Category Archives: Endgames

Endgame Activity vs Weak Pawns

I thought this game was worth sharing because it has some interesting themes (that I clearly didn’t understand!) and three great master games that Nigel showed me.

Matisons,H-Rubinstein,A Karlsbad 1929

Kindermann,S (2490)-Gurevich,M (2515) Budapest 1987

Brunner,L (2525)-Kortschnoj,V (2625) Nuremberg 1990

It’s a Rubinstein French Defence from Nigel’s opening course and if played now I would go 7…Qc7 rather than 7…cxd4.

Dan Staples

L-shape Pawn Formation

“Pawns are like buttons. Lose too many and the pants fall down by themselves.”
George Koltanowski

The knight moves in L-shape right? We all learn that at the very beginning and struggle at first to figure out the move. I can go one square to the right and two forward or two squares to the right and one forward? That could be very confusing. Add the other directions and permutations of square choices and you will leave any beginner numb in front of so many possibilities. Do you know of any other area of the game where the L-shape is of importance? If you do and the title of this article gave it away, you have either studied our app lesson 26, level 4 (thank you for that!) or you are a very strong player and have known this for a while now.

Here is a study by L Kubbel to test your knowledge:


It is white to move. What does your gut feeling tells you about the possible result here? Can White win? How about Black? Is it maybe a draw?

As always let’s look at this together to make sure you get it right. Analysis:

  • In king and pawns endgames we always look for passed pawns: each side has 2
  • The White pawns are on the edge and doubled; this reduces their value quite a bit
  • The Black pawns are separated by a file
  • Both kings are in the imaginary square of all opposing pawns, meaning they can stop them from promoting
  • White looks to have no more than a draw; even if it captures both Black pawns, the Black king will easily reach the a8-corner and stop the promotion
  • Black could have a chance to win since the White king must stop 2 passed pawns in the same time
  • If the Black king manages to capture both White pawns, Black will probably win

OK, this does not sound very promising for White. When I worked on the puzzle, the first thing I looked at was how to deal with the Black pawns. The b5-pawn being the closest is an obvious first target. How would Black respond to that? Well, here you need to know about the L-shape pawn formation. That formation helps 2 passed pawns separated by a file fight the opposing king and survive. If that is the case and Black can easily reach an L-shape by playing d7-d6, what can White do? Standing still does not work because Black will capture the White pawns and win. Bringing the king forward though, would result in one of the Black pawns promoting.

Let’s pause for a moment. Take a deep breath and look for options. It looks like you cannot stop both Black pawns. What can you do then? Hmm, if the b-pawn promotes and the White king is on the a-file, we might get a stalemate. That is awesome! The other option with the d-file promoting, it is a clear loss. OK, now you have a plan: capture the d-pawn and run to the a-file; be careful on the timing though (see line C)! Hope you liked it and it got you interested about this important endgame aspect. All left now is raw calculation. Here is the solution to help you out:

Valer Eugen Demian

An Endgame from Llandudno

Here’s an endgame I played yesterday in the Llandudno Major. My opponent should have played 28…Kf7 straight away before the pin on the g-file became a problem. Instead he advanced his queen side pawns after which the loss of the f-pawn was the beginning of the end.

Sam Davies

King and Rook Checkmates

What I often do when playing young children who are lacking in confidence is head for an overwhelmingly won ending and turn the board round to let them win.

I was playing a boy at a school chess club the other day and duly turned the board round when I had a rook and lots of pawns against a few pawns. On swapping the positions my king soon captured my opponent’s pawns and, when I captured his last pawn we reached this position, with Black to move:

I explained to my opponent that he could mate me in two moves by playing a king move, and, more by luck than judgement, he was able to find it.

At the end of the club at this school I usually do a quick 10-minute lesson on the demo board for children who have finished their tournament games. I set up this position and asked if the students could find the mate in 2 (being careful to explain exactly what a mate in 2 was). There was one boy, the strongest player in the club, who had just missed out on qualifying for the Delancey UK Chess Challenge Gigafinals at the weekend, had some idea how to go about trying to work out the answer, but the rest of the class were unable to do anything other than making wild guesses.

I then changed the position slightly:

Again, they had the same difficulty trying to find the mate in 2 for Black. When they eventually found the answer I made another slight change:

When our strongest player found Rc6 I asked the whole class how many different answers there were to this question. At first they just made random guesses (2? 3? 22?) and I told them it wasn’t a guessing game: they had to work it out. Finally, someone found Re6 and it dawned on them that there were in fact five ways for Black to force mate in 2 moves in this position.

I would have liked, if I’d have had time, to have rotated the positions by 90% and 180% to see whether they would realise the answer was, in effect, the same, or whether they would go back and try to solve the puzzles from first principles. But it was the end of the session and the parents were waiting outside to collect their children. Another time, maybe.

The teacher who was in the room with me at the time, not a chess player herself, told me the lesson was very hard for them, and was impressed with their answers as well as with their enthusiasm and concentration during the lesson.

For chess players these examples are very simple and very basic. We know that, in order to play even reasonably good chess, we need to think “I go there, you go there, I go there”, but this type of thinking, even when “you go there” elicits only one possibility, is very hard and very unnatural for most young children, especially if they are not used to playing simple strategy games at home.

I suspect it’s because this sort of exercise introduces children to a totally new thinking skill that scholastic chess in the classroom might have a short-term effect in ‘making kids smarter’.

I also suspect that teaching kids how the pieces move in half an hour and putting them into a competitive environment will have no effect at all in ‘making kids smarter’. A ten-minute lesson of this nature after they’ve finished their tournament game will also have little effect unless the thinking skills are reinforced. Otherwise most of them will have forgotten it by the following week.

Richard James

Endgame Strategy: Capablanca – Ragozin, Moscow 1936

Nigel’s analysis of this instructive Capablanca endgame is included in the Tiger Chess Endgame Course. It also appears in Shereshevsky’s excellent book – Endgame Strategy.

Capablanca wrote “White’s plan is to prevent the advance of the c pawn (after which the b pawn could become weak) and to control the entire board up to the fifth rank. This is achieved by moving the King to e3, and by placing the rook at c3, the Knight at d4, and the pawns at b4 and f4. After he has attained such a position White will be able to advance his Q-side pawns.”

Dan Staples

Transposing Into Rook Endgames

Transposing into rook endgames when material up can be dangerous because there’s a tendency for them to be drawish. This is why my Dad thought for a long time before exchanging queens in this game.

The other interesting point is that he got his rook behind the passed d-pawn after which Black’s rook was forced to go to a very passive square.

Sam Davies

Botvinnik – Toran, Palma de Mallorca 1967

As with most of us my time is limited. My current chess practice involves solving Chessity daily tactics puzzles and following Nigel’s Endgame Course at his Tiger Chess website.

I was introduced to this excellent endgame through the course. This was instructive with regard to the importance of centralising the King. The move 22.Rxd5 kept the game alive.

Dan Staples

From Middlegame to Endgame

Kashdan vs Alekhine 1933, Black to Move

No great chess player complicates matters unless they find a simple solution. Alekhine was not an exception, White’s last move was Nb5 attacking the c7 pawn. Alekhine used little tactics to reach an endgame where his knight and passed pawn on the g-file are simply enough to win the game.

Here is the solution and the rest of the game.

Ashvin Chauhan

A Clever & Sneaky Defence from Smyslov

White exchanged into a pawn endgame here, thinking this had to be a win. But he missed Smyslov’s clever and sneaky defence with 45…hxg3 and 46…g4. White can even lose if he then moves his king across to attack Black’s queenside pawns.

Sam Davies

Advancing the Pawn without a Counterpart

My game below was played against the Metropolitan Police in New Scotland Yard which was a very interesting venue. The annotations are Nigel’s. The key things to take away for me were my risky Queen side castling and Nigel’s comments on my move 35.h4. He explained that 35.f4 was better and followed the ‘Capablanca rule’ in Chess Fundamentals that we should advance the pawn without a counterpart.

Dan Staples