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Quote of the Month: I need to know more about endgames.
Studying Chess Made Easy
GM Soltis notes that players under 2000 probably do not need to know more than about twenty specific endgames. Instead, he suggests studying general endgames ideas, such as implementing principles about getting your king into play, pushing passed pawns and majorities, putting rooks behind passed pawns, etc.
One thing I have found is that the endgame is the part of the game requiring the most careful analysis, and class players who get away without much analysis early in the game often play much weaker in the endgame when they "hand-wave" positions that require careful analysis. Of course, some endgame knowledge is helpful, but in most cases the analysis drives your endgame skill, not your knowledge.
With this in mind, I have created an endgame quiz that contains questions which require knowledge or careful calculation, and/or both. In all positions assume best play for both sides. I will not provide a scoring algorithm – but you should be able to judge if you did well and where you need work.
Question 1: Which of the following is
a. In a king and pawn vs. king endgame, if the side with the pawn has a non-rook's pawn and can safely get his king two or more ranks in front of the pawn, that is always a win with best play.
b. You have a king, a pawn, and a bishop or knight (three pieces total) and your opponent just has a king. If you are not trivially losing either the piece or pawn, then the only circumstance where you are not winning is if you have a bishop and a rook's pawn where the rook's pawn promotes on the opposite color of the bishop and the opponent's king can get to that corner.
c. The opposition does not usually apply if there is a pawn between the kings in a king and pawn endgame.
d. In general, it is much easier to lose a king and pawn endgame down a pawn than it is to lose a rook and pawn endgame down a pawn.
Question 2: White has five legal moves. How many of them draw?
Wit: Ke3 f4 g3 h4
Zwart: Kc4 f5 g6 h5
Question 3: What would be the result of Black's four legal moves?
Wit: Kb4 Tb8
Zwart: Kb6 Tc5 b5
Question 4: White to play. What should the result be?
Wit: Kh5 f4
Zwart: Kd5 f5
Question 5: How many first moves by White would lead to a win?
Wit: Kd4 a7 h5
Zwart: Kb7 d5 h6
Question 6: Select the best answer to describe the move 1.Rd5.
Wit: Ke5 Tc5 b4 d7 e3 h4
Zwart: Kb6 Td2 b5 e4 f5 g6
a. It loses, but everything loses.
b. It draws, but White could have won.
c. It loses, but White could have won.
d. It wins and other wins were more difficult.
Question 7: What is White's best move?
Wit: Kd3 a2 b2 c2 f4 g2 h3
Zwart: Kf5 a6 b6 c5 f7 g6 h5
a. Defending with 1.g3.
b. Defending with 1.Ke3.
c. Counter-attacking with 1.Kc4 and 2.Kd5.
d. Resign as all options are clearly hopeless.
Question 8: In the following position can White to play win?
Wit: Kg1 b3
Question 9: Black to play. Which answer best describes the situation?
Wit: Kh1 Ta8 a7
Zwart: Kf7 Ta3
a. Black has one move that draws with careful play.
b. Black has one move to give a good fight, but in the end he loses anyway.
c. Black has an easy draw by just going over to attack the pawn with his king.
d. Black is completely lost no matter what he does.
Question 10: White to play. Which answer best describes the situation?
Wit: Kc3 f5 g5 h5
Zwart: Kc5 f7 g7 h7
a. White wins with a clever, well-known tactical maneuver.
b. The clever, well-known tactical maneuver does not work here and White is lost.
c. This is not similar to any clever well-known attempt. Black is just closer to the pawns and wins.
d. White can draw with some clever play of his own.
1. b – That is the only answer clearly untrue, as can be shown by example. If one side has a knight guarding a rook pawn on the seventh rank and the defending king can get to the corner, that is a draw as the offensive king can never approach:
Draw: Either side to play
Wit: Kg4 Pg5 h7
Wit aan zet
Black just shuffles his king back and forth between g7 and h8. White cannot approach too close with his king without stalemating Black.
Answer c is generally true and thus not the best answer. There are many positions where whose move it is does matter when there is a pawn between kings. This often happens when there are many pawns on the board. However, the opposition rule would not apply when pawns interfere. With pawns in the way the player to move is often not at a disadvantage:
Either side to play: Draw (this is not the opposition)
Wit: Kc3 c4
Wit aan zet
In this position, even if Black has to move first, all three moves draw! For example, 1...Kd6 2.Kd4 is still not the opposition even though the kings are separated vertically with one square in-between and it is Black's move, as the white pawn affects the play. All black has to do is not allow the white king in front of the pawn by playing 2...Kc6=. In king and pawn vs. king, if the offensive king cannot get in front of the pawn it is always a draw. Of course, that does not imply that if he can get in front of the pawn it is always a win; it is not – he would need the opposition, too. So after 1...Kd6 2.Kd4 if Black plays the silly 2...Kc7??, then 3.Kc5+- is the opposition and wins; while 2...Kc7?? 3.Kd5?? Kd7 would hand the opposition – and a draw – right back.
2. Three moves draw. This is a tough one! All three king moves to the second rank, 1.Kd2, 1.Ke2, and 1.Kf2 draw. Obviously 1.g4 loses. However, 1.Kf3?, as played quickly in the source game, loses too! Black then plays 1...Kd3 and wins; e.g., 2.Kf2 Kd2 3.Kf3 Ke1 4.Kg2 Ke2 5.Kg1 Kf3 6.Kh2 Kf2 7.Kh3 Kg1 and White is in zugzwang. He must play 8.g4, and loses. There are other lines but, to paraphrase Fischer, White can play differently (after 1.Kf3 Kd3), but then White loses differently.
3. Two draw and two lose – This is an easy one. 1...Kc6? loses the rook and the game after the skewer 2.Rc8+. 1.Ka6?, as hastily played in the source game (!), loses to the simple 2.Kxc5. But 1...Ka7 and 1...Kc7 abandoning the rook and the pawn but counterattacking the white rook, draw easily after 2.Kxf5 Kxb8 3.Kxb5 or 2.Rxb5 Rxb5 3.Kxb5.
4. Black draws easily by getting the opposition after White wins the f-pawn; e.g., 1.Kg6 Ke6 But not the "aggressive" 1...Ke4?? 2.Kg5 the well-known Trebuchet position, which is mutual zugzwang and the player to move, here Black, loses. 2.Kg5 Ke7! But not 2...Kf7?? 3.Kxf5 with the opposition. 3.Kxf5 Kf7= Sometimes you have to know what result you are playing for. In this problem Black is not trying to win, but play for a draw, so if he keeps a cool head and just tries to figure out how he can accomplish his goal, it is right there!
5. Only one: 1.Kxd5. Then White heads to capture on h6 and, just in time, gets his king to the critical square g7. The "deflecting" 1.a8Q+? actually loses a tempo, as was also shown in Game 12 of
The World's Most Instructive Amateur Game Book
. After 1.a8Q?, Black draws with 1...Kxa8 getting to the a-file one tempo before White captures! 2.Kxd5 Kb7 3.Ke6 Kc7 4.Kf6 Kd7 5.Kg6 Ke7 6.Kxh6 Kf7 (or 6...Kf8) and Black draws. This nicely illustrates the general principle, Once you have the only passed pawn and the opponent is forced to go after it, pushing that pawn further at best is neutral and likely loses tempos. So once the opponent's king commits to the pawn, it is usually best to not push the pawn and use those tempos to make progress in other areas. There are rare cases where you need to push a doomed pawn to promote so you can promote another pawn with check, but in the overwhelming majority of the cases the principles holds.
6. c – White could have won with 1.Ke6 Other moves work, too, which shows how good White's position was. 1...f4 What else? 2.Ke7 Again, it is not the only move that wins. 2...fxe3 2...f4 is similar. 3.d8Q+ Rxd8 4.Kxd8 e2 5.Rc1. Instead, in the source game White cavalierly played 1.Rd5?? Rxd5 2.Kxd5 Kc7 3.Ke6 Kd8 Black is threatening 4...f5-f4 but after 4.Ke5 Kxd7 Black is just winning anyway.
7. White has only three ideas: Counterattack with 1.Kc4, defend with 1.Ke3, or defend with 1.g3. Let's calculate the counterattack first: 1.Kc4 Kxf4 2.Kd5 f5 3.Kc6 Kg3 4.Kxb6 Kxg2 5.Kxc5 f4 6.c4 f3 7.Kd5 f2 and Black wins the race easily. 1.g3?, as played quickly in the game (weaker players who play slow in other situations sometimes speed up in the endgame because they do not know how and when to calculate carefully) falls to the removal of the guard 1...h4 when White resigned – after some "too late" consideration. So the only defense is 1.Ke3, when White should draw with continued careful play.
8. Let's first analyze what happens if White just tries rushing in front of the pawn with 1.Kf2 Kf8 Black keeps the distant opposition with an odd number of squares between the two kings along the file. 2.Ke3 Ke7 3.Kd4 Kd6 4.Kc4 Kc6 5.Kb4 Kb6 draws as Black maintains the opposition (note there is no pawn between the kings! See #1). So White has a better try by keeping the distant opposition himself with 1.Kg2 Kf7 2.Kf3 Ke7 and not 2...Ke6? 3.Ke4 and White gets the opposition 3.Ke3 If 3.Ke4 Ke6! draws as in the previous line. 3...Kd7 4.Kd3 Kc7 5.Kc3 and now it is
Black to play and draw
Wit: Kc3 b3
Zwart aan zet
5...Kb7! All other moves lose. If Black plays to the back rank or 5...Kd7?, then White successfully gets two ranks in front of the pawn with Kc3-b4-a5. If Black moves to the sixth rank, White will get the opposition; e.g., 5...Kc6? 6.Kc4+- After 5...Kb7! White cannot keep the distant opposition with 6.Kb3 since the pawn is in the way. Any attempt to make progress fails: 6.Kc4 Kc6= or 6.Kb4 Kb6= On other White moves Black either keeps the opposition and repeats the position or, if White retreats to the second rank, advances his king and prevents White's king from getting in front of the pawn. So Black draws. Had White's pawn been on the second rank (b2 instead of b3) in the initial position, then it would have been an easy win since White can just get his king two ranks in front of the pawn. If you know how to calculate the starting position and correctly evaluate it as a draw, then you can probably calculate almost any king and pawn vs king position and evaluate if it is winning or drawing.
9. a – A fairly well-known endgame. This is also problem E12 in Looking for Trouble. Before I explain the correct drawing line, let's note that Black cannot play 1...Ke7?? because of 2.Rh8! Winning, since 2...Rxa7 loses to the skewer 3.Rh7+ winning the rook. That is the key tactical idea for White. Any other moves for Black after 1....Ke7 2.Rh8! eventually loses to a8Q. If Black instead goes to the third rank on the first move; e.g., with 1...Kg6, then White can safely check with 2.Rg8+ and 3.a8Q+-. So here is what I wrote in Looking for Trouble:
"1...Kg7! Black's king should shuffle back and forth between g7 and h7. That is a draw because, if White's king approaches b7, it can be checked away from the a7 pawn so long as Black's rook keeps its distance (e.g. stays on a1 and checks on b1 at that point), e.g. 2.Kg2 Kh7 3.Kf2 Kg7 4.Ke2 Kh7 5.Kd2 Kg7 6.Kc2 Kh7 7.Kb2 Ra6 Keep the rook as far away from the king as possible = "checking distance" 8.Kb3 Kg7 9.Kb4 Kh7 10.Kb5 Ra1 11.Kb6 The white king is guarding the pawn so White is threatening to move the rook and promote. Therefore, Black must check 11...Rb1+ 12.Kc7 Ra1= as Black checks any time the white king guards the b-pawn."
10. d – White is in trouble, but he has two ways to draw: 1.g6 fxg6 1...hxg6? loses to the well-known "three-pawn vs. three-pawn" tactic 2.f6! gxf6 3.h6!+-. 2.hxg6 The easiest. Also drawing is the tricky 2.fxg6 h6 3.Kb3! The right idea – at some early point White's king has to go to the left of the black king! 3...Kd5 4.Kb4 Ke5 5.Kc5 and Black has to settle for a draw by 5...Ke6!=, as going for the h-pawn loses 5...Kf5? 6.Kd5 Kg5 7.Ke6 Kxh5 8.Kf7 Black gets a pawn first, but White wins, as White will capture Black's g-pawn and promote his pawn first! On the other hand, the three-pawn vs. three-pawn attempt 2.h6? loses to 2...gxh6 3.f6 Kd6 and the black king has moved "within the square" (d6-d8-f8-f6) and catches the pawn. That is why White is not winning all along – Black's king is too close. 2...hxg6 If 2...h5? 3.f6! wins. 3.fxg6 Kd5 4.Kd3 Ke5 5.Ke3 Kf5 6.Kf3 Kxg6 7.Kg4 White has the opposition and draws. This drawing method is basically the same as in #4 – you just have to be able to calculate that it is possible from the earlier position!
A high percentage of this month's quiz required careful analysis, but a bit of endgame knowledge, such as basic king and pawn opposition, trebuchet, the three-pawn vs three-pawn tactic, and when a pawn and a minor piece cannot beat a lone king was also helpful. Studying endgames to obtain endgame knowledge is helpful, but much more helpful is consistently taking your time, and learning to recognize and analyze critical lines.
Question When I was reading Grooten's
Chess Strategy for Club Players
I did not use a board. Now, I prefer to read that kind of book by merely following the diagrams in between the text. Krogius advocated that way of reading games; what do you think of it?
Answer I suggest solving puzzles without moving the pieces, but playing over games with a set (or a computer) and moving the pieces. What you are learning from annotated games is too important to risk diminishing its value by attempting to visualize everything. It is much easier to associate the commentary with the visual representation of that position and burn that association into your brain while the picture is clear.
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