You Must Know This Powerful Endgame Pattern

You Must Know This Powerful Endgame Pattern

| 48 | Strategy

There are many basic endgame rules you can find in any chess manual:

  • Centralize your king!
  • Create an outside passed pawn! 
  • Rooks should be placed behind passed pawns!

...I bet you've heard them dozens of times.  And yet one very powerful rule is usually missed!

Most strong chess players usually execute this rule almost automatically, but somehow I don't recall many endgame books that explicitly explain this rule. For example, one of the best books on practical endgames ever written -- "Endgame Strategy" by Mikhail Shereshevsky -- has chapters on both basic concepts (centralization of the king , the role of pawns in the endgames) and very advanced ones (Do not hurry, schematic thinking), but has no chapter on the rule we are going to discuss today.  

To be fair, if you study this excellent endgame manual, you'll find many games where strong chess players implemented this rule.

Let's take a look at the following iconic endgame:

You can notice that Black knight was completely paralyzed due to the sad necessity to protect the g6 pawn (and therefore the whole kingside!).

The real problem of Black position was that the g6 pawn was an unmovable target for White pieces and therefore the black knight was permanently passive!

So the very important rule of endgames is whenever your opponent has a weak pawn, make it unmovable!

This rule is applicable to any kind of endgame, but it is especially true in the endgames where the defender has a knight. The reason is simple: a knight is the only piece that completely loses mobility when it protects a weak pawn, and as a rule the zugzwang is coming! 

Now try your endgame skills and find the best move in the next position:

Compare it to what happened in the actual game:

I am really shocked that such a strong chess player as World Champion Vassily Smyslov didn't play 45.h4! Moves like this should be played automatically! Now let's look at the most recent example:

And here is what happened in the actual game:

A well known legend (or maybe not a legend!) goes like this: during one of the Tal Memorial tournaments in Moscow a few years ago, Nakamura was asked if he ever studied Smyslov's games.

"Nah, they are too boring," answered Hikaru. (According to another version of this legend the answer was "Smyslov who?") 

True or not, had Nakamura studied the Smyslov-Gurgenidze endgame, he would have never played the horrible 38...a5?? move that fixed his own weak pawn and made it an easy target for Aronian's bishop.

So, remember: Make your opponent's weak pawns unmovable!


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