Category Archives: Endgames

Anatoly Karpov

A player my Dad admires a lot is Anatoly Karpov. He was the World Champion after Bobby Fischer and held the title for 10 years before losing to Garry Kasparov.

Karpov is really good at endgames and grinding away in better positions. Here is an example from this year:

Sam Davies


Using the King in the Endgame

This position is taken from a game one of my students played at Mayor Cup, 2018 (C Category) after 46…Rb5. In the game my student decided to block the Black’s passed pawn with the rook (47.Rc4) and lost very quickly.

Q: What do you think? Is it possible for White to save this position?


In this case, blocking the pawn with the rook is necessary as White’s king is too far from the Black’s b pawn. But the blockader must be changed to the king very soon because the rook can’t block two passed pawns. The correct move is 47 Kf2! which allows the rook to reach to b1 in two moves compared to three via c4. This one is not so hard to find but the issue was that he simply didn’t consider the king move. Play might continue as follows:

47.Kf2! b3 48.axb3 axb3 49. Rg1 c5

After the tricky 49…Rc5! White can generate his own counter play with pawn to f4-f5 advance as Black’s king is already cut from the g file.

50. Ke2 c4 51. Kd2 b2 52. Kc2 c3! 53. Rb1!

Otherwise Ra5 to a1 is winning for Black.


Now white can start pushing his f-pawn.

54. f5 Kh7 55. f6 Kxh6 56 Rg1!

The game is now a draw, which is a good example of the value of using the king.

Ashvin Chauhan


Passive Rooks

I’ve been going through a lot of rook endgames with my Dad recently and it came in useful in the following game. White’s position became very passive after 27…Rc3 and under pressure missed 30…Rxd3. I’m not sure I played it in the very best way after that but it seemed as if it should be enough to win.

Sam Davies


Fighting In The Trenches (3)

“I’ve paid my dues in the classical trenches”
Laila Robins

When one “talks the talk”, it must also “walk the walk”. Now it is my turn to do so. Last week I went over a chess 960 middle game position where I was lucky to get 2 pawns out of a combination; some games are like that. You do not need to play perfect chess. Leave room for your opponent’s mistakes as well!… I stopped at the moment where we reached a queen and pawn endgame. Planning for what to do next, I followed my own advice and proceeded with step 1: reach an easily won endgame.

After reaching an easily won endgame, step 2 was to bring my king in the center and start pushing the Black King backwards.

The Black king has not been forced backwards yet as the king side pawns had moves to play. It was a moment when I should have paid close attention to the position and go for the correct move. The Black pawns still have one more move to give and I overlooked it; not the best moment to be superficial. That brought me to a fork in the road.

This is a good “What say you?” moment for those familiar with my articles. Would White be forced to leave the b-pawn as a decoy and go to the other side to grab the remaining Black pawns? If the answer is “No”, is White in danger of stalemating Black as we know it to be the case in the latter part of the king and pawn versus King endgame? Take a minute and ponder both answers before you move forward.

It might not have looked like the most exciting endgame; however it was still full of little twists and turns white had to be careful about. It served as another important lesson one cannot be superficial in king and pawns endgames. The mistake 12. b3? … made it more interesting than it should have been. It is much better to win them simple and boring, something strong knowledge and constant attention to details will give you time and time again.

Valer Eugen Demian


An Error in Minev

My Dad was showing me this rook endgame from Nikolay Minev’s book on rook endgames. Minev gives this as winning for Black after 77.Rb2+ Kc5 78.Rc2+ Kd4 79.Ra2?? Ra6 but I asked why White can’t play 79.Rc6. We came to the conclusion that it draws, and the engine says that 79.Rc8 and 79.Rc7 draw too.

In the game Gheorghiu played 77.Ra1? and after 77…Kb4! he resigned because after 78.Rb1+ Ka5 79.Ra1 Ra6 White is in zugwang, which must have been difficult to see. After 80.Ra2 Kb4 81.Rb2+ Kc3, the rook has run out of checking room.

Sam Davies


The Wrong Rook’s Pawn

Every Russian schoolboy (and girl) knows that if you have just a king, and your opponent has a rooks pawn along with a bishop which doesn’t control the promotion square, you can draw if your king can reach the corner.

Let’s look, for example, at this position from a game in the 1991 Richmond Junior Championship.

Black was winning easily but erroneously queened a pawn on a1, which White captured with his knight. Black’s bishop took back, and White played his king from e2 to f2, reaching this position. You’ll see that he could have drawn most simply by playing g4, moving his king to h1 and waiting for his opponent to shake hands. But no matter: this position is still drawn.

Let’s play on a few moves.

1.. Kg4
2. Kg1

This move or g3 will draw: other moves lose.

2.. Kg3
3. Kh1 Kf2
4. Kh2

Now the white king is safely in the corner everything draws.

4.. Be5+
5. Kh3

If you don’t know this ending it might look natural to head towards the pawn, but this move loses. Instead Kh1 and g3 are both easy draws.

Now it’s up to Black to find the winning plan. At this point there are seven winning moves to choose from: five safe bishop moves along the h2-b8 diagonal, Kg1 and h6. His choice, as you’ll see, isn’t the quickest, but it’s good enough.

5.. Bg3
6. Kg4

It’s crunch time. Black now has only one winning move. Did he find it? Can you find it?

The only winning move is 6.. h6. The plan is to defend this pawn with the bishop and then force White’s king away.

A sample variation: 6.. h6 7. Kh5 Bf4 8. Kg4 Be3 9. Kh3 Kg1 10. Kg3 Bd2 11. Kh3 Be1 12. g3 Bd2 13. Kg4 Kg2 14. Kh4 Bc1 15. g4 Bg5+ 16. Kh5 Kg3 17. Kg6 Kxg4

He didn’t find this plan, though. Instead the game continued:

6.. Be5

Now White has one drawing idea: 7. Kg5 Bg7 8. g4. Without this pawn Black would be winning, but now he has no way of making progress.

7. Kh3

Now Black’s winning again. He has the same seven moves as two moves ago, and this time finds the quickest win.

7.. h6
8. g4

Black again has seven winning moves – bishop moves on the h2-b8 diagonal, Kf1 and Kg1. Bg3 is the neatest and quickest move, forcing White to play g5 and covert the h-pawn into a g-pawn, mating in 14 moves. Bf4, to defend h6, takes one move longer.

Alas, he chooses something else:

8.. Bf6
9. Kh2 Kf2
10. Kh3

There’s still nothing wrong with hiding in the corner: Kh1 is once again an easy draw, but this should stll give White a half point.

10.. Be5

Now the white king can’t return to the corner. There are two legal moves: a 50-50 shot. White still doesn’t really want to force the black pawn onto the g-file, does he? Perhaps he should try the king move instead. What do you think?

11. Kh4

The wrong decision: after 11. g5 hxg5 it’s an unexpected stalemate! If Black plays anything else the draw is also clear.

Now Black made no mistake. The game continued 11.. Bf4 12. Kh3 Kf2 13. Kh4 Kg2 14. Kh5 Kh3 15. Kg6 Kxg4 and White resigned.

If you like the sort of endgame questions like those I posed here, you’ll find a lot more, all based on games from the RJCC database, in CHESS ENDINGS FOR HEROES. The first draft of both this and CHESS OPENINGS FOR HEROES will be completed this summer.

Richard James


Teacher’s Delight (2)

“… Skyrockets in flight!
Afternoon Delight!…”
Starland Vocal Band

We all have our good days and bad days. It is what makes this life worth living. How would you know it is a good day if you could not have a bad one? This past week we definitely had a good one and we definitely recognized it as such! Matthew is a student showing a lot of potential primarily because he works at it weekly with enthusiasm. He is also the one bringing you from the abyss to the edge of your seat and all this in one game.

The first example is from a game where white built a strong position and somehow managed to win an exchange. In the ensuing complex endgame he traded it down to rook versus knight with a clear cut passer on the a-file. Of course it would be too bland to just promote the pawn and win; somehow black managed to capture the passer (while his lone Knight was fighting both the rook and pawn!…) and make a game out of it. Here is where they landed. Admire how white surgically removed all doubts and collected the full point:

In below’s game Black moved Qd8-e7 in the opening, overlooking White’s d5-knight. If you think that is a terrible blunder you would never do, don’t be so sure about it. I remember how back in University (feels like yesterday though…) I was playing an important game, nursing an extra pawn while under positional pressure. It was a time when you would have 2 hours for 40 moves. I spent about 45 minutes calculating something very clever and elaborate just to miss one important, tiny detail: the starting move for that line involved placing the queen en prise. I did it (all seemed perfect) just to watch in shock and disbelief how my opponent snatched my queen within seconds. Don’t you hate it when it happens? It is what they call tunnel vision and nobody is immune to that.

Back to the game Black continued with determination (I resigned that game of mine on the spot) and somehow reached below position. Here is how things unfolded:

Valer Eugen Demian


The Frightful Revisited

Chapter 3 of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict is entitled ‘The Frightful’. The worst players of all time. The worst tournament performances of all time. The worst games of all time. The worst moves of all time. The worst games and moves of the best players.

Over the past few days I’ve encountered two games which would certainly qualify for the next edition, should I decide to write it at some point.

As I write, the Altibox Tournament is taking place in Norway. This position arose in the pre-tournament Blitz. World Champion Magnus Carlsen was White against Lev Aronian.

In this position Aronian had just played 51.. g4. Carlsen had to decide which way to capture. With only a few seconds left on the clock, he chose to take with the h-pawn, and you don’t need me to tell you what happened next. The correct capture would have ensured the draw.

Now we turn the clock back more than a century, to 19 November 1915, and a simultaneous display given by the great Capablanca, a player renowned for his accuracy, at the Franklin Chess Club, Philadelphia. One of his games, against William H Snowden Jnr, reached this position, with Capa having to decide how to get out of check.

The game continued 47. Kh4 Nxe4 48. h6 and White eventually won. I’m sure you will have no problem finding improvements for both players in this sequence.

My source for this game was Edward Winter’s Chess Notes, essential reading for anyone with any interest in the byways of chess history.

If, as I’m sure you did, you managed to find the correct answers to these two positions, feel free to tell your friends that you can play chess better than Carlsen and Capablanca. Yes, we’re talking about a simul and a blitz game, but, even so, you’d expect any strong player to find the right move in a nanosecond or two.

It’s reassuring for those of us with no pretensions to being good at chess to know that even the best players in the world can make really stupid moves from time to time.

Richard James


Fighting In The Trenches (2)

“I’ve paid my dues in the classical trenches”
Laila Robins

Last time we stopped at below position between my club students from the top group. Probably it was not hard for you to decide White is still winning. The queen side pawns are the ones deciding it and there is nothing Black can do about it. Simply put any pawn counts in king and pawns endgame, including the double ones. A simple way to win is given below before continuing with the game play:

White did not play like that and a comedy of errors followed up on the chess board. There is an old saying fitted for writers: “Paper endures anything written on it”. I guess in this case “The chessboard endures any moves played on it” is a good analogy…

Not sure how successful you are in convincing yourselves or your students there’s no need to promote all your pawns to win a game. I keep on saying “Always look for the fastest win” and many a student would be able to repeat it by heart if asked. Doing it on the chessboard seems to be a different story. You can imagine White had a lot of fun promoting 2 pawns into queens and the crowd was having a blast cheering for the accomplishment. Do you know what happened next? Well, Caissa decided I needed help to get my message through and twisted the fate of this game in a powerful way. Look at the previous position before scrolling down and guess which move white made to create an instant teaching moment? It is not that easy to find considering how many ways (all except one…) you can win as White. Your mind should be wired the right way and refuse to even look at it! Here it is:

Remember, the idea is not putting down the players. It is to show what can happen when endgame knowledge is spotty at best. It also shows playing good endgames is like fighting in the trenches with a never give up attitude. Good play and bad play are intertwined with teaching moments almost at every step. Fight the battle in the trenches and you will be rewarded!

Valer Eugen Demian


Working Without Engines

My Dad and I usually look at chess without an engine, trying to figure things out for ourselves. Dad says that this is a better way to develop as a player because using an engine leads to people becoming too reliant on them in their thinking. Here is an example:

We found this position while going through IM John Cox’s book on the Berlin. Black played 47…c5 which looks like a great try, but Cox thought it might be a blunder. Carlsen then answered with 48.e6+ which was given two question marks, Cox commenting that 48.f6 ‘was immediately decisive’.

I think that Cox must have had the engine on all the time to make it seem so easy to him, the players did not find this easy to see and we struggled too. The reason is that after 48.f6 Black can let White get a queen with 48…cxd4 49.f7 dxc3 50.f8=Q cxb2 51.Qf1 c3, when the passed pawns are very strong and at first seem to tie White’s queen down.

It turns out that White can win after 52.Qd3+ Ke8 53.e6 c2 54.Qd7+ Kf8 55.Qd8+ Kg7 56.Qxe7+ Kh6 57.Qf8+ Kh7 58.Qf7+ Kh6 59.Qf4+ Kh7 60.Qh2+ Kg8 61.e7 Kf7 62.Qe5 Ke8 63.Qc7. However this only became clear when we looked at the position with an engine and the line is 15 moves deep.

Sam Davies