A Simple Endgame That Nobody Can Play Correctly!

  • GM Gserper
  • | Aug 31, 2014

You cannot be a really strong chess player unless you know how to play endgames.  

This simple statement was a cornerstone of the Soviet school of chess. There was even a well known Russian chess saying: "С молодёжью - в эндшпиль!" -- which can be roughly translated as "when you play against a youngster, go straight to an endgame!"

Endgames are probably the most neglected part of the game, since all chessplayers spend most of their time on openings!

And yet we can expect that the best players know at least some very basic endgames. But just like the middlegame trap that Super GMs cannot avoid (we analyzed it here), there is also a certain endgame that the elite players fail to play correctly.

Indeed, what can be simpler than an endgame "rook + pawn vs. rook", right? Well, let's see...

This is a basic draw, which you can find in any book about endgames. Also, this is a good example of "do nothing." Black just keeps his rook on the e-file and White cannot do much.  Here is how the game could continue:

Instead, Magnus Carlsen ruins this simple and well-known fortess by his next move.  To be fair, the position is still a relatively simple draw...

Now, can you play better than 2700+ grandmaster?

And let's see what happened in the actual game:

I recommend you to remember an important position from this game:

As you can see, White's rook controls the back rank and the distance between Black's rook and White's king is only two squares.  

Soviet chess set via chess museum

For a successful defense, a rook needs at least three squares between it and the opponent's king.  Now, can you help the former world championship challenger Nigel Short to win the following endgame?

And now look what happened in the actual game:

The mistake made by really strong chess players in these games are unexplainable.  

I hope if you, my dear readers, get this kind of endgame, you'll play it better than super grandmasters!



  • 15 months ago


  • 2 years ago


    Hi people

  • 2 years ago


    Hi people

  • 2 years ago


    great article

  • 2 years ago


    That was very timely, I just started working on the rook endings and enjoyed the new pattern for rooks.

  • 2 years ago


    GM Serper, you are always on time! For the last few days I have been playing over endgames from the Botvinnik/Smyslov Championship.


  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago


    if you Know how to play those endgames and how to play them no problems if you dont there is not much help here 

    'so what is the value of this article?

    to me none

  • 2 years ago


    Levon Aronian (2741) vs. Magnus Carlsen (2698)

    Tal Memorial | Moscow RUS | Round 6 | 12 Nov 2006 

    After Carlsen played 75... Ra7, Aronian can win faster with 76. Rd7+  Rxd7  77. exd and queen the pawn next move.


  • 2 years ago


    good games

  • 2 years ago


    What strikes me about endgames is their superficial simplicity disguises their complexity. EACH endgame needs SPECIFIC analysis.

    Thanks for the article. Interesting.

  • 2 years ago


    COOL !!! Thank you.  CHESS RULES !!!

  • 2 years ago


    great article!

  • 2 years ago


    @volencho: That game was nearly eight years ago... Magnus (surprising as it is) is a human and wasn't born a 2800.

  • 2 years ago


    Volenco that game was in 2006

  • 2 years ago


    Thanks a lot.. :)

  • 2 years ago


    Really nice article. Definitely the rook+pawn endgames are amonglst the trickiet endgames :)

  • 2 years ago


    Woah, I didn't think 2700+ players didn't know how to draw this. Even Magnus?

  • 2 years ago


    I've noticed a lot of people will resign just before or right at the start of the endgame if it looks like they're going to lose. I always play it out until checkmate is delivered. The only way to practice endgame is to play it.... even if you're losing.

  • 2 years ago


    It seems to me that playing against intermediate players, it is always best to train yourself in endgames using an endgame trainer such as that found here: http://chesstempo.com/chess-endgames.html

    Then when actually playing, try to get a good position or at least an even position and then go to the endgame if possible. There's a good chance your opponent will not be very good playing the endgame and this gives you an advantage.  

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