Category Archives: Endgames

A Successful Wager

My next game involved a trip along the motorway to Maidenhead, the Thames Valley League’s furthest outpost, where I had black against their top board, John Wager, a strong and experienced player graded nearly 30 points above me.

He chose the Colle System, a popular opening in these post-theory days, just getting your pieces out and setting up a flexible pawn formation ready for action in the middle game.

1. d4 Nf6
2. Nf3 e6
3. e3 c5
4. c3 b6
5. Nbd2 Bb7
6. Bd3 d5
7. O-O Nbd7
8. b3 Bd6
9. Bb2 O-O
10. Qc2 Rc8
11. Rac1 e5
12. dxe5 Nxe5
13. Nxe5 Bxe5
14. Nf3 Bb8
15. Bf5 Rc7
16. Rfd1 Qe7
17. c4

This is the critical period of the game. Something I wanted to write about at some point, because I find it difficult myself, is the whole idea of compensation. As a naturally cautious player myself I tend to be very materialist. Here, I might have considered a pawn sacrifice for attacking chances. I start with 17… d4 18. exd4 Bxf3 19. gxf3 Rc6 20. d5 Qd6 21. dxc6 Qxh2+ 22. Kf1 Re8 23. Be4 Nxe4 24. fxe4 Qh1+ 25. Ke2 Rxe4+ 26. Qxe4 Qxe4+ 27. Kf1 when Black has queen and pawn for two rooks, and, with care, will eventually be able to pick up the c6 pawn. White can do better by not taking the rook: 21. f4 Qxf4 22. f3 is equal according to the engines. But this, at my level, is very much a computer line. Would a grandmaster have played d4 here, and how much would they see? I’m not sure.

17… g6

I chose this natural alternative, which leaves Black, rather than White, with doubled f-pawns.

18. Qc3 gxf5
19. Qxf6

He didn’t have to take this immediately: it wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Instead simply 19. cxd5 and White has an extra pawn, but Black might want to claim some compensation in the shape of the two bishops. Enough? I don’t understand chess well enough to tell you.

19… Qxf6
20. Bxf6 dxc4
21. bxc4

You might think Rxc4 looks more natural here. There again you might not…

21… Rc6
22. Ba1

So the bad news is Black has doubled isolated pawns, while the good news is that he has two raking bishops.

22… Rg6

This is where things start to go wrong for me. This seems to me, at least superficially, a very obvious move, setting up a pin and planning a later f4 to undouble my pawns. But, as you’ll see, it’s not correct. My computer tells me 22… Re6 followed by f4 was correct, with perhaps a slight advantage.

23. Nh4 Rg4

Continuing along the wrong path. I had to play Rg5 here but I’d missed a simple tactical point.

24. g3

At this point I realised that my intended f4 would be met by Nf5 with an immediate win for White. It was still possible to swallow my pride and play Rg5 to keep the pawn. Re8 was a better try for compensation than my choice.

24… Bc8
25. Rd5 Be6
26. Nxf5 Bxf5
27. Rxf5 Rd8
28. Rd5

Trading when you’re ahead, but the computer is not impressed. Now I can tie his rook down to defending the a-pawn.

28… Rxd5
29. cxd5 Ra4
30. Rc2 Bd6
31. f4 Re4

Not a good idea. 31… Kf8 followed by Ke8 gives drawing chances.

32. Kf2 b5
33. Kf3 Ra4
34. e4 Ra3+
35. Kg4 b4

The final mistake. 35… c4, giving my bishop some room, was the only way to stay in the game. Now White’s centre pawns go through.

36. Bf6 Rd3
37. e5 Bf8
38. d6 Bxd6
39. exd6 Rxd6
40. Be7 1-0

Tell me, why did I lose this game? At one level I was just beaten by a stronger player. Although it wasn’t technically the losing move, my problems started with 22… Rg6, which I played because I hadn’t foreseen the knight’s journey to h4, f5 and h6.

Richard James

Mednis Principles (2)

“With major pieces (queen or rook) on the board, having bishops on opposite colors favors the side with an attack.”
Edmar Mednis

A couple of nice articles about these principles can be reviewed HERE and HERE
SIM Michael R Freeman is a very strong ICCF player from Darwin, New Zealand. The fact he has been able to perform at around 2500 correspondence chess rating since 2009 is a high accomplishment not many are capable of. He is also FIDE-CM over the board and this summer he had the opportunity to play in the 8th IGB International Seniors Open Chess Championship 2017, Malaysia. Michael was kind to share interesting positions from his games along the way and I liked one in particular. The position was extremely interesting and the additional thoughts and comments by Michael caught my attention and made me take a closer look. We also had a very instructive online discussion about it; in the end can say for sure I learned more about opposite bishops endgames. Here it is with comments as indicated:

Of course Mednis principles apply here perfectly. White was pressing all along and that opened the door for a nice ending. Personally I think this is also an excellent example of how we need to pay attention to what is going on until the opponent has signed the scoresheet. Michael could have been rattled by the missed chances or by the tough defence he had to face up to that point; also he might have thought this was a done deal with those 2 passed pawns ready to promote. Any of us in his shoes would have had to consider 1… Bc5 as the best reply and gather our last drops of energy to figure out the winning idea with Bb5 hanging. He did it and was rewarded for it. Below is the full game score. Thank you Michael for sharing it with us!

Valer Eugen Demian

“What Say You?” The 1 Minute Challenge (4)

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
Bruce Lee

A quick reminder about how to do it:

  • Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
  • Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
  • Verify it in your mind the best you can
  • Compare it with the solution

Are you ready? Below is this week’s position asking you to choose the next move for White. What is the most likely result based on your choices?

Here are my thoughts:

  • Material is equal
  • Each side has a passed pawn and both kings are within reach (see rule of the square in our app level 3, lesson 26) with a plus for the Black king being closer
  • Pushing the pawn forward 1. c5 … gives Black time to activate its king (1… Ke6 for example). White will have to capture the a-pawn, while Black will do the same with the c-pawn; after those pawns come off the board, Black’s king will be closer to capture the g4-pawn and promote its remaining f6-pawn (see basic pawn endgames in our app level 2, lesson 19). Black could win in this case
  • Based on the above idea 1. Kd4 … does not look like a good idea either because it also allows 1… Ke6. The difference in this case might be the fact the White king stays close to its c4-passer, it could capture Black’s a-pawn and come back in time to defend the passer; hmm, this is an interesting thought after all
  • Continuing along this line of thought 1. Kd5 … looks the best since it is keeping Kf7 away. The problem here is that after 1… a4 there is no other response but the forced 2. Kd4 … or the a-pawn promotes. We are now back to the previous line with the a-pawn farther down the board. This will draw the White king away and allow the Black one to activate; after the simple moves 2… Ke6 3. Kc3 Ke5 4. Kb4 Kd4 there is nothing better for each side than pushing pawns down toward promotion and a draw
  • Going back to 1. Kd4 Ke6 and using the information gathered in the 1. Kd5 … line, this must be the move to play. The a5-pawn has not moved yet and black must choose between moving it or bringing its King closer; in both cases this is good news for white

Conclusion: 1. Kd4 … gives white the best practical chances and should be played. You might be out of time by now to be able to determine if white can win this or not. The endgame has one more nice wrinkle white must consider in order to win and you can see it looking at the solution below:

What can we conclude out of it? Sometimes we might have to go ahead and play the most promising line even if we don’t see the final result for various reasons. We must keep our focus and apply our thought process along the way to uncover opportunities and achieve the best possible result. Start with the simple stuff first and build on it based on your knowledge; wherever your knowledge stops, mark it down and make sure you focus on expanding it during your home preparation. Good luck!

Valer Eugen Demian

King Power in the Endgame

Following up my earlier column about king centralization, here’s a great example of a strong king being decisive in the endgame. It was also a huge upset, with Vishwanathan Anand losing to a player 259 Elo points lower than himself!

Sam Davies

Knowing the Endgame for Better Trades

Beginners only tend to be interested in learning endgames if you can show them how useful they are. And for successful coaching it is highly desirable that your students are interested in learning!

Accordingly this article is aimed at beginners only. I will demonstrate how knowing or learning an endgame can help in making the right exchanges.

Black to play and win
This position is taken from one of my internet games. This position looks even at a first glance but it is completely winning for Black.

Hint: The king and pawn endgame is the best way to realize the material advantage.

Solution:

1…f5

Forcing the knight to c5.

2.Nc5

The only move. Now what?

2…Nxf2

The simplest solution that forces exchanges.

If 2…Bxc5 then 3. Bxc5! drops a pawn but retains drawing chances for White. The same is true of 3.Nxc5. Note that 3.bxc5 leads to a winning king and pawn endgame for Black after exchanges on f2 because White’s king can’t protect the c5 pawn and the pawn is within the reach of Black’s king (Rule of Square).

3.Rxf2 Rxc5!!

The point, winning a pawn and forcing exchanges. My opponent resigned here in view of 4.bxc5 Bxc5 when the rook is pinned. Black can take the rook on next move and resulted position will be an easy win because of the extra pawn in a king and pawn endgame.

Ashvin Chauhan

“What Say You?” The 1 Minute Challenge (3)

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
Bruce Lee

This article marks the 1 year anniversary since I joined Nigel and friends on this site. I am very grateful for the opportunity and would like to say:
“Thank you Nigel for bringing me on-board!”
In life we are presented with a finite number of opportunities. The twist each time is not knowing if they are the right ones, if it is the right time or simply if we are ready for it. In a way it is similar with what we face on the chessboard at every move and of course each one of us reacts differently. My approach is to take it if it feels right. Young people have a tendency of letting them pass, searching for that elusive once in a lifetime opportunity to certain success. One goes by, there will be several others coming our way, isn’t it? I was more or less the same, don’t think for a second I was not. John Snow’s words are true, don’t you think?
Theon Greyjoy “… Remember we were all young and stupid, you always knew. Every step you take is always the right step.
John Snow “It’s not. It may seem that way from the outside but I promise you it’s not true. I’ve done plenty of things that I regret…
We simply don’t know which opportunity leads to certain success and this, I argue, is the whole point of life: choose what you feel is right for you at any given moment.

I had and still have no idea where this opportunity is going to take me. I tried my writing several times in the past with more or less success and realized I liked doing it. That was helpful in deciding to take it. The weekly format forced me to adjust on the fly and look for subjects of interest on a regular basis. I had no idea this was going to happen when I made my decision. Life has a lot of twists and turns. The decisions we make lead us in different directions. The final destination might be there waiting for us no matter which way we choose and of course it is still possible we might not reach it in the end. The best we can do is give it our best shot each time.

Right now I feel this 1 minute challenge idea has value for many. In a World full of opportunities and an overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips, thinking for ourselves and making the best possible decisions is increasingly important. No engine or similar tool will help you do that. They are just tools. Yes, an engine will “show” you in a split second the possible result of a move/ decision; however it will never be able to “explain” it to you. That is what really matters and why we should continue practicing it. A quick reminder about how to do it:

  • Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
  • Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
  • Verify it in your mind the best you can
  • Compare it with the solution

Are you ready? Below is this week’s position asking you to choose the winning move from the 4 options presented (in no particular order):

Here are my thoughts:

  • It is another endgame with White having considerable material advantage
  • The White king is too far away so 1. Kg2 … or similar does not help. The rook and pawn must find a way to get it done
  • Sacrificing the rook in exchange for promoting the pawn 1. axb5 Kxa1 gives us a basic queen versus side pawn endgame (lesson 17, level 2 of our chess app); with the White king so far away, this position is a draw
  • Moving the rook decision brings a new twist: where should we move it?
  • Moving it to the king side (as far away from the king as possible) 1. Rg1 bxa4 loses the pawn and reaches a rook versus pawn endgame (lesson 18, level 2 of our chess app); with the White king so far away, this position is also a draw
  • The remaining choice 1. Ra3 Kxa3 2. axb5 … is kind of out of the box thinking, don’t you think? The main idea is to force the king in front of the a5-pawn and away from the a1 promotion square. This would allow us to promote with check and win sufficient tempi to capture the remaining pawn and win the game
  • One last detail is to go with your gut feeling in the line 1. Ra3 b4 It is possible you might be out of time by now. All you would need to calculate is if you have enough time to capture the a5-pawn and stop the b-pawn from promoting

Here is the solution:

I found the position interesting and educative. The answer was not obvious and reaching it required solid knowledge of basic endgames, plus a well thought plan. If some might think this puzzle is too easy, do not dismiss it. You can use this one or similar to warm up during home preparation; do not start with the tough ones first. Practice makes it perfect. Hope you found it useful.

Valer Eugen Demian

The Mongolian Tactic

“I will not return alive if I do not defeat the Jin army!”
General Muqali

I had the chance to watch live online the game between Anand and Carlsen, Sinquefield Cup, 04-Aug-2017 (full game HERE). At the end of it GM Yasser Seirawan made an interesting comment about Anand’s choice to draw the rook and pawns ending they were playing. He said the pawn push 60. g4 … was called “the Mongolian tactic” and he knew about it from a game played or witnessed by Fischer many years ago. Apparently Fischer was the first one to name it as such (or possibly “the Mongoloid tactic”). I have never heard of it before and Yasser’s comments made me extremely curious. The truth is Anand’s choice settled the game quickly, proving its effectiveness. Here is the final part of that endgame:

It could be that time in my life when studying history and bringing back into the spotlight useful information is important; another possible reason is I first fell in love with the antiquity and the first profession I thought about pursuing was archeology. Right after the game I started doing some online research with the intention of writing this article; as you can see it took me almost a month and have still not been able to find more than what you can see here. Apparently Yasser wrote an online article for “The Kibitzer” column @ The Chess Cafe website in the early 2000 (2003 or 2004?), but I could not find it anymore. What I could find though were a couple of games where “the Mongolian tactic” has been used before. The first game between Carlsen versus Yue (full game HERE) also contains a few interesting comments by a couple of users about the history of its name. Thank you “TugasKamagong” and “Shams” for sharing your knowledge!

  • TugasKamagong: “Carlsen’s 46. g4 … is a pawn maneuver that doesn’t have a name. <Shams>, posting in the tournament kibitz page King’s Tournament (2010) a few minutes after that move was played, called it “the Mongolian tactic.” I can’t find a game where a Mongolian player made this maneuver, so I guess <Shams> was alluding to some brilliant 13th-century war tactic by Genghis Khan at say, the Battle of Badger Pass. Anyway, I propose that we use <Sham>’s term and call this the Mongolian Tactic or perhaps the Mongolian Break-through…”
  • Shams: “Yes, who can forget the carnage that day at Badger Pass. I had thought Fischer used the term “Mongolian tactic” for this? Not sure where I read that.”

Here is the final part of that game where “the Mongolian tactic” brought Carlsen a full point:

“Shams” and user “Anastasia” also made a few comments about it for a game between Polgar and Almasi (full game HERE)

  • Shams: “72… g5 allows 73. g4! … what Fischer used to call the “Mongolian Tactic” (don’t ask me why.)…”
  • Anastasia: “not to be picky but Fischer actually called it the mongoloid tactic”
  • Shams: “hmm, do you know the story? google isn’t helping. I’m curious…”

These users are additional sources confirming Yasser’s recollection of the name being linked to Fischer.
Here is the final part of that game where “the Mongolian tactic” also brought Judit the full point:

Here you have it now in one place. Could anyone shed a light on this very clever piece of tactics and help set the record straight? I think it would be nice to save it for future generations as part of other pieces of wisdom in the endgame. I would be more than happy to write more on the subject and even offer this space to anyone wishing to contribute to it; until that happens, I think we could all re-learn about it and have it ready in our daily endgames. Remember the pawn cluster g4-h4-g5-h5 whenever the kingside pawns face each other and because h2-h4 and h7-h5 are important and popular moves to play in the endgame, always ponder carefully the g3-g4 or g6-g5 pawn push in the light of “the Mongolian tactic”. It is pretty devastating!

Valer Eugen Demian

“What Say You?” The 1 Minute Challenge (2)

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
Bruce Lee

A quick reminder about how to do it:

  • Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
  • Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
  • Verify it in your mind the best you can
  • Compare it with the solution

Are you ready? Below is this week’s position:


This week’s challenge is a king and pawns endgame with Black being up by 1 pawn. Here are my thoughts:

  • There are no passed pawns
  • At first glance the Black king seems unable to defend its isolated pawns, so my first reaction was to try line A: 1. Kg3 … and after a few seconds I realized Black wins with ease
  • The second logical try is line B: 1. Kf1 … where White has the opposition. The concept of the opposition (level 2, lessons 19 of our app) is critical in such endgames and it offers simple yet powerful guidance toward a desired result. Surprisingly here it does not work because Black uses the position of the f3-pawn and after 1… Kd2 2. Kf2 Kd3 wins the opposition back, followed by the game
  • Three of the remaining choices (1. Kg1 … 1. Kh2 … and 1. Kh3 …) do not make much sense in my opinion

If you are still with me, you know there is one move left: 1. Kh1 … It seems counter intuitive for a human player. Why on Earth would I consider moving my king in the most unpleasant square available, away from the f3-pawn and far away from those Black pawns? I looked at the solution and couldn’t believe that it was the one, a move discarded by my intuition from the first moment… Of course once this happens, the normal reaction should be to figure out the reasoning. What do you notice first after you play 1. Kh1 …? If you have noticed White has the distant opposition, it is very possible you found the solution in time. Truly after the second try (1. Kf1 …) you should be looking at 1. Kh1 … instead of discarding it. The distant opposition might not come into play as often as the opposition; however it is as important and powerful. One other interesting observation: after 1. Kh1 … the position has a nice geometric motif: if you consider the f-file as a vertical axis of symmetry, the position is symmetrical.

Do not feel bad the engines spit out the solution immediately. You can look at it and replay it but do not stop there! Do the next step of figuring out why the solution is as it is based on your knowledge. The thought process involved is going to help you in future games and really this is what matters. Play your own games/ positions and don’t let the engines take that away from you regardless how “perfect” they play. Enjoy the full solution below:

Valer Eugen Demian

“What Say You?” The 1 Minute Challenge

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
Bruce Lee

I have been talking a lot in my previous articles about gut instinct in chess. It relies heavily on personal knowledge and experience, reason why we all need to continuously work on both. I have been thinking for a while now about how to help you get better at it and the best idea I could come up with is to get closer to a game situation. How does this work? Well, time has become an important factor in the game; long gone are the days of 40 moves in 2 hours, one or two adjournments and an adjudication by a selected panel consisting of the best players in the tournament. These days we need to make our decisions much faster. Here is how I propose you do it:

  • Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
  • Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
  • Verify it in your mind the best you can
  • Compare it with the solution

Are you ready? Let’s start with the position below:

OK, hope you have timed yourself. You can compare now your thoughts with mine gathered in the same fashion:

  • My first thought was this position resembled the famous Reti study (W: Kh8, c6 B: Ka6, h5); however the g-pawn is more advanced and Reti’s solution cannot help
  • Since the g-pawn is 3 moves away from promoting and cannot be stopped, we must push a pawn forward; this immediately eliminates any king move (line A)
  • I have 2 pawns to choose from, but the a-pawn gets blocked after 1 move
  • Moving the h-pawn first (line B) allows me to push it all the way to h7 and when Black promotes g1=Q, Kh8 is trapped in the corner; my a5-pawn still has a move to give but after pushing it, I think Black cannot win anymore
  • This looks very good so far and becomes my choice
  • There is a bit of time left and I am thinking what would happen if 1. h5 Ka6 the only other possibility for Black? One thing easy to see is I will have to move Kh8-g7 and Black will promote g1=Q with check; hmm that gives Black tempi to bring his queen all the way to g6, move his king aside Ka6-b5 to avoid stalemate and that will force the a5-pawn to move (3 moves to promotion). White would need just 2 moves Qg6-f7-f8#
  • Line B is now busted and the solution is now obvious


Did you get it all that in 1 minute? If you did, congratulations! The queen versus pawn endgame (lesson 17, level 2 of our chess app) can occur quite often at club level play, especially when the players are closely matched. The most likely pawn to give trouble is the side pawn (either a- or h-) and knowing how to deal with it can save you invaluable half points. Do not forget to review it whenever you get the chance like in this study. Hope you liked it!

Valer Eugen Demian

Practical Chess Endgames for Beginners

This article is aimed at beginners, to show them why they should study andlearn endgames. Here is my game from the current tournament where my last move was Re6 to win a pawn.


My opponent was rated 1482 and played opening and middle-game really well, but finally I got a chance to win a pawn. How would you continue from here? Which pawn will you save, b6 or h6?

In the game he played b5 and I went on win due to the following reasons.
1. My rook is more active than his as it is behind his passer.
2. I have a chance to create two connected passed pawns on the kingside.

Instead he should have played Kg7(!), protecting the h6 pawn after which Rxb6 is a draw. He was perfectly aware of the Lucena and Philidor positions, however he was not aware that there are more chances where these 3 vs 2 pawn positions can lead to a Philidor position. That is why I always insist that learning positions is not enough on its own. You should repeat them on regular intervals and also learn how to achieve them. In practice you won’t get book positions very often.

The game was not easy even after …b5 and Rxh6. Here is the analysis:

Ashvin Chauhan