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Carlsen's Endgame Technique Part II + Debunking the Queenside Majority Myth

  • FM Cats4Sale
  • | Jan 6, 2014

In the January 5th article entitled "Carlsen's Endgame Technique," the sixth game from the Anand-Carlsen World Championship match was shown. In that game, the World Champion lost a rook endgame to the Norwegian World Champion. The lesson learned was that the quality of the pawns, not the quantity, matters in the rook endgames. Carlsen even sacrificed his pawns to achieve a passed f-pawn that was close to the queening square, and thus subsequently queened.

This endgame reminds one of the recent game between Anand and English number one Michael Adams:

In this game as well, the lone passer defeated the army of the other idle side. In fact, in both Anand-Carlsen and Anand-Adams, the real issue was that the opposing King could not get in front of the passed pawn to stop it. This principle is nothing new, but rather an application of the old theoretical belief of the advantage of the "queenside pawn majority." The idea was that, when both sides were castled on the Kingside, the queenside pawns were more effective than the Kingside soldiers because they were farther away from the Kings. This legend was due to a game played a Capablanca a long time ago:

In this game, the Queenside pawns were simply unstoppable. However, White lost because he had no counterchances on the other side of the board. The same principle even applies to Rook endgames: we all know the tale of the sacrificial rook - the rook sacrifices for the advanced pawn, while the passed pawns on the other side of the board guarantee a draw or in some cases a win for the other player. It all depends upon tempi; the "magnitude" of counterplay. The hypermodern Alekhine debunks the Tarraschian myth of the advantage of the Queenside majority:

In this game, unlike the Capablanca game, Black had very evident compensation for the Queenside majority - 1. the greater mobility of the black king, 2.the dominating position of the black rook on the only open file (Alekhine). According to him, with correct play, these points should ensure a win.

So, it's quality, not quantity of the pieces that really matters - in fact, in any position, opening, middlegame, or endgame - or the principle of "mind over matter." This is why we can say that chess is governed by the laws of harmony that are set in stone and cannot be broken down.



  • 16 months ago


    awesome awesome awesome

  • 17 months ago


    Enjoyable article -- thanks for it! Laughing

  • 17 months ago


    The combination player thinks forward; he starts from the given position, and tries the forceful moves in his mind. 

  • 17 months ago


    I did last that long, I have a signed board from Magnus with "Last Man Standing" and a dedication to show for it.

    The event was held in London and was reported on in Financial Times yesterday albeit without reports on the individual games.

    However of course the material equality after move 45 is a mirrage, and in my mind a funny joke more than a real fact as in the next move Magnus promoted one of his pawns. Here's the full list of move

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nc6 4.Bb5 Bd7 5.O-O Nf6 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Re1 O-O 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Rfxd8 11.Nxe5 Be8 12.Nd3 c6 13.f3 a5 14.Be3 b5 15.Rad1 Rab8 16.Bc5 Bxc5+ 17.Nxc5 Rxd1 18.Rxd1 Kf8 19.e5 Nd5 20.Nxd5 cxd5 21.Rxd5 a4 22.a3 b4 23.axb4 Rxb4 24.Nd3 Rb8 25.Kf2 h6 26.Ke3 Ra8 27.h4 a3 28.bxa3 Rxa3 29.h5 Ke7 30.g4 f6 31.exf6+ Kxf6 32.Rc5 Kf7 33.Kf4 Kf8 34.Rc7 Ra6 35.c4 Rf6+ 36.Kg3 Kg8 37.Ne5 Kf8 38.f4 Re6 39.c5 Re7 40.Ng6+ Bxg6 41.Rxe7 Kxe7 42.hxg6 Kd7 43.f5 Kc6 44.f6 gxf6 45.g7 Kxc5 46.g8=Q Kd4 47.Qe6 f5 48.gxf5 h5 49.f6 h4+ 50.Kxh4 Kc3 51.f7 Kb2 52.f8=Q Kc3 53.Qa3+ Kd4 54.Qae3# 
  • 17 months ago


    @Marcokim I think it was in an article Bryan Smith wrote where he showed an over-the-board game that he had played against Kamsky, where he was surprised, at the time, that Kamsky liquidated all the material on the board to a bishop endgame. Kamsky was much higher rated and was very much pressing for the win--so the way Bryan's explanation went was that a small positional advantage in pawn structure becomes magnified and game deciding when most of the pieces are traded off.

    I managed to find the article. You can read more about it here.


  • 17 months ago


    With all due respect TVLP as a 1300 rated player, I find it hard to believe you could even hold material equality against an FM through to the late middlegame, let alone Magnus (even in a simul). I am assuming Magnus can easily play a 20+ simul at an average PR of 2200, thats enough to liquify most sub-1800 players with ease.

    But if you did then power to you.

  • 17 months ago


    "Anand has managed to liquify" -- that's a new chess term on me.

  • 17 months ago


    TLVP, you're a 1300 player, do you really expect us to believe you got that far against Magnus Carlsen, even in a simul?

    If you did, that's incredible.

  • 17 months ago


    i never thought about king's side or queen's side pawn majority..it's a great lesson for me..thanx

  • 17 months ago


    very informative..thnx

  • 17 months ago

    FM Cats4Sale

    Thanks for all of your feedback and compliments. You can now read annotations to the games.

  • 17 months ago


    No I'm not a troll or, do I hope, a jerk. I did actually play him last night in a Simu and I was indeed level on material after 45 moves (but completely lost of course) as you can see below. I've been dying to mention it and this fit the bill I thought.

  • 17 months ago


    "quality of pieces is more important than pieces"

    Indeed! Last time I played Magnus Carlsen I was level with him after 45 moves (King + 2 pawns each) on material but lost after only 54 moves against two queens :-)

  • 17 months ago


    I love your articles..

  • 17 months ago


    Please, we need diagrams commented!

  • 17 months ago


    Those articles are fantastic!

  • 17 months ago


    A historic point that doesn't affect the substance of your article: The Marshall-Capablanca game was not from a 'World Championship' match as stated. Neither was the world champion at the time. It was intended as a match for the US Championship (although after Capablanca's victory a dispute arose concerning whether a non-US citizen could become US champion). 

  • 17 months ago


    I remember Shereshevsky has a chapter on this topic. The central point made is that whoever has better piece activity in these types of positions will have the advantage. Actually, Shereshevsky starts out by making the point that whoever has the rook controlling the open file will be better, although it's clear from his annotation of the the Yates-Alekhine game that if the side with the kingside pawn majority can penetrate with the rook, activate the king, and get the kingside pawns moving, than that side can create mating threats against the opponent, even if that means giving up the central file.

  • 17 months ago


    fantastic display of the main principle of chess-- "quality of pieces is more important than pieces"

    thank so much for bringing this in front of the users of chess.com

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