing for a win because of that better pawn structure. However, I failed to find a way to capitalize on that slight positional advantage. When White offered the draw I accepted.

Mike Serovey

Stop The Passed Pawn

In this week’s problem, White is faced with the task of stopping Black’s pawn from winning the game by being promoted into a Queen.

This is not an easy task. How does White move and save the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that Black can draw with 1… Rxh7! 2. Kxh7 Kxc3 3. g5 a2 4. Ra5 Kb2 5.g6 a1=Q 6. Rxa1 Kxa1 7. g7 c3 8. g8=Q c2 with a theoretical draw, as White can never take the pawn on c2, as he will stalemate the Black King on a1.

Steven Carr

Rook Endings (4)

Two more practical examples of rook and pawn against rook from games played at Richmond Junior Club.

In this position the good news for Black is that his king is in front of the pawn and the white king is subject to mating threats on the side of the board. The bad news is that his rook is badly placed, and that it’s White’s move. (If it was Black to move he could win by moving his rook in a westerly direction.)

His plan should be to get his rook round the back to threaten mate, while White will need to counter this by moving his rook away to check the black king from the other side.

White now has two moves to draw: Ra6 and Rb6. He needs to meet mate threats with horizontal checks, and has to be as far away as possible from the enemy monarch.

But instead he played 55. Re6, presumably with the idea of keeping the black king on the f-file. Now any westerly rook move is winning for Black. He chose 55… Re1, having observed correctly that the pawn ending would be winning. White went back behind the pawn: 56. Rf6, and now, out of Black’s 17 legal moves, 11 are winning and 4 are drawing. The quickest winning moves are Re7 and Re8, both mating in 21 moves according to the tablebases. He actually chose one of the drawing moves: 56… Re2, missing the winning plan of threatening mate on the h-file. Now White again has time to draw by moving his rook over to the far side of the board (note that this is one of many positions in these endings where you want your rook on the side rather than behind the passed pawn). This time, Ra6, Rb6 and Rc6 all draw, but in principle he should move as far away as possible. Instead, stuck with the mistaken idea that rooks always belong behind passed pawns, he played 57. Kh3.

Now Black has four winning moves: Re8, Re7, Re5 and Re3 (but Re4 is only a draw). Still not thinking about potential checks on the h-file he chose perhaps the least obvious of these, 57… Re3. White played 58. Kh2 when Black has a choice of 14 moves, of which 8 win and 5 draw. As you would expect by now, the quickest wins are Re8 and Re7. Instead he went for one of the drawing options: 58… Ke2.

Now White has 16 possible moves, but only one of them draws: Kg3, hitting the f-pawn. After his actual choice, 59. Kg1, though, Black can again win by moving his rook in a northerly direction, again planning a check from behind. Instead he gave up and pushed the pawn: 59… f2+. White was happy to capture the pawn: 60. Rxf2+, and a draw was agreed.

If you’re down to the last few minutes on the clock, or, as is likely these days, playing on an increment, it’s all too easy to think inflexibly, as both players did in this example. Black seemed to be thinking purely about how to push his f-pawn, while White was just trying to prevent this. Neither player was thinking about how to check the enemy king.

Our final example starts off by being about getting your king in front of the pawn, but when Balck fails to do this it’s just about calculation. Will White calculate accurately? We’ll see.

Black has to make his 52nd move. He has 15 moves to choose from, three of which lose his rook, although one of them, Rg2, still draws (rook against pawn is another interesting subject). There are 10 winning moves and two other moves that draw: Rg4 and the move he chose, 52… f3.

Now it seems very natural and obvious to push your pawn, and you’ve probably been taught that passed pawns should be pushed, but when you possess the only remaining pawn on the board you often want your king in front of the pawn. This is the case here.

White found the only move to draw: 53. Kd4, correctly rushing back with his king. His rook is well placed on the h-file here, preventing the black king from travelling to g2 via h3. Black pushed the pawn again: 53… f2, for the moment preventing the white king’s approach. White again found the only drawing move: 54. Rf7. (Rg7+ would have led to king and queen against king and rook, which would have been another story entirely.) Black naturally replied by defending the pawn with 54… Rg2.

On his 55th move White has no less than 21 choices (the maximum number of 8 king moves and 13 rook moves, one short of the maximum, for those of you who care about this sort of thing). Nine of them draw and the other twelve lose. The most obvious draw is the simple Ke3 just winning the pawn and demonstrating to black that he pushed his pawn too quickly. However he was seduced by the skewer 55. Rg7+, no doubt playing too fast to notice that after he won the rook Black would promote.

Now Black has six king moves, but the only one to win is Kf6, when he’ll reach the tricky ending king and queen against king and rook. It’s mate in 28 according to the tablebases, but would he have been able to win? We’ll never know because instead he played 55… Kh4.

White’s now drawing again if he finds 56. Rf7, getting back behind the passed pawn and preparing to meet 56… Kg3 with 57. Ke3, when Black can make no progress. His actual choice of 56. Rh7+ was too slow, though, because now after 56… Kg3, which Black played, his king will have time to reach g1 via h2. The game continued 57. Rg7+ Kh2 58. Rh2+ Kg1 and Black won by promoting his pawn.

Richard James

Manufacturing Passed Pawns (2)

This is another example of rook endings guru, Keith Arkell, manufacturing a supported passed pawn, using the same technique as we saw in last week’s example. Once again, this comes from “Chess for Life”.

Again, the obvious way to create a passed pawn from Black’s majority is by arranging e6 and d5, but this would leave the d-pawn passed, but isolated. Instead, Arkell knocks out White’s e-pawn with


as a result of which he is left with a passed pawn on the d-file, which is defended by a colleague on e7. Black duly won.

Steve Giddins

Rook And Pawn Endings Are Always Draws

There is a saying in chess that rook and pawn endings are always draws.

This is not true, but it is possible to get draws from difficult positions in such endings, if you play well.

In this week’s problem, White is threatening to play Rh5 and then promote his pawn.

How can Black draw the game?

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White can draw with 1. Ke1 Kg3 2. Kf1 f3 3. gxf3 Kxf3 4. Ke1 Ke3 5. a4! and Black will have to allow a book draw, either with pawns on the rook’s file that he cannot promote, or an easily drawn King and Pawn ending after White plays axb5.

Steven Carr

Rook Endings (3)

Last time I considered some simple rook and pawn v rook endings from the Richmond Junior Club database.

In this article I’ll show you a few slightly more complicated examples.

Caspar Bates, who had to choose a move with white in this position against his brother Pascal, returned to chess several years ago and is now an occasional player (for Richmond in the London League) and an excellent composer of endgame studies.

At this stage in his career, though, his knowledge of endings was limited. He had the opportunity to head for the Philidor position, but instead chose a passive defence with his rook. This should still be good enough to draw, and in this position he has three ways to share the point. In order to play this position accurately, both players have to be aware of two standard tactical ideas, one of which you saw last week.

White can draw by continuing his policy of passive defence, playing Rd1, when Black has no way to make progress. Or he can choose an active defence and play either Rb2 or Rf2, planning to move up the board and check from behind. But Rg2 (or Rh2) would lose to a skewer: Black would reply with d2+ (a discovered check) and, if White takes the pawn, pick up the rook via a skewer because the white king is too far away. If White doesn’t take the pawn, Ra1 will lead to the same thing.

Instead White chose Ke4. Now Black can use another tactical idea which you may remember from last week’s article. His two winning moves are Ra7 and Ra8. In both cases, if the white rook takes the pawn, a check from behind will force the king away and win the rook. And if White doesn’t take the pawn, again black rook checks from behind will prove decisive. Note, though, that Ra6 is only a draw because the white king will be close enough to approach the rook, meeting Re6+ with Kf5.

Alas, he missed his chance, and after several repetitions the game eventually resulted in a draw.

This rather atypical position should also be a draw, but Black, to play, chose what should have been a losing option: 46… Ra5. Now White has two winning moves: the simpler way to win is 47. Rb6+ but White’s actual choice of 47. Kd4 should also suffice. Now Black is in zugzwang: a horizontal rook move lets the pawn advance, a vertical rook move allows Kc5, a king move to, say, b2, allows Kc4. That leaves Black’s choice in the game, 47… Kb4, which White correctly met with 48. Rb6+ Ka4 49. Kc4 Ka3. Now White can win by choosing a horizontal rook move, when Black is again zugged. Instead he played 50. Rb3+, when, after 50… Ka2 he’d have to repeat moves and have another go at finding the winning idea. But Black preferred 50… Ka4. Now 51. Rb1, threatening mate, wins at once, but he missed it, repeating moves with 51. Rb6 Ka3. He still didn’t spot the zugzwang and decided to try a different idea, 52. Kb5, hoping Black would trade rooks. No such luck: she captured the pawn: 52… Rxa6. Now White could have offered a draw but instead played on, hoping Black would allow a rook mate: 53. Rb3+ Ka2 54. Kc3??, only to discover he was losing his rook after 54… Rc6+ 55. Kb4 Rb6+.

Disillusioned, perhaps, by the result of this game, White soon gave up his chess career, and now, more than 30 years on, is a partner in a firm of solicitors based just across the road from Richmond Junior Club’s current Twickenham venue.

The basic principle in these endings is that if your king can make contact with the promotion square you’re likely to get the result you want.

So in this position, with White to move, there are two winning moves: Kg6 and Kh6. The white king has to run up the board, using the rook to shelter from checks if necessary. Instead, White played the understandable but misguided 52. f5, when Black can hold the draw by activating his rook and preparing to check from behind. But now Black in turn erred by playing 52… Re5 to pin the pawn. White now demonstrated the win as follows: 53. Ra6 Kf7 54. Ra7+ Kf8 55. Kf6 Re4 56. Ra8+ Re8 57. Rxe8+ Kxe8 58. Kg7 (the only winning move) and Black resigned.

Black could have offered more resistance with 55… Ke8 when play might continue 56. Kg6 Rd8 57. f6 Kg8 58. Rg7+ (but not f7+ which only draws) 58… Kf8 59. Rh7 or 58… Kh8 59. Rh7+ Kg8 60. f7+.

Note that this is the type of position where Black will lose even though his king reaches the queening square because of White’s mate threats.

So chess improvers need to be aware of a few basic principles, some of which apply to all rook endings.

* Rooks belong behind passed pawns (RBBPP)
* Keep your pieces active at all times
* Play with a long-term plan in mind rather than just operating with immediate threats
* Your king needs to head towards the promotion square
* Be aware of the basic tactical ideas which happen in rook endings (the skewer, the check to force the king away from defending the rook)
* Develop your long-range calculating skills

I’ll have a few more examples for you next week.

Richard James

Amateur Versus Master: Game Seventeen

Double Dutch Defense

My opponent in this correspondence chess game lives in the Netherlands (Holland) and I played the Dutch Defense against him. That is like playing the French Defense against someone who lives in France.

Although I dropped a pawn on move number 20, the game was fairly even. Both sides defended well and the endgame ended up being fairly closed. I considered opening up the position in the endgame so that my bishop pair could become more powerful, but I decided against this because I was still down a pawn and keeping the position closed made drawing much easier.

This draw kept me tied for first place in this section.

Mike Serovey

Rook Endings (2)

Having been sent the rook ending you saw last week I decided to look at the rook endings in my Richmond Junior Chess Club database to see how young players handled them.

I started by looking at endings with rook and pawn against rook.

Before you learn rook and pawn against rook you’ll need to know how to mate with king and rook against king (obviously) and have a complete knowledge of all king and pawn against king positions. At any point one player will be trying to trade rooks while the other player will be trying to keep rooks on the board. At lower levels, of course, this knowledge is sometimes lacking.

There were several games where this sort of thing happened. Black, in a position which should be a comfortable draw, decided to play Rxf4+. I guess this is caused by false logic. Black thinks “If my opponent gets a queen I’ll be 9 points behind, so I should capture the pawn now when I’ll only be 5 points behind”. Time and time again, if you ask children why they played their move, they will give an answer involving some sort of false logic. He saw that he’d lose his rook but thought it was the right thing to do.

Children at this level also tend to think in terms of threats rather than plans. This policy might work well in your primary school chess club, but at higher levels you need something more. In endings, more than any other part of the game, you need a plan. The man with the plan wins. In this position White’s winning because the black king is cut off. His plan should be to bring his king across to support the pawn’s advance while using his rook to stop the enemy monarch approaching. Instead he saw the chance to create a threat and played Kf6. Black was alert to the possibility of a skewer and White’s win turned into a loss.

Several lessons from this:
1. You need to operate with plans rather than immediate threats.
2. You need to watch out for skewers in rook endings.
3. You need to remember the idea of using your rook to cut off the enemy king.

This is similar to our first example, but perhaps White had a different reason. Up to this point White had defended impeccably, but now forgot that he could continue checking and thought the only way to stop the immediate mate was to play Rxg3. If you know the Philidor position you’ll know that Rf1+ is an easy draw.

Black has an extra pawn but should only draw. Instead, she played a natural move, pushing her passed pawn to h4. Sadly for her, a rook check will drive her king away and she will lose her rook. Another game where the rook beats the rook and pawn, and another tactical idea you need to know.

One more lesson:
4. Look out for positions where a rook is defended by a king: a rook check might force the king away from defending the rook or into a potential skewer.

At the end of a long game, when you don’t have much time left on the clock, it’s all too easy to forget to ask yourself the Magic Question (if I play that move what will my opponent do next?). In this position Black promoted his pawn without enough thought, and yet another skewer cost him his new queen. Instead he had four winning moves, Kf1, Kf2, Rh3 and the attractive Rf3+, when, if Black captures, it’s White who has a skewer.

Next time we’ll look at some slightly more complicated endings with rook and pawn against rook, so stay tuned.

Richard James

The Importance Of The Endgame Five

In this week’s article, we’re going to look at the most difficult checkmate for the beginner to master, mate involving Knight, Bishop and King versus lone King. This mate proves to be difficult even for “improvers” because it requires forcing the opposition King to a specific corner square using two minor pieces that move in very different ways. In last week’s article, we learned how to use a pair of Bishops with our King supporting them to deliver checkmate. Because each Bishop can only control one color square (either light or dark), as opposed to Rooks who can control both colored squares simultaneously, they have to work in closer coordination with one another and their King. On the plus side, the two Bishops move identically (diagonally) so pushing the opposition King towards the mating square is easier than in the case of the Knight and Bishop.

With the Knight and Bishop duo, it’s all about herding the opposition King to a corner square that the Bishop can control. Yes, I said herding! I’ve watch a large number of videos and read through numerous books that explain this idea of forcing the King being mated to the mating square using a triangulation system. As a chess instructor and coach, I’m well versed in this checkmate and even I was left a bit confused trying to determine just how the triangulation system worked. In reality, it makes perfect sense to more experienced players but the beginner might get confused so I decided to simplify the idea.

Think of the opposition King as a sheep. Your Knight, Bishop and King are the sheep herders. Their goal is to herd the stray sheep back into it’s pen, in this case the mating square. Your job is to herd the stray sheep, I mean King, back to the pen with as little fuss and muss as possible. Take a look at the example below:

This is a simplified position compared to example two but I present it first because it helps to clarify the key points you need to understand in order to checkmate in this way.

The first point to consider is that the opposition King must be driven into a corner because the checkmate can only occur if the King is literally cornered! Since there are four corners on a chessboard you have to determine which one is the correct corner. The good news is that you have a choice of two. Which two? It depends on the color of the squares your Bishop controls. In the above example, we have a Bishop that controls the dark squares. Therefore, the King has to be driven onto a dark colored corner square. Since you have two, the a1 and h8 squares, how do you decide? The answer is simple if the opposition King is closer to one of the two. You drive the King to the color square controlled by the Bishop that is closest to your Knight and Bishop duo. If equidistant, the choice is yours!

In our first example, the King has been driven towards the h8 square so that’s our target mating square. We start with 1. Nf5. Of course, the black King would like to run in the opposite direction of the h8 square but can’t because of the Bishop on b4, which controls the f8 square, so black is forced to play 1…Kh8. This kind of endgame position requires precise coordination between the Knight, Bishop and King. Failure to do so will allow the enemy King to escape and you’ll have to herd the King back to its pen all over again. You’ll see how hard herding is in our longer example.

White plays 2. Be7 which maintains control of the f8 square while lining it up with the f6 square. Black responds with his only legal move, 2…Kg8. White’s pieces are slowly moving in and surrounding the black King. White checks with 3. Nh6+ which forces the black King back to h8 with 3…Kh8. You should always examine potential escape squares for black before making a move in this type of position because giving the opposition King a chance to run away will force you to start all over again. You’ll see how horrible this can be shortly.

Looking at the position, we can see the the white King creates a barrier on g7 and h7. Our trusty Knight keeps the black King off of the g8 square. Now all we have to do is deliver the final blow with 4. Bf6# and it’s game over!

This example is the end result of a series of moves that drive the opposition King into the corner. However, as we’re about to see, the real challenge is simply getting that King into the corner. Let’s introduce a new key point, the idea of where you don’t want the enemy King to go. As a herder, you don’t want your sheep running behind you because you’ll have to turn around and start herding them back towards the pen. The same holds true in this type of position. You have to carefully and methodically herd the King to the target square.

In the above example, we have a dark squared Bishop which means we have to get the opposition King into a dark corner square, either a1 or h8. This means herding the King into the correct corner. Again, you can think of the black King as a sheep and the three white pieces as the sheep herders. As the commander of the white army, your job is to carefully control key squares the black King can use for his escape. You have to think in terms of where you don’t want the opposition King to go!

The Bishop on e3 controls the a7 square and the white King controls the b7 square so we start with 1. Nc7+. Note that the Knight on c7 is protected by the white King. You have to make sure that your pieces are protected at all times since losing one of your two minor pieces will lead to a draw! Black is forced to play 1…Kb8. The dark squared Bishop must maintain control of the a7 square, so as the black King doesn’t make a run towards freedom via that square, which is why white plays 2. Bb6, tightening white’s control of important territory. Black plays 2…Kc8, being pushed towards the mating square, h8. With 3. Ba7, white keeps the black King from going to b8, so the black King moves to d8 (3…Kd8). With 4. Nd5, white controls the e7 square and black moves the King to e8 with 4…Ke8. Now, white’s King enters the battle with 5. Kd6. This is where things get a bit difficult because the black King makes a run for freedom with 5…Kf7. In this type of checkmate, white will have to deal with the opposition King heading away from the corner towards the center where it will be difficult to corral him back towards the mating square. Therefore, you have to carefully consider your minor piece placement!

To the beginner, the move 6. Ne7 may seem to give the opposition King more freedom to escape. However, the Knight covers the squares f5 and g6 which could be used as flight squares by black. The black King moves to f6 with 6…Kf6 and rather than check the King with 7. Bd4, white instead plays 7. Be3, again looking to cut off the black King rather than make a useless check. From e3, the Bishop covers the g5 square and black is pushed back with 7…Kf7. White now brings his Bishop to g5 with 8. Bg5, tightening the noose around the black King. Black plays 8…Ke8. Here white must move the Knight so the Bishop has unblocked control of the d8 square, so 9. Ng6 is played. Now black must move towards the mating square with 9…Kf7. While it seems that white’s Knight is now under attack, the simple 10. Ne5+ puts an end to that.

Of course, black is going to do everything humanly possible to avoid h8 so he plays 10…Ke8. Again, the white King steps in with 11. Kc7, keeping the black King off of the d8 square. It’s important to use the King’s ability to control key squares at the right time and this is the right time!

With 11…Kf8, white uses his King to once more push the black King towards it’s sticky end with 12. Kd7. Use of the King is critical in endgame play! Black makes another feeble attempt to break free with 12…Kg7 and white meets this with 13. Ke7. The King is a powerful weapon in the endgame! The black King moves to g8 with 13…Kg8 and white moves his Bishop, 14. Bh6. This last move helps control squares the black King wants use as an escape route. With 14…Kh7, black tries to attack the Bishop but the Bishop moves to f8, 15. Bf8, and maintains control of two key squares, g7 and h6. After 15…Kg8, the white Knight makes a move most beginners don’t understand because the Knight appears to be moving away from the action, 16. Ng4. Unlike the Bishop, the Knight often has to make extra moves in order to get to a key square, as we will see in a few moves.

Black plays 16…Kh7, again trying to escape. On move 17, rather than deliver check with the Knight (Nf6 which would allow the black King to move to g6), white moves his King to f7 with 17. Kf7, using the power of King opposition. Black plays 17…Kh8 and white follows with 18. Bg7+. This is a well thought out move because the black King is forced to play 18…Kh7. Now we see why the white Knight moved to g4, so it could eventually move to f6 which delivers mate with 19. Nf6#!

The key ideas to keep in mind with this type of checkmate are pushing the opposition King to a corner square that your Bishop can control, moving your pieces in a coordinated fashion that keeps the opposition King off of specific squares and using your King actively. I have my students play through this mate until they can do it without too much effort. This means they may play through the position twenty plus times. I highly suggest you play through this position every chance you get until you know it. It may not come up much in your games but when it does and you’re not prepared, you’ll lose the game. Even though it doesn’t come up a great deal, it will teach you volumes about piece coordination. Break out a chess board and get cracking. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

Recognise the Pattern # 28

Today, we will see a simple endgame pattern which is quite easy to remember but difficult to recognize over the board. As we will see in the following example, even a strong grandmaster failed to spot it; during the game, Black played 74…Ke4 and won on move no 237.

Laurent Fressinet (2650) against Alexandra Kosteniuk (2525) – Black to move

Question: Can you do better than Kosteniuk?
Hint: In the endgame, the easiest way to win is often to convert one advantage into another.

Solution: The easiest way to win this game is…

74…g4!!

Black is preparing to exchange on f2 and transition into a winning king and pawn ending.

75. Rf4/Kg1 Rxf2!

Let’s check few alternatives
a) Rg7 then Rxf2 followed by Kf5 is winning
b) Kh1 then Rxf2 is just winning
c) Rc7 then Rxf2 followed by Bd4 is winning

76. Rxf2 Bxf2 77. Kxf2

Now what?

77…Kd4

Black has transitioned into a winning king and pawn ending.

Now Black can win the g3 pawn where the opposition doesn’t matter, as we know the very generous rule, “King on the 6th rank before the pawn always wins”.

Ashvin Chauhan